Bassing in the rain

Published on June 1st, 2010 by Rodney

Nina and I made our annual trip to St Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island last weekend. We normally do a trip in late June, when smallmouth bass fishing have been excellent in the deeper water columns. Two years ago, we did a trip in the first week of May and the trout fishing was excellent while the bass fishing was slow. This year, we decided to give late May a try so we could possibly target both smallmouth bass and trout successfully.

This spring’s weather has not exactly been fantastic, so we were not too surprised to be greeted by mist and dark clouds when we sailed away on the ferry from Tsawwassen. We stayed at our usual cabana at Lakeside Gardens Resort, where we could park our boat just several feet from our doorstep. The cabana is equipped with stoves, a fridge and a double bed. It is almost like camping, but comfortable enough after a long day of fishing.

Rain clouds hovering above gulf islands.

Cooler weather also brought out other local residents.

Although the rain dampened most of our four-day trip, the fishing made up for it. Soon after our arrival at the resort, I decided to throw a fly out from the floating dock because we have always caught some big bass from there. After four casts, a hefty fish grabbed the fly and gave me a good tussle. It spat the hook just prior to reaching my hands. A second fish, around the same size, also fell for the same leech pattern soon after. In spring months, large smallmouth bass take over the shallow portions of the lake to nest and spawn. They are territorial, predatory, so anything thrown at them usually works right away.

Not bad from the floating dock.

Beside flyfishing for them, the reliable spinner did not disappoint again. Large aggressive fish never hesitated as I sneaked up to the reed beds with the electric motor and threw the spinner over them. The bites were explosive, usually resulted in some surface thrashing before diving deeply. It is a rather exciting way to fish on the light spinning rod.

The magic spinner does it again!

My largest bass of the trip came on Sunday after I spotted it thrashing something on the surface. The distance between us was large, but it was worth a shot. I threw the spinner as far as I could and it landed just short of where it was. There was still a chance. After two turns on the spinning reel, it pulled the whole rod violently and sent the drag screaming. The fight lasted several minutes in the rain before I could grip it firmly with both hands.

Say ah!

Another spiny-ray species that we regularly encountered was yellow perch. This invasive species in British Columbia is known to take over and ruin a lake fishery due to its aggressive feeding behaviour. At St Mary Lake, they don’t seem to be as widespread. These perch, only grow up to 10 inches long, were actually pretty entertaining to catch on the fly rod when nothing else was biting.

Yellow perch.

The rain intensified on Sunday evening and so did the fishing. Right in front of the resort, I spotted a patch of water where dozens of fish were feeding. For two hours until I could not see my hands, I casted and stripped the fly with the clear intermediate sink line, hooking one bass on almost every cast. This is what has kept us coming back each year.

One more for the camera.

Overall the fishing was a lot more challenging than previous years, mostly due to the cooler weather. Although we encountered less fish, there were bigger fish, which is always a good trade-off. Now that our first road trip of the year is finished, it is time to plan the second. In the next few months, we will be visiting many other remote fisheries across British Columbia as the weather improves.

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