On Sunday, Oct. 5 I went down to Spider Lake for one of my usual fishing adventures on this beautiful integrated system of narrow bays and islands plus two larger bodies of open water. I had not fished the lake for about three months; which is an unusually long period of absence from this superb fishing lake.
When I launched my boat at the park I was shocked at the low lake level. It was certainly lower than I have seen it during the past 20 years I have been fishing the lake. It was a further shock to look at the road and realize that at one time a few years ago the lake level was so high it flooded across the road.
The conditions at this lake are present throughout Vancouver Island where we have experienced a long, warm dry period without any appreciable rain. I have looked at Comox Lake and been impressed by the shocking low level of the lake, but it does not have the intimacy of a smaller lake such as Spider Lake.
In the newsletters I receive, one is an important source of climate information for me. It is the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions that is hosted by the University of Victoria in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Northern British Columbia. In the Oct. 2, 2014 issue there was the following statement in the section on Science – Untangling the climate signal: “This extreme season is, as it happens, may be linked to ‘climate change’ given that higher summer temperatures are predicted for B.C. as a consequence of global warming.”
So my simplistic analysis of the low water in one of my favourite lakes is that it may be linked to climate change. I respectfully suggest our society is not well prepared for this planet changing process that is currently creating a severe drought in California.
As I rowed around the lake I was surprised by the hundreds of Canada Geese that were using the lake. I also saw a large flock of mergansers; which suggested to me that there had to be some generous sources of small fish to keep these fish-eating ducks happy. They were probably bass or stickle backs.
The eagles were present and as usual they encouraged me to catch a fish so they had an easy chance of an evening meal. One bird that is normally present along the shoreline was the local kingfishers. During my five-hour fishing period I did not see one of them and possibly the reason is that the tree branches they sit on to launch many of their fish-catching dives were over dry land, too far from the water’s edge.
Another startling change was that the many of the islands had merged as peninsulas with dry ground between the grassy humps of the former islands. There were also islands where there had been shallow, weed-covered nurseries for insects and small fish. We hope the low water will turn out to be a once-in-a-century event, time will tell.
In the meantime I was on the lake to get caught up on some of my fly fishing adventures. The main body of the lake was certainty fish-able and there was some action on the surface. The two large bays on the western edge of the main lake were shallow, but certainly promising with floating or slow sinking lines. I went into the northwest bay, one of my favourite places, and while I saw two fish rise I was unsuccessful in getting any action.
The high density sinking lines I was using were for deep water in the main lake where the average depth is about 30 feet. The conditions were perfect with a light breeze and a few fish surfacing. I made hard contact with three large trout but none of them stayed on until I could net them.
I also had considerable action with small bass that were about five to six inches in length. I predict that if the current conditions hold we will see some excellent fall fishing in the small still water lakes. There could be some good autumn insect hatches.
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.