May 2008

May 2008
May 2008
May 2008
May 2008
May 2008

A DIFFERENT FISHING EXPERIENCE

Larry E. Stefanyk

Last August, Janice and I were invited to spend three days and four nights fishing with Ron and Valerie Hoperich of Queen Charlotte Safaris. As it evolved, this land-based operation proved to be a totally new experience for both of us.

Our trip, which started from the South Terminal in Vancouver, BC, involved a two-hour flight to Sandspit, the gateway to Gwaii Haanas, located on the northeast corner of Moresby Island in the Queen Charlotte Islands. The airport was built during the Second World War and Sandspit is the only town on Moresby Island.
Ron was waiting for us at the airport, and after a short, scenic drive we arrived at the lodge overlooking Shingle Bay. Ron told us that while the lodge holds 32 guests, they prefer to book only 16. Each room accommodates two singles or one couple, and is equipped with a private bathroom and shower. The spacious guest lounge attached to the dining room has a marvellous view overlooking the bay, and guests can also enjoy the full wraparound deck outside. Both are great places to share a cocktail and relate the day’s fishing yarns. From the lodge it’s only a short 10-minute walk to Sandspit Harbour and Marina, where the lodge boats are moored.

Due to the water level in the Narrows between Moresby and Graham islands -- we needed at least five feet of water in order to navigate out to the fishing grounds -- our first day on the water didn’t start until 9:30 a.m. Our first stop was at the government dock in Queen Charlotte City, on Graham Island, where we picked up salted ice at Albion Fisheries Ltd. It was a 40-minute run out to the fishing grounds, and as we twisted and turned through the Narrows we were amazed by the spectacular scenery and amount of wildlife along the shoreline. Numerous black bears were foraging for crabs on the beaches, and they never even bothered to look up as we zipped by.
After emerging from the Narrows into Cartwright Sound, our next landmark was “The Wall”, also known as “Moose Tooth.” When our guide started preparing the gear, I was surprised to see he was using two Clendon Stewart spoons -- a 7-inch brass/nickel and a 5½-inch nickel model -- both old-time favourites with commercial trollers.

With our spoons in the water we made our initial pass by The Wall, and while starting our first turn the 7-incher did the trick. The line popped off the downrigger clip and the fight was on. It had taken less than five minutes to hook our first Chinook, which set the pace for the remainder of our day. We lost count of the Chinooks and coho caught and released, and ended up keeping one bleeder, an 18-pound Chinook, and one coho.

It was after returning from the fishing grounds that we discovered how Queen Charlotte Lodge has a different twist on processing catches than other lodges. After docking at Albion Fisheries we filled out a work order with our names and fishing licence numbers, and then listed our catch and how we would like it processed -- 1- to 1½-pound filleted chunks or full fillets. Our work order and catch were handed over to the dock staff, who weighed our fish, recorded the information, and then started processing our catch. We did this every day, and at the end of our trip our catch, which had been vacuum-sealed and flash-frozen, was delivered to the airport for our trip home. The lodge supplies the first 50-pound box of custom fish processing free. (We recently had a piece of salmon that was processed by Albion last April and it looked and tasted like it was caught yesterday.)

With our catch dropped off, we headed back to the lodge where we were treated to a memorable dining experience, which included complimentary wine. Our next two days on the water were carbon copies of that first day, except on our last outing we went for halibut. Using strips of salmon belly off spreader bars we quickly got our limit of chickens. While I continued jigging with halibut gear, Janice put on a leadhead jig and picked up some nice black rockfish. It quickly became obvious that while we fared equally on hooking and landing lots of salmon, Janice definitely holds the record for black rockfish.

In retrospect, what started out as a new fishing experience will stay with us forever. Valerie and Ron opened up their lodge and their second home to us, and we felt like we had found our new home away from home in the Queen Charlottes. We can truthfully say that for a great experience both on and off the water, Queen Charlotte Safari is a winner.

Queen Charlotte Safari offers two fully-guided fishing packages:
3 days fishing and 4 nights accommodation.
4 days fishing and 5 nights accommodation.

The package includes:
Waterfront accommodations.
All meals, including great lunches.
Fishing license and salmon stamp.
Experienced local guides.
Fully-equipped boats and all equipment.
The first 50 pounds of custom fish processing.
Transportation from Sandspit airport to the lodge and return.

Not included:
Air fare (ask about the lodge fare rate).
HST and gratuities

For more information call:
(877) 815-2892
or visit their Web site at www.qcsafaris.com
Haida Heritage Centre at the airport
(250) 559-8818
E-mail: qwaii.haanas@pc.gc.ca
 

Huxley’s Run: 

AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER

Dr. Adipose Huxley

The creek is not far, and when fall rains arrive it becomes alive with cutthroat trout that will find its deeper pools upstream in the freshet. But it becomes even more so alive as its water changes from a trickling, lazy-as-a-dog-in-sunshine flow, to snarling white watery fangs that reach out to tear at that which has lain dormant for so many long months.

Its course and headwaters are still well treed right to its banks, so it holds the rain well. But there are times when the deluge so fully soaks this rain forest, that even it cannot absorb the water. This is when to be on that creek.

The drainage ditches by the logging road where I park are so torrential I think perhaps I am too late. As I walk the game trail upstream, the forest floor squishes like a sponge beneath my boots. I hear the creek before I can see it, which is good.

The runoff hasn’t found it totally, yet. It’s coloured a little, but up only a couple of inches. The pool I want looks good. At its head the creek frolics over a small cascade before falling silently and slowly into deeper water. It’s the first holding area above tidal water, and even in lower levels the cutthroats will come here. But they spook easily then, so it’s sometimes best to just sit and watch them.

It seems too early for them to be spawning, and so far none have had any colouring to indicate this. Sea lice on some meant they were just in from the sea, or on a quick visit before returning.

This is no textbook fly casting. The brush and trees encroach so much you’re lucky to get the fly out four or five feet. Even then you must let the current take the fly, and usually the fish as well. Which I do, and so does a willing trout.

It amazes me how such big fish -- fully 18 inches long -- can be in such a small stream. At normal water levels its back would be exposed throughout much of this creek.

The pool’s tight confines are like a madhouse as the trout fights, and I know from experience that it will take at least a half hour rest before I can hope for a second fish. But that’s okay.

The creek has continued rising. The cascade is livelier and takes the water farther into the pool before slowing to a lazy stroll. The pool itself is disappearing. The languid sweep of its surface has mostly transformed into a stretch of small, racing waves cavorting in their growing strength. This is good, because this is really why I came.

It is an exciting reminder of nature’s power. It must be up six inches now and even as I watch it rises. I am thinking there can be no better sound in the world than a rushing stream. The melody that has shaped the earth can also shape the mind. But then there is a sharp edge to the melody. I don’t realize what it is, just that the sound has changed. It’s coming from upstream, so I step away from the creek to better listen. As the creek’s sound diminishes, the roar from upstream increases.

Are they logging? I wonder. If it’s a truck it’s coming right down the creek bed -– fast!

Suddenly I know. Time is of the essence. Foregoing the game trail I bolt directly into the forest at a right angle to the creek. It is thick and impenetrable in spots, so I try to calm down and pick the path of least resistance. The roaring behind me is increasing and I smell the earthy tang of freshly-dug soil.

Panting and sweating I move uphill as fast as I can, the beast coming closer and sounding more vicious. As I stop to catch my breath, it reaches the base of the incline, crouches momentarily and then starts upward. I watch in fascination and horror, wondering how far it will come.

I get up and move again. This time I hear a whooshing sound and then a muffled splash as a big fir tree topples and is swallowed by the monster. It joins others, some fully barked, others naked to the sapwood, all floating downstream like dead bodies.

The monster now seems satisfied, its roar subsiding and growing quieter as it draws back toward it lair.
I turn to continue walking back to the truck, wondering just how far upstream that log jam was before it finally broke loose.

 

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