"POOR MAN'S NEEDLEFISH"
Hook: Eagle Claw L67 or L1197N
Late June through early July on Roche Lake will usually provide fly fishermen with some exceptional dry fly fishing for Kamloops rainbow trout. Thus, July 1st found my family and friends and I at the Roche Lake lodge anticipating a week of long overdue trout fishing.
When we arrived we asked several other fishermen how their success had been and got the standard reply that fishing was basically non-existent. One poor fellow had caught just one 12- incher in two days. We decided to ignore the reports of poor success and forge ahead as planned anyway.
Late June through early July on Roche Lake will usually provide fly fishermen with some exceptional dry fly fishing for Kamloops rainbow trout. Thus, July 1st found my family and friends and I at the Roche Lake lodge anticipating a week of long overdue trout fishing. When we arrived we asked several other fishermen how their success had been and got the standard reply that fishing was basically non-existent. One poor fellow had caught just one 12- incher in two days. We decided to ignore the reports of poor success and forge ahead as planned anyway.
The next day dawned clear and hot. We flogged Roche again in the morning without success and then headed off to little Rose Lake to see if we could do better on the brook trout. When we arrived we were surprised to discover that some of the char were feeding on adult damselflies. We decided to continue using wet line and fish the nymphs, however, and were rewarded for our forethought with five fat one and a half pound squaretails. We kept two for dinner and let the others go.
Later that evening we fished Roche again. I expected at least a small caddisfly hatch, as it had been very hot all day long. I could only hope that my expectations would be realized and the trout would start to feed.
We made our way down to monster bay, near the electric motor only zone, and anchored off a small rocky point where it formed a shoal. After 15 minutes or so, a few fish started to rise and we noticed that numerous caddisflies were emerging. I had guessed right, and it looked like we might be in for a good evening of fishing.
I fished a caddis pupa for the first half-hour, picking up two one pound trout, and then switched to a dry deer hair caddis as the hatch came to fruition. I spied a pair of rainbows that were rising consistently off the point, emerging from their rocky haven to attack the caddis as they ran across the surface drying their wings. I false cast a few times to extend line and then laid the fly out over the rocks and without even enough time to twitch the little offering one of the fish rose immediately in a classic porpoise take. I raised the rod tip, set the hook, and played with her for the next couple of minutes. Before she was completely exhausted, I brought her in, unhooked her, and then spent a few seconds to admire her while she recovered before I released her. Then I quickly dried off my fly and continued to fish the point.
After a few more unsuccessful casts, a trout again rose to my fly in a swirling attack that caught me by surprise. I still managed to set the hook, and we battled it out until she was tired. I released her as well, noting that all the fish I had caught so far had been peas in a pod...15 inches long and about a pound in weight. I had expected larger fish (Roche is noted for some exceptionally large trout) but, what with the relative success of the other anglers in the area, I certainly wasn't about to complain.
After a few minutes more, we decided to move to the opposite side of the lake where a large shoal jutted out. It was covered with a heavy weedbed and always seemed to have an excellent rise if there is a hatch on. When we arrived there were numerous fish feeding on the adult caddis and we caught three more trout, and missed as many more, before it got dark. As darkness closed in we packed up and headed back to the lodge.
The next day was as hot and sunny as the previous, and we fished Rose Lake again during the day with great success, then headed out onto Roche about 7:30 in the evening. The wind continued to blow until 9:00 p.m. and this made casting a nightmare. A few fish rose here and there in the shallows and I managed to hook into one decent 16-inch fish over the next hour and a half. She put up a good fight, jumping numerous times before tiring, but she was still dark from the spawn and I let her go.
As the wind died down and the sun dropped to the horizon, more fish started to rise and I moved across the lake to the spot we had been the previous evening. There was a fair rise on there and Murray had broken off one good-sized trout just a few minutes before I arrived.
I anchored off the edge of the shoal in a spot where I wouldn't interfere with Murray's casting, but still close enough to talk to him and observe any action he might be getting. There were so many fish rising that I simply laid the cast out in their midst without selecting any specific trout. It became apparent after a couple of casts that this method of attack wasn't going to work. I then began selecting individual fish to cast to and soon had numerous takes on the big caddis pattern I was using. After a few smaller fish had mangled my fly, I took a few minutes to dry it and watched the rises as I false cast. One swirling take was quite close so I laid the fly out right into the rings and the fish sucked it under almost immediately. I set the hook and the trout pulled its way to deeper water. Then she jumped, and Murray and I got our first look at a seven-pound plus rainbow that was none too please at being stabbed in the mouth by its dinner. She tore off more line and jumped again, then ran right at the boat, making me madly strip in the line trying to keep some pressure on her. I managed to do so and she swam to the stern of the boat not 10 feet away. Then she flung herself high into the air, cartwheeling as she went. I could see the glisten of the leader wrapping around the fish as she descended to hit the water with a tremendous splash. I raised the rod tip again and felt tension for a split second, then the hook pulled free and she was gone. Her desperation jump had saved her from the net. I would have released her after getting some photos anyway, but she didn't know that. I stood there for a few moments feeling instantly disheartened after the previous few minutes' excitement. I tried to look at it objectively and rationalize that it was better to have hooked and lost than never to have hooked at all... but it didn't help much.
We fished until darkness overtook us and managed to hook into a couple of smaller fish before calling it a day.
The weather continued to hold all week and after a day at the waterslides with the family we again fished the shoal where I had lost the big hen. Unfortunately, although there was a good rise on and we did manage to hook into several small trout, very few good sized rainbows showed themselves and we did not catch anything of exceptional size. That's the way it is with hatches sometimes; one day the fish will be feeding hot and heavy and the next they seem to have all but disappeared.
We had to leave the next day and, as fate would have it, the weather finally broke and a system started to roll in out of the west. We packed up our gear, turned in our keys after one last dip in the pool, and headed for home with the memories of the one that got away still haunting me. It was nice to share the experience with a partner though, and it also helped to quell the "Oh sure!" comments from my family and friends when I was able to produce a witness to the event.
Drop in to Roche Lake any time of the year. The new owners are excellent hosts and the fishing can be spectacular. The lodge features a restaurant, pool, and hot tub, as well as beautiful chateau style cabins with lofts that sleep up to six adults. There are also camping sites available at the lodge, or you can rough it in the nearby B.C. Forest Service campsites. Roche has been a favorite haunt of mine for many seasons now and I never fail to visit it each spring. If I manage to hit it right, the weather will be warm and the caddisflies will be hatching. That's when I like it the most, that's when it is at its best.
Bill Luscombe has been hunting and fishing for most of his 42 years. He has been flyfishing for 20 years. He instructs flyfishing, and has done so for the past 12 years. He also instructs the federal FSET firearms course and the BC CORE hunter training course. He is an award-winning outdoor writer and has been writing freelance since 1987. He has been published in BC Sport Fishing Magazine, Outdoor Edge, BC Outdoors, Western Sportsman, Island Fish Finder, and the BC Hunting Guide.
Bill Luscombe was born an army brat and raised in Ladner (Delta, BC) where he was raised hunting waterfowl and pheasants. He presently resides in North Cowichan on southern Vancouver Island where he has lived and worked full time as a professional forester since 1982.
He presently works in Nanaimo for the BC Forest Service and continues to write the fly-fishing column for BC Sport Fishing Magazine as well as contributing articles freelance to various outdoor magazines in western Canada. Bill Luscombe is also a BC Director of the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association.
"Catching fish is not hard. You simply need to understand what makes them tick. If you think like a fish, you will catch fish. It´s as simple as that."- Bill Luscombe