When I think of winter I frequently think of the other side of the mountain – in this case the mainland coastal range that runs along the western edge of our province.
Here on Vancouver Island we are not seeing very much of winter, especially during 2014-15.
Earlier this month, Elaine and I went to Port Hardy to celebrate her birthday with our daughter and family – just possibly, Ralph might slip in a short session for steelhead on the Quatse River with Bill Shire.
On the drive to the north end and back we were continuously surprised by the absence of snow on the mountains and ice on the high elevation lakes.
So far this season we have had unusually mild temperatures with virtually no snow in the lower valleys, and without exception every lake was ice free and full of water right to the tree line.
We also saw circles of rising trout when we stopped for lunch at Homach Lake. It’s fun to predict the weather and I will go out on a limb and predict we are not going to have any cold weather for the balance of the winter.
For lake fishers we are experiencing insect hatches that do not normally appear until early March.
Recently a friend dropped by with a treat of some fresh cutthroat trout he had caught in a small lake behind Campbell Lake that is normally ice-bound at this time of the year. The lake was ice-free with an active hatch of chironomids in progress.
He fished from a float tube and before the cold water forced him to retreat he had excellent fishing on a small leech pattern.
Unless you have a built-in heating system in your body, fishing from float tubes in winter cold water can be a prescription for hypothermia.
I fish from a small punt and wear super warm clothes and enjoy the luxury of hot tea, all of which makes it pretty comfortable to enjoy winter lake fishing.
If you follow the weather on the western side of North America we seem to be in an El Nino pattern that suggests we will not see much cold weather on our side of the mountains.
Maple Lake is producing good catches of trout up to 20 inches long. Whether you fish from shore or a small boat it is well-stocked by the Freshwater Fisheries Society. It is also brim full, making some shore stations a little wet.
I did manage to get onto the Quatse River with my friends for a few hours. We were fishing low water conditions, but there were still a fair number of fish around.
One angler was into four steelhead in the run below the campground.
I made contact with a nice fish in the run above the Hatchery Pool.
It is several years since I cast a steelhead outfit and I must admit it was an emotional high to be on the river.
My outfit is 49 years old and still in perfect working condition. We are growing old together.
It was nice to see two young men from the Comox Valley fishing the river and it was especially inspiring to see the type of support they got from local steelheaders.
(Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.)