Best ride ever: A bittersweet day on Kootenay Lake

Letting go of loved ones is never easy, but fishing helps


Casey McKinnon holds up a giant Gerrard rainbow trout.

Casey McKinnon is operations manager of Jones Boys Boats and loves fishing on Kootenay Lake. — Photo courtesy Casey McKinnon

Kootenay Lake is a pristine body of water that stretches 104 kilometres in southeast B.C. It is a highly sought recreational destination amongst off-roaders and watersports enthusiasts alike. Casey McKinnon, operations manager of Jones Boys Boats, has the good fortune of being born into a fishing and boating family. The native of Kaslo, B.C., has been cruising Kootenay Lake since she was a wee tyke. As such, she’s amassed countless memorable days of fun in the sun reflecting off the lake’s tranquil waters. Casey’s best ride ever, however, wasn’t some blissful sun-soaked outing with a stereo cranked up to eleven. It was an intimate, sombre day full of the highest of highs and lowest of lows with her dad and brother.

A difficult, memorable day on Kootenay Lake

The date was November 13, 2010—Kootenay Lake’s Annual Gerrard Rainbow Fishing Derby. Casey was with her dad, Lex Jones, and brother, Chad Jones, on the family’s 1979 Campion Toba Command Bridge.

“It was a bittersweet day for our family as papa Fred (Casey’s grandfather, Lex’s father) was in the hospital with a broken hip and not recovering very well,” Casey said. “He didn’t want us to travel to the Okanagan to be with him as he was a very tough man who would rather us be out fishing or working than at his side. Dad wanted to be on the lake with my brother Chad and me, as this is how he spent a lot of his childhood, out fishing on Kootenay Lake with papa when he was our age.

Casey McKinnon is on a boat with family on Kootenay Lake.

“Memories are made when you are spending time with family and friends,” said Casey McKinnon. — Photo courtesy Casey McKinnon

“It was a cloudy overcast day in November with a slight breeze and chill in the air, perfect fishing

“We headed out on the lake before the sun came up for the early morning bite. We just got to our favourite fishing spot and, shortly after putting our lines out, Chad landed an 18-pound, two-ounce Gerrard rainbow trout.

“We spent the next few hours trolling around the lake, worrying about papa in the hospital. At midday, we got the call that papa had passed away. This was a hard time for our family. The only thing we could do was support each other while we continued to troll around the lake, as this is what papa would want us to be doing. There were tears and sadness, but also a great sense of appreciation for the life we were all given and the memories with papa that we will have forever.

Lex and Fred Jones hold a large trout in an old photo.

Casey McKinnon’s father (on left), Lex Jones, was taught to fish by his father, Fred Jones. — Photo courtesy Casey McKinnon

“After a few emotional hours, I had a long, exhausting battle with a feisty rainbow and we landed our second 18-pound fish. We decided to let the fish go as it was too close in weight to Chad’s catch, giving this monster a chance to get bigger. It wasn’t so much about winning the derby for us as it was supporting each other on this emotional day and valuing the time we were spending together.

“Dad and I headed back on the lake for the late afternoon/evening fish as dad knew that this is what papa would want, for us to spend time together doing what we love. It was a slow, quiet afternoon as neither of us had the words to fill the emptiness we both felt and were content simply with each other’s company.

“Near the end of the day, as we were about to head back to shore, I heard a clicking on my reel. I was driving the boat and jumped out of the captain’s chair so fast that I almost tripped and fell. Startling my dad—he had no idea what I was doing as he didn’t hear anything—I said, ‘We have a fish on!’ Ripping the reel out of the rod holder—hoping I wasn’t just imagining it—the line took off screaming. Another long fight and my arms were burning from reeling the fish back toward the boat after multiple attempts to swim away. When we finally landed the fish in the boat, we could not believe it—another giant Kootenay Gerrard Rainbow! This one I couldn’t let go. Rarely do you land three 18-pound Gerrard rainbow in one day on Kootenay Lake.

(L to R) Lex Jones, Chad Jones and Casey McKinnon are holding an 18-pound Gerrard rainbow trout.

(L to R) Lex Jones, Chad Jones and Casey McKinnon caught three 18-pound Gerrard rainbow trout. — Photo courtesy Casey McKinnon

“We felt like we had a few people watching over us. How could we be so fortunate to have such an emotionally tough day be one of the most memorable days also?”

Concluding a challenging chapter

Casey placed second in the derby while her brother Chad was third. Although there were a variety of factors that contributed to this being Casey’s best ride ever, she suggested anyone can experience an unforgettable day by living in the present.

“Memories are made when you are spending time with family and friends,” said Casey. “A simple day spent fishing can become one of the most memorable days by enjoying the moment and taking in the beauty of this incredible, breathtaking place.”

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