Paradise awaits for the golfing, fly fishing enthusiast in Kamloops, B.C.
Demanding of skill, patience, precision and mental stamina, there are fewer activities that pair more perfectly than golf and fly fishing. Kamloops, British Columbia is not only the Stillwater Fly Fishing Capital of North America, but is a central hub for some of BC’s greatest golf courses.
On a sunny June day in British Columbia’s interior, an early departure brought myself and my younger brother Marcus on an adventure to experience the diversity of Kamloops’ surrounding area for the golfing, fly fishing enthusiast. It is no secret that Kamloops is graced with over 100 lakes and a multitude of renowned golf courses, but what would it look like to experience both of them in just one day?
We were met with a bluebird day as we made our way west of Kamloops towards the community of Savona. Our angling destination for the day was the well-known Six Mile (Pat) Lake. Located less than 30 minutes from the city limits, a perfect lake for fly anglers of all skill levels to target small to medium-sized Blackwater and Fraser Valley strain rainbow trout.
There is always a line to be walked between size of fish and quantity of fish. Lakes known to produce trophy-sized rainbow trout in the 8-10 pound range are often lakes that will relentlessly test both your skills and your patience. Our objective for the day was simply to put some fish in the net using a variety of stillwater methods and techniques.
As we idled through the glassy calm lake, fish began immediately showing up on the sounder. Anywhere from one to three feet from the bottom of the lake, and in great numbers, this is a tell-tale sign that these fish are on the feed.
After suspending a “blob” (Daphnia/Zooplankton imitation) fly eighteen inches from the bottom of the lake, it did not take two minutes for our first hookup. Most of the fish residing in Six Mile Lake are in the one to three pound range, a perfect place to teach Marcus the ropes of stillwater fly fishing.
Our first throat sample revealed that fish were devouring a perfect mixture of lime green chironomids and gassed up “chromies” (chironomid pupa that take on a gunmetal sheen as they ascend the water column). The switch to a green chironomid pupa was validated immediately by another nice Blackwater strain rainbow trout.
As the chironomid action began to taper down, we were met with our best fishing of the day with small, balanced damselfly imitations. Though they would take them softer than the chironomid pupa, the damsel pattern produced fish on every cast for well over ninety minutes.
As our time on the lake came to an end, it was a relief to put Marcus on a good handful of fish. Though it was only his third time fly fishing, I was impressed by his capabilities with roll casting, stripping, setting the hook, and getting fish quickly onto the reel.
We pulled the boat just after high noon in the Kamloops heat, and made the short ten-minute drive to Tobiano Golf Course. Tobiano’s picturesque landscape makes it a magnet for your eyes as you drive down the Trans-Canada Highway towards Savona. After too many days of saying “one day I’m going to play there” before continuing down the highway, the excitement began building as we meandered our way towards the clubhouse.
Lush green fairways that snake their way through the otherwise arid landscape overlooking Kamloops Lake, it does not take long to understand why Tobiano was rated “Best Public Golf Course in British Columbia” and “Best New Golf Course” by numerous golf magazines.
Before my professional career in fly fishing began, I actually thought I was destined to become a professional golfer. In the prime of my competitive junior career, I knew that the fly fishing bug had bitten me badly when I found myself waking up at 5am to squeeze in a few hours on the water before a tournament round. I put the clubs down for a full four years before the decision to recreationally pursue the game again in 2019. It is a goal of mine to be able to get back to playing scratch golf. Marcus, on the other hand, competes at a university level for the University of British Columbia Okanagan and routinely finds himself south of par.
We were immediately met with friendly staff, given the run-down on the cart’s impressive GPS and video fly-over features. These would come in handy on the many blind shots one faces at Tobiano. The short ride to Tobiano’s beautiful practice facility, featuring a full-length range, putting green, and chipping area gave us a full half-hour to loosen up before facing Tobiano’s tight fairways and demanding layout.
Though the starter had warned us of the difficulty of playing the lengthiest of the seven tees, tipping out over 7,000 yards in length, we wanted to play by the ancient adage of “when in Rome”. I have not been as nervous as I was on the first tee since the day of my wedding.
Though Tobiano is a difficult golf course, it plays incredibly fair. There are no gimmicks, and good shots are rewarded in the same way that the fescue will swallow an errant ball. The greens rolled smooth as a billiard table, and the fairways were trimmed immaculately. It is absolutely no doubt that Tobiano has earned is reputation amongst resident and non-resident golfers alike.
Regardless of skill level, it is Tobiano’s seamless delivery of one breathtaking view after another that makes this experience so special. SCOREgolf’s Bob Weeks was quoted as saying “I couldn’t tell you the signature hole, as there are 18 of them”, and I would absolutely concur.
A highlight of the day was the 7th hole, a leviathan of a hole if any wind were to be present. Players are required to fly the ball across a gulley abundant in sage bushes to a shallow green. Having played a handful of golf courses across Canada and the United States, this was the most intimidating par 3 I had ever experienced. The greatest relief of the day, other than not embarrassing myself in front of the starter, was finding the green on my first attempt with a six-iron. They say even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.
Tobiano’s back nine displays the mastermind of Thomas McBroom, the architect of Tobiano. Though players are presented with a continuous test of their mental and physical abilities past the turn, the back nine presents ample scoring opportunities. Of the three par 5’s found on Tobiano’s back nine, the 560-yard 16th is highly reachable in two due to its drastic change in elevation and generously sloped fairway.
As always, a day this special came to a close far too soon as the sun set over a mirror-like Kamloops Lake, a rare scene for those that know the incredible winds that can sweep up off of this 30 kilometre waterbody. For the golfing, fly fishing, travel enthusiast, one should look no further than the quality stillwaters surrounding Kamloops, BC and the once-in-a-lifetime experience of Tobiano.
A huge thank you is extended to Tobiano Golf Course for providing such a spectacular experience, and Mother Nature’s generosity in providing us clear skies and not so much as a breath of wind. Counting the seconds until we can do it again!
For more information on Tobiano Golf Course, visit www.tobianogolf.com.