Monday, May 25, 2015

Roche Lake's incomparable rainbows

It had been about 15 years since my friend Colin, his son Taylor, and I last visited Roche Lake, an eminently productive rainbow trout fishery nestled in the hills of the Thompson Plateau just south of Kamloops, B.C.
I was just getting into chironomid fishing at the time and had spotty success over the three days, but remember picking up one or two three-pound rainbows on a leech pattern.
This time, we headed up to Roche the third week in May and enjoyed sunny skies for most of the week. Apparently, the lake was undergoing a second turnover marked by the algae and debris floating on the water. The turnover affected visibility early on in the week, but as the skies cleared and weather warmed the water also settled and brought improved visibility.
The biomass on Roche is dense. Scuds, chironomids, chaoborus, beetles, flying ants, and giant leeches some up to eight inches long, can all be seen with a quick glance into the water.
I expected to fish chironomids primarily, but on the first trip out we trolled searching patterns like leeches and nymphs to identify quality spots. Colin landed a decent 14 inch rainbow on a orange beadhead bugger almost right away, then caught another on the trip back that evening.
I didn't even get a hit the first evening out, but things would change the next day.
Taylor was about four-years-old on our first visit to Roche, and his only memory is of the obstinate black bear that visited our camp and would not be deterred by banging pots and honking horns, but eventually carried on into the woods after sufficiently nosing out the campsite.
This time, on the cusp of his 20th birthday, Taylor, over the course of five days, went from a frustrated neophyte water-flogger to a seasoned fly caster. Following many tangles, bird nests, and errant casts, by the third day Taylor was throwing a strike indicator, split shot, and chironomid pattern with grace and ease. Not surprisingly his results improved and on the fourth day he caught and released numerous trout (about eight I think), including the largest rainbow of the trip.
The magic all happened on chironomid patterns and surprisingly the most effective turned out to be a size 10, black and red pattern. We hit our first bit of luck in Monster Bay, a significant shoal on northeast end of the lake. Anchored in about eight feet of water, success came on the aforementioned pattern at the end of about six feet of leader almost immediately.
After landing a couple in the first half hour, the action slowed, so we moved to another spot and I landed two almost immediately. That would prove the pattern for the rest of the week, anchor, fish, move.
We'd fish from about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. then head in for a nap, and return to the water at about 5:30 p.m. until dusk. It was an amazing trip. I lost count on how many fish we caught and released, but aside from the black and red chironomid, chromies and micro leeches also worked well. We saw deer, numerous species of water fowl, as well as eagles, osprey, turkey vultures, great blue herons, and pileated woodpeckers, not to mention the loon that circled our boat in anticipation of an easy meal.
The most satisfying aspect of the trip was watching Taylor improve his technique and his appreciation grow for chironomid fishing, a challenging and often frustrating method. The highlight was when he hooked into about a four-pound rainbow and played the girthsome triploid trout patiently and effectively, until it came to hand, and after a quick photo, eased it back into the water.
It was a great trip, with incredible weather, and excellent fishing, but mostly an excuse to spend some quality time with old friends.
Thanks Guys.

Fast Facts: Roche suffered from a partial winter kill in 2014 but it was believed to be confined to the southwest end of the lake. Still, fisheries releases 24,000 rainbow trout throughout each season, as a result, many of the trout were of the cookie cutter variety, about 12-14 inches, fat and healthy.
 Roches Lakes Park offers vehicle accessible campsites on a first-come, first-served basis – campsite reservations are not accepted. There are three rustic campgrounds; Roche Lake North (8 sites), Roche Lake West (21 sites) and Horseshoe Lake (4 sites). Roche Lake North is quite open and is suitable for group camping. A pay telephone is available at Roche Lake Resort, which is located on the same gravel road that is used to access the park, just follow the signs. Vehicle Accessible Camping Fee: $13 per party / night