July 2017

July 2017
July 2017
July 2017
July 2017

CAMPBELL RIVER: SALMON CAPITAL OF THE WORLD

That Campbell River is recognized worldwide as the “Salmon Capital of the World” is common knowledge. It’s neither an idle boast nor Chamber of Commerce hyperbole; it’s simply a fact. Just as it’s a fact that some other West Coast destinations enjoy periods of plenty while migratory runs pass through their respective areas, and a few have admittedly larger fish on average. Nevertheless, none can match the easily accessible, year-round salmon fishing available at Campbell River, nor come remotely close when considering the historical significance this vibrant, cosmopolitan city has played in the field of recreational fishing.

As realtors love to expound, only three things count: location, location and location. Such is the case with Campbell River, for it’s located on the upper Strait of Georgia, a major year-round feeding ground for immature Chinooks (which can weigh up to 30 pounds). It’s also dead centre in the Inside Passage between Vancouver Island and the mainland. All five species of salmon migrating southward through the Inside Passage must swim though Johnstone Strait, which splits at Chatham Point — northeast into Nodales Channel and southward into Discovery Passage.

The latter have a fairly straight run of about 50 km to the south end of Quadra Island, but those on the eastern route have a maze of islands, channels and passages before them. Some head for Bute Inlet and others to Toba Inlet, but most continue southward until eventually joining the Discovery Passage fish at the lower end of Quadra Island for a final binge of feeding prior to continuing onward. And all of this takes place within easy running distance of Campbell River. In addition to being on the southward migration route for all five species of Pacific salmon, the Quinsam River Hatchery adds greatly to annual returns of Chinook, coho, pink and chum salmon.

While the term “tyee” — a Chinook weighing a minimum of 30 pounds — is used generically up and down the coast, there is only one Tyee Club of British Columbia in the world, and it has been located at the Campbell River’s mouth since 1924. It’s the world’s most exclusive fishing club, for membership can be earned only by catching a tyee within a specific area, using specific tackle, during a specific time frame. The official tyee season begins on July 15 and ends Setp. 15, unless otherwise altered by the club itself or by DFO.

Campbell River offers accommodations that include rustic BC Forest Service campgrounds near the outskirts, fully serviced RV parks, bed-and-breakfast operations, a range of motels and hotels, and several fishing resorts. Most have fishing packages, or can make arrangements for visitors to fish with the area’s skilled, well-equipped guides. Visiting anglers who bring their own boats will find launching ramps are available. Many arrange for moorage at a marina for the duration of their stay.

During spring, summer and fall, anglers can be seen casting from various beaches and breakwaters with light tackle and fly rods. Early in the season they are seeking sea-run cutthroat trout, but starting around July they switch to pink salmon that are returning to the Campbell/Quinsam system. Shortly afterward, coho join the mix, which keeps everyone busy until well into fall. In the meantime, late-season anglers are still battling those tackle-punishing chum salmon until November....

Yes, Campbell River definitely deserves its title of Salmon Capital of the World.

A full listing of all accommodations and marinas can be obtained from the Visitor Info Centre: 1235 Shoppers Row, (877) 286-5705, www.campbellriver.travel
 

July 2017
Huxley’s Run: 

We heard about the early summer run of steelhead on this North Vancouver Island river. And after a three-hour drive, and another hour’s hiking, we found her and the steelhead.
We came out of the forest on a ridge overlooking a small run and the pool into which it flowed. There, in the tailout, were the unmistakable U-boat shapes of steelhead.
We backed off and planned our attack. We worked around and fished upstream, dropping fly after fly over them. Then we worked downstream drifting fly after fly through them. It wasn’t unsuccessful.
A couple of times cutthroats ‘wolved’ out from the shadows and followed our flies as we retrieved them. They turned their noses up at the end and disappeared again to where only cutthroat can disappear.
The early summer sun was strong. We took a break, slaked our thirsts and pondered our predicament. Longer leaders? Bigger flies? Smaller flies? Dynamite? We considered all options and engaged the pool again. Nothing.
With hands now on hips, we were on the verge of giving up.
“Well,” said Brent. “You being a purist and all, you might not like this, but…”
He pulled out the ubiquitous single-hooked brass spinner.
I was aghast. I was insulted to my very core. The mere thought of it went against my moral fibre. Poacher! Cad! Boor!
“I’ll go first,” I said.
But Brent would have none of it. “I must protect your upstanding reputation,” he said. “Besides you might actually catch a fish and we wouldn’t want to spoil your record.”
He jury-rigged a cast with his fly rod. The spinner hit above and across where the steelhead were. He let it drift down to them, keeping only slight tension so that the spinner spun sexily slow. On his retrieve a steelhead hit. The line zipped across the pool and back again, down and up; there was a splash on the surface. The steelhead went one way, the spinner fluttered to the bottom of the pool, unattached. To either fish or line.
Jaws agape, we watched the last flutter of the spinner. It had happened so fast. I was excited yet disappointed that we had stooped to such a level, that we had forsaken the high standards of our character. We had become nothing but piscatorial whoremongers.
“You got another one?” I asked.
“Nope,” said Brent. “That’s the only one.”
For several long minutes the only sounds were Kinglets singing in the treetops, and the river gaggling and gurgling — nay, laughing.
“Pool’s pretty deep.” “Water’s pretty cold.” “Be stupid to try.” “Crazy.” “Not worth it.” “Screw it.” “That was a beauty fish.” “Sure was.” “Steelhead are still there.” “Yep.”
Brent was down to his skivvies and duck diving to the bottom of the pool within minutes. Up he would come for air, shake his head and dive again. He came out for a break. His lips had turned a faint blue. There was a chatter of teeth. Yet he went in again. And dove again and again, without success. I was very, very concerned. It was, after all, my turn next.
He came out spinner-less. His lips were now a deep purplish blue. He spasmed in one big shiver. I voiced my concern that he was semi-hypothermic.
“J-j-j-j-j-just f-f-f-f-fah c-c-c-c-cold,” he said hugging himself.
But I would have none of it. Brent had practically risked his life and I stood by selfishly, letting him. There was really only one thing to do and I was ready and willing to make that sacrifice to help my young friend.
I told him we would head back to camp. We would get in a sleeping bag together, naked. The warmth of my body, I explained, would transfer to his and fight off the damaging affects of the cold.
Despite being semi-hypothermic, it was amazing how quickly Brent got back in his waders and started heading downstream. I watched him cast furtive, nervous glances over his shoulder as he disappeared around a bend.
I realized he wasn’t looking for steelhead or, for that matter, the brass spinner.

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