Jan/Feb 2007

Jan/Feb 2007
Jan/Feb 2007
Jan/Feb 2007

A FIRECRACKER TRIP


by Larry E. Stefanyk

Scott Leesing phoned me from his home in Parksville with an offer I simply couldn’t refuse. “How would you and Janice like to join me at Port Renfrew to test my new ‘Firecracker’?”

Well, I wasn’t too sure about what a Firecracker was, but the chance to go fishing out of Port Renfrew sounded too good to pass up, so I accepted his invitation to do the trip.

Last August, Janice and I drove from Campbell River to Victoria, where we followed Highway 1 to the Colwood/Sooke exit, which is the Highway 14 junction. The remainder of the trip took about two hours. It’s an often-winding road that meanders through the scenic southern end of Vancouver Island to Sooke, Jordan River, and then Port Renfrew at road’s end.

Scott had arranged for our accommodations at Ocean Mist Retreat, a lovely four-bedroom house with a truly breathtaking view from the front deck. It is located next to the General Store, which carries a good supply of groceries and is also the community liquor outlet.

The following morning we were up at 6 a.m., ate breakfast, and then headed to the Port Renfrew Marina dock to meet Pete Machek and his 16-year-old son, Pat, who is possibly the youngest certified fishing guide on the coast. He was skippering the “Machek”, their new 22½-foot Discover by Sea West, built by Jenkins Marine Ltd. in Victoria. Pete said they were quite happy with it, as it was comfortable, seaworthy, and had proved to handle extremely well in the typical offshore conditions they experience.

Our destination was Swiftsure Bank, which many consider to be one of the most productive halibut fishing grounds in the world. The run out took just under an hour, after which Pat busied himself putting our halibut gear together. One rod was rigged with a spreader bar, a 2-pound ball sinker, and a soft plastic Shad. On the other was a 16-ounce leadhead jig with a white, soft plastic squid body.is was the first time I had seen a Shad being used, so I lowered it into the water just far enough to see how it worked. Its paddle-shaped tail started wagging back and forth immediately, the same side-to-side action as a swimming fish, so I could see why fish find them so attractive.

Our gear had no sooner hit bottom than we were in business. We were obviously over a “chicken coop”, for the halibut ranged from 18 to 25 pounds -- just the right size for eating. As each came over the gunwale, Pat expertly bled it and placed it in the tote. In no time at all we had limited out on chickens, so it was time to target salmon and test Scott’s new lures.

The Firecrackers were trailed behind green Hot Spot Flashers on 32-inch leaders. One cannonball was lowered to 40 feet, the other to 75 feet. Before long the shallow-running lure produced a nice 12-pound hatchery coho, which we kept. A short while later, the same lure produced a twin to the first.
As Pat stowed our last coho in the tote, Pete checked his watch and said it was time to go. He had explained earlier that we would run back in to troll for Chinooks around 11 a.m., pointing out that their best fishing of the day occurs during the last two hours of a major flood tide, not at the crack of dawn like most places on the West Coast.

After picking up and securing our gear, we started the one-hour trip back toward Port Renfrew. Pat eventually throttled back over a sand ledge that runs about 3 km from Owen Point to Camper Creek, with a consistent depth of 40 to 60 feet.

Pete said that the Chinook fishing there is usually so consistent that other salmon species are taken only as by-catch while trolling for Chinooks. Pat decided on using anchovies for bait. He rigged them in clear/blue/chartreuse Rhys Davis Teaser Heads, with 34-inch-long leaders behind green Hot Spot Flashers, then lowered the cannonballs to 15 and 30 feet.

Scott and I were sitting back, chatting and enjoying the scenic, ever-changing shoreline, when both rods suddenly went off. There was a mad scramble to action, and the next 15 minutes got just a little bit wild. While my Chinook stayed down deep, thwarting each of my attempts to bring it toward the surface with a stubborn, bulldozing run back down, Scott’s fish thought it was a coho, zipping back and forth near the surface, and flipping into the air on occasion. When my fish was finally beside the boat, Pat skilfully netted it, and then all eyes turned toward Scott, who still had his hands full. It was only a matter of time, though, and his fish was safely in the net. A brace of 20-pound-plus Chinooks. We agreed that it was a great way to end a great day of fishing off the Island’s west coast.

For more information on experiencing what Port Renfrew has to offer, please check the following:

Ocean Mist Charters: 1-877-743-2985, www.oceanmistretreat.com
Port Renfrew: www.portrenfrew.com
Sea West Boats: (250) 479-2244 
 

Huxley’s Run: 

THREE LOVE

by Dr. Adipose Huxley

I wrote previously about the devastation felt on discovering that my then 10-year-old daughter had inscribed my favourite tyee spoon with the words “LOVE LOVE LOVE” in red Magic Marker.

A white spoon, it had hit fish on a regular basis. Well, as regular as possible under the Tyee Club of British Columbia rules. Far from disciplining her, I was touched that she just wanted me to think of her while I was out fishing. Nevertheless, my confidence in the spoon was shaken. Not consciously, but on that level of tyee fishing that incorporates karma, superstition, and plain luck.

One August evening, Rob and I headed for the Tyee Pool -- he for his first time. On the dock, we went through the procedure of putting line in and out, what to look for if a fish hit, and how to react. When I showed him the subtle, quick movement of the rod tip that would indicate a take, he looked at me doubtfully.

“You're joking, right?” he asked.

“I’m completely serious.”

Imagine the rod tip moving: up and down, up and down, up-up and down, up and down, up and down. If you read the preceding sentence at normal speed you missed the “take” -- and the fish. Honestly.

We settled over the bar near the river mouth. It only took a few oar strokes to realize we were over some very interesting water. Rob’s rod tip immediately picked it up the “LOVE spoon’s” throbbing -- up and down, up and down, up and down....

It may have been like that for five minutes -- I don't know -- maybe 10. Then up and down, up and down, up-up and down....

It caught me by surprise, and Rob, who hadn’t taken his eyes off the rod tip, remained still, concentrating.
“You might want to hit that next time,” I said calmly through gritted teeth.

“Hit what?”

“Did you see that rod tip do anything strange?” I asked.

“You mean when it went sort of like....” He stopped and understood immediately. Then, “You're joking right?”
“Nope, never been more serious.”

I’m sure that he felt uncomfortable. I’ve been there: How can such a big fish be so... delicate?

We continued down the bar. The rod tip indicated the water was still good, and R.D. Berger had rowed in with wife Shara on the rod. If R.D. was there, I figured we were in the right place, too.

I said hello to both, and as we exchanged quick pleasantries Rob’s rod went up and down, up and down, up and down-down and up....

“Hit it!” I barked.

Rob’s rod arched and shook, then line started peeling from the reel. But 20 seconds later everything went slack. We had lost it.

“Well, I was quicker that time, at least,” Rob said.

“In tyee fishing, if your rower tells you to hit it and you do, you’re late.”

After a long silence, Rob finally said, “Okay, I’ve got it now. I didn’t believe it at first, but I do now. Don’t worry, next time I'm going to be all over it.”

I didn’t share his optimism. Two fish lost in about 20 minutes. Should I tell him there was a very real possibility that he could go tyee fishing every season for the rest of his life and never repeat those missed opportunities? (Especially in my boat?)

I couldn’t.

As we continued fishing I noticed a distinct change in Rob. There was no more easy slouch to his body. Stiff and tense, his eyes never left the rod tip. Like a statue -- unmoving.

Thinking I might have put him off, I tried small talk but received only monosyllabic responses. So I rowed and watched the rod tip. Up and down, up and down, up and down...
.
Rob swung the rod back hard. I did nothing. I saw nothing. I expected nothing. The cadence of the rod tip hadn’t changed, yet he had struck. Line started peeling out and the rod bucked viciously. I couldn’t believe it.
After boating what turned out to be a 34-pound tyee, I asked Rob if he saw anything on the rod tip when he struck.

“No, he said. “I felt it. I think... I’m not sure.”

In retrospect, I’m glad that my daughter wrote “LOVE” on my spoon three times instead of only once or twice.
 

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