A Fishing Dream Comes True at Anahim Lake

-by Tom Johannesen
Contributing Writer
British Columbia Sport Fishing
Feb-Mar 1997

Like all fly fishers I have dreamt about one fabulous day on a calm water lake where I could cast and catch 100 trout..with a dry fly! My dream came true at Anahim Lake.

Sure, we had all heard of this phenomenal lake with its plentiful native trout, winding rivers and the famous pelicans but we could hardly believe the stories of the unique and plentiful cuttbows at nearby Lessard Lake...until we tested our fly rods and sampled the hospitality of the lodge owners.

Upon arriving at Anahim's Escott Bay Resort, we were greeted by the owners Bill and Darlene Van Es and invited to join them for breakfast in the main lodge. While Darlene was in the kitchen preparing a hot meal, Bill explained a little about the area and gave us directions to a few local lakes we could throw our tubes in. While looking over Anahim Lake, our enthusiasm greatly increased as everywhere we looked, fish were breaking the surface.

Anahim Lake is surrounded by jagged snow capped mountains. With tall green poplar trees lining parts of the shoreline, the lake sits in a very scenic setting. The edges of the shoals flourish with long green grass, ideal for insect life of all types. The lake is fished with many different methods, from trolling to bait casting from shore. Everyone we spoke to had good success regardless of methods or skill level. For ourselves, we had come to experience dry fly-fishing at its best. Our residence was once of the resort's log cabins situated in the trees approximately a hundred yards from the lake. In front of us were a row of cottages lining the waterfront; they all have an incredible view of the lake and surrounding mountains. The cottages and cabins come full equipped and have vehicle access right to the door. There are also approximately 20 sites available for campers and RV units situated with walking distance of the lake. If the stay becomes longer than planned there is a shower house complete with laundry facilities.

Our first stop would be Poison Lake situated just off the main road to the resort. It is stocked annually with rainbows and contains fish over five pounds. The southern end of the lake contains a large weed-covered shoal; ideal for insect habitat. We fished the lake for about an hour with moderated success, but we wanted more.

On we went to Lessard Lake, which is connected to the Upper Dean River system and has Hybrid cuttbows in it. These cuttbows are quite rare in BC, but thrive throughout the Upper Dean River system. While looking out over the lake we were disappointed to see few fish rising. Nevertheless we suited up and headed our on the water. Our first fly of choice was a maroon leech tied out of marabou. This pattern turned out to be just what we were looking for; within minutes we had a double-header and both were nice fish. The fight was very strong, with several good runs thrown in before they surrendered to the net.

These beautiful trout are a cross between a rainbow and a cutthroat; their coloration is unique as it resembles no other species of trout. The cutthroat's trademark red slash stands out as if it's been freshly hand painted. With all the fine spots and bright pink glow on their sides, these are truly a beautiful fish. We continued fishing for a few more hours before the weather turned for the worse and forced us to return to the lodge.

In the few hours we landed over 30 fish from 13 to 17 inches. We never managed to try any different patterns as the leech was consistent during the entire outing. Once back at the lodge, we had a few good stories to share with other guest while sitting around the fire tying flies. As it turned out, there was lots of time to tell them, since the wind and rain kept us in for the rest of the day.

In the morning, going on Bill's advice, we made a trip across the open lake in a Lund cartopper the lodge provided for us. Our destination was a river that connects little Anahim Lake to the main lake. Bill told us this body of water contains many fish in August, as the trout seek cooler water during the summer months. The water in the estuary was only a few inches deep, forcing us to lift the motor, climb in the water and push the boat for a short distance. Leaving the boat for a couple of minutes was by no means an inconvenience as it gave us time to admire the famous pelicans feeding in the shallows. Once across the sand flats, the river turned into a beautiful slow flowing body of water ranging from three-to six-feet deep. The banks were undercut with long green horsetail weed lining both sides. The weeds created shade for the fish and also provided good habitat for insects. On our first trip up the river, we beached the boat a quarter mile in and began working a few runs from shore. Waters were a must as the bottom was soft in many areas and room for a backcast was limited. This body of water being new to us, we started with a small well-proven deer hair caddis, fished with a four-pound tippet. On my first cast the little pattern had only drifted a few feet when a fish revealed itself. The fly was sucked under with an aggressive swirl followed by a cuttbow taking to the air. It wasn't a large fish, but with four- weight gear the fight was respectable. We ran our flies through the same water for another hour. The fishing was good, but this slow moving part of the river would not yield us any good-sized cuttbows.

The only fish we hit with any size to them were squaw fish, which were also aggressive towards a dry fly. While climbing back in the boat we remembered spooking a school of larger fish as we entered the river. We figured that by now they would have had enough time to regroup, and a well-presented fly might give us some more dry fly action. Quietly drifting to within casting distance of the fish, we dropped anchor. This enabled us to put a natural drift through the fish without spooking them again. My partner took the first cast, then we watched patiently as the little fly gently drifted along the unbroken surface. Out of nowhere the water exploded; we were both startled by the violent way the fish took the fly. The hook was set and , as expected, the fish took the air, trying with all its might to shake the fly. This fish was more the size we were looking for. Once landed, the prime 17-inch cuttbow was gently slipped back to its familiar surroundings to give another angler the same thrill on another day.

Next it was my turn to make a drift. The fly drifted silently with the current until it hit the same area. Again the calm surface was broken as the fly was sucked under. With disbelief I set the hook and began my battle with a good-sized cuttbow. After a respectable fight, the fish laid on its side and was netted for a quick release. As it turned out, these two good-sized fish were not a nice fish all throughout the river system. Before heading in for lunch we had caught and release three dozen fish from 13 to 17 inches. The excitement these fish put out was so great we didn't have the heart to keep any. Heading back to the lodge I felt as if we had just spend a morning fishing a little river somewhere in Europe. It's hard to believe such incredible dry fly fishing can still be found in BC.

Back at the lodge we told Bill of our lucky fishing adventure and he said that it wasn't luck, the fishing is always this good in the summer months. Later that same afternoon, Bill guided us on a small section of the Upper Dean flowing from Anahim Lake. We drove the rough 4x4 into the parking area where we were greeted by a few thousand mosquitos. After applying several gallons of insect repellent, we made the short trek to the river. The insects didn't seem to bother us as long as we kept on moving. After fishing a couple of hours, I came to the conclusion that this river is a dry fly-fisherman's dream come true. With fish holding behind every rock and laying in every run, one just couldn't ask anymore from a river. Over the next two days, we spend most of our time fish the body of water running into Anahim Lake. No matter how many times we drifted it, fish kept appearing from nowhere to take our flies.

Anahim Lake is located just east of Tweedsmuir Park approximately four hours from Williams Lake by car. For a scenic trip, you can fly in by float plant at a discounted price. Keep in mind the weather can change dramatically from summer to winter in just a few hours. Bring clothes for all seasons as it's usually better to be a little overpacked than have a trip spoiled by not having the right apparel. Throughout the summer months, mosquitos can be a bit of a menace, but with the right clothes and a good supply of insect repellent, they are tolerable. Bring a camera as there will be many sights to capture and cherish forever.

Escott Bay Resort offers the ultimate family vacation with lake fishing, river fishing, canoeing, hiking and horseback riding available. The only thing we would change about our trip was the length of stay; a full week is required to experience all Escott Bay Resort has to offer. Bill and Darlene were perfect hosts catering to all our needs. From meals to accommodation, the stay couldn't have been better.

For more information or reservations contact:
Bill and Darlene Van Es, P.0. Box 3375, Anahim Lake, BC, V0L 1C0.
Phone (250)742-3233 or Fax (250) 742-3272
E-mail escottb@telus.net