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“I am God’s gift to fishing” : Reflection’s from the Local Pond

“I am God’s gift to fishing” : Reflection’s from the Local Pond

-Written By: Mark Rossi

“I hope my wife calls,” he chuckled through his thick Russian accent “every time she calls the fish start biting.”

“ All the more reason to not answer!!” laughed his friend in the wheelchair at the end of the dock.

I overheard this conversation as I sat on park bench on the hill behind the dock and I watched the scene in front of me with with a sort of amazement… “this is what fishing is about” I thought.

A man in a wheelchair on the dock with his immigrant friend fishing for bass using bait and bobber rigs; a father and son to my left, the father teaching the fundamentals of a roll cast to his son; two kids walking down the path towards the other side of the lake, school backpacks and lunch bags packed together with their spin rods and tackle box; a young man in his waders and belly boat wearing his worn in Patagonia hat and polarized Smith glasses working the drop off for trout with slow retrieve chironomids. All of these people were here, together, sharing the experience of fishing.

I was at Shannon Lake, for those of you from the Okanagan, you will no doubt be familiar with the location. Within city limits, a small local lake with a park on one side, golf course on the other and houses in between. I am sure your community has some similar type of park/pond combo where fishing is laidback, central, accessible and public.

I’m not sure what motivated me to go to the lake; I was bored, I was curious, I was feeling the sadness of not being able to fish the streams and lakes of the high country since the snow had set in. All these are valid reasons. Regardless of why I went there, I was really glad I did.

I sat there and reflected on the fishing season that was. It was great, some awesome highlights, personal bests, new species caught, new basins explored! More than I could have asked for. The thing that struck me most about it though was that, at no point had it looked anything like the scene laid out before me.

 

At what point did I stop pursuing this kind of fishing experience and why?

 

I think back to my teen years and the many hours spent on Lake Bonivista in Calgary with my highschool buddy Andrew. We rowed around the small urban lake everyday after school trolling mepps spinners for stocked trout (Sometimes we would sneak some beers out with us hehe, sorry mom). We were rarely the only ones out there. Many others: old and young, boat and shore, fly and spin all enjoyed the same experience. These were some of the most enjoyable fishing experiences of my youth.

As I got older, cooler and more hardcore I think I stopped thinking about fishing as a shared experience. I took on an opinion that many fly anglers often do; “fly fishing is superior to all other types of fishing”

Enjoying a nice hatchery rainbow in the days of my youth.

Over time I became better than everyone on that lake, my thought process was something like “I catch more fish than you”. Not just that, “I catch more fish with a fly fishing rod. I am god’s gift to this sport.” I started to avoid these places where the inferior fisherman fished for dumb, stocked trout together. My brother and I ventured deep into the woods on backcountry roads finding a bounty of wild trout and char in some of the most beautiful places on earth. Through this rejection of urban pond fishing, I found a new community and took on a new view of fishing. Gone were the days of drinking beer in a tin boat chucking metal lures at hatchery rainbows I was now a part of a community of wild trout fly fishermen who value wild places, solitude and mastering the art of fly fishing…for this I am grateful, I am glad that I have grown into the angler that I am today. I’m just not sure that I’m proud of how I got here…

As I sat there watching the scene at Shannon Lake that evening I couldn’t help but feel guilty. I thought that this type of fishing was inferior? That these people were somehow lesser fisherman?

I realized that I was the lesser fisherman. For years I had been missing out on this brilliant shared experience, catching fish, finding peace and making memories with people from all walks of life who are out there because they like to fish. The fact that I couldn’t see that made me upset.

Maybe you can’t afford that $400 fly rod.

Maybe you don’t have a 4×4 truck to take you into the backcountry.

Maybe you don’t even own a vehicle and need to take the bus.

Maybe you only have 2 hrs to go fishing.  

Or maybe you no longer have the use of your legs.

YOU CAN STILL FISH!!!

 

And that, in my opinion, is pretty awesome.

So, thank you urban fisheries! Thank you for providing an accessible and approachable option to anglers of all walks of life. The role that the urban fishery plays in developing the sport, and developing a society that understands and values the natural world is really immeasurable.

Fishing turns people into conservationists. If you like fishing and want to continue fishing then you are undoubtedly a supporter of pristine waterways and healthy ecosystems. Living in a city makes it easy to fall out of touch with nature and to lose sight of the joy and value that it can bring to our lives. The urban fishery bridges that gap by providing city dwellers a glimpse into the beautiful natural cycles of nature as well as access to the fantastic and therapeutic pastime of angling.  
So as the sun set over Shannon Lake I hopped off the park bench, grabbed my rod, tied on a big green woolly bugger with some split shot and walked down to the banks to join my fellow anglers and shared that perfect moment with them. And it felt just as good when I hooked into one, feeling a newfound respect for the local pond

Welcome to Fly Fishing in the Okanagan

Welcome to Fly Fishing in the Okanagan

I have no idea what I am doing when I’m on the river. And let’s be honest, none of us really do. We all go out fishing thinking we know exactly where the fish will be and what flies to get em with only to have our confidence crushed time and time again by these puzzling little creatures we seem to be transfixed on. I have no idea how I catch fish… but somehow I do, and it is fun so I keep doing it.

My brother, Kevin (the mastermind behind this website), is an amazing fisherman and takes a very analytical approach to the sport, this deep analysis mixed with copious amounts of research makes Kev an outstanding fly fisherman and I can definitely say that without him I would have far fewer fish to brag about. But I digress…

So, yes, my name is Mark Rossi. I live in Kelowna, BC and I am an avid bushwhacker here in the Okanagan.

Untitled picture
Out on my float tube on one of the many highland lakes in the area       Photo: Rieko Mochizuki

 

And I bring good news to you all!

The Okanagan region is fishing great! Lakes and rivers alike.

The Okanagan is much different from the meandering foothill rivers of Alberta or the fast glacier fed streams of the Kootenays. Here in the Okanagan you better be prepared to fish lakes. We have a lot of them. I am not talking about the big ones, Okanagan, Kalamalka, Wood, or Skaha lake…. Good luck fishing those with your fly rod. Nope, I am talking about the little wooded lakes up on the plateaus above the valley. The interior of this province is pockmarked with them and they almost always have trout. Hop on any logging road that heads to the highlands and you’re bound to stumble upon one or more of these tranquil retreats.

My favorites are Jackpine, Bear, Pinnacle and James Lakes. All are less than an hour drive from Kelowna.

The small highland lakes of the region are home the the the famous Pennask Lake Rainbow Trout. Sleek, powerful and aggressive this strain of fish is stocked in tons of lakes around the province and for one main reason: they are blast. Once hooked the Pennask Trout is a hell of a ride, jumping incredible heights and charging unpredictably with that fire that is impressive even for a rainbow trout; truly a delight to catch.

But it is not all lakes and Pennask Rainbow Trout here. There are some really great river systems that get much less attention from anglers than they should. Which is a good thing for bushwhackers like you and me!

Kettle
The West Kettle River Photo: Nolan Hunka

My personal favorites are the Kettle River and the West Kettle River, and it is where I spent last weekend. This river is perhaps best known for the former rail line which followed the length of its valley, The Kettle Valley Railway. The railway is long gone now, all that remains is a bike trail, Highway 33, a few dusty small communities, the odd campground, and lots of fish in a scenic wooded valley. Although technically not in the Okanagan (it is actually considered Boundary Region) this is the closest and most productive river in which Kelownains can wet their line.

This Saturday was spent fishing the Kettle in its upper reaches in the Christian Valley. Sunday I was on the West Kettle near the small town of Beaverdell. Although it poured rain all Saturday It turned out to be the more productive of the two days. My guess is that it snowed in the higher elevations overnight and meltwater lowered water temperatures enough to “chill out” the fish. Just a guess…. or an excuse, as to why we didn’t catch anything on Sunday ahah.

Saturday was pretty great. It was pouring rain from noon onwards. It felt like I was fishing for steelhead on a rainy coastal river; low fog, high, fast water, steep valley, and lush foliage always with the constant downpour pattering against my jacket. It certainly wasn’t your ordinary day on the Kettle; that Okanagan sun was nowhere to be found. I managed to land some pretty nice fish, and even got them to take the dry fly.

Kettle Rainbow
The largest fish of the day at around 15″
Rain
Trying to escape the Rain

The drive from Kelowna to the Kettle can be a bit excessive… and expensive if you are poor like me. There are a few options ( for moving water) that I love to fish and are closer to town. One I have been frequenting in the evenings as of late is Mission Creek. Although, not open to fishing within the city (below Gallagher Falls) the upstream sections are a great way for me to get my trout fix a bit closer to home. Small rainbow trout is the name of the game here as it is in many BC streams. The fish here are fun, hungry and elusive. Don’t expect to break any records here, but the odd big boy has been known to get pulled out of the deeper pools.

Mission Creek
A pretty little rainbow from Mission Creek

So that is just a taste of some of what this region can offer anglers. It was a very fun week of fishing and great to see the rivers in such great shape for this time of year.

I hope you got something out of this post. I know I didn’t really touch on lakes but my focus for the next month will be on rivers as most of the moving water here closes at the end of July, after that I will hit the lakes more regularly.

Also, if anyone wants to go fishing let me know. I am always looking for fellow Bushwhackers to hit the river with! rossi.markd@gmail.com

Til’ next time,

Mark Rossi

Sunset
Sunset on a secret lake near Kelowna. No… I won’t tell you where it is.