Sometimes you just need to get away, and that's what I did last month with my new fishing kayak.
I took off to the B.C. Interior for 10 days. I haven't seriously fished lakes for 10 years, but this spring I decided to change that, so I set out for the Roche Lake region south of Kamloops.
The kayak is almost 14 feet long, and the bed of my RAM barely holds my prone body, so obviously I needed a solution. I found it in a nifty 'bed extender': it's sort of like a pull-out couch for Cousin Bob, who won't fit on the sofa without his feet dangling over the armrest. Now I can safely secure the boat, and even on the roughest washboard it doesn't budge. Cousin Bob might not budge either, but then you've got a different problem.
True, I get some queer looks driving down the highway, but I can quickly discern the fishermen from the riff-raff: the former give me the thumbs-up, while the latter sometimes extend a different digit. It probably doesn't help that I putter along at the speed limit. Long ago I gave up rushing from A to B, and realized that C isn't going anywhere. When I'm tempted to floor it, I remind myself of something a CEO told me once: 'You know you've arrived when you don't need to carry a cell phone.' I'm not saying I've arrived, certainly not in that sense, but I am one of those people who enjoys the journey, and not the number of bugs I can accumulate on the windshield.
The new 'yak came about when I sold my jet boat. To be honest, the Power Drifter had been weighing on my conscience both commercially and personally. It was becoming harder and harder to turn the key and fire up the motor. Many of our most cherished fly-fishing waters are being overrun by jet boats these days. Many of those waters just can't take the extra pressure and pollution.
The wash from jet boats erodes banks, harming important fish habitat. The noise from jet boats bothers many anglers looking for peace and solitude on the river. And the creaking oars of a drift boat don't stand a chance against a fully cranked outboard.
When I found myself shaking my head at jet boats, I realized it was time to take a serious look in the mirror. The classified ad followed soon afterwards.
I think it's time managing authorities seriously considered banning motorized craft on the 'Blue Ribbon' stretch of the Bow River, for starters. Same goes on southern Alberta's Oldman from Cottonwood Bridge to Summerview. Those stretches just can't sustain the pressure and motors are ruining the experience for many.
It's not like a new concept or anything: Montana's famed Missouri River, for instance, has stretches where motors are allowed and others where they're not. It seems to work just fine; I haven't seen any rumbles at the boat ramps, at any rate.
Rivers like the Columbia tailwater and the Kootenay, on the other hand, can handle the pressure. Boat launches are miles apart, much of the rivers flow through private land, and motorized craft help ensure safety on huge water with unpredictable currents.
Anyway, enough about that. I sold the jet boat and picked up the 'yak, and I'm a happier person for it.
I like the lines of the kayak and the cool orange squid decals on the deck. I picked out a paddle with redfish scales and spots on the blades, but the colour scheme could easily pass for brown trout, my favourite fish. So that's what I'm going with. Who's to argue? The closest thing we have to redfish in B.C. are squawfish, and anglers don't even want to think about them, let alone debate their colouring.
I didn't wind up fishing Roche Lake. It was overrun when I got there. The so-called 'chironomid' fishermen, who anchor in groups of 20 and dangle midge pupae over trout sourced on fish-finders, were pretty much holding court. They flung enough bobbers to decorate a tree, and while there's no question they caught some big fish — well, you can do that with a hook and a can of worms, too.
But each to their own, as they say, and soon I came to a relatively uncrowded small lake where I pitched the tent and put the kayak in the water.
It featured all the things I like about lake fishing: shoreline log-jams and shady bushes; rocky shoals; marl flats where fish can be spotted cruising like dark torpedoes; lily pads and darting blue damselflies. I've always preferred moving water, but fishing a lake like that is a lot like fishing a river, only it isn't. I like to move when I fish — to cast and feel the line loading the rod — and I had a great time poking around, anchoring when the mood struck, or simpy digging the paddle in and working up a sweat.
Each day I tried to set out for a different nearby lake. There were dozens to choose from. Some were less accessible and some were inaccessible, at least to me, but they all offered something different.
I didn't land any whoppers, but I caught enough trout in the mid-teens to keep the net wet, and every now and then something bigger surfaced. I was surprised at how well the stocked rainbows fought, but the water was cold and a campground operator told me that some of the trout were reproducing; if not wild they were well on their way to becoming so.
Evenings I'd relax, reading by propane lantern light and falling asleep to the loons. Sometimes my campground next-door neighbours would ask me over to sit by their fires, in which case I'd bring a few extra beers and a hand-tied fly or two as thanks. We'd talk fishing as orange sparks flew into the air, the dogs sprawled around the perimeter, sniffing, like sentries of old. Their eyes widened as wieners were brandished, and a snifter passed hand to hand.
There's a kinship that develops in campgrounds that you have to experience to fully appreciate. It's a little bit tribal and a lot ancestral. The looking out for one another; the respect for invisible fences and shared spaces.
When it came time to pack and head home, I decided that I'd have to visit lakes more often. Maybe an annual spring pilgrimage. There are some lakes east of Merritt I'd like to check out. Some lakes in Montana I haven't seen since my youth.
I christened the new kayak the Trout Farmer, in honour of Bow River outfitter, guide, and friend Quinn Styles. That seems appropriate, given the way I use it like a tractor tilling the edges of a field. I've since had it out on the Columbia tailwater, and it's the perfect conveyance for getting into the island cobbles and hopping ashore. I can't wait to get it out to the West Coast to chase inshore coho.
If you're thinking of buying a kayak, I highly recommend the Jackson Kraken 13.5, made in Tennessee. I bought mine at Western Canoe Kayak in Abbotsford, and they outfitted me bow-to-stern with great service and satisfaction.
So much for the sales pitch: now get out there and fish, and I'll see you Dave Brown Outfitters clients in Fernie this summer. Can't wait!