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North Thompson rises in the Rocky mountains near Valemont, BC. It flows through a well forested valley that has some fast water sections. After Clearwater, the river is wide and slow moving. The bottom is typically sand but some sections have gravel and rocks. Fishing in North Thompson can be close to impossible during the freshet of June and July and in the winter when the river is frozen. Sediments reduce the water visibility in the summer months but by fall the river is in good shape. Early spring is the best time to fish for bull trout and the rainbows coming from Kamloops Lake. There are also whitefish and Chinook salmon that can be targeted in the Clearwater river.
South Thompson is formed by the rivers flowing into the Big Shuswap Lake, namely Shuswap, Salmon, Eagle and Adams rivers. The big Shuswap Lake has lake trout in addition to the other species commonly found in the area which can be targeted by trolling lures. Chinook salmon migrate as far up the Shuswap river as Mabel Lake. South Thompson maintains its temperature better in wintertime and rarely freezes over. Below Chase, it offers good fishing for rainbow and whitefish but the last part of the river near Kamloops has predominately sandy bottom and is rarely productive. There are some popular spots for Chinook near Campbell Creek, Pritchard and Chase. Bull trout in South Thompson are fewer but can also be caught. In the summer, this part of the river attracts boaters and swimmers.
North and South Thompson rivers join at Kamloops and flow into Kamloops lake. With its steep rocky shores, deep waters and desert climate, the lake does not see a lot of fishing pressure except in a few spots. It is a good destination for rainbow trout in March and April. It also has bull trout and burbot. Situated at the lower end of the lake, near Savona, Steelhead Provincial park is a great spot for viewing migrating salmon in the summer and fall. The area of Kamloops lake can be extremely windy in fall, winter and spring. Timing your trip is very important.
Between Savona and Cache Creek, the Thompson river flows through a semi-desert with a few access points - Walhachin, Juniper Beach provincial park and the Bonaparte river mouth. There are many difficult to access places and private lands that I have been able to explore by walking along the railway tracks. This section is renowned for its trout fishing in the spring and summer (a fly fishing only opening exists in May) as well as the occasional steelhead in fall.
Once the highway rejoins the river below Cache Creek, access is good all the way to Spences Bridge. There are excellent wide pools popular with the chinook anglers in the summer and the steelhead fly fishermen in the fall. Although one of the most pleasing sections to fish, fishing pressure here is high and finding undisturbed fish requires some luck.
Below Spences Bridge, the Thompson becomes faster and the valley narrower. There are a few access points and campsites near Goldpan provincial park and Lytton. Resident trout and steelhead can be caught. To check the abundance and timing of Thompson and Fraser river salmon and steelhead runs or to get an update on the water levels please visit the Albion test fishery page or the water office page from the links above. Thompson is a great river, flowing through impressive countryside and producing memorable fish.
Trout can be caught by single handed and double handed fly fishing techniques as well as by lures. I have been quite successful using sink tip lines on a spey rod and heavier bead headed flies in a wooly bugger style. Spinners with silver, gold or red blades in sizes #3-#4 are also very productive.
Chinook are mostly targeted by three-way rigs, involving weights of 50gr+ and either an F.S.T. spoon in size 5 or a spin'n'glo. This presentation is bottom bounced to the fish or suspended in one spot. I personally prefer big spinners like Blue Fox #4-6 without adding any extra lead to the line; if fished properly at the right time and spot they will be just as effective as anything else.
Steelhead are targeted in a variety of methods depending on the angler's preference. Generally big flies and lures are the norm. Bull trout can be caught on big marabou flies or jigs but at times they will also take spinners or spoons.
Thompson River below Kamloops Lake. November 2010 - February 2011
Music: Going Home by Toto