Peter Hopeless. First the Torture, then the Reward

Story and Photography By Mark Hume

It is called Peter Hopeless, because it is a lake that breaks the will of fly fishermen.

The stories of its big trout are legendary, and whenever you fish there you will see them. At some time, during a day of a thousand fruitless casts, a big trout will shoulder out of the water near your boat, taking down a May fly with a surge of power that leaves you shaken. You turn, see the head and back going down, leaving a sucking hole on the surface. Just when you were about to quit, an 8 lb trout, feeding like a hog. Of course you stay out casting for another three hours. And just as you give up and start to row back to the cabin, a big trout jumps, right where you were casting.

So you stand on the porch. Waiting for the evening calm to fall. Nobody wants to drink much because you know you will need your wits about you.

“I saw such a big fish,” someone says. The others nod in silence. They are out there alright. Perhaps it’s not so hopeless after all.

Peterhope Lake is located just outside Merritt, about a three hour drive from Vancouver, in southeastern British Columbia. It has painfully clear water, and shallow flats where you can see big trout cruising in the evening. It has weed beds, where you can see trout rattling the plant stems to dislodge damsel fly nymphs that are crawling up into the air to shed their skin.

Sometimes, when you get the timing just right, you will see travelling sedges scurrying across the surface, until, WHAP, they disappear in an explosion of water.

Often you won’t see any fish. And at the end of the day your arm will hurt from too much casting, not enough playing.

At the campground fellow fly fishers will kick the dirt, frown, and say, ‘”It’s slow this year.” Slow being a fly fishing term that means cold, stone, dead.

You wonder why you bother sometimes. Then the lake turns on when you are sitting out there, day dreaming, casting without expecting much….and one big fish after another takes your fly. Suddenly the hardest fish in the world to catch are suicidal. They rip your flies off the surface. They run into your backing. You hook, release and hook again.

When it is over you go back to shore absolutely dazed by the action. And of course you expect it to be like that the next time you go out. Which it never is. First the torture. Then the reward. That’s fishing.