Have you ever just been hit by an all consuming and irrational need to get away? To hit the open road without a plan? To explore without an agenda and get away from all the routine and boredom of regular life?
The urge hit me last week as the rain poured into southern Alberta for the first time, and the water got high and murky. Not being on a shift at work for another 10 days, I wasn’t really sure what I was gonna do with myself. It was Thursday, and the thought of hitting the road never even crossed my mind.
And that’s when my brother Mark called me and told me some friends were heading out camping. And that I should come too. And it didn’t take long for me to realize he was right; and the upcoming roadtrip was already starting to take form in my mind.
The roadtrip took me over the divide, into the interior mountains of BC, through the Okanagan and Boundary Country, and back again through the Kootenays. Stops on the trip included Golden, Chase, Kelowna, Nelson, and the Crowsnest Pass.
The best part of a roadtrip is having your fly-rod ready to go in the car at all times. And with no agenda, any piece of water that is open for consideration, at least for a few casts. These few casts lead to a few more, and inevitably you find you’ve been fishing for an hour and are now running behind your loosely defined schedule. Rivers were primarily closed on this trip until I made it to the Kootenays (where we fished the Columbia with success), but the lakes were open and the drizzle had fish rising. So there were lots of chances to take a few casts along the way.
The second thing I like about road trips is the peaceful time alone, to contemplate and think. But this roadtrip also had lots of time spent catching up with my brother and good friends I haven’t seen in a while, along with meeting new people. The long nights spent talking and enjoying time with friends contrasted to the peaceful alone time on a BC highway is something that made me grateful for both.
Trouble on the Highways
The first night saw a speed bump. I was trying to get all the way to Chase, BC (near Salmon Arm). However, mother nature had other plans. The rogers pass was closed for 2 days, with extreme avalanches that were actually mind boggling once we drove by them. For backcountry skier types, these avalanches were size 4 and ran full path, carrying full mature timber in them. There were probably close to a dozen to be seen from the highway, and two that crossed the highway. An amazing avalanche cycle. There was also a closure for a mudslide near Sicamous. So the chance of getting to Chase were very low, even if the Pass opened. To make matters worse, it was raining steadily on the divide where we were. And Firewood was not sold in the park. And all of the campsites near golden were full cause of the closure.
Sometimes, things just work out.
Luckily, another good friend of mine and my brother was also heading out and got blocked as well. We rendezvoused in Field, got a few tips from the visitor center, managed to find a few logs from a local in field, and headed down some logging road that took us to a land use zone. Somehow, me managed to find an incredible camp spot hidden away with a beautiful view of a waterfall, a bench and fire pit. And right as the rain stopped. Miraculously, we got a fire gong in the wet conditions with only full logs and no axe or hatchet.
We proceeded to drink beers and shoot cans and get gloriously tipsy all night before I stumbled over to my hammock and fell into a deep slumber with the tumbling sound of the waterfall in the background.
Getting back on track
The only complaint with day 1 was that I didn’t get to fish at all. So I fixed that on day 2. I stopped at a few lakes on my way over to Chase and the Rec site where my brother and their clan were chillin. Spot I knew and have had luck before. I hooked a big bully but couldn’t land him. Missed a few rainbows and probably got some ticks in the deathly willows that seemed so innocent from the highway. So I ripped over to the hangout for the next couple of days, another great rec site on a beautiful Lake called Harper Lake. This lake is tough to find, and after being lost for a bit and some very demanding but managable logging roads, I found myself at the beutiful spot they had. As soon as I got there, I could see the trout rising. Finally, I could put a fish on the board.
We caught up with everyone for a little bit once we got there. Caught up, ate some food. But it wasn’t long before the rising trout were all me and Mark could think of. Tactfully, we slipped away and finally got fishing.
I didn’t have a boat so Mark did the kind thing and ditched his belly boat so we could fish together. The casting was tough from shore, but after some bushwhacking, mud wading, and then navigating some floating tree islands, we found ourselves in a nice position to cast to some risers. It was a good night fishing, and while neither of us hooked into anything big, we each caught 3 fish and it was nice to get some dry fly action.
After that, with the trout itch stratched, we bundled up for the cold night and didn’t move far from the fire the rest of the night, except to grab a beer or a hot dog. It was a good night with good people, and again I fell asleep in my hammock very satisfied and tired.
I fell asleep in my swinging hammock under the moon, and awoke to the rustling of trees and the sound of birds.
After a morning coffee and a few goodbyes, I fished a little bit and explored that morning, cleaned up camp and then hit the road again. I was headed to Kelowna today, staying with Mark. A shower was very necassary. And maybe something that wasn’t a hot dog.
This day was the hump day, as there was no fishing to be had in the Okanagan as the rain came down and everything was flooded. But, I knew I would be able to find some good fishing in the Kootenays, and the thought of fish had me excited for what the road ahead would bring. I got cleaned up, showered, and had another good sleep on Mark’s couch.
The great part about this roadtrip is that it took me to some places that are not necassarily famed trout waters, or well known, well publicized waters. Out of all the places I wet a line: Salmon Arm, Revelstoke, and in the West Kootenays in Nelson and Castlgar, none are considered the best places to fish. They are not like Fernie, Kamloops, the Skeena, or the Island, where people flock to for trout. No. These are the lesser known, but if one puts in a bit of time and knows the right people, there is still tons of great fishing to be had, and big fish to be caught, even in the middle of run-off.
So I left Kelowna with the mighty Columbia River in mind. It was a tail water fishery that flows out of a bottom-drawing dam. Meaning clear, consistent flows. I used to live in Nelson, and I always head back there. It took a while, but slowly but surely, I’ve begun to figure this huge river out.
But I suppose this departure marks the Halfway point of my journey, and once you enter into the magical portal of the Kootenays it really becomes a story of its own. And you should probably get back to whatever it is that you should be doing besides reading this (although I thank you for reading this far).
So that is where I’m going to leave it for today. Right as I enter the portal into the Kootenays and begin my search for big rainbows.
I will talk about the Columbia River and tips on fishing for these Rainbows in the next post, as well as the town of Nelson and it’s amazing culture of happiness, and the rest of the trip in Roadtrippin PT II…
Keep your eyes open the next few days!