Last Thursday was a cold, bright, sunny day that added much to my first day of fly fishing in 2013. When I arrived at Spider Lake just before noon there was a brisk breeze from the northwest and the lake looked inviting.
What we call cold on Vancouver Island and what real cold weather is are two different things. To illustrate what I mean I had just talked to one of my fishing buddies in the Interior and he was going brook trout fishing on the Red Lake where the thermometer registered -10C in Kamloops and the lake was covered by over a foot of solid ice.
Now that is getting quite chilly. In the meantime, Spider Lake was unfrozen with no shore ice at the end of the lake when I launched my punt.
In order to enjoy a cold day on the open water in a small boat there are certain essentials that make the day pleasant. A number one priority is to dress warmly with layered clothing. I have found that if you keep your upper body toasty warm it acts as furnace for your extended parts.
Wear a toque or suitable warm cap. Mitts are warmer than gloves, but not so handy when you want to use your reels. In my case I am blessed with good circulation in my hands and feet so that most of the time I do not wear anything on my hands. A second priority is a thermos of hot tea. Note: If you are fishing with children during this chilly weather make certain they are well dressed and it is not a bad idea to have high energy snacks for them to nibble on.
As is my custom when I start fishing on the lake I put out two lines with suitable flies. This day I started with a damsel fly on a medium sink line and a dragonfly nymph on a high density fast sinking line.
I started to move into the first bay when I had a solid hit on the dragonfly nymph. The fish didn’t stay on, but it was a welcome shot of adrenalin. As I left the first bay there was a shore angler casting lures from the beach, otherwise I shared the lake with no other visible anglers.
I slowly mooched my way along the western edge of lake in a course I use when prospecting for fish. I was rewarded by three or four light takes on both flies, but nothing really taking hold. It was about this time that I noticed a large swan swimming in the lake and headed into the bay at the north end of the lake.
I followed the swan and soon realized I was being watched by one of the eagles who lay claim to first rights to many of the fish we catch in Spider Lake. I no longer considered myself to be the only presence on the lake. It is times like this that watching wildlife can take over from the business at hand – fishing. I poured a cup of hot tea, had a sandwich and let the boat drift in the presence of these two majestic wild creatures.
The shadows started to lengthen as I moved away from the presence of my wild companions and back into the main body of the lake. I was suddenly jolted into reality when the reel with the high density line was screaming as a large trout took out line. After a considerable time I experienced what we call a long distance release – jargon for “it got away.”
Another unusual thing happened – under the concentrated stare of the eagle the swan followed me back into the main body of the lake. A day spent in the presence of wild creatures is both spiritually uplifting and soul enriching.
As I loaded my boat I was aware of the confidence I expressed to Elaine when I left home because I said we would have fresh trout for supper. When I got out to Highway 19, I pulled over and phoned her to tell her we would be having leftovers for supper. To myself I noticed my hat got a little larger and I still have much to learn about this marvelous madness called fly fishing. But “my oh my” I had a wilderness high.
Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.