Go Back to Your Roots

Go Back to Your Roots
In a recent Facebook poll, 57% of participants said that they first learned how to fish on small streams.  Living in British Columbia, this doesn't surprise me, as there are literally thousands of small creeks that wind through the mountains and valleys of the province.  I learned how to fly fish on a few of these particular streams near Nakusp, where the plentiful rainbow trout were more than forgiving of my beginner presentations.  Let me share a story with you about a recent occasion when I went back to visit some of my other fishing roots.  

The first fish I ever caught was in the Ashnola River, which emptied into the Similkameen near Keremeos when I was two years old.  We moved away from Keremeos a year later, but I've seen the pictures from that trip on a few occasions since when old family photo album were brought out.  However, up until recently I hadn't put a line in that creek since I was a toddler.  When I made the decision to head out there for a little dry fly action, I wondered if it would still be full of willing trout or has it been fished out?  With high hopes and fly rod in hand, I headed out to exorcise some ghosts. 

I realized how long it had been since I've fished here as soon as I started driving up the Ashnola canyon.  The scenery seemed entirely foreign, as the steep, rocky cliffs protected the entire valley from the sun's reach even in the middle of the day.  Carving its way through this jagged terrain was one of the prettiest trout streams I'd seen in a long while, with pools and riffles to spare.  Not wanting to waste any more time, I pulled over at the first opportunity and quickly grabbed my rod and hiked the short distance from the dirt road to the creek. 
The Ashnola winds through a canyon before gradually flattening out as it nears its mouth at the Similkameen River.

A fish hit on the first cast, then another, and another, until I finally hooked a gorgeous rainbow trout about the length of my hand.  I kept casting and small, bright trout kept rising to my floating ant pattern.  Before long I began to assume that was all there was in this stream, until I came to a perfect pool about as wide as I could cast and as deep as I am tall.  I worked my way to the head of the pool, figuring there may be some better fish waiting there for the first crack at whatever drifted its way downstream.  Several casts in, I had a good smack, and my rod loaded under the weight of the fish.  This was no small fry.  I steadily worked the larger fish to the bank and scooped my hand underneath.  I quickly fumbled for my digital camera, as I held the fish in the shallow water while it did some fumbling of its own.  Once I focused the camera on the fish, I realized it was not a rainbow trout, but a westlope cutthroat, and a beautiful 14-15 inch specimen at that.  I managed one quick snap before it struggled itself free, and back into its watery habitat. 
This well-spotted cutthroat fell for an ant pattern.

I kept fishing, but all I could come up with were more pint-sized rainbows.  However, that was perfectly fine with me, as the beauty of these small fish makes up for their size and their willingness to strike a dry fly makes the fishing all that more addictive.  I packed up and headed down the canyon again, assured that it will be certainly be less than 25 years until I come back here again.   It's a beautiful spot, and it made the day all the more satisfying knowing that this was the place where I'd caught my first fish ever, the beginning of an obsession.

One of the many well-coloured rainbows caught that day.

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