June 2010

June 2010
June 2010
June 2010
June 2010

Campbell River’s Pink Princess

 Rory E. Glennie

Veiled in dazzling silver, three, four, or maybe five pounds in weight. As explosive as a firecracker at the hook set. When newly arrived, early season in their natal home stream, fresh from the sea, pink salmon are all of the above.

The glorious early season.
Sometime in July, the actual date varies, the vanguard of the year’s pink salmon run shows up as if by magic. The princesses of the Pacific Salmon clan have been delivered. One day the river seems quite unoccupied, the next, sporadic flashes of silver in the riffles betray their presence. For the initiated, sunny days and moderate stream flows make spotting these silver beauties easy.

As the flood tide recedes.
“Above Tide” was the name given to their riverside homestead by Roderick and Ann Haig-Brown. That piece of property sits slightly upstream of highest tidal influence on the Campbell River. Rod’s now famous “Line Fence Pool” comprises the water flowing in front of the homestead.
Pink salmon slide in with the rising tides. Then, as the water recedes, the fish setup holding stations among the boulders of the broad tailout of the Line Fence Pool. Fresh run fish hold in this area as they ripen for spawning. As that urge dictates, or as new runs of salmon move in and muscle them out of position, the stale fish vanish upstream. There is a continual dribble of pinks into and out of these riffles. Only much later in the spawning season do you routinely encounter dark fish this low in the river system.
Where the salmon hang-out.
Boulders. Big ones. Behind, in front of, and beside, are the choice holding stations for these fresh-run pink salmon. Because of their relatively small body size, pinks can find shelter from the main force of the flow in places larger salmon cannot. Usually that means they are holding tight to the bottom. It may seem inconceivable at first, but that whole broad, fast-water riffle area can come alive with fish at times. Often the real trick is in one’s ability to get within casting distance so a fly can be presented effectively.

Tackle and Technique.
Unless you have grown claw-like toenails and have thick pads of rough skin on the bottom of your feet, you will need felt-soled boots. Treacherously slippery does not begin to describe the slime which covers the boulders of the Campbell River. Aluminum stream-cleats may be in order for greater personal safety. Sunglasses with polarized lenses cut through the glare and help you see both fish and where to safely place your feet while wading. Again, proper positioning can be advantageous in getting an effective drift through the fish-taking zone.
As noted, these fish are not huge by coastal salmon standards. They, however, are able to use the strong river currents to their advantage making them seem ten times bigger than normal. Your regular six-weight trout rod will do in a pinch, although a good strong eight-weight fly rod would prove better. I have yet to see one of these fish not peel-off well into the backing on its initial run across stream, so, a solidly built fly reel holding fly line and a couple hundred yards of backing is necessary if they are to last for very long. Leaders of six or eight pound breaking strain mono are about right.

Floating and sink-tip fly lines have their place here. Use the floater with a weighted fly and the sink-tip without weighting a fly. The idea is to drift your fly through the taking zone near bottom, right onto the fish’s nose if possible. Tracing the seam's current with your fly and jockeying into position for best presentation will assist with that. You may find only a short line is required to plumb nearby fish holding water. Other times a longer cast and mending the line for control is necessary. Simply said, do not get stuck in a casting rut, change-up tactics until you start connecting with fish.

Fly Patterns.
The old beach fisherman’s adage that “pink is for pinks” applies here too. I have found one needs not be too concerned with particular patterns or precise colour, but more with presentation. With that in mind, a simple pattern in both weighted and non-weighted versions fits the bill nicely. A size six hook is about right for efficient hooking and holding ability, and for reducing the prospect of foul hooking a fish. I find pink salmon in freshwater less shy about smacking a fully dressed fly than when in the salt chuck. A bold fly pattern with a shocking-pink body, sporting a bit of wing flash, will grab their attention. Simple, quick to tie flies also make it less distressing when one is lost to those lure grabbing boulders of the Line Fence Pool.

Hot Pink Rosie
Hook – Tiemco 7989, size #6. De-barb and sharpen.
Thread – Fluorescent pink Uni-thread.
Body – Fluorescent pink/cerise chenille.
Wing – Metallic pink Flashabou™
Note: For a weighted version add an underbody of lead fuse wire wound onto hook shank or tie in Clouser style lead eyes, or metal beads for a head.

Huxley’s Run: 

Run Dappling

The Quinsam River was up that April day this year. Not quite muddy brown, but its coffee-milk colour increasing. The heavy rain made the river spread out into the trees which would soon make the water unfishable. I should not have forced myself into my gear; still, I reached for my fly rod case.
I'd left it at home.

Instead, I saw my float rod, for a different means of fishing, but eagerly strung it up. Then I remembered I'd left my hooks and flies with Brent a couple of days prior. Ready to give up, I reached into my coat and found one spoon - an Iron Head I'd used on the Gold River a week or so prior. All excuses gone, so I walked to the river.
I always pause at the top of Eric's Riffle on the Quinsam to pay respect to two young fishermen who tragically lost their lives in 1993 and 1995. At that spot there is a children's swing and an inscription dedicated to Doug Bruce and Eric Hanley. I imagine my quiet acknowledgement would make them smile down, and, somehow, perhaps, they would influence my fishing. It is a wistful hope, but one adorned with a solid belief that two such great young men are at the helm of fisherman's heaven.

I headed downstream casting a wary eye at the river that seemed rising with every step I took. At the Slaughter Hole, or the Meat Hole, I paused and studied options. I edged into the head of the run, squeezing in front of the trees lapped by the rising river, and realized I couldn't make a cast. Should have known that before I stepped in.

Then I remembered about rivers that swell with rain and spring freshet. The fish will sometimes hang out right in the shallows. Right at your feet. Right at my feet.

I unhooked the spoon and let it swing out into the current, about eight feet from where I stood. I watched, marveling at its action, the spoon's swing-swing-swing about four inches below the surface.
Then a dark shape slid up, and so leisurely that I could make out its marvelous markings, see its eye, its opened mouth - to take the spoon.

It missed.

I have told others this and I don't mind saying it now. I jumped back with a start. It so shocked me that I really didn't know what to do next. I thought of moving, going upstream and bringing the spoon through this very spot at a better angle. But the rising river precluded any such hopes.
I stood, stunned, at what had just happened. What I had just seen was miraculous. I had been blessed, and cursed, all in one dapple of the spoon. And then I thought of the steelhead's lazy rise, attitude and attempt at attacking the spoon. Could it still be there? Could I, well, dapple again?

I did. The spoon fluttered again, swing-swing-swing. And the steelhead came with the same leisurely turn, only this time I saw its mouth open and close on the spoon. So close, I hesitated on a hard hook set. But it didn't matter. The steelhead headed upstream, bending my rod with its progress. Then it turned downstream. The line was spinning off my reel before I realized what was really happening. The fish did a couple of snowboarder turns in the air on the way, before taking the river's flow and my line downstream to the next run.
I followed my line; it was hung up in the trees. The river turns left below where I stood, meaning the fish and the rest of the river was out of sight from me. Stumbling along, I freed my line from one tree only to find it entwined in another. Meanwhile, the steelhead tore off to the next run, into water I couldn't follow without the very real threat of being overtaken, rushed down the river, to a log jam that waited with open, loving arms.
I did, however, follow that fish, hanging onto the trees to keep my balance against the pull of the current. The steelhead relented, coming into the shallows of the run. I saw him again by my side, this time quiet in the back eddy of the river, and he was just as beautiful. He hung there in the current, the hook in the corner of his mouth. I reached down, took the spoon in my hand and twisted it slightly. It came out so easily it surprised me, and the "beauty" splashed me with his tail as it took off strongly up into the current. It was about a 12-pound male steelhead. That was it for my fishing that day, no casts, just two dapples. One for Eric and one for Doug.

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