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Kamloops Rainbows - A Fly Fishing Dream

Ron Newman - Fly Fisher/Fly Tier/Author

Ron Newman

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By D. Roger Maves

Want to catch a different type of rainbow trout up in the tranquil lakes of Kamloops? You may want to listen to our show and find out about this trout that is uniquely found in the area.

Listen to Ron Newman's show:

Kamloops Rainbows - A Fly Fishing Dream

Ron Newman has spent 30 years researching virtually anything that could affect the Kamloops rainbow trout and how they act in stillwater. Learn his inside information that will help you to catch more trout in stillwaters.

Read what our listeners have said about the show... 

Ron Newman was extremely fortunate when his job took him in 1971 to Kamloops and placed him right in the middle of a world-class fly fishery. Two years after, he was pursuing the famous Kamloops Trout with a fly rod.

Ron has invested 30 years of his life researching and doing data analysis on fly fishing, especially in Kamloops. One of the answers he was seeking was how well do rainbow trout see, hear, and smell. He has published a book Rainbow Trout Fly Fishing – A Guide for Still Waters which was released in 2008. He has been a member of the Kamloops Fly Fishers Association and the British Columbia Federation of Fly Fishers since 1974.

The existence of Kamloops rainbow trout is quite uncertain. According to Ron, if you ask if there really is a Kamloops trout, the answer is both yes and no. In the late 1800s Dr. Jordan at Stanford University examined some samples of rainbow trout from Kamloops and found out that they were physically different than normal rainbow trout. They had more rows of scales, fewer gill rakers, fewer rays, and there were marked branchiostegal rays. Dr. Jordan even gave it a scientific name - Salmo Kamloops. However, after many years, a certain Dr. Mottley also studied the rainbows in Kamloops and found out that they are not different from the normal rainbow trout. According to Ron, these differences in the physical attributes of the fish were due to the environmental conditions; not genetic differences.

Basically, there are Kamloops trout that are physically different. They have extreme fighting capabilities and stamina characteristics, but you can’t transport them away from Kamloops. Some were transferred to California but they did not develop the same characteristics. One of the factors affecting the development of these unique characteristics in the fishes is that the streams around Kamloops are about nine degrees cooler than the normal streams. After the eggs are laid and hatched the water gets a lot warmer, which the rest of Canada doesn’t normally experience.

Kamloops is around three hours’ drive northeast of Vancouver, BC in Canada, just north of Seattle, Washington. It is located in the southern interior, west of the Rocky Mountains.

There were rumors that Kamloops trout used to reach 33 to 55 pounds, but rainbow trout with those sizes do not exist anymore since the lakes’ food supplies have dwindled. Right now, they are supposed to be averaging 10 pounds – the biggest trout Ron has seen was 18 pounds.

Kamloops trout are usually found in places that are landlocked and don’t have permanent streams. They would start their spawning cycle upon reaching four or five years old or the last two years of their lives because they are nearing the end of their life cycle.

The Kamloops rainbow has a very small brain – really not much more than just an enlargement of the spinal column. Most of that brain is devoted to their sense of smell. They can smell really well in water. One of the things this means to the angler is to wash their hands before fishing or tying flies. All mammals’ skins contain L-serine which trout can easily smell, so if you don’t wash your hands, this could get on to your fly and frighten or spook the fish.

Rainbow trout have average eyesight, though they can see on binocular and monocular vision. They prefer to feed by sight – they can see almost 360 degrees around their body. They have a small blind spot right directly below them and right directly behind them, but when they are swimming, it reduces the blind spot and they can see all the way around them. If you’re fishing at night, it’s good to know they can see quite well by starlight but not any distance.

There is no cannibalism in most lakes around Kamloops. Rainbow trout remain insectivorous – they feed on insects throughout their life. They never go to the state where they are feeding on minnows. The biggest fish will even feed on the smallest insects.

One of the best things to do to determine if a Kamloops lake is good to fish is to check the fishing regulations. If a lake has a special regulation, it tends to produce bigger fish.

Seasonality is another factor. This involves the weather, number of fish in the lake, water conditions, hatches, and whether it’s natural stocking. One of the best months for catching fish in the Kamloops lakes is in October and late fall.

In Kamloops, the predominant winds are from the west and southwest. These winds are usually the best for fishing. If the winds are from the east and northeast, fishing will get worse. If there is no wind at all, meaning that the lake surface is calm, you will usually have trouble catching fishing.

Most of the Kamloops trout in the fly fishing lakes are hatchery fish. When they come out of the hatchery, they don’t have a clue what’s going on outside. They have to learn what to eat and what not to eat. They have biological clocks. They know when there’s going to be a sedge hatch or a caddis hatch.

There is also a lot of competition between fish. Smaller fish have to feed about once a day or every two days but the larger fish can go several weeks without feeding. The smaller fish are also more active. Because of their metabolism, they need to feed more often than a big fish just to maintain their weight. The small ones, particularly, minnows, tend to school as a sort of protection. But as they get older and older, they tend to school less.

When there is no hatch coming off, searching flies and shrimp are good to use for Kamloops trout. A dragonfly nymph is also a good fly to use since these creatures live in the lakes for about four years.

In the fall, most of the bugs would have finished hatching and new crops of bugs are starting along like damselflies so it’s best to go for small bugs and small flies. Shrimp, especially, gammarus shrimp are the best flies to use during this time.

Listen to our full interview with Ron Newman and learn more about the unique characteristics of the Kamloops rainbow and how to make a great catch.

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Fall Stillwater Tactics - Brian Chan
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Fly Fishing Stillwaters with Chironomids - Phil Rowley
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Fly Fishing Trout Lakes Part II: A Biologist's Point Of View - Brian Chan
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Kamchatka - Trout Fishing's Next Frontier - Rene Limeres
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