Fishing Highway 24
By Jo Johnson
BC’s famed “Fishing Highway” (Highway 24), located in Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region of BC has been known to strike awe in fishing and outdoor enthusiasts—both within this land without limits region, and beyond—since the mid-1800s.
And strike awe, it does. At only 97 km long, this short yet ridiculously scenic route offers access to approximately 100 crystal clear lakes for fishing and water sports, as well as a plethora of places to set up camp (or glamp—glamourous camping), eat, and explore. The entire region is renowned for clean air, abundant wildlife, sublime scenery, and laid back locals. Visitors who get a taste of it are often compelled to return time and again.
Mike Fry of Bellingham, WA, has two huge passions, fly fishing and mountain biking, and he’s been coming to Canada to do both for close to 35 years. Mike, a 46-year-old father of two and a Head Planner for BP North America, is determined to continue the annual family fishing trip started by his dad back in 1985. In the summer of his 12th year, Mike and his dad and their two fishing buddies made the long trek across the border and up to Rock Island Lake Fishing Camp (with the adults riding up front and the kids riding wild and free with the gear in the back of the truck, under a canopy ?). The fishing foursome spent a good stretch of days on the fly at Rock Island Lake before happily bouncing around to other lakes close by (Hardcastle, Grizzly, Wineholt, and Crater) testing their skill and patience at each one. After a couple of weeks basking in summer sunshine and fishing themselves into contented oblivion, they rolled home with happy hearts, greasy hands and bellies full to bursting with smoked trout. It was then that Mike knew he was hooked on fishing and Highway 24.
Mike’s favourite lake to fish, 35 years later, is still Wineholt. “It’s a tricky lake, but when it’s hot, it’s HOT!” Over the years, if the fish weren’t biting at their usual haunts (which was seldom the case) or if they were feeling adventurous, Mike and his fly fishing posse would pop into one or two of the other dozen lakes in the immediate vicinity and, inevitably, have a fish on in no time. “That’s the beauty of the area and the ease of fly fishing,” Mike claims. “There is always fish biting somewhere close by, so if you’re getting skunked, you just pack up and walk or drive five minutes down the road to another one. No boat. No muss. No fuss.”
Although Mike will obviously never let his kids bounce around unprotected in the back of his pickup, he considers Highway 24 a mecca for fly fishing and can’t wait to strike wonder in the hearts of his boys when he brings them up to fish and bike later this year.
An added bonus to the vast array of lakes in the Highway 24 area, is that they also come with a wide variety of trout species, both wild and stock. BC Fisheries stocking reports are available to anyone and give detailed information regarding the strain and species of trout added to the lakes in every region each spring. While the lakes on Highway 24 are predominantly Rainbow, thanks to Fisheries stock, many also contain Brook, Burbot, Char, Lake, and Kokanee. If you’re keen to learn the types of trout available (diploid, triploid, wild) and optimal fishing practices, both seasonal and daily, consider checking out the handy BC’s Angler’s Atlas for all the latest details on each lake.
For first-timers on the Fishing Highway, it is highly recommended to fish a few of the big ones before exploring smaller lakes.
- Lac des Roches: Also a decent sized lake, it holds wild Burbot Trout and is well-stocked with Rainbows each year. It is good for both types of fishing and there are boat launches and resorts all around it.
- Bridge Lake: This large lake with many resorts and access areas scattered around it, holds wild Arctic Char, Lake, and Burbot Trout, as well as a few species of coarse fish, and is also stocked with Kokanee and Rainbows each spring. The Lake Trout can grow upwards of a whopping 20 lbs (catch and release only) and the Rainbows average 4-6 lbs. Great lake for both fly fishing and trolling.
- Sheridan Lake: One of the premiere lakes in BC, this gorgeous lake is heavily stocked with an abundance of Rainbows every spring that average 2-6 lbs, but also holds wild Brook Trout. Like Bridge Lake, Sheridan also boasts many resorts, campgrounds, and access areas.
Highway 24 isn’t only for people who love fishing and water sports, it’s also frequented by droves of outdoor recreation and wildlife enthusiasts. Endless trails and roads up into the backcountry are easily accessible from many points along the Highway and open up access to another world of varied vistas, from pristine creeks and rolling wildflower fields to snow-capped mountain summits. Wildlife viewing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, backcountry touring, ATV adventuring, rock climbing, and hunting are only the tip of the adventurer’s iceberg along Highway 24. In fact, there is so much to see and do in that 97 km stretch of road, that long-term locals (like Don Phillips who has spent 85 years living in and exploring the area) claim they will never be able to see it all in one lifetime.
For anyone who hasn’t yet experienced the wild ride that is Highway 24, this looped route itinerary that begins and ends in Kamloops will offer the best chance to cast a line into a wide variety of lakes while also cruising through some of the most kaleidoscopic landscapes BC has to offer. Canada has four major biomes (geography and climate of a region)—desert, forest, grassland, and tundra—and the route from Kamloops to Highway 24 passes through subcategories of three of them, including semi-arid desert, boreal forest, and alpine tundra. This makes for some magical changes in scenery, guaranteed to strike awe.