With the need for stocking policies to reinforce any wild stocks, the true strains of rainbow trout are being slowly diminished genetically. Constantly intermixing strains have resulted in hybrids like Tigers, Cheetahs, and the popular Triploid, the sterile that outgrows anything else. So to hook into the hardest fighting strain of stillwater rainbow you have to travel to British Colombia, on the western slopes of the Rocky mountains. Here, at place called Kamloops, you can still catch the original rainbow trout from which many other strains have been distributed throughout the world. You will in fact be following the pilgrimage that was undertaken eighty years ago by Royalty and the well- heeled in general, who realised the place was a mecca for some of the finest wild rainbows in the world.
Dr.David Starr Jordan of Stanford University first discovered Salmo Kamloops in 1892. He was sent some specimens of trout to identify from Kamloops Lake, and noticed they had more scale rows than the usual rainbow trout. With the assumption that this difference was genetic it received the name Salmo Kamloops. It was many years later that the trout was in fact identified as Oncorhynchus Mykiss. As early as the 1890’s fly fisherman were catered for at the Lakeview Hotel at Savona, with Lac Le Jeune, also called fishlake, another early 1920’s resort. Today the town of Kamloops has mushroomed with a population of 76, 500. It was developed in 1812 as a North West Company depot, and later by the Hudson Bay Company. The centre is based where the north and south branches of the Thompson river converge to form Kamloops lake. It was named by the Indians “Cumcloups”, meaning “the meeting of the waters.” During the 1860 Gold rush overlanders actually reached the city by rafting down the North Thompson, a feet in itself. The entire area is a fisherman’s dream, with over 200 lakes within a one hour drive, and weather pattern that gives over 2000 hours of sunshine, making many lakes open to winter fishing. Yet it is the flyfishing that draws anglers from around the globe, and to get an insight into the modern day aspect of the sport I dropped in to see the main main, Mr.Al Long. He is the co-owner of the Kamloops Fly shop, located alongside the main Trans-Canada highway, on Hugh Allan Drive. He runs the Kamloops store while co-owner Steve Jennings operates out of the Little Fork fly and tackle shop, about an hour north of Kamloops in the the inter-lakes region. Together they offer coverage of all aspects of flyfishing for miles either base. My exclusive interview with him threw up a veritable goldmine of information that should give all anglers a better insight into the Kamloops trout.
PULLEN –“I had heard of the Kamloops strain of rainbows back in Britain, together with the Shasta, but I had no had idea just how much water was available here for flyfisherman. Does all the fishing revolve around this species?”
LONG-“Not exclusively. It was the Sockeye Salmon run of the Adams river that actually put us on the map. We are talking in the region of 3 to5 million Sockeye running up through the river. That would mean they have travelled around 400miles from the sea, up the Frasier, into the Thomson, into Shuswap Lake to eventually spawn in the Adams river. After the eggs of these Salmon hatch the following spring they have to remain in freshwater for up to one year before they run to the sea. During that period the Kamloops rainbows move in to feed on them. As well as this high protein feed, the trout drop back to the bottom end of Shuswap Lake and feed on the one-year old smolts, which may be around three inches long. This created giant rainbows, and of course fantastic fly-fishing!”
PULLEN-“Would the fly-fishing today still be as good as it was all those years ago?”
LONG-Those early years were undoubtedly quite amazing, and there were regular trips here by Royalty to take these fish. Probably the best professional guide to pioneer the flies and techniques was Bill Nation. During the 1930’s he would regularly guide his clients to as many as seventy rainbows in one day. All on fly. I still have his original advert in my shop, and catches were made of 100 fish in a day.
He was I believe, the first guide to tie his flies to specific local insect life, and included among others, the famous “Dragon”, and “Bill Nation Sedge”.
PULLEN-With Kamloops Lake so near town I imagine this is the hub of local fishing?”
LONG-Actually no. The river fishing is very tough. Although the Thomson is famous as a Steelhead fishery during our winter months. Peak time for them would be October to February. The original strain of Rainbows were native to the Shuswap area and Kamloops Lake, which are really only river-linked lakes. What happened was that the original guides found phenomenal insect life in many of the surrounding lakes, but some freak of nature resulted in there being no trout in those waters. Those guides were certainly staunch supporters of fly-fishing as a sport and could see the potential of stocking the Kamloops strain into those food-rich lakes. They actually packed live trout into water-filled wood barrels and shipped them overland to the lakes, using mule trains. They were totally responsible for making the Kamloops area the top trout venue it is today. With an untapped predator system in those lakes, the trout could pack on weight at an incredible rate. Within a few years they saw wild rainbows that ran to twenty pounds, and that was over forty years ago. Even today you need to take a wild rainbow over 15lbs to even have a talking point in my tackle shop”.
PULLEN-When you think of all the modern technology we have today for fish transportation it makes you realise the dedication of those early pioneers. What are things like today regarding stock management?
LONG-Here in Kamloops we are really fortunate to have Brian Chan, the head biologist in charge of Stillwater lakes in this region. His fisheries management policies are sound, and he doesn’t do the 9 to 5 day and go home. He is dedicated to the fishery, and has made it world class. We have a lot of natural spawning here, and where this does not occur they take a creel census, look at the lake’s ecology, or do timed netting for a selected period. Anything to keep a tab on how the fishery should remain healthy. They stock a number of different species, and we actually now have trophy lakes, where the food source boosts fish weights to huge sizes”.
PULLEN-You have no need to stock the trout at large sizes as they do in places like Britain. What do they go in the water at?”
LONG-We are dedicated to quality of fish rather than size. In three years, an 8-inch Triploid will be over 5lbs, and that is on natural food alone. The major source of nourishment in the lakes are Chironomids,Shrimpsand Scuds as we call them. Plus Caddis, Damsels, Leeches, Dragonfly and Sedges. A big problem we have now is that non-resident anglers bring in a livebait called Shiners to try and catch the trophy rainbows. They are illegal baits anyway, but they do get released and multiply rapidly. The Shiners then eat the entire lake out of insect life, thus depleting the food source for the rainbows, which then deteriorate through lack of food. We then have to re-stock the lakes using the Blackwater strain of rainbows that have evolved in the Northern part of British Columbia, and which will only have baitfish to feed on, not insects.Itis an unfortunate loop circle that we could well do without”.
PULLEN- With so many lakes around Kamloops can the travelling angler just stop and catch fish, or will his chance of success increase if he employs the services of a local guide?”
LONG-“I can pull in as many as six top guides and our service includes transportation, boats and top level equipment. While it is possible to catch fish from shore locations, at some lakes, the use of a boat, plus guide, increases your catch substantially. They allow you to reach the weedy shoal areas which give the most abundant insect life. Most of our guides supply 14-foot, flat-bottomed boats with a 4-stroke outboard, plus electric motor for positioning. With a guide you get the choice of correct flies for the lake in question, best area, and productive times of day”.
PULLEN-“What would be your choice of tackle, given that some of these fish run a good deal larger than the average fly angler may have hooked “.
LONG-“A good selection of lines are needed. Two of the most important are the weight forward floater, rated 5/6, and a weight forward intermediate. On this attach at least 100 yards of 20lb Scientific Anglers backing, just in case you set the hook on a double digit wild rainbow. The reels are important. Forget anything cheap as they inevitably result in a break off as they simply cannot give line smoothly enough. Go for lightweight models with smooth drags as we have some very hot fish here. I use Teton, BFR, Sage and Hardy models, all of which operate smoothly. For rods, well they tend to be personalIuse St.Croix and Sage. We actually prefer a longer rod here in Kamloops due to better presentation of long leader lengths. Ten foot in length with a moderate action to balance against lighter tippets suggest a factory outlet tapered leader, 10 to 20 feet long, terminating in a 4lb tippet. We do g lighter occasionally if the trout get touchy. For beginners or the novice I advocate the use of heavier tippets as we enjoy and support catch-and-release”.
PULLEN-“That’s the tackle done. Yet it sounds like you don’t just throw out and pull back to catch a Kamloops trout. How about giving me a rundown on your favoured technique?”
LONG-“With a good guide or using my own procedure it works as follows. Arrive at lake, and while tackle is being readied be observant of which flies are moving. Search along the shore foliage looking for insect casings, and get a general idea of which insects are moving around. Use a close imitator as to what you see at the time. Look for Swallows dipping on the surface; they are often a visual indicator of where the best fly hatches are. Look for other anglers. I watch them casting. If they use a bright line it generally means they are on a floater. If dark, it could be a sinker. If they stay in one spot that’s good as it tells me they may have found trout. Then double anchor the boat. Never drift. Start with a Chironomid or a searching pattern like the Leech or Halfback. The latter is Peacock Herle with a half back of Pheasant tail. This is basically to get your first trout in the net so you can get a throat sample. Then you have some idea what they are feeding on. I only use dry fly when I see the trout rising. Mornings and evenings are best for this”.
PULLEN-“The fact that you watch what coloured lines other anglers are using tells me you are something of a specialist. I don’t want every secret, but how about passing on just one?”
LONG-“OK.But remember it IS a secret! Many anglers fish the small Chironomid on a floating line at the surface, but I take many of the rainbows deep. By this I mean the fly is thirty feet down. The standard technique would be to fish a Chironomid on a long leader and floating line thinking that a thirty foot leader means the fly is thirty feet down. Wrong! The fly may still only be a few feet down, besides which such a long leader is difficult to cast. My specialist technique is to use a Type 5, full-uniform sink line, weight forward so it will always sink tip first. My leader length is really short, 4 to 5 feet at most, and is 6lb fluorocarbon “Deceiver” made by Umpqua.What I do is measure off the depth, lets say thirty feet, and I mark the fly line by rolling a tiny rubber band up it, used by dentists to support dental braces. I have already marked the fly line every five feet using a felt marker. The tiny rubber band tells me exactly when the fly is on the bottom. I then fish a Chironomid, say a black pattern with a red wire bib, and Tungsten bead head, dropped straight to the bottom. I retrieve, using a slow figure of eight, and use a “slip-strike” when I get a take, as it is very much a straight on affair and you can easily break off a big trout without it. When I get that first take I watch what length of line I have in the boat by the marks on the flyline.I can then target effectively the optimum feeding range”.
PULLEN-“That is one hell of a tip. I just hope dentists don’t get too many enquiries for those specialised brace support rubber bands. Now what about those trophy lakes?”
LONG-“A Kamloops rainbow over 8lbs will either be a totally wild fish, or will have grown on naturally from a 6-inch Triploid. Some of the good lakes are as follows-Stump Lake. This is about an hour south from town. It is a large lake and holds a good number of very big fish. It has a lot of shoals and shallows, with an undulating lake bed to provide good insect/feeding areas.Tunkwa and Leighton are actually joined together by a small creek. Medium sized, very shallow, but dropping down to 40 feet in a few spots. An extremely high insect producer. They put 60,000 stock fish in the lake, and the place turned into a trout factory, with an average size of 2lbs.Island Lake is smaller, managed as catch-and-release trophy water, with fly-only for Triploids. To the North is Pass Lake.Small, and well protected by mountains and large stands of fir trees. I would classify this as fairly deep, up to 60 feet, and ideal for my deep water Chironomid technique, which I hasten to add, was developed during my own hours on the water.Knouff Lake is average depth, and a good “family” water, with cabins, resort and a complete fishing trip that we can customise for you. While some of our rivers DO look great, they can be difficult to fish. It’s the Stillwater’s that make us famous. Don’t forget we have Brook trout running from an average of 1 1/2lbs up to 6lbs in weight”.
PULLEN-“Al, I would like to thank you for your time in giving me this interview and insight into the world famous Kamloops rainbows. I am sure there are plenty of fishermen out there now contemplating a trip here!”
LONG- My pleasure. Its only part of the service we offer here at Kamloops fly shop”.
CONTACT- Kamloops Fly Shop.Mr.Al Long.104-1366 Hugh Allan Drive.Kamloops.B.C. Canada. VIS 1L8. Tel/fax-(250)377-8461.Website- www.kamfly.com
Copyright-Graeme Pullen.All Rights Reserved.