For those of us who truly love the outdoors, fish and game success stories are indeed rare in this part of the country! I recently had an opportunity to witness a true success story less than two hours south of Kelowna at Osoyoos Lake. On Sunday, August 12, 2012, my friend Ron Milani, gave me a call and said, "Don, how would you like to go sockeye fishing with me tomorrow morning at 5:30 am?" "Where?" I asked. "Osoyoos Lake of course!" was Ron's answer. Without much thought about how early I would have to get out of bed I agreed to meet Ron the next morning at the Oliver Canadian Tire Store parking lot. Before giving you a few details of the trip, let me describe in brief the evolution of this amazing fishery!
By the early 1990s, returns of adult sockeye salmon in Skaha Lake just south of Penticton were virtually nil and only a few thousand made it back through the nine dams of the Columbia River system to Osoyoos Lake. In 1997, the Okanagan Nation Alliance in partnership with the Federal Department of fisheries and several USA agencies, began a study to determine if once plentiful sockeye could be restored to the Okanagan. By 2003, the Partnership began releasing sockeye salmon fry into the Okanagan River. By 2010, the salmon returns exceeded everyone's expectations and a short season was opened for sports fishermen, as well as a Native commercial fishery. This year the return was sufficient to allow a full month of fishing with a limit of two sockeye per day for sport caught fish! Truly a miracle in the desert!
Oh yes, I did arrive at the Oliver meeting place just before 5:30 am where we loaded my gear into Ron's truck and proceeded to a boat launch near the north end of Osoyoos Lake. Now catching these fish isn't exactly fly fishing as everyone, including us, used traditional salt water salmon gear, namely flashers and hoochies on either down riggers or heavy slip weights to get to the fifty foot depths that the sockeye seemed to prefer. I hooked one on a small pink hoochy and was surprised to see that it was in relatively good condition! Several more were hooked, then lost, on the same gear using a slow deep troll. As the day began heating up in true Osoyoos style, we headed back to the launch well before noon. In talking with some local fishermen at the shore, I express great interest when I was shown a red fly that faithfully caught two salmon every morning! Yes, it was trolled behind a flasher, but nonetheless it was a fly. Now, next year, I would like to figure out how to catch Osoyoos Lake sockeye on a fly line! Let me know if you know how. Anyway, the subject of our September fly tying article is a fly I call the Osoyoos Sockeye!
As the fish are deep, I like to start with several wraps of silver lead free wire (not really needed if trolled deep behind a flasher but I hope to someday figure out how to get down to these fish with just a fly line). Next tie in some red polar bear hair just under the hook eye, allowing it to flow straight back twice the length of the hook shank. Next attach several strands of pink krystal flash on top of the hook shank the same length as the hair. Then tie in a bigger clump of red polar bear hair of the same length on top of the flash, also allowing it to flow straight back as well. Finish the fly with several turns of black floss at the hook eye to form a head.
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