By Jeremy Leete
Patiently watching his rod tip, looking for the slightest quiver, Josh awaits his next bite. Fingertips soiled in fish egg slime, he brings his half-smoked cigarette to his lips and takes a satisfying drag.
“Any luck so far?” I inquire.
“Lotsa bites,” he mutters without turning his head. “These rainbows are getting good at stripping my hook.”
On the dock beside Josh’s beat up Ol’ Pal tackle box lies his bait – an open jar of salmon roe. I ask him if this is the best bait and he tells me that the trout of Elk Lake have developed quite a discerning palate. “These aren’t any old salmon eggs,” he says. “These are Siberian shrimp-flavored salmon eggs.”
Then it happens. The tip of his rod begins twitching angrily as his line darts through the water leaving a tiny wake. He waits for the next twitch, but it never comes. “Got me again.”
Even on this blustery day in mid-may, Elk Lake is a wave of activity. Just 15 minutes from downtown Victoria, with its entire eastern shore bordering the Patricia Bay Highway, Elk Lake has become a diverse suburban playground for both people and animals. Flocks of mallard ducks line the shore awaiting handouts of breadcrumbs or seeds. Fluffy goslings float clumsily just off the beach under the watchful eyes of their bugling parents. High above the tallest fir trees, a bald eagle circles overhead in search of prey. And from our vantage point on the fishing dock, I can see the odd rainbow trout nose the surface in search of a tasty insect, or perhaps just to tease Josh.
Not far from us, a more intrepid fisherman has taken to the water in his float tube, or belly boat as they have come to be known. It is really no more than a dressed up inner tube with a built-in nylon seat. He has flippered his way to a sheltered part of the lake where he can cast his fly line more effectively. I must admit I’m anxious to try this bold method of fishing, but I think I’ll wait for warmer weather.
Strained voices suddenly break through the hum of the brisk wind. Two joggers bound their way around the 10-kilometer trail that runs the circumference of the lake. With deep and deliberate breaths, they brave the heavy headwind and continue on past the dock until the forest swallows them up. On calmer days, the trail is trampled by a steady onslaught of these heavy breathers.
As summer approaches and the water temperature rises, so does the activity in and around the lake. On any given day, people can enjoy an array of activities from swimming, fishing, windsurfing, canoeing and kayaking to horseback riding, walking, jogging and sun tanning.
I bet Josh wishes the water would stay cold so he could have the lake to himself. As he maintains his vigil over his rod like a sentry at his post, I decide to leave so he can enjoy his solitary day of angling. But just as I’m about to go, his fishing rod begins to bounce frantically once again. Josh immediately sets the hook with an authoritative strike and the fish is on. The rod bends and convulses as the rainbow trout struggles for freedom. As Josh skillfully winds his catch to the side of the dock, I see brilliant flashes of color just under the surface. He gently lifts the energetic trout from the water, carefully removes the hook and returns it to the safety of the lake. Josh looks over and smiles. “I throw most of ’em back unless they’re really big.”
I return his smile.