Thursday, June 8, 2023
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HomeIsland FlyThe Downtown Fly Fisher

The Downtown Fly Fisher

Good fishing on Vancouver Island is synonymous with remote backcountry and sometimes difficult-to-get-to waters. Often one has neither the time nor inclination to make a long road trip to some faraway fishing venue, be that a river or lake. But many towns and cities on the island were developed alongside a river or stream, so accessing flowing water for fishing is a given. Some communities have still waters in the form of small lakes and ponds which are also within easy reach. Therefore, a quick fish fix can be had pretty much right outside one’s own back door or within a stone’s throw from the shopping and business centres. As an added bonus, several urban lakes offer wheelchair accessible platforms.

Examples of Downtown Waters

Only moments outside the village of Cumberland, just off the Highway 19 connector, sits Maple Lake. This is a well-stocked lake offering both rainbow trout and a remnant few cutthroat trout. Maple Lake offers an intimate tree-rimmed setting, reminiscent of a remote lake hidden well up into the hinterlands. Quamichan Lake is only a few streets over from Highway 19, as it passes through the city of Duncan and is conveniently near the Provincial Trout Hatchery facility—the folks who raise trout for planting into the urban lakes. Some very respectable rainbow trout and coastal cutthroat trout can be caught in this lake. A boat launch at Art Mann Park is a good place to access Quamichan. Nanaimo boasts several small, productive lakes within its city limits: Green, Long, Diver, Brannen, and Westwood.

Diver Lake Depth Chart with Annotations

Rainbow trout are the main quarry, with smallmouth bass also inhabiting some of them. Long Lake sits tight against the shoulder of Highway 19A, so close that if one were to fish from an open section along the south shore their back cast would flow out into the oncoming traffic. The heavily populated southern portion of the island past Goldstream Park boasts so many small, easily accessible lakes and ponds that they are hard to count. Glen, Langford, Beaver, and Elk Lakes come readily to mind, and you can catch trout, bass, and in some cases, feral yellow perch. These are popular lakes in a populated area, so you are sure to have plenty of company while on the water. Almost all of these small urban lakes are well suited to folks in float tubes, pontoon boats, canoes, kayaks, or rowing prams.


The foregoing was far from a complete list of easily accessible waters, just merely a glimpse of what one can find nearby. Through the internet one can scrutinize fish stocking reports, download bathymetric (depth) charts, consult the angling regulations synopsis, and fly around in Google Earth to scope out potential urban fishing venues. All are great ways to gather intelligence on these and other metropolitan waters. Start off at Through written material and links at that website, a lot of useful information can be gleaned about the particular waters available around your chosen community. One link goes to the website where an angling licence can be purchased online.

Getting There

Given the locations of many of these downtown waters, getting to them is sometimes a simple matter of taking public transit, even though one might get funny looks from fellow passengers on the bus when you board with fly rod in one hand and a pair of chest waders draped over the other arm. After that, a short walk or bike ride will get you to water’s edge. Many municipalities have established hiking trails leading to or close to an urban lake. That is helpful for shore-bound fly fishers wishing to cast from the verge or while wading the shallow margins. Vehicle-driving boat anglers will also find good launch sites and parking areas, as will those folks wishing to utilize the fishing platforms. Some boat launch areas may even have toilet facilities nearby—another refined urban bonus.

Tuning Out Civilization

A Typical Urban Lake Rainbow Trout

Like the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, or the lake in Central Park in New York City, this truly is civilized downtown fly-fishing. While the lands surrounding many urban lakes bustles with the hum of metropolitan activity, even to the point of encroaching on the edges of the water, by its very nature, fly fishing leads one far away from the hubbub. It is a great way to decompress, even for a short while, before getting back into the daily grind. Sometimes taking a long lunch break to catch a couple of fish can be quite restorative. A quick stop to fish after a long day at work will help one unwind and may provide the bonus of taking some fresh fish home for dinner.


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