For the past few weeks we have had a historic return of pink salmon to virtually all of the streams and rivers in our local watersheds. River and beach anglers have enjoyed an unexpected bonanza. The interest in these feisty little salmon has detracted many from traditional fall lake fishing. About two weeks ago I felt the need for some challenging lake fishing in Spider Lake.
With the current downpour of this week it may be a bit of a memory stretch to recall that we have just come off one of the hottest and driest summers on record. When I arrived at Spider Lake the other day, I was surprised at how low the water level was.
My timing was not bad in that I arrived on the lake the morning of the first storm we had that arrived just after noon of that day. There were a couple of canoes, one kayaker and a lone shore fisher taking advantage of the lull before the storm.
After launching my punt I rowed out to the deep waters of the main body of the lake. I know the contours of the lake about as well as I know the contours of Elaine’s raised beds in our garden – I should because I have had intimate connections to both for at least a generation. The only other serious fisher on the lake was one of the resident bald eagles, who fortunately chose to ignore my efforts.
Trout do not do well in warm water. I had reasoned that the lake was cooling enough for some action depending on my luck. My day started with two wet fly patterns – a dark green nymph pattern and maroon leach, slowly trolled on high-density sinking lines.
I was fishing in about 30 to 40 feet of water and got off to a quick start when a prime trout of about 15 inches hit my nymph pattern with the force of a small pink salmon. All went well, the eagle stayed in his tree and when the fish came to the net, it was carefully unhooked and released back to the lake as parting salute to Don McDermid a friend and member of the Comox Fly Fishers who had just passed away. Members of the club chose this meaningful act as our way of saying good-bye to Don. I have since talked to several members of the club who have released fish in this expression of closure. All have felt a sense of joy and elation by this symbolic gesture. It may be the beginning of a simple tradition to departed fellow anglers.
What followed for the next two hours was a lot of action from small bass ranging from five to eight inches in length. To get away from the constant action from the little bass I moved into shallower water on the east shore of the lake and anchored in about 25 feet of water.
Casting the nymph into deeper water and erratically retrieving it produced an unusual strike where the fish just simply swam towards the boat seemingly unaware it was hooked. I was surprised when I looked into the clear water and saw a respectable bass swimming beside the boat. I simple lifted it into the boat without bothering to net it. It is the small mouthed bass pictured with the column. As a side note it produced two delicious white fillets Elaine and I enjoyed for dinner that night.
While practising my casting and watching a strike indicator float I had attached to a micro-leech pattern I felt a sense of intimacy with the small lake, ducks, geese and yes the eagle. It is the sort of emotional attachment that outdoor people frequently develop with places they visit in their outdoor pursuits.
It is easy to develop this feeling for favourite places on streams, rivers, and lakes. Hunters have the same experience when they come to know certain wild places where they spend much time in quiet solitude while waiting for game to appear in their sphere of vision.
I am sure anglers and rowers that fish the Tyee Pool in Campbell River get an emotional attachment to the area. In the coming months of fall and winter we enter a period when it is easier to become attached to scared wild and watery places. Try it.
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.