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OLE’S Hakai Pass


by Janice Stefanyk

I felt absolutely intoxicated with excitement when Ernie Daley invited us to fish at Ole’s in Hakai in late August of last year. Hakai Pass is one of the most beautiful areas on the entire West Coast, and that scenery combined with incredible fishing literally right at your doorstep makes it a premier destination.

My first trip to Ole’s in 2003 was a real learning experience; I discovered there was more to saltwater fishing then flashers, downriggers and cannonballs. I got to experience the hands-on fishing of cut-plugging and fell in love with it, which was why I couldn’t wait to get back there again.

Larry and I met up with the rest of the guests at Port Hardy, where we boarded floatplanes for the 45-minute trip to Barney Bay. After our meet-and-greet by the staff on the wharf, we were invited to a hearty lunch of halibut and chips. During lunch we were assigned to our rooms, boats and survival gear.

Once organized, we all attended Ole’s Fishing School, which was conducted by Ernie’s son, Myrosha. I was impressed at the quality of this session, for “Rosha” took us through all of the steps necessary to ensure we had a rewarding time on the water. Choosing one person from each twosome, Rosha showed them how to cut bait, and then had them participate so he could assist and correct where necessary. It is critically important to know how to cut your bait correctly, for it’s all in the presentation.

It was then demonstrated what the bite would feel like and the ensuing fight -- complete with a fishing simulator so we got a real feel of the action. Finally, he demonstrated the correct way to gently ease your catch into the net. This was by far the best instruction I have ever seen at any lodge. It was very hands on and we left the dock with confidence that we could handle whatever lurked below us in those depths.

At Ole’s, guests have unlimited use of custom-made, self-bailing, unsinkable 18-foot welded aluminum boats. Powered by whisper-quiet 40 hp four-stroke outboards, the boats are equipped with Lowrance fish finders, radios, and top-of-the-line tackle. From dawn till dusk you may fish on your own time and preference.
The two most popular fishing areas are Barney Point and the Racetrack, both less than 10 minutes from the lodge. On our first day we got into some feisty coho and a couple of Chinooks off Barney Point, which made for a great afternoon of catch-and-release fishing. Late in the afternoon I had a hard hit and set my hook into a very excited coho. Jumping, running and diving it gave me a brave battle, but in the end I won and Larry netted the beautiful 15-pounder for me.

It was then time to return to the lodge for dinner and a relaxing evening with the other guests. There is always something surreal about the energy that you can feel in the air after that first day of fishing, and everyone usually has at least one great fish story to tell. No one really wants to end the day, but knowing what awaits the next morning finds everyone reluctantly retiring.

The following morning, Larry and I decided to try the Racetrack because it appeared to be a little quieter. It got its name because people fishing there usually troll one way, then pick up their gear and race back to the starting point to start over again. In the past we have had success going in both directions, so we followed along the shoreline out to a rock that marks the end of the Racetrack, then turned and headed back. Twice on the turn I hooked into a coho and twice I lost them. We then tucked in even closer to the shoreline and continued trolling. I was pilot on our return trip, and decided to swing in close to the shoreline where an overhanging snag looked like good water to me. Larry was busy rigging some tackle when his rod dipped sharply. “Fish on!” I barked.

“Grab it for me,” he replied calmly.

“Not likely! It’s your rod and I’m not touching it.” If I had and it was a good fish, I would have never heard the end of it.

Larry put down what he was doing and grabbed his rod, and while he struggled with what was obviously a good fish I threaded our way out through the other boats into open water. It took about 20 minutes before that Chinook finally showed signs that it was ready to succumb, whereupon I reached out and slowly scooped it into the net. As Larry proudly lifted his fish into the boat, I secretly congratulated myself at not grabbing his rod. At 30.5 pounds, that first tyee was a fantastic way to end our first full day on the water.

Early the next morning, we returned to the Racetrack in low-hanging fog to try our luck. I was piloting again as we slipped into that same pool under the snag, and when my rod went off I patiently watched it tug-and-pull, tug-and-pull, before finally lifting it from the holder and setting the hook on the next tug.

Bang! Fish on! As it streaked off on a long run, Larry took over the tiller. While fighting that fish, in my mind I kept thinking: You aren’t going to get away, you aren’t going to get away, please don’t get away -- ple-e-e-ase....

Back and forth we battled, some line for the fish, some back for me; a long run for it, a panic attack for me. Oh God, will I ever get this fish landed?

Forty minutes later it was tired out and nearing the boat. My teeth were gritted but my mind was yelling at Larry: Don’t you screw up! Don’t you lose it! This is MY fish and I need it -- I really need it in the net.

Everyone around had stopped their boats so they could watch the show. My arms were shaking and my fingers were numb as that beautiful fish finally rolled up beside the boat, and in one quick sweep Larry had it in the net as the other anglers filled the air with cheers and high fives. Now I, too, had a Hakai tyee.

After rushing back to the dock to weigh my catch, when the scale’s needle stopped at 31.5 pounds I gave a resounding “Whup! Whup! Whup!” that would have done Pretty Woman’s Julie Roberts proud. I’m sure that it echoed all the way back to Port Hardy, for never had I been so excited about a fish. To me it was the ultimate experience, for I had finally qualified for that elusive Hakai Pass Tyee Pin. That I did it at Ole’s with Ernie as my witness, just made it all that much sweeter.

For information about Ole’s Hakai Pass
T; (250) 287-8303
www.ole.ca
E: fish@ole.ca
 

Huxley’s Run: 

A CHANGE OF HEART
 

Dr. Adipose Huxley

My apprehensions about taking our then seven-year-old daughter winter Chinook fishing proved correct about 30 seconds from the dock. The tide and wind had turned the water in front of town into a sloppy chop that bounced the 21-foot Zeta around as we headed south for Cape Mudge.

"I don't like this," said my daughter. Fifty times.

Wendy and I did what any good parents would do -- we totally ignored her. However, she figured that out quickly and her lament became even more pointed. "I can't believe you guys talked me into this," she said. "I hate it."

At that point I told her to look at the shoreline. One of my favourite sights is Campbell River's stunning vista, stretching serenely from the ocean shoreline into the mountains. Knowing she would understand, I succinctly and patiently described this to her, expressing my true, heartfelt love for everything about this town. She sat quietly in her seat, her toque pulled down over her eyes. Then, the indentation that was her mouth moved and I heard her say, "I hate you. I hate this. I want to go back. Now!"

Friend and fishing buddy Ed Schmuland was at the helm, and at this last comment he turned to look first at Wendy, then me. He said nothing, but the look on his face asked, "You sure you want to continue, or should I head back?"

With a quick wave of my hand toward the Cape, I indicated that we carry on. Wendy's eyebrows raised and she turned to watch the scenery, her body language saying, unequivocally, "Okay, but she's your daughter. You take care of her."

I quickly decided to get discipline in order. "Neala," I said, "it'll smooth out soon, Daddy promises."

"When are we going back?"

"This will be fun. You'll see."

"When are we going back?"

"We'll put the prawn traps out and then catch a big salmon."

"When are we going back?"

"Isn't it beautiful out here?"

"I hate you."

Thankfully, Ed's preparation of the prawn traps attracted her interest and she peppered him with questions. Ed answered patiently, and soon the traps were out and our lines were down.
I worried about what would happen next. If it proved to be slow, I was contemplating jumping overboard. Then a fish hit and Wendy was well into a 12-pound winter Chinook. It was exciting and Neala forgot all about her earlier reservations.

Ed smiled and said, "Wendy handles a rod better than you do."

The fish finally came to the boat and Ed netted it. Neala looked over the gunwale, her eyes wide. "Oh that's beautiful," she said. "Mommy, you're going to let it go aren't you?"

I was suddenly glad not to have been on the rod after all. Wendy looked at me, then at Ed. Intelligently, we both shrugged. Wendy had tasted winter Chinook before, and knew that if there's one thing her little girl ate ravenously, it was salmon. She made her decision, whereupon Ed lowered the net back down, then hid the quick dispatching. However, when he lifted it over the gunwale and into the tub, poor Neala came face to face with the dead, silver beauty, blood dribbling down as Ed lifted it from the net by its tail.

As she stared down at it in the tub, Wendy and I looked at each other. We knew there was no easy way around the situation, so I took a deep breath while trying to figure out how I could, in some way, try to placate her feelings. Before I could speak, Neala looked up at Ed and said, "Can we cut it open and look at its guts?"
Ed smiled and obliged, taking pains to give her a biology lesson on every part of that salmon's innards.
"Are we going to fish some more?" Neala asked.

With trepidation I said, "Yes, we are honey."

"Goodie!" she squealed. "I really like this. I could stay out here all day."

And we did.
 

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