Approaching a New Lake

One of the most daunting things in fly fishing, and life in general, is the unknown.  It’s appeal constantly draws me in when it comes to uncovering new bodies of water and locations.  These days there is almost no such thing as a fishery in BC that has been 100% untouched by man, but the days where you know you are making the first tire tracks of the year down an unpaved road can feel as though you are discovering something yourself.  There is no doubt that social media has played a massive role in popularizing certain fisheries, but that’s a conversation for another day.  Sometimes it’s more rewarding to go on a whim than it is to have a map drawn to you from someone in a Facebook group.  Though it’s hard to turn down the familiarity of branching off from your favourite lake for a day to take a chance, just know that unless the apocalypse takes place overnight your favourite lake will still be there even if your new adventure doesn’t pan out.  Here is a list of tactics I have compiled for searching out a new lake, and making your visit as successful as possible.

Chainsaw Mandatory – This might seem like a weird thing to put at the top of the list, but trust me on it.  Exploring remote areas is a game of Russian Roulette, and if you give it enough tries you are guaranteed to face adversity at one point or another.  Last year I was fortunate enough to lay the first tire tracks of the year into a secluded mountain lake, and the trip would have been a total bust without a chainsaw.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just something decent enough to potentially make the difference between accessing the lake or not.


Into the Abyss!

Map It – Once you have made a decision, commit to knowing that you definitely have the directions nailed down.  Technology like Google Maps has made mapping out lakes a breeze, don’t spend half of your day on a wild goose chase down every Forest Service Road in the area.


The only way to end a quality day of stillwater fishing

Elevation – Elevation is your friend when it comes to doing your homework on a potential new lake.  Say your new lake is at 4,100 feet in elevation and all the lakes at 2,800 and lower are shedding their ice, maybe consider postponing until ice-off is looking more realistic.  That said, if you know lakes at the approximate elevation of the one you’re interested in are experiencing good hatches, chances are it is worth your time and effort.

Stocking Reports – We are lucky to have places like GoFishBC’s stocking reports to check which strains of fish and how many are being put in any of our lakes.  Use stocking reports to your advantage, for example a lake that is stocked with low numbers of triploids (less than 1,500 annually) and has good feed will generally grow big fish.


Plan B – This rings especially true in early season because eventually you will come to a lake in hopes of it being ice free only to find out it is a couple days away.  Make sure there’s something remotely close that can bail you out if plan A doesn’t pan out.  Directions become incorrect or confusing, ice hasn’t lifted, road is too rough to continue, things like this happen all the time when exploring to new lakes so be prepared for it.  It’s a long drive home if you don’t have a plan B, trust me.

Make Your Rounds – This is one that can really test your patience.  Unless I see something that really gets my attention like a massive concentrated cloud of chironomids hatching, I will usually row around as much of the lake as I feel necessary while trying to pay attention to bottom structure & signs of activity.  Sometimes it is hard not to anchor up and put the lines out right away, but taking your time to learn the structure of the lake will pay its dividends.


Big, healthy Pennask strain rainbow trout from a new-to-me lake

Fish Effectively – This might mean swallowing your pride and moving away from the method you are comfortable with that worked so well last week at your home lake.  Being able to adapt to your surroundings is what makes you an effective angler.  If you see fish crushing damselfly nymphs in 6 feet of water but you’re a dedicated chironomid angler, give yourself every advantage possible and do your best to adapt.

Commit – This is the most important of them all.  I made my way into a lake that I had been putting off for 6 straight years for the first time last year, and had one of the best days I’ve ever had.  As I was leaving, I wondered why I didn’t trust my instinct and give it a go when I first heard it’s tales of big fish.  Have a plan B, but don’t bail out at the last minute because you know that you can go elsewhere and find fish.  Exploring is half the fun, your favourite fisheries will still be there whether your new venture is successful or not.


Hopefully this inspires at least one person to make the leap and try something new this season.  There are hundreds of lakes in the interior of BC that are stocked with fish, some of them have gained more reputation & popularity than others but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still some hidden gems out there.  For every lake you hear about that holds ten pound fish, imagine all of the ones you’ve never heard anybody speak a word of.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to read this post, until next time happy fishing!



2 Comments on “Approaching a New Lake

  1. Excellent advice about the chainsaw. I’ve had to make do with an axe, elbow grease and a little luck before. A chainsaw definitely helps.


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