Photo Credit: Brian Smith
Dragon Lake an angler’s low-elevation, early-season dream
For central-interior fly-fishers, April ice-off at Dragon Lake is the surest remedy to shake cabin fevers and winter blues that have been festering since freeze-up last November. All it takes is a strong pull from a Dragon rainbow trout; all our long northern winter days and nights are forgiven and a new fishing year is upon us.
Dragon Lake, sitting in a low-elevation trough on Highway 97 South within the city limits of Quesnel, is easily accessible by pavement for all manner of vehicles. This makes Dragon a good choice for family outings as well as a productive early spring destination for many of BC’s expert fly-fishers who eagerly await the opening of our high-elevation lakes, which generally become ice-free several weeks later than Dragon.
Dragon is a 225-hectare lake about six km long and rimmed by permanent residences, but don’t let the lack of solitude fool you—there are plenty of trout to go around and many of them are in the trophy-class size range of two to five kilograms. The lake has a self-sustaining brood hatchery, is stocked yearly with about 30,000 trout, and because of the high-nutrient content of Dragon’s water the fish will pack on up to one kilogram and 15 to 20 cm in length per year.
There are several car-top or boat-and-trailer launch spots at Dragon. On the northeast shore, a public launch ramp and parking lot is the best spot to drop large watercraft. Another privately owned launch is situated on the southeast end of the lake, which charges a $5 per person fee for access and launching your boat, payable at the farmhouse across the street from the campsite. Finally, at the north end of Dragon, launching and camping is available at Legion Beach or Robert’s Roost, the latter likely the finest camping accommodation you’ll find anywhere in the region.
Dragon is considered a catch-and-release lake because of its reputation for strong-tasting trout, but they are superbly conditioned fish. The lake is one large, weedy shoal with a mean depth of about five metres, ringed with many points and bays—spots where fly-fishers will congregate to work shallow shelves and drop-offs to match the prolific insect hatches that occur most days.
During early spring, best patterns are chironomids, blood worms, leeches and mayflies; then comes the caddis and damselfly emergences of mid-May, followed by dragonflies that appear in early June and a formidable water boatman flight that occurs for several weeks in late September. Shrimp patterns are basic meat and potatoes for the trout year-round. The dominant insect colour for all times of the year is olive green; your patterns should reflect this characteristic.