Fly Fishing British Columbia’s Stillwaters – Bill LaFever

Bill LaFever
Bill LaFever



At the age of 6 my father introduced me to the art of fishing streams and much later, to fishing lakes.  At the time I did not think anything about it as fishing was fishing, no matter where it was. But now that I look back over those years I have come to realize that I have stopped fishing small stream in favor of the stillwaters of lakes. I also know that is not the norm for many fly fisherpersons and the methods and sometime equipment is somewhat different.  With this in mind, I am taking on the task of explaining some of the things that makes stillwaters fishing in B.C. my passion.

I will start with, a few of my reasons for fly fishing on lakes in B.C. which are as follows:  (1) lots of small lakes that are perfect for fly fishing, (2) few people to content with. (3) Lots of wild life and scenic beauty.  (4) It take a day or two days of driving to get to these fishing areas, which are far, far away for the city life. (5) Lots of fish, simple, huh?

But you might say that you can find the same thing in Eastern Washington which is true to some extent but you can not find the legendary Kamloop trout.  Of course there are Rainbow trout in most of the lakes and some lakes have Kookanee which can give you one heck of fight for their size.

For a beginner fly fisherperson, you can start fly fishing on lakes with two simple techniques; (1) Trolling a fly such as a Wooly Bugger, or a Carey Special or (2) Chironomidae fishing with a bobber. Both methods are effective and many times the only way to find fish in a lake you never fished before.  Of course both these methods are fished below the surface. Trolling requires the use a wet line and Chironmidae fishing will be done with a dry line with a bobber set so that the fly is at the same depth as the fish.

Trolling very slowly allows you to search areas of a lake shore or shoals while observing the surface for hatches, spent shucks or bird activity.  You may use a row boat, canoe, pontoon boat or float tubes depending on the access to the lake or your personal preference.  A row boat or canoes are fine for two persons and you can cover a lot of water with them.  Pontoon boats or float tubes will allow you to get into lakes that do not have road access and let you fish closer to the shore and are less expensive to acquire.  You can row slowly or you can let the wind drift you across the lake, assuming it is where you were you wanted to fish.  But remember to keep an eye open for where the wind is blowing you, as you will still have to get back to you launch site at the end of the day.

Chironmidae fishing can be done from any type boat anchored in front and rear to keep the boat from moving.  It is much like fishing with a bobber when you were a kid.  The bobber (strike indicator) will keep the fly at the depth of the fish.  You will use a long leader, 12 feet or longer, so that the dry line will float and the fly will descend to the depth of the fish as set by the bobber.  Yes, I know that this method of fly fishing may seem odd, but it is effective. Once the fly is at the depth, you will retrieve it very, very, very slowly, to emulate the Chironmidae as it ascends to the surface on a bubble of air. You must be very quiet and patient which is why many fly fishermen pass this part of the sport up.  However, this method can be effective when nothing else will work.

Another method of fishing lakes is with a dry fly, on the surface or subsurface, much as you would a stream except you will not have the current to take the fly to the fish.  This is where the Pontoon boat and float tube comes into their own.  These crafts will allow you to work the shoreline without the problem of the wind that you have with the row boat or canoe.  Also they are much less expense and easier to store in you garage.  Dry fly fishing is either done in a hatch or along the shore where the reeds, grasses or dead trees give cover for the fish from their predators.  I must admit that less then ¼ of my fishing is with a dry fly but it always gives me an adrenalin rush when you see the fish strike the fly on the surface.

As for rods, you will need a 8 ½ to 9 foot rod in a 5 or 6 weight because you will be lower on the water and you need the extra length to keep the fly off the water when you cast.  There are two different types of rods I use for Lake fishing.  I use a medium to fast for dry flies to keep my casts to a minimum and medium to soft rod for Chironmidae fishing as you will get fewer break offs when the strike hits the softer rod.

You will find that the prices in British Columbia are reasonable and the exchange rate is near par.  One note of caution, take your passport with you.  It is not for the Canadians, but for when you return to the U.S. After 9/11, the U.S. customs must see some sort of photo ID and the passport is best.

More detailed information on lake fishing can be found in (1) “The Gilly”, a flyfisher’s guide compiled & edited by Alfred G. Davy.  This book is a collection of writings by some of the legends of British Columbia, past and present. (2) Morris & Chan on Fly Fishing Trout Lakes, (3) Fly Patterns for Stillwaters, a study of trout, Entomology and Tying by Philip Rowley. (4) “Hatch Guide for Lakes, Naturals and their Imitations for Stillwater trout fishing”.  All of these are published by Frank Amato Publications.

Videos in our OFFC library include: (1) Trout in Still Waters by Gary Borger, (2) Flyfishing Still Waters with Alf Davy, (3) Flyfishing Strategies for Still waters – Volume I & II by Brian Chan, (4) Lake Fishing Techniques for Large Trout with Bill Mart, (5) Fly Fishing Stillwaters for Trophy Trout by Denny Rickards.

Web sites on British Columbia fly fishing are a very good source on lakes and flies.  The following will be of help to you.

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