Wednesday April 23, 2014





Mair: The knotty of issue of fishing at the ranch

There is a controversy concerning fishing on the Douglas Lake Ranch. Three lakes are involved – Douglas, Minnie and Stoney – all of which I have fished with great pleasure. The fish were (and still are, I’m told) enormous and the lakes have excellent hatches. A fly-fisher’s delight.

During my time in Kamloops, the Douglas Lake Ranch was owned by Chunky Woodward and was managed by the same manager as today, one of my old Stockmen’s Hotel “after five” pals, Joe Gardiner.

The issue is a knotty one. In strict legal terms the question is whether or not the ranch can cut off access, since the lakes are within its boundaries – I suspect that the answer is no.

Part of the problem is envy – these lakes are reserved for paying guests. Egalitarianism opposes private, paid-for privilege and that’s common the world over. I favour the egalitarian argument but I have to, from wide experience, acknowledge that it’s an argument that commands a heavy price.

I’ve fished a great deal in the UK and Ireland where most of the water is private. Although “beats” are sometimes rented to fishing clubs, by and large fishing is limited to those who can afford it and even then, it is carefully rationed as to when and where it can be fished.

Here’s where the dilemma starts. If there wasn’t privately controlled, limited fishing there would be very few fish. Especially in southern England streams like the Test and the Itchen, where the rationing of fishing with some success has fought off the ravages of industry and depletion of aquifers by municipalities.

Closer to home, many otherwise 4-wheel drive lakes have been over-fished by ice fishermen on snowmobiles – their answer is simply, why not? Who do the 4-wheel drivers think they are? And it’s a hard argument to logically meet.

New Zealand, which I have fished for 30 years, is an interesting study. My area of expertise is in the Lake Taupo area on the Waitenahui, the Hinemaaia, the Tongariro and, especially the Tauranga-Taupo, the one Wendy and I love so much.

There are some unique factors involved here – while you can fish many lakes with hardware, the rivers are all fly only. The population pressure is not the same – Taupo village is much smaller than the Kamloops “catchment” area and the country is divided into many individual licensing and enforcement areas. From this there is clearly this distinction – most of the Kamloops area fishing is in lakes and fly only lakes are few in number. 

As I wrote that I thought of Lake Otanangakau, where there are huge fish – my best, a 10-pounder, was hardly worth a comment. It, too, is fly only.

Fly fishing brings two things to the table, so to speak.

It’s easier to remove and release form a single hook than from the treble hooks on gang trolls or even Flatfish and - here is where they get pissed off, Mr. Editor – fly fishing has a long tradition and is surrounded by great literature from world class writers like Roderick Haig- Brown of Campbell River and Zane Grey.

Kamloops fly-fishers are now graced with the likes of Kathy Ruddick, Brian Chan, Mo Bradley and many who follow in the steps of Bill Nation, Tommy Brayshaw, Jack Shaw, Colley Peacock, Barney Rushton and many others who made Kamloops and its special strain of Rainbow Trout famous world-wide. To my knowledge, there is no locally known, much less world-known, hardware fisherman.

Egalitarians we must be in a democracy but it it carries with it so many people who, in Oscar Wilde’s words, “know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Rafe Mair writes for The Daily News every other week. He can be contacted at rafe@rafeonline.com.





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