Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Kokanee, BC's Silver Underdog

Kokanee, BC's Silver Underdog
Story by Trevor Shpeley
Photos by Rod Hennig
and Trevor Shpeley

Let's get this out of the way right off the start. I eat kokanee. I practice catch and release 95 percent of the time for other species but when I fish for kokanee, I keep whatever I catch regardless of size until I have as much as I need or I reach my limit at which point I stop fishing. The reason for this is twofold; kokanee do not handle catch and release fishing very well and have a very high mortality rate even when handled properly. Secondly, kokanee are prolific breeders and will quickly overpopulate in the absence of large predator fish and you can end up with a lake full of fully mature, very small fish so I limit my kokanee fishing to a level consistent with my occasional desire for a kokanee dinner and never fish just to fill my freezer. Now that that's off my chest, here's a few techniques you can use to catch a few of these delicious freshwater sockeye salmon for yourself.

Kokanee are found all the way down the western part of North America from Alaska to Northern California and from Japan to Siberia on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. They handle artificial stocking well and are found naturally in many coastal lakes wherever they are, or were once connected to the ocean. They mostly feed on plankton which gives the flesh of the kokanee it's wonderful red colour, rich taste and high omega3 fatty acid content. A freshly caught summer kokanee is streamlined and bright as a new nickle and they don't develop their trademark red and green colour and humped back until the fall spawning ritual is ready to begin. Lately, the Freshwater Fisheries Society has begun stocking selected lakes with triploid kokanee. These sterile fish don't waste any energy on reproductive considerations and can grow much larger than their fertile cousins. 20-inch tripoid kokanee are not uncommon in lakes where they are established. Check http://www.gofishbc.com for stocking information.

Although most of the food kokanee eat is nearly microscopic which they consume by straining the plankton through their distinctively long gill-rakers, that isn't the case all of the time. At certain times of the year kokanee will feed on small insect larvae such as mayfly nymphs and chironomids and at all times, kokanee can be stimulated to strike with a combination of flash and vibration which triggers an aggression response in the fish rather than a purely hunger motivated reaction. By understanding the koanee's seasonal cycles and instinctual triggers you can maximize your fish catching and minimize the amount of time you spend dragging heavy gear around the lake.

Kent Cameron in his excellent book, The Kokanee Obsession, delves deep into the subject of water temperature and seasonal changes and how they affect the kokanee and consequently, the likelihood of you catching one with any given method at any specific time of year. Luckily for us given the amount of space we have here to talk about it, you don't really have to know too much technical detail in order to be a successful kokanee fisherman. There are however some important points you need to know in order to find the fish which in this case is 90 percent of the battle.

The first and most important point you need to concern yourself with is temperature. Kokanee prefer a fairly narrow band of between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This band moves around the lake according to the seasons and most of the time this where you will find the fish.

In the spring, starting shortly after ice-off, this preferred zone is found in fairly shallow water around the edges of the lake. The fish will school up and cruise the shoals in search of whatever food is small and slow enough for them to catch. For me this is the most fun time of the year to fish for kokanee; it's when they are most easily caught by methods that don't involve cumbersome weights and lures that flash and vibrate like a Las Vegas slot machine. Spring is the best time for the neophyte freshwater-salmon fisherman to get into fish.

Summer is when the fish disperse throughout the lake searching out the plankton that make up the bulk of their food source. As the season warms up, so does the water and the thermocline, (which is the the border between the warm surface water and the cold of the depths), moves deeper, so do the fish. If you want to catch kokanee in the summer, finding the thermocline is essential. Some of the better fish-finders will clearly show the thermocline as a line of interference where the dense cold water and the warmer surface currents meet. If your finder shows that layer to be at 50 feet, that's where you want your terminal gear to be. If good electronics are out of your budget, not to worry, just buy a fisherman’s thermometer which can be lowered down on a string so you can determine where the temperature starts to drop radically over the process of several readings. Remember kokanee want whenever possible to be in that narrow 50-55 degree band of ideal water. A few extra minutes spent determining the proper depth can save you a lot of fruitless hours on the water.

In the fall the kokanee begin to change their physiology in anticipation of the spawn. They change from bright silver to cherry red for the males and a pinkish hue for the females. They also develop a humped back and the males grow a ferocious hooked jaw. When the fish have progressed to this point it's time to leave them alone to finish natures cycle but in the months before the spawning season gets into full swing the fish are available and still table-worthy. Fall fish are very aggressive and are striking out of anger more than a desire to feed. This is when you want to bring out the larger lures and target the fish where they are schooling up near creek mouths and gravel beaches. Remember not to target fish that are too far into their reproductive cycle, it's not worth it to you from a table standpoint and it's detrimental to the survival of the fishery.

In the winter the fish become almost dormant and spend most of their time suspended in the deep water column awaiting spring. Ice fishers will do well during the hard water season once they have located fish by slow jigging with bait. Never use fin-fish for bait in BC lakes, it's illegal and will kill the lake. Maggots and mealworms on small Swedish pimples or other small jigging spoons work very well.

How do you catch them?
That's right, I said fly-fishing. When most people think about fishing for kokanee they think downriggers, large weights and strings of flashers that look like they came off the outside of a used-car dealership. That doesn't have to be the case all of the time. In the spring when the fish are cruising the shorelines, you can fish for them using traditional fly-fishing methods. Small nymphs worked slowly near the bottom will bring you strikes and a chironomid under an indicator can be positively deadly. Remember at this time of year the fish are hungry and actively looking for food, try to imitate the small insects they are feeding on. A quick shore-side biopsy on a fish you are keeping will tell you all you need to know about how to catch more.

Later as the fish spread out and trolling becomes more productive there is still no need to put away the fly-rod. If the fish are still close to the surface then a line with a ten foot sinktip and a long leader is the way to go. Tie on traditional kokanee lures and a Mylar mini-gang troll and find the fish. As the fish move deeper, a one or two ounce weight will get you down to them.

Last fall in anticipation of this article I decided I needed to experience some 'real' gear trolling and since my flotilla consists of a fly-fishing punt, an inflatable raft and a float tube, I enlisted the help of BC Outdoors forum member, Larry Martin (although you may know him better as Platypus). Larry grew up fishing for salmon around Port Alberni in a time when not catching fish meant a lean table that evening so he learned how to read water and find fish early.

Larry and I decided to fish Monte Lake near Falkland which as you know by watching BC Outdoors Sport Fishing, has been stocked with Triploid kokanee and is producing large fish in good numbers. Unfortunately for us we picked a blustery late fall day when the fish had already gone dormant for the season and our day on the water was somewhat less productive than we had anticipated. It was however a great day for learning trolling techniques from an expert.

The first thing you need to know about trolling for kokanee, after you have found the thermocline of course, is that you want to troll slowly, very slowly. Kokanee are not the top of the food chain in many of the lakes they inhabit and even when they are, they retain genetic programming which forces them to flee when they anticipate an attack from a larger fish. If you are dragging around a large dodger or a string of seven inch gang-troll blades at high speed, the fish are likely to perceive this as a threat and will avoid you and your lure like the plague. Troll just fast enough that you get a slow steady spin from your flashers.

Back in the day, if you were trolling for kokanee you likely had an ounce or two of lead weight in front of a six foot metal gang-troll followed shortly behind by a Wedding Ring spinner capped with a mealworm or a couple of maggots. That still works, in fact it works very well but it produces a lot of drag on your line and sometimes you will reel-in to check your bait only to find a very dead, very small kokanee that you were unaware you had been dragging around the lake for who-knows how long.

To avoid this, a downrigger can be a useful addition to your trolling arsenal. You don't need to get the electric, automatic, digital version, just a lead ball on a wire and a reel to wind it on is perfect. Downriggers allow you to run at exactly the depth you wish and when properly set, even a small fish will release your line from the weight leaving you to finish the fight on light terminal gear. Another way to go is with light Mylar flashers and gang-trolls. These have a fraction of the drag and sacrifice none of the action or flash of their metal cousins. They resemble a series of bent pieces of paper on a string but they work great and weigh almost nothing.

When it comes to terminal gear there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The first and most important is smell. Kokanee are extremely sensitive to smell and strong odors on your hands will greatly reduce your catch. Many fishermen wear rubber gloves when handling their tackle and at the very least you should wash your hands before touching any of it. Sunscreen, bug repellent, smoke and food smells such as oranges and bananas should never get anywhere near your gear. If fishing with bait is permissible, try one of the commercial scents that are available to help mask your human odor. The second vital factor is size. If you are fishing a lake that has smaller fish, use small lures, likewise if you are fishing for the big tripoids, you can use spoons, plugs and spinners up to three inches in length. Wedding Ring spinners can be quite long but the spinner blades are small and smaller fish will take them.

Larry likes to troll with a lure called the Tumbler which was developed by Rick Wood for drift fishing rivers. They are easy to make for yourself, just take a snap swivel and attach a hook and two small spinner blades. The spinner blades can be a combination of colours and one should be about half the size of the other. Put the blades on the snap with both convex sides facing each other. When rigged a couple of feet behind a hookless spoon or small dodger, the Tumbler will spin one way, then the other. Larry uses this simple little lure often and does very well with it. The unpredictable wobbling motion seems to drive the kokanee crazy and will trigger strikes on otherwise slow days.

To handle your vibration and flash needs, try the Luhr Jenson Trout and Kokanee Dodger; Dee's Diamond Flashers; Macks Double D Dodger in the 4.4 inch size and the Shasta Sling Blade. For multi-bladed flashers, some good ones to start with would be the Mack Fash-Lite; Luhr Jenson's Beer Can Lake Troll, School-O-Minnows or the Slim Willie and Little Slim Willie.

When trolling, you can divide the terminal gear into three categories, plugs, spinners and spoons. A few plugs to try are the Yakima Bait Company Flatfish in various colours in sizes f2-f4; Tomic Wee Tad Plug or the Luhr Jenson Kwikfish. A good start on your spoon collection would include Luhr Jenson Krockodile Needlefish or Kokanee King; Mepps Bantam Syclops and Little Wolf; Pro-Troll Kokanee Killer and the Gibbs Delta FST. For spinners, pick up some Macks Wedding Rings; Mepps Aglia and Spinflex or the Luhr Jenson Clearwater Flash.

Vertical jigging can be a very effective method, especially in the early season or through the ice. Pick a depth where you think the fish might be and methodically work your way up and down the water column until you get strikes. Colour is important when jigging as is scent and bait (where allowed). The tried and true maggot or mealworm are the gold standard here in BC but some of the new artificial baits such as those offered by Berkely Fishing's PowerBait work very well. I'm partial to the one-inch PowerBait White Grub myself but there are dozens of different types out there, follow the manufacturers suggested use and you can't go too wrong. Likewise with scents, as long as it covers your human smell with something appetizing it is doing it's job.

Kokanee are just too tasty for their own good. They are also a spectacular looking fish and sometimes easy to hook when you understand their cycles and motivations. Go out and catch a few for yourself but remember, they are a finite resource so limit your fishing to what you need and never take more than you plan to eat right away, there is a special kind of bad karma reserved for those who have freezers full of dried-out fish back home and are out catching and keeping more!

Turning Tides – Lew Chater

Turning Tides – Lew Chater
By Trevor Shpeley

If there is one thing you learn from a lifetime of being the principle of some of the Fraser Valleys toughest schools, it's that all you need to get the ball rolling on any worthwhile project is something that really needs doing and a few people with the will to get it started. Lew Chater learned that lesson well and along with Rodney Hsu, Chris Gadsen, Terry Bodman and a few others started the Chilliwack River Clean-up Coalition and set to work picking up garbage at one of the lower mainland's busiest fishing destinations.

The Chiliwack River, also known as the Vedder below Vedder Crossing, is less than an hours drive from two and a half million people, many of whom flock there every year to partake in the world class salmon and steelhead fishing. Most of those people treat the river and surrounding forest with the respect it deserves but unfortunately many do not.

The Chiliwack river wasn't always such a popular destination. In 1944 when Lew moved to the Fraser Valley from Alberta a trip up the river was a bumpy all-day ride in his fathers old Model-T Ford. As a boy he would spend his days happily fishing the river for trout with a steel rod and an old tin reel. It wasn't until the 1960's that the steelhead fishing really started to pick up and the hordes of fishermen followed.

A lot of water has flowed down the river in the six decades Lew has lived on it's banks but it became clear with the dawning of the new millennium that all was not well with Lew's beloved river. Everything from stolen cars to huge abandoned squatter camps and grow-op debris were piling up on the otherwise pristine riverside and in 2002, Lew and the others decided to do something about it.

To date the CRCC has logged 35 river clean up days totaling over 20,000 volunteer hours. 400 people have participated and 24 service groups have adopted sections of the river to clean and maintain the river access and empty the garbage cans they have placed along the riverside trails. The city of Chiliwack, the Fraser Valley Regional District and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are big supporters of Lew's project and they supply such things as tipping fees at the dump, garbage bags, signage and a small amount of funding so the coalition can afford things like liability insurance for their clean-up days.

So far Lew and company have picked up over 70 tonnes of garbage from the river banks and it's impossible to walk the river and not see the difference the CRCC has made. Lew has also noticed that there are far fewer thoughtless fishermen visiting the river and tossing their garbage around than there was before they started. People seem to feel more guilty throwing their garbage down on clean ground than they did when litter was everywhere. As Lew likes to say, he has never met a single person that admitted to being a litter bug and looking down at the ground and seeing your own garbage makes it tough to deny to yourself that what you are doing is wrong. The attitude battle is still being fought but progress is being made and nothing could make Lew happier since education has always been one of his main goals.

At a spry 73 years old Lew still finds the time and energy to fish the river 40 days a year and help organize the ongoing efforts of the coalition. His son is grown now and fishes the Chiliwack more often than his dad and Lew has noticed that even his two grandchildren have taken up the cause, constantly reminding Lew that littering is wrong and helping to pick up garbage when they see it. Lew still lives in the house on the river he has shared with his wife for nearly 50 years and spends about 75 days in his RV fishing the lakes of the interior every season.

Lew would be the first to tell you that he didn't form the CRCC on his own nor has he done all the work but there would be no denying that he has been a driving force since the beginning and continues doing so to this day, for no other reason than the great love he carries for the river and the desire to steward the land for future generations. Hats off to Lew Chater and those like him who remind us of what we should be doing and showing us how easy it is to get it done.

If you know somebody that should be recognized in this column, please write me at trevor.shpeley@gmail.com

Sunday, February 26, 2012



If you draw a line along the 54th parallel from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean and then another one all the way up to and along the BC-Yukon border, you will have encircled 500,000 square kilometers of the most rugged wilderness and unspoiled fishing British Columbia has to offer. With only three major highways and a ferry to Haida Gwai serving a landmass twice that of the United Kingdom you might imagine that the wildlife, crystal clear waters, vast uncluttered natural plateaus and towering snow capped mountains would be enough to satisfy anybody’s thirst for adventure and excellent fishing. You would not be mistaken.

Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites along with about 60 national and provincial parks protect the lion's share of this huge region from development and help preserve it's unmatched natural beauty and diversity. Northern BC is also home to First Nations cultures that have lived here since long before Europeans started recording such things.

The gateway to the North starts 800 Kilometers from the city of Vancouver and that is just the beginning, you have a long way to go and it's not always easy to get there. Whether you travel by land, air or water, one lifetime is not enough to explore all of the unspoiled natural terrain, incredible fishing and wildlife diversity that you will find in the huge northern region of British Columbia.

The Stewart Cassiar highway (HWY 37) threads it's way between the Coast and Skeena Mountain ranges and connects the coastal rainforest of BC with the Jack-Pine forests of the Yukon. Tatlatui Park, the Stikine River Recreation Area, Mount Edziza Park, and the Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park all more-or-less connect with each other to form one vast, ruggedly beautiful protected wilderness area.

Starting at the historic village of Kitwanga located between Smithers and Terrace on the Yellowhead Highway (HWY-16), and after you've taken a little time off from fishing to explore the Totem Poles and the ancient battlefield at the National Historic site there, cross the bridge over the Skeena River and you are on your way north towards the Yukon border. Be aware that parts of HWY 37 are designated landing strips although having a plane land on the highway in front of you probably isn't something you really need to worry about.

Lakes and streams are everywhere along this mostly paved route which has recently become popular with motorcyclists and bicycle trekkers and they absolutely team with Rocky Mountain whitefish, burbot, rainbow trout, lake char, Dolly Varden, northern pike, Arctic grayling and the odd-looking inconnu, or sheefish. In the big lakes such as Atlin, Tagish and Dease, you can catch monster lake char weighing up to 45 pounds. Dease Lake also marks that magic line where the rivers and streams stop flowing south and west and instead run north into the treeless Alaskan tundra.

You'll find excellent fly and spin fishing in the smaller lakes that are easily accessed from the highway with plenty of willing rainbow trout, bull trout, Arctic grayling and whitefish. Try Eddontenajon, Klucachon, Ealue, Gnat, Kinaskan and Wheeler lakes or throw a line into the Tanzilla and Cottonwood rivers. If you are looking for something a little off the beaten track and some fantastic sightseeing, charter a floatplane from Dease Lake to fish for Lake Char, rainbow and bull trout in Stalk, Tatlatui or Tatsamenie lakes.

Atlin is a small town on the shore of Atlin Lake, British Columbia’s largest natural lake. The people of the town take great pride in their complete lack of regional and municipal government and to this day are actively fighting any attempt to bring them into the “governed” fold. To quote a long-time Atlin resident; “We're here because we're not all there.” It's a gorgeous place with interesting people and well worth a visit.

While you are in Atlin, take advantage of the available floatplane service and fly in to King Salmon or Kuthai Lakes. Huge rainbow over 20 pounds swim those waters as do seven pound Dolly Varden. On the Taku-Inklin-Nakina Rivers, massive Chinook up to 66 pounds are yours for the catching. Have your pilot fly you over the unforgettable Llewellyn Glacier at the southern end of the lake.

On Atlin Lake itself, fly-fish around the creek estuary’s for the pretty little Arctic grayling with the hard to miss “sail” of their large dorsal fin and the sun shining off the scintillating colours of their sides. If bigger grayling are what you want, nearby Surprise Lake has trophy fish that will reach 4.5 pounds. McDonalds Lake contains char up to seven pounds and Palmer Lake is full of smallish northern pike. For bigger pike drive up the 4x4 road into Gladys Lake and tussle with the real gear busters. Don't forget your pike gag or you risk a long uncomfortable drive as you try to find a first aid post where somebody can sew your hand back together!

Spin-casters in the smaller lakes and streams will do well with small Gibbs, Delta Sil-vex. Mepps Aglia or Panther Martin spinners. If you prefer to fly-fish, use small patterns such as the Parachute Adams, Black Gnat, Tom Thumb or the Royal Coachman. Wet flies are useful as well, try a Mickey Finn, Doc Spratley or a Muddler Minnow.

To tempt the larger fish such as the big lake char, northern pike, inconnu or trophy sized rainbows, you are going to need more substantial terminal gear. Troll or spin-cast big Williams Whitefish, Eppinger Husky Dardevle or Len Thompson Five of Diamonds spoons. Mepps Magnum Musky Killer spinners, Rapala X-Rap or Creek Chub Pikie crankbaits and Worden's Flatfish are all worth a try for these northern monsters.

For Chinook, steelhead, rainbow and Dolly Varden in the larger rivers, cast heavy bottom bouncing spoons such as the Blue Fox Pixie, Luhr Jenson Crocodile and Gibbs Kit-A-Mat or Koho. Fly fishers should try Skunks, Popsicle, General Practitioners, Kelsey's Hope or Steelhead Bee flies. Drop in on one of the many tackle shops in the area for tips on what is working and what isn't. Remember, there is a lot of water up there so don't waste your time fishing in unproductive water, something somewhere is always providing great fishing in this corner of northern BC.

Omineca-Peace River is gold country. Since 1861 uncounted fortunes have been found and lost and the rugged individualistic people who came to claim those fortunes have lived and died here. Today the descendants of those people are more likely to be working in the forest or some other resource based industry but they are no less colorful and their stories are no less fascinating than those of their pioneer ancestors. They also stand steward over some really great fishing and are more than happy to share it with their southern cousins who come to visit, provided those visitors are prepared to respect the fish and the incredible variety of wildlife that call this largely unpopulated landscape home.

Situated in British Columbia’s far northeastern corner, the Rocky Mountain Trench lies between the northern Rockies to the East and the Omineca Mountains in the west. The colossal W.A.C. Bennet Dam on the Peace River backs up two main tributaries, the Parsnip and Finlay to form the 360 kilometer long Williston Lake. The Peace River is unique in that it is the only river in BC that flows east along the continental divide. The Liard (which runs alongside HWY 97) and other large rivers in this part of BC all run north into Alaska and contain fish more commonly found in northern Alberta and the Yukon.

Rivers and lakes in this region are likely to hold populations of northern pike, Arctic grayling, lake char, walleye, whitefish, bull trout and rainbow. Check with local outfitters to find out what is swimming where and when the best time to catch them is. Rivers especially are subject to unexpected run-off conditions and local knowledge is a must! Some of the wildlife found here need to be treated with tremendous respect due to their ability to really ruin the day of anybody foolish enough to fail to respect the “space” they require as part of their comfort-zone, particularly when their young are present. Practice your bear-aware and remember, bears aren't the only thing in the forest that can hurt you if you forget that this is their home and that they make the rules.

The Bucking Horse, Tetsa, Liard, Smith, Sikanni Chief, Racing, Halfway, Prophet, Muskwa, Trout and Toad rivers are all easily reached off of highways 97 or 29. They offer a smorgasbord of grayling, bull trout, whitefish and northern pike for the eager fisherman. Check local regulations for in-season closures and changes.

The resource towns of Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Fort St John, Hudson's Hope and Tumbler Ridge all have nearby lakes that offer great fishing for Arctic grayling, northern pike, lake char, Dolly Varden, perch, goldeye, stocked rainbow and eastern brook trout. Try Moose, Heart, Moberly, Foot Azouetta, Gwillim and Sundance to name but a few.

Fishing methods for this area are much the same as those used in the Stewart-Cassiar region detailed earlier. You can spin-cast small spinners and spoons or fly-fish for the smaller species of fish such as grayling, whitefish, rainbow and eastern brook trout, bull trout and small char. For larger fish such as the big pike, use long spoons, big crankbaits, or top-water lures such as the Creek Chub Super Knucklehead or the Rapala Skitter Pop. Fly-fisherman should use a heavy stout rod and long gaudy marabou streamers with plenty of yellow and red in the design.

The Omineca-Peace River region is one of the few places in BC along with the Columbia River further south where you can fish for walleye. If you have never eaten freshly breaded walleye fillets fried in bacon fat in a cast iron pan at the side of a lake then you have not lived. In the opinions of many there is simply no better shore lunch to be had and they are pretty good when you take them home and cook them there too.

The trick to fishing for walleye is to simply find where the fish are holding. Once you find them anything that catches their attention is going to entice them to bite. Think of walleye as underwater kittens and try to tease them. Slow drift fishing with small lead-head jigs tipped with nightcrawlers, shiners, Yum Walleye Grubs, or Mister Twisters works and if you would rather troll or cast, try diving crankbaits like the Frenzy Flicker Shad, Poe's Cruise Minnow, Rapalla Fat Rap or Wally Diver. You can find walleye at Charlie Lake, or in the Beatton, Peace and Fort Nelson rivers.

For some excellent rainbow trout fishing as well as Dolly Varden, whitefish, grayling and huge lake trout, stop at Muncho Lake (Mile-437 on the Alaskan Highway). You can charter a floatplane at Muncho lake or Fort Nelson that will take you into Tuchodi, Fern, Gataga, Netson, Redfern, Fishing, Long Mountain, Tetsa, Wokkpash, Dall or Fairy lakes which hold Dolly Varden, grayling, rainbow trout and trophy lake char. Bring your camera for the trip, the spectacular views are a real bonus to the great fishing.

Maxhamish Lake is no stranger to 12-pound walleye. Troll for these large fish-eaters with Apex Hotspot lures, Tomic plugs, big spoons or diving crankbaits such as the Rapala X-Rap or Rebel Holographic Minnow.

When you are done fishing, take a luxurious soak in the Liard River Hot Springs where you can relax and contemplate everything you have seen and caught in the Omeneca-Peace River region.

The Yellowhead Highway (Named after fur trader and explorer Pierre Bostonais who was known for the yellow streaks in his hair) crosses the province from the Rocky Mountains in the east to Prince Rupert in the west. Travel this road and you trace the footsteps of Alexander Mackenzie who walked through here in 1793. I have no idea if Mr Mackenzie fished but I think it's a safe bet that he did and I'm also sure he had no trouble finding fish.

Head west out of Prince George and drive to where the rivers run shallow and clear to fish for rainbow trout and whitefish. The Bowron, Chilako and Willow rivers all offer fine fishing as does Cluculz Creek. You don't have to travel far from the towns of Vanderhoof, Burns Lake, Fraser Lake, Houston and Smithers to find dozens of lakes that fish well. The larger lakes in the area, Francois, Stuart, Fraser, Babine, Burns, Takla and Trembleur contain lake char, whitefish, kokanee and burbot in addition to rainbow trout. For smaller lakes more suited to pontoon boats or float tubes there is Tachik, Pinchi, Grizzly, Tatuk, Tezzeron, Finger, Nuiki and Little Bobtail to try your luck in. You will catch rainbows and kokanee and don't stop fishing just because the water is hard, ice fishing is very popular here.

The Fresh Water Fisheries Society of BC is very active in the northern regions. They have stocked trout in Shane, Ferguson, Carp, Opatcho and Eena lakes near Prince George; Hart Lake in Crooked River Park; Dunalter and Johnston lakes near Houston; Tyhee and Round lakes near Telkwa; and Ross Lake near New Hazelton. These lakes offer plenty of fast and furious fishing for kids, old-timers and people just getting into the sport. For fishermen with a hunger for larger fish, Hobson and Chief Grey (near Vanderhoof), Richmond Lake (east of Burns Lake) and Duckbill and Duckwing lakes (near Moricetown) will satisfy their trophy rainbow craving.

Close to Terrace, (better known for it's salmon and steelhead fishing than it's stillwater trout fishing) Kleanza and Onion lakes are popular for plentiful, always hungry rainbow trout. Larger, deeper lakes nearby; Treston, Redsand and Kitsum-kalum have cutthroat and Dolly Varden.

The mighty Skeena River and it's equally famous tributaries (The Kispiox, Babine, Morice, Zymoetz, Copper, Bulkley, Suswa and Sustut rivers) are justifiably world renowned for their fantastic year round fishing. Starting in July and August, the rivers are filled with huge Chinook salmon. In September and October you can fish for coho as well as the resident rainbow and Dolly Varden that are gobbling down eggs as fast as they can find them. The tributaries themselves are arguably better known for the trophy steelhead that make the trip from the ocean every year. Bright as a new bar of silver with a crimson stripe down their sides, these magnificent fish are found here up to 22-pounds and a trip to this area is the highlight of many fishermans lives. Steelhead in these rivers will eagerly slurp down a dry fly in the summer months but the great fishing continues through the winter and well into spring. Use heavy spoons such as the Luhr Jenson Crocodile, Williams Bully, Blue fox Pixie and the Gibbs Delta Kit-A-Mat or large spinners like the Mepps Aglia, Gibbs Delta Tee Spoon or Luhr Jenson Bang Tail. Bounce your lure along the bottom and if you aren't snagging occasionally, you aren't fishing deep enough.

Float-drift gravel bars with bait (roe or dew worms), Gooey Bobs or Super Spin&Glows. If you are fishing from a boat, back-troll wiggling lures like the Luhr Jenson Hot Shots or Kwikfish, Worden's Flatfish or Blue Fox's Foxee Fish. Place your lure right in front of the salmon's nose to entice it into striking.

Don't overlook fly-fishing for these huge migratory fish. In the summer use a large floating fly and skate it over the surface, leaving a large wake. You will often see the fish zero in on these top water disturbances and hit your fly like a cruise missile. Steelhead will sometimes follow a fly for a long time without striking so be sure to let your line swing all the way through and then pause a few seconds before re-casting. Try a Crystal Caddis, Bulkley Skater Orange, Death from Above or even the biggest rattiest Tom Thumb you have in your box. Later in the season switch to sunken flies with lots of marabou and rabbit fur such as a Steelhead Bee, Egg-Sucking Leech, Popsicles, Stellar's Jay and General Practitioners. There are at least as many steelhead flies as there are steelhead fly-fishers (probably far more!) so don't get too hung up on the pattern. Presentation and fishing where the fish are holding are the most important aspects of fly-fishing for steelhead.

In the smaller streams of this area use the same methods you have used elsewhere in the North. Small spinners and spoons for the rainbow, Dolly Varden and whitefish. From a boat in the lakes use trolling lures; Apex Hot Spots, Kokanee Killers and Wedding Band Spinners. Fly fishermen should tailor their offerings to the season and the available local food. Bead Head Chironomids, 52 Buicks, Tom Thumbs, Doc Spratley, Adams, Leeches, Whooley Buggers and terrestrials will all work at different times of the year.

As always, your local tackleshop is the place to go for advice, not only on patterns, lures and hot fishing tips, but where NOT to go due to the often unpredictable nature of the water levels in the rivers and creeks along Route-16. A good rain will sometimes result in flash floods that can quickly shut down the highway not to mention isolate whole communities!

Anybody who has ever watched a TV-show about fishing off the northern coast knows exactly why you don't want to try it in winter. Hurricane-force gales slam the coast in the cold months and limit saltwater sport-fishing to the spring and summer. Most fishing resorts and charter operators normally start their operations in May and are done by mid September. A few however will stay open from November until April to offer river-fishing for steelhead, salmon, cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden.

From Prince Rupert (near the mouth of the Skeena River) you have access to major salmon runs entering rivers like the Skeena, the Nass and the Kitamat as well as nearby offshore waters teeming with halibut, lingcod and rockfish. Prince Rupert's sheltered harbour is home to a large fleet of experienced fishing charter operators that offer single and multiple-day expeditions. Several remote saltwater resorts have full service lodges and offer guided or self guided fishing.

Dundas and Zayas islands, about 60-kilometers north of Prince Rupert have excellent fishing for huge Skeena and Nass Tyee as well as high-leaping coho. Vast kelp forests on the north side of Zayas Island provide the opportunity of remarkable ocean fly-fishing for Pacific salmon. Some of the fishing lodges in this area have to be seen to be believed and definitely cater to the fisherman who likes his post-fishing time comfortable and well supplied with gourmet food, comfortable chairs and spectacular surroundings.

Closer to the mouth of the Nass River on the northern mainland, Work Channel and Portland Canal are holding spots for salmon and bottom fish. There is excellent fishing to be found in Chatham sound and around the islands and islets of the Tree Knob Group to the west. Farther south a large back eddy forms off Gobble point near the mouth of the Skeena. This is a popular place to motor-mooch big cut-plug herring for coho, chum and Tyee-sized Chinook. Fish for bottom fish at nearby Warrior Rocks.

Leading into the town of Kitamat and Whale channel, Douglas Channel has excellent year-round fishing for Kitamat River Chinook. Mature Tyee can be real monsters weighing in at over 55 pounds! The two channels are very deep and have great bottom fishing for rockfish, halibut and abundant lingcod. Catch the huge salmon in this vast region by downrigger-trolling large spoons, (Tomic Road Runner, Gibbs Delta Wonder, Gator, Clendon Stewart, O'Ki Titan, Williams whitefish and Luhr Jenson Coyote or Diamond King for example), seven-inch Tomic Plugs, whole herring in Rhys Davis Teaser Heads or Hoochies (J200, Tiger Prawn, or Glow Green Splatterback), behind flashers (Hot spot, O'Ki, Luhr Jenson or Gibbs Delta). Power-mooching cut-plug herring along the edges of kelp beds at depths between eight and 20-metres is another proven tactic. Throughout the summer coho, pink, chum and the occasional sockeye will be caught along with the Chinook.

Sharp-fanged lingcod, tasty rockfish and halibut await you at depths of 60-100 metres. Use a spreader bar with one to two pounds of weight to bottom bounce jumbo herring, 12-inch Delta UV purple or white Hali Hawgs or Gulp Bait Swimmers. You can also opt to give yourself an aerobic lift-drop workout with heavy drift jigs like Doug Fields Halibut Spinnow, Gibbs Delta Mudraker or Floorwalker, Delta Giant Skirt Jig, Storm Giant Jigging Shad or a Norwegian Cod Jig.


The Haida First Nation has continuously occupied the archipelago of Haida Gwaii, or “Islands of the People” for thousands of years. In 1787, British explorer Captain George Dixon named the the Queen Charlotte Islands to honour the wife of England’s King George lll. More than 200 years later in 2010 after an historic agreement between the Haida and British Colombian governments, the name was officially changed to Haida Gwaii.

The two largest islands, Moresby and Graham have several small communities with a population of about 6000 permanent residents. There are small commercial airports located at Masset and Sandspit and Sandspit is also where you will find the ferry to the mainland. Reservations are a must for the seven hour trip between Prince Rupert and Skidegate and there are only an average of three sailings per week so be sure to get those reservations early.

The other aproximatly150 smaller islands are mostly uninhabited and many are protected. In fact, much of Haida Gwaii is protected area. The Gwaii Hannas National Park Reserve and Haida Herritage Site covers most of Moresby and surrounding islands and islets. Gwai Hannas means “Islands of Beauty” in the Haida language.

Positioned on the extreme western edge of the North American continental shelf, the isolation of Haida Gwaii contributes greatly to the outstanding sport fishing found here. The local temperatures are regulated as is most of the BC coast by the North Pacific Current which keeps the climate mild but also ensures that the islands are well watered, very well watered. Conditions tend toward wet and windy from October until April with July being the driest month. Wind can be a real problem in the open ocean and in fact, Cape Saint James at the southern tip of the archipelago has seen some of the highest wind speeds ever recorded in Canada. Always check for small craft warnings before heading out for a day of fishing.

The cold, nutrient rich North Pacific fosters prolific schools of herring, needle-fish, krill and squid. This bounty of feed attracts run after run of of mature salmon on their way to spawn in their home streams up and down the coast. The islands of Haida Gwai are the first relatively shallow water the fish encounter after spending their early lives growing fat in the Gulf of Alaska and the open Pacific.

Great fishing is to be had year-round here but some times are better than others for specific fish. The Chinook are fishing well from April until September while the sockeye make their main appearance from May through July. Catch hard fighting chum from July to September and fish for Halibut from March until September, provided of course that the Halibut fishery is open. In October of 2011 Federal Fisheries closed the recreational halibut fishing completely to preserve stocks. Check the fisheries web-site for in-season closures.

Slab-sided Chinook (averaging almost 22-pounds) are the rule and the odds of catching a Tyee (over 30-pounds) are excellent. Northern coho will really make you work with their acrobatic leaps and ability to change direction almost instantly. Pink and chum salmon tend to be more opportunistic and will attack just about any dangling bait, even if it's right beside the boat!

The large numbers of returning Pacific Salmon to the archipelago are partially due to the ongoing efforts of the Fish Council of the Haida Nation. The Haida have taken a leading role in the policies and management of local recreational fishing. Their hatchery at Pallant Creek produces upwards of 30 million chum fry and over a million coho smolts every year. They also do creel-surveys and boat-counts to asses the nature and impact of recreational fishing in the Haida Gwaii to better manage the resource for future generations.

The deep off-shore banks and rocky shoals of Haida Gwaii are a bottom-fisher's dream. Halibut over 110-pounds are caught consistently as well as good numbers of the “chicken halibut” that are better suited for the table. Sharp-toothed lingcod, redsnapper and Pacific yelloweye rockfish will eagerly snap at any deeply drifted lure or bait. The largest of these fish are all female so anglers are strongly encouraged to release any really big halibut and lingcod. A trip to the surface is most-often fatal for rockfish so if you catch a few of these willing biters in any of the deepwater holding areas, consider moving on to another location.

Hada Gwaii is well populated with guides and fishing lodges and your odds of a successful day on the water increase greatly with the hiring of one of these seasoned professionals. In addition to the dozens of guiding companies there are approximately 20 full service lodges scattered throughout the islands, some of them are quite remote and are fly-in or boat-in only. Reservations fill early and most prospective lodgers book their favorite location a long time in advance of their trip. Most lodges will assist guests in the shuttle between the airports and the lodge and some will even charter planes in from major centres.

The northern end of Graham Island has vast fish-holding kelp beds, coves and deep rocky crevices. Popular spots include the rocky, indented shoreline from Masset west to Cape Eddenshaw at the entrance to Naden Harbour in Virago Sound, and further west to the Bird Rocks. When weather and sea conditions permit, anglers will often find fantastic salmon and bottom-fishing along the western shores of Moresby and Graham islands. Take a day charter from the western end of the Skidegate Channel to Marble Island in the Cartwright Sound or book a longer stay in one of the floating or land-based lodges to be found in Port Lewis, Hippa Island, Rennel Sound, Kano Inlet, Cartwright Sound and Engle-field Bay to spoil yourself with some of the amazing sport-fishing to be had in those areas.

Lanfara Island, just off the north-western tip of Graham Island has several resorts that offer unguided, partially or fully guided fishing. Fish for salmon and bottom-fish off the kelp beds that line the eastern side of the island. McPherson, Andrews and Cohoe points are always a good bet. Drift-fish narrow Parry Passage between Langara and Graham islands for big halibut and if the southeast winds pick up, Guinia Point and Bruin Bay can offer you some protection. When the ocean is calm and reasonably fog-free, try around Lacy Island, the Langara Lighthouse, the area around the Langara Rocks and offshore (following the 100-metre bottom contour) for splendid salmon and bottom-fishing.

Power-mooching plug-cut herring at depths of seven to 15-metres around kelp beds and back eddies off of points take the most salmon. Offshore, dead-drift whole herring baits at 30-50metres behind your boat, letting the wind and the tidal currents do the work. If your boat has downriggers, fast-troll lures at depths down to 50-metres. Try big spoons (like the Tomic #500 or #602 “Honeycomb” Road Runner; Gibbs Delta 50/50, Clendon Stewart Wonder and Gator; Williams Whitefish; O'Ki Titan; and Luhr Jenson Chrome superior, Coyote and Diamond King), Apex hot spots, The True Roll Lure, seven inch Tomic Plugs (#500, #530UV, #602, #803 or #493), whole herring (or plastic Baitrix imitation herring, anchovy or strip) in Ryhs Davisteaser heads, hoochies (Glow-green Splatterback, Tiger Prawn or North Pacific j200) behind flashers (Hot Spot, Gibbs Delta, O'Ki, or Luhr Jenson) or cut-plug herring.

Ocean fly-fishing for salmon becomes more popular every year and some lodges cater specially to fly-fishers that want to try their hand in the salt. Take along an eight to ten weight rod, a stainless steel or anodized reel with a good disc drag and plenty of new backing. Don't forget to thoroughly wash all your gear in fresh water after you are done fishing for the day, watching a fisherman discover his new $500 reel has seized up because of the saltwater is not a pretty sight. Pick up a good supply of Clouser Minnows, floating bass “poppers” and big polar bear streamers in various sizes and colors. Target kelp beds and rocky points and look for salmon slashing through schools of baitfish. Hang on tight, salmon hit a fly hard!

Bottom-bounce a whole herring, salmon belly or head, Berkley PowerGrub, Gulp Bait Swimmer, 12-inch Gibbs Delta UV Hali Wag or Storm ThunderGrub from a spreader bar with a kilogram of lead weight, along the 70-100-metre bottom contour to entice large halibut, rockfish and lingcod. For a little exercise and strikes that will pull your arm into the water, drift-jig a Doug Field's Hallibut Spinnow, Gibbs Delta Floorwalker or Mudraker, Sumo 7X, Storm Giant Jigging shad, Norwiegian cod Jig or Gibbs Delta Giant Skirt Jig along the bottom. Again, be sure to check the regulations for closures and special conditions.

Although most fishermen come to Haida Gwaii for the satlwater fishing, it isn't the only game in town. Trophy steelhead battle their way up the islands creeks and rivers starting in fall and continuing through the winter and into spring. There is also sensational fishing for coho in the fall and searun Dolly Varden and cutthroat all year-round. The local rivers and streams are a fly-fisherman’s paradise . On Graham Island you can drive to rivers like the Yakoun, Tlell, and Kumdis while over on Moresby, try the Copper River. Island lakes and streams that are accessible only by boat or helicopter offer even more amazing fishing. Catch trophy freshwater fish on the fly using patterns like the Popsicle, Skunk, Mickey Finn or Steelhead Bee. Tie up some egg patterns, Whooley Buggers, nymphs and small drys for the resident rainbow. If you prefer to throw the gear, try spoons like the Gibbs Delta Koho or Kit-A-Mat, Luhr Jenson Crocodile, Williams Bully, Blue Fox Pixee or a Worden's Spin-N-Glow.

Lastly lest we forget, don't leave the islands without having a really good feed or two of delicious fresh crab or prawns. Drop a trap off the side of the boat while you fish or off the beach at North Beach on Graham Island. Let the tide cycle in and out and dinner is served!

Turning Tides – Neil Brookes- BCO March 2012

Turning Tides – Neil Brookes

“Stewardship knowledge is based on Awareness, familiarity, conceptualization, and beliefs acquired about an ecosystem. Its relationship with an ecosystem is maintained by accumulating experiences, conducting non-formal experiments, and developing intimate understandings.” Niel Brookes knows these words well, they are the words of James (Sa'ke'j) Youngblood Henderson and they describe the philosophy of the Kingfisher Interpretive Center where Niel has been working tirelessly for 30 years, educating the public and reshaping outdated attitudes toward salmon conservation.

Niel, at 64 years young, is a single dad with three kids who came to BC from Alberta nearly 40 years ago. A design engineer by trade who worked on everything from jewelry to artificial islands, he was forced to look over the horizon when a downturn in the economy necessitated a move to his family property in Kingfisher. Niel had always been involved with wildlife conservation in Alberta, primarily with birds, so when his older brother started hatching salmon in a jar in the fridge and asked him to produce a slide-show about the life-cycle of salmon, Niel was all for it and “the bug had bit” as they say.

From the jar in the fridge the brothers went on to build a small hatchery on a local creek which was really little more than a hatching box and a small garage made of plywood. In 1988, the property was sold and the new owner asked the fledgling hatchery managers to leave and so they moved, this time to the head of the Shuswap River at Mabel Lake. The new facility worked very well despite being constructed from baking trays and window screen but was unfortunately too dangerous for the general public to visit and so another exodus was in order, this time to a perfect spot on the banks of the Shuswap courtesy of a long term renewable lease with the Crown. Niel was able to negotiate a deal between the government and an industrial polluter who was receiving an environmental fine to use money from that penalty to build the main building that the Kingfisher Society resides in today.

Originally government officials were somewhat skeptical of the mission of the Kingfisher society, they seemed to believe that they were helping to build a private poaching ground for a bunch of Shuswap locals but nonetheless, through the available unemployment programs of the day; labour and cash grants were provided and the interpretive center was born.

Today, 3500 children and their guardians visit the center each year and are led through a curriculum provided by the DFO known as “Stream to Sea”. Every fall Niel visits 47 schools and provides classrooms with fertilized eggs which are lovingly attended to in small aquariums while students are taught the life-cycle of the salmon. In the spring when the fry are ready, the students travel to the center where with great ceremony, the fledgling salmon are released back into the river. At that time the students are led through creek-side education stations where they learn the effects of various man-made complications on the watershed in a very understandable, hands-on process. One young student was heard to exclaim after such a demonstration “I get it now!” To date some 80,000 kids have been through the program, that's a lot of awareness spread amongst children at a very impressionable age!

Every year the Kingfisher society releases 200,000 young Chinook into the Shuswap River. The DFO, uses the center's property for it's own stock assessment and considers the spot an indicator location on the health of the fishery. Niel is proud of these numbers but as he says, “our ultimate goal is not to grow more fish as it was in our earlier years, but to cultivate the seeds of stewardship in our human population,” to that end it is clear that Niel has been successful. Poaching on the river is declining and now adults who went through the program as kids are bringing their own children to learn about the salmon and how to preserve them for future generations. There is more catch and release fishing taking place on the river and people come with garbage bags to clean up the mess of other, less-enlightened fishermen.

Alberta's loss has been British Columbia's gain. Niel Brookes is a pioneer and was an environmentalist before being an environmentalist was cool, or even considered normal. The people of BC owe much to Niel and we can only hope that since the project is ninety-percent community funded that others feel the same and will continue to donate money and time to Niel and his very worthy cause.

If you know anybody that should be profiled in this column, please write me at trevor.shpeley@gmail.com

Vancouver, Coast and Mountain - BCO Adventure Guide

Vancouver, Coast and Mountain

Vancouver, with the coastlines and the mountains that surround it, are a powerful magnet for those of us that appreciate wild unspoiled beauty, adventure sports and of course, fishing and catching the many species of hard fighting fish that thrive in these sheltered coastal waters.

If your tastes run toward high mountain lakes and lonely fly fishing, we have that here. Would you like to catch a few of the countless Pacific Salmon that swim along our coastline in search of their birth streams? No problem. How about a 10 foot, thousand-pound fish that is literally a living link to the dinosaurs? We have that too. Trout? Carp? Bass? It's all here and you don't have to search very hard to find what you are looking for.

No matter what you like to catch, or how you like to fish for it, The Vancouver, Coast, Mountain region will scratch your fishing itch. So lets go exploring shall we?

Metro Vancouver
Even from a distance Vancouver is unlike any other city. The mirrored glass towers reach for the sky and reflect the mountains that overshadow downtown like great green gates to the seemingly unexplored wilderness beyond. Frothing mountain streams and huge rivers find their way down to the quiet waters of English Bay, Burrard Inlet and the Georgia Straight and nearly everything wet has fish swimming in it. All five species of Pacific Salmon call this region home as do Ling Cod, Rockfish, Steelhead, Sturgeon and all kinds of Trout to name but a few.

Vancouver’s iconic Stanley Park has a stone seawall ringing it's 10 kilometer circumference and nearly all of it's easily accessible rocky beaches are angler friendly as is evidenced by the dozens of fishermen trying their luck in the quiet surf nearly any day of the year. Likewise the beaches of English Bay are popular with shore casters and you won't have to walk far for a tasty lunch and a hot drink in one of the areas fine cafes after a cool morning fishing.

If fishing from the comfort of a boat is more to your liking and you don't have one of your own, you won't have any trouble renting a boat or hiring a guide. A quick Google search will hep you pick the service you are looking for from the many full service marinas in the greater Vancouver area but Granville Island and Horseshoe Bay are fine places to start. Full and half day charters are available with half day trips being perfect for somebody who just wants a quick taste of salt water fishing. Call ahead to make sure your boat or guide is reserved for you and don't overlook picking up some crabs or a trap full of Prawns. It might be possible to beat a fresh caught feast of crab, prawns and broiled Salmon steaks but if it is, I've never experienced it.

Perhaps a little freshwater Trout fishing is more to your liking? No need to pack up the car and drive out to the middle of nowhere, the Freshwater Fisheries Society runs a popular program known as “Fish in the City” and takes fish from it's Fraser Valley trout hatchery and stocks them in urban lakes, principally Deer Lake in Burnaby, Sasamat and Buntzen Lakes in Port Moody, Rice Lake in North Vancouver, Lafarge and Como Lakes in Coquitlam, Green Timbers in Surrey and Mill Lake in Abotsford. The last four lakes on that list also occasionally receive retired brood-stock from the hatchery so it's not at all unusual for you to suddenly find yourself with a double digit Trout on your line!

The richness and availability of classic sport fish in the Vancouver area can certainly leave you feeling spoiled but don't overlook the opportunity for some of the lively action that is offered by angling for species traditionally thought of as “coarse fish”. Bass, Crappie, Carp, Northern Pike Minnows, Bullheads and Chub all offer great entertainment and can be found in the unlikeliest of places. Use light spinning or fly gear or for something really different, try a traditional Asian “fishing pole” which is just that, a long flexible pole with some line tied to the end.

The Fraser River which runs into the Georgia Straight just South of Vancouver is a first class fishing destination known the world over for the diversity of it's fish species as well as the shear numbers of migratory fish that utilize it to make their way upstream to their spawning gravel each year. From it's headwaters in Northern BC, the Fraser River rushes down almost 1300 kilometers of steep canyons through the Coast Mountains until it gets to Hope where it slows and winds in lazy serpentine channels through the fertile farmland and bustling urban centers of the Lower Mainland.

If you are fishing the Fraser you have probably but not necessarily come for the salmon. All five species of Pacific Salmon travel this river on their way to their spawning grounds and some days they seem so thick you could walk across them. Rainbow Trout, Steelhead, Cutthroat, and their Char cousin, the Dolly Varden are all found in abundance although the coffee colored water makes them hard to see. Not to worry though, they can still see your lure just fine! Bar fishing is popular for these species as is cruising the backwaters by boat to fly fish the hidden spots most fishermen never visit.

October through April is the time to fish from shore on the Lower Fraser for Dolly Varden and Cutthroat Trout. Try the parks in Richmond wherever they border on the river in the slower water areas with spinners and spoons and if you happen to be there between March and April when the Salmon Fry are making their way downstream, hang on to that rod!

While you are poking around the communities of Delta and Richmond near the mouth of the Fraser, why not make a stop in Steveston? You can fish from a dock here, rent a boat or if you have had enough fishing for one day, some of the best fish and chips on earth are to be found here in the restaurants along the historic wharf. Take a tour through the Cannery Museum and when you are done for the day, walk on down to the docks and buy some fresh off-the-boat fish from the commercial fisherman who moor there.

For many however the “real” fish in the Fraser grow to 12 feet long, can weigh a thousand pounds and will test the resolve and stamina of the strongest fisherman. The fabled White Sturgeon, once at risk in our waters is again providing a robust fishery for locals and tourists alike. You can fish for these relics of an ancient era all year long but the best months are from the early summer after the freshet until late November. Use bait that roughly conforms to the type of fish the Sturgeon have access to at the time. When the chum are in the river, a piece of Chum or some Chum roe is the golden ticket, likewise for the other species of Salmon as they make their annual appearances in the river. Using fin-fish as bait is permitted while fishing for Sturgeon.

In the dark of winter many fishermen like to make their own “stink bait” by aging something until it, uh, stinks, and then plumbing the cold depths with their smelly concoction. If you are fishing the fresh water above the Mission bridge you will need a Sturgeon tag in addition to your freshwater license. As always, check the local regulations and don't forget to go to the Fisheries websites for any last minute changes.

The Fraser river is a large dangerous river, don't let the slow lazy water at the surface lull you into thinking a quick wade is a good idea. The treacherous gravel bottom can give way and drop you into a current much stronger than you expected. Always fish the Fraser with caution and preferably with a guide or some other person with local knowledge. Also remember that anything below the bridge in Mission is considered “tidal” and a salt water fishing license is required for all species of fish.
Fraser Country
The upper Fraser River and the surrounding countryside offer more than enough year round fishing to keep even the most obsessed angler busy all year long. In addition to the same fishing opportunities offered in the lower river, the Fraser Valley is blessed with a large number of feeder streams and rivers, clear mountain lakes and interesting backwater sloughs to explore.

Pitt Lake and the Pitt River have good fishing all year round but people new to boating should beware the sudden winds that can turn Pitt Lake into a very unpleasant place to be in a small craft. Fish the larger stream estuaries for Trout and Dolly Varden. To get there watch for access points near Port Coquitlam.

Between Port Coquitlam and Maple Ridge, you will find beautiful Golden Ears Park. The park offers miles of unspoiled hiking and nearby Allouette Lake, a serene place that will make you forget one of Canada’s largest cities is mere kilometers away. Rainbows, Cutthroat, Lake Char and Dolly Varden can all be caught there and some of them are quite large.

The Stave River, just East of Maple Ridge is legendary for it's run of fierce-fighting Chum Salmon. These fish will eagerly take a fly and it's doubtful that any of the other Pacific Salmon could match them in fighting ability. Catch a Chum on a small Streamer and you will feel like you hooked a locomotive as they tail-walk across the pool and test your arm muscles and gear. If they dash for the faster water , you can sometimes do little but watch them disappear into the distance with all your line as you hope the knot on the end of your backing is stronger than the one at your tippet. Bring a stout rod for Chum, you will need it. There are also Coho, Springs and Cutthroat to be caught in this short but productive river.

For something a little quieter, head up the access road from the Stave Lake Dam and you will find a number of high alpine lakes that are managed for a quality fishing experience. The water is clear, the fish can be tricky and the Bears here are in their homes so use your Bear sense and pack out any garbage you bring in. Devil's, Sayers, Morgan and Florence Lakes are all reached by this road.

Continuing East up the North side of the Fraser you come to the many lakes and streams of the Harrison area. The Chehalis river is a rugged stream that provides excellent fishing opportunities for the experienced hiker and wader in it's upper reaches as well as a more sedate but no less spectacular fishery at it's mouth where it spills into the Harrison River. Salmon, Cutthroat and Steelhead can all be caught here.

The rugged hillsides above the Harrison River have a number of lakes, large and small. Weaver Lake is popular with campers and is a very pretty place to spend a weekend. Wolfe, Grace and Sunshine Lakes are also in this area and are easily reached. In winter months, check ahead to make sure the gate to Weaver Lake is unlocked as you may have to secure a key at the hatchery.

The Harrison River is home to all the Pacific Salmon as well as Dolly Varden, Cutthroat and Steelhead. The currents in the Harrison tend to be sluggish making this an ideal family fishing location. Campgrounds and parks are common so access is never a problem. Fly fish or spin cast from shore or take a boat out and follow the feeding cutthroat by the tell tale commotion they cause as they slash through the abundant baitfish swiming just under the surface.

Crossing over the river into the Chilliwack-Hope area you are again faced with endless choices. Harrison, Cultus, Silver and Kawkawa Lakes are all great fly fishing and spin casting waters. Many of them offer great Kokanee fishing as well the usual grab bag of Trout. The Chilliwack/Vedder River is legendary not only for the multitudes of migratory fish to be caught there but also for the fact that it remains very productive despite the large number of anglers that fish there. Access points are numerous from the City of Chilliwack and the large population of guides and outfitters in the Chilliwack area will be happy to help you hook just about anything you want to catch, from small trout on a mountain stream to huge Sturgeon in the river.

The Skagit River near Hope is arguably one of the prettiest Trout streams in BC. Tiny dry flies and nymphs are the order of the day during the summer months and while the fish can be abundant, they are no push-overs. Bring your lightest Trout rod, your felt bottomed boots and your biggest jar of insect repellent. The Trout aren't the only voracious feeders in that neck of the woods.

As always, check the regulations for last minute changes before you make the long drive out.

Sea to Sky Country
Just to the North of the City of Vancouver is a sight that is hard to miss, the green hillsides and snowy mountain tops of the North Shore. Although North and West Vancouver serve primarily as bedroom communities for the bustling metropolis across the inlet, there are a few fishing gems to be found among the towering Cedars and emerald oceans of feathery Ferns.

The Seymour River while not what you would call super-productive is still a lovely place to throw a line for Coho in the Summer and Steelhead through the fall and winter. The upper reaches, once blocked off to fishermen due to it's status as a protected watershed is now open to visitors willing to do a little hiking and is accessed by way of the trails in the Seymour Demonstration Forest. This is also where you want to go if you would like to fish Rice Lake, a kid friendly and scenic water with a long wheelchair accessible walkway and plenty of smallish hungry fish thanks to the efforts of the “Fish in the City” program.

The Capilano River, long a favorite of local fishermen, is host to a good population of returning Coho, Chinook and Steelhead. The fishing remains productive despite the angling pressure thanks in part to the ongoing work of the Capilano Fish Hatchery, located in the impressive shadow of the Cleveland dam. Be sure to take a walk through the visitors area of the hatchery as it is open all year and you will always see something swimming around in the glass walled fish ladders.

The Mouth of the Capilano in addition to offering fantastic fishing is a peaceful spot where you can sit across from Stanley Park and watch tug boats guide the giant cruise ships and heavily laden Freighters through the narrow passage on their way to the open sea and parts unknown.

The beginning of the Sea to Sky Highway shares a series of HWY exits with the tiny seaside community of Horseshoe Bay. If you are unfamiliar with this visitor favorite, you might be forgiven for wondering at the bewildering maze of traffic cones and flag persons present almost any Summer weekend on the highway above the village but not to worry, there hasn't been an accident. Horseshoe Bay is the Howe sound terminal for the ferries that cross from the North Shore to Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and the many small islands that dot this part of the world. It is also the home of some very fine saltwater fishing.

Fishing charters, boat rentals and water taxis fight for space with world famous restaurants and trendy shops on the park-like waterfront behind the ferry terminal. From here you have access to the fantastic fishing of the Howe Sound where you can troll or Mooch in the shadow of the surrounding peaks, around islands that rise pillar-like from the sea and protect the fishing waters from the ever present wind. Try around Hutt Island to the West of Bowen or in Tunstall Bay off Bowen Island itself.

The fishing in the area is good all year round but beware the ferries, they are much bigger than you and they have the right of way. Pay heed to small craft warnings and as always, check the regulations before you go, there are several water parks in the area that are closed to all fishing.

Once you are done exploring Horseshoe Bay, head North up the Sea to Sky highway through the fishing friendly communities of Lions Bay, Britannia Beach, and Furry Creek until you arrive at the end of the Howe Sound and the city of Squamish.

The Squamish River is 80 KM long from it's headwaters in the Elaho Valley to it's outlet in the city of Squamish. While fishing these days is a shadow of it's formal self due to deforestation in the hillsides above, there is still fine fishing to be found for Coho, Chum, Chinnook and Pink Salmon as well as Cutthroat, Dolly Varden and Steelhead. The Steelhead are late running so Spring is the best time if you want to try for these hard fighting, hard to catch fish. Standing on the shore of the upper Squamish River it is easy to convince yourself you are on a remote Alaskan fly-in stream and not an hour and a half away from downtown Vancouver!

The regulations change frequently in this system so ask at one of the many local fishing shops for the latest updates and a tip or two on where to fish.

Lakes in the Squamish area include Alice lake with it's large campsite, Browning in Murrin Park, Edith and Brohm.

Just up the road from Squamish is the resort town of Whistler. If it involves the outdoors, you can find it in Whistler. Fishing, skiing, hiking, golf, mountain biking, zipline tours, heli and float plane fishing, ice fishing, it's all here and it's not hard to find. Stop in the local Flyshop and you will be on your way to whatever you have an inkling to try.

For lake fishing and surprisingly large fish, try Alta Lake, Garabaldi, Green, Cheakamus or Callaghan.

Further North is the community of Pemberton which sits in idyllic farmland on the edge of true BC wilderness. There is plenty of year round fishing to be had here although Spring is probably best for Cutthroat, Bull Trout, Rainbow, Dolly Varden and Rocky Mountain Whitefish. In the Summer, fish for Sockeye and when fall comes, try your hand on the Chum and Coho Salmon.

Just a few of the productive lakes in the area are Lillouette, Anderson and Carpenter but if you are willing to put in a few miles on your legs, there are some Alpine walk-in lakes that offer the sort of scenery only secluded alpine lakes can! Tenquille, Ogre, Owl, Fowl, Chain and Ivey are a few worth the walk. The short growing season at those altitudes results in a smaller fish but the breathtaking vistas make it all worthwhile.

Some great waters for fly fishing in the fall are Mosquitto, Gates, Blackwater and Joffrre for fish that can be a much better size.

The friendly proprietors of the local fishing shops are always willing to help out newcomers to the area, so drop in and have a chat.

The Sunshine Coast
A 45 minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay is all that separates the bustle of the lower mainland from the cornucopia of salt and freshwater fishing waiting to be sampled west of Howe sound. With 86 kilometers of relatively sheltered coastline, the long narrow peninsula we know of as the Sunshine Coast is actually divided into two parts. The Sechelt peninsula and the Malaspina Peninsula which are separated from each other by Jervis Inlet.

The Sunshine Coast, despite being solidly connected to the mainland has the definite feel of a West coast island due to it's generally artsy atmosphere, the focus on the outdoors for recreational activity and the funky individualism of the people that live there. Hip-booted fishermen with salt oozing from every pore rub shoulders with aging hippies who came here to camp on the beach and never left. They in turn stand next to First Nations people who have called this area home since long before there was anybody else around to visit it. The Sunshine Coast should be on everybody’s bucket list of places to visit before they move on from this life and anybody who passes up the opportunity will be poorer for the loss.

After you disembark from the ferry, hopefully after sighting one of the pods of Pacific White Sided Dolphin that haunt the area or perhaps a playful Sea Otter or two, drive North a few kilometers to the historic village of Gibsons. Fans of iconic Canadian TV shows will immediately recognize the waterfront as the location for the long running “Beachcombers” television series and in fact the focal location, Molly's Reach is still open and serving customers today.

The salt water fishing off the Sechelt Peninsula is everything any fisherman could ask for and don't worry about what time of year it is, there is something to be caught just about anytime you feel the need to go catch it.

In the winter you can fish for feeder Chinook until the migratory fish start arriving in late spring. The best Chinook fishing takes place from June through September which is also when the Coho show up. August to September will see the Pinks and Sockeye moving in which will keep you busy until the Chum make their annual appearance in September. Don't give up on the Coho when the air starts getting chilly as the Northern variety share water with the Chum in September and October.

Most of the salt water fishing along the Sunshine Coast is done by Mooching as opposed to the traditional trolling methods found elsewhere but anything is possible, from dragging big spoons and cut plugs through the depths of the underwater shelves between Gibsons and Roberts Creek to fly fishing from a sturdy pontoon boat or floatube off the mouth of Chapman Creek.

Other local favorites include Halfmoon Bay, Buccaneer Bay, Secret Cove, Lasqueti Island, Texada Island, Seal Reef, Bejji Shoals, Bargain Harbour, A-Frame and Quarry Bay.

Remember Salmon aren't the only thing swimming around in these fertile waters. Red Snapper, Rock Cod, Tommy Cod and Flounder are plentiful and can be caught all year. Ling Cod are present as well but are closed to fishing from October until May. Prawns and Crabs are available all year and a variety of shellfish are there for the taking as well from Mussels and Oysters in Roberts Creek to Clams in Davis Bay. Of course you absolutely must check for closures and Red Tide alerts.

There is plenty of fresh water Trout fishing to be experienced as well. Garden Bay Lake, Hotel Lake and Mixal Lake are just West of HWY 101 and Trout Lake, a popular heavily stocked vacation spot, is right beside HWY 101 just 10 kilometers North of Sechelt. Sakinaw and Ruby Lakes are large lakes where Coho, Sockeye, Rainbow, Cutthroat and Kokanee are all caught.

Before you take the 40 minute ferry and cross over to the Malaspina Peninsula, take an hour or two off from the fantastic fishing and go for a hike through spectacular old growth Cedar to the skookumchuck Narrows. These turbulent waters which sometimes rush through the narrow passage at speeds up to 30 KMH are famous for their huge whirlpools and foaming rapids due to the sometimes two meter difference in water levels from one end to the other. Don't forget to stop at the coffee shop near the head of the trail for a muffin or scone in unforgettable surroundings.

Once you are on the other side of Jervis Inlet, the communities of Powell River and Lund await you. Like it's Southern neighbor, fresh and saltwater opportunities abound on the Malaspina. Powell River is renowned for the Trout fishing to be enjoyed in the more than 30 lakes found nearby. Powell Lake, Goat and Inland lakes are all home to huge Cutthroat and are not to be missed.

For the adventurous types, the Powell Forest Canoe Route is 80 kilometers of intertwined waterways, peppered with lakes and dozens of creeks. The routes are well signed and recreation campsites are plentiful. There are several access points but a good place to start would be at the Canoe Main logging road just East of the Lois River near Lang Bay. Follow the signs to the Lois Lake recreation site.

Be aware that you are traveling active logging roads and check before you leave for road closures and notices. Think of logging trucks as land-bound ferries and try not to get in their way as they travel the working forest. Maps of the canoe routes are available online and of course, the local shops will be more than happy to help you plan your trip.

The salt water fishing off the Malaspina peninsula is if anything, more wild and scenic than that found further South. For some great beach fishing go to the Lang Creek estuary and toss spoons and spinners for Salmon weighing up to 20 pounds! Fish off the coast near Lund for Ling Cod and Salmon.

Desolation Sound is BC's largest marine park. You are on your own for transportation into this rugged piece of the BC coast but whether you Kayak, take a float plane or rent a boat, you will be awed by the experience of traveling through and fishing one of British Columbia’s greatest treasures.

As you might imagine, there are far more incredible fishing opportunities to be had in the Vancouver Coast and Mountain region than it was possible to list in this relatively short magazine article. In fact, it's hardly possible to trip over your feet on the West Coast without falling into something fishable. Use this guide as a starting point and with a little local advice solicited from the many knowledgeable fishing guides and tackle shop owners you are sure to find more than enough to keep you busy for the next lifetime or two.

Vancouver, Coast, Mountain will never leave you wanting more. As long as you have the time and the energy, it has the fish.

Urban Treasures - March 2012/BCO

Urban Treasures

We all do it, it's in our blood. When we arrive at our favorite fishing spot we immediately crank up our boat-motor or start hoofing it toward our favorite haunt which just happens to be at the extreme end of a long lake or at the terminus of a seven kilometer hike. Does that location offer better fishing than the spot we started at? Maybe, but probably not.

That's just the way fishermen are wired. If it's close, if you can see it from your living-room, it can't possibly be any good. If it was any good it would have a hundred people fishing it right now. We travel to far away spots to “get away from it all”, to sit and meditate on the beauty of our surroundings with nothing but ducks and bugs for company but how many times have you driven all morning to your secret spot only to find a 20 minute wait at the boat ramp and everybody and his dog already ensconced in your favorite spot? Chances are you could have stayed close to home and had the place to yourself.

Urban waters have a few things going for them. Rivers flowing through town are often much more fertile there than the same river is upstream due to the tendency of human and industrial biological pollutants to end up in the river. Instead of causing harm the extra fertilizer creates a plant friendly environment which in turn encourages the insects to multiply until they eventually find their way inside of fish which just keep getting fatter. The Bow River in Calgary is a great example of this; a typical freestone stream above Calgary with limited fish production it becomes a world class trout river after it passes through town. This phenomenon is not limited to big cities, anywhere you have septic and fertilizer run-off occurring you are going to get a spike in the numbers of larger fish caught, provided of course the pollution isn't enough to kill the river outright but that doesn't seem to be happening as much now as it used to.

The other benefit as you get close to a city is brood-fish. Fish hatcheries tend to be within easy driving distance of a town because supplies and accommodations for employees are much easier to acquire when you aren't perched on a rock beside a wilderness river in the middle of nowhere. In the case of trout, eggs and milt are harvested from live fish and they can reach huge sizes before they are retired. In this case retired usually means released into a local lake along with the usual bucket-loads of fingerlings and catchables. What that means for the fisherman is an afternoon of catching 10-inch fish with your kids on a pond in the middle of the city can suddenly take a very interesting turn when your five year old son finds himself with a 15-pound trout on the end of his plastic Buzz Lightyear fishing rod. If he lands it, it will be the memory of a lifetime but he probably won't and it will still be there when you sneak away from your office at lunch-time to do a little work-day fishing.

Not every town has trophy fishing in it's midst but a surprising number of them do. The following, in no particular order is not meant to be a comprehensive list but instead is a small sampling of some of the fantastic fishing that can be found without going to the bank for a gasoline mortgage or being away from home long enough that your kids forget who you are.

Vancouver/Lower Mainland
Vancouver probably doesn't even really need to be in this article for people to know about it's excellent fishing. The city is surrounded on three sides by water, the mighty Fraser River and all the huge fish that live in it run right through the Lower Mainland. There are many smaller rivers and creeks that at times hold steelhead and large sea-run cutthroat. Really, most of the fishing in the Lower Mainland could be called “Urban Treasures.” There are a few spots however you may have overlooked and these are heavily stocked lakes, probably closer to your house than the nearest Wallmart and they regularly receive plantings of retired, double digit brood-stock.

People drive right past these treasures on their way to “better” water but the truth is, the fishing in these inner-city put-n-take lakes can be incredible for very large fish, not all of the time, but a very significant sometimes. Lafarge and Como Lakes in Coquitlam, Green Timbers in Surrey and Mill Lake in Abotsford all receive retired brood fish. Try a sparsely dressed fly tied with brown Chenille on a 2x hook, it looks like a trout food pellet. Is that cheating? I don't know but it's a tried and true method of fishing for brood-stock and these are fish that have reached the end of their reproductive life so a person can take one home without having to feel too bad about it. Try checking the Fresh Water Fisheries Association website for stocking times. http://www.gofishbc.com/fishstocking.htm

Kelowna sits directly on the shore of Okanagan Lake which at 135-kilometers long and 230-meters in depth is bound to have some decent fish swimming around in it and it does. If you have the boat and the time you can certainly troll around and catch 10-20 pound trout within spitting distance of your office but there are a couple of other locations less than 10 minutes from city center that offer nice fish without the specialized gear requirement of the big lake. Shannon Lake on the Westside is a perfect example. To call it a lake is stretching the definition of the word “lake” a bit, pond would probably be more accurate. There is a golf course ringing half the lake, houses lining the other side and a small regional park in one corner. Every year the Freshwater Fisheries Association strings out some netting in a bay near the golf course and fills it with catchable trout so youngsters can try their hand at fishing without the need for a license or fancy gear but that's not why Shannon Lake has been included. What makes Shannon interesting is the bass. Big largemouth bass. The houses around Shannon Lake were built years before sewer systems made their appearance in the area and the fertile runoff from the septic fields and the golf course have created a small weed filled productive piece of water. The big bass fishing isn't as hot as it once was but you still hear of six and seven pounders being caught and there are lots in the four-to-five pound range. The heavy food load also produces big perch, much larger than most are accustomed to catching. You can fish from shore at Shannon Lake with no difficulty but to catch the large ones, bring a float-tube or pontoon boat.

Between the south end of Okanagan Lake and the north end of Skaha Lake is the isthmus of land holding the city of Penticton. Okanagan Lake has already been discussed and that which is true about the big lake also holds true for Skaha with one very significant difference. Skaha has smallmouth bass, some of the biggest smallmouth in Canada in fact. It has been said that the next world-record smallmouth is likely to come out of Skaha Lake. Fish the rocky dropoffs around the shoreline and the patches of weeds dotting the sandy plains of the shallow shoals. You can fish from shore or with a pontoon boat or even a large boat, just be sure to head back in when the inevitable afternoon wind kicks up. Use streamer flys, poppers, leeches and Whooly Buggers if you are fly fishing or try small to medium spinners, spoons and plugs if you are a gear chucker.

Swan Lake is a medium sized lake beside the highway just north of the city. It doesn't look like much, in fact although I live in Vernon it was years before I ever fished it. It looks more like a huge flooded field than a productive fishing lake but productive it is! Swan is the first lake in the area to ice-off in the spring and that is the time most people fish it. The lake is heavily stocked every year and because of it's shallow depth and remarkably consistent lake-bottom contours, weed growth and hence food production is prolific. A lot of the fish are taken by ice fisherman every year but those that survive, get large fast. Stories of nine pound trout are not uncommon in the spring. The fly in the ointment is the very condition that allows for lush weed growth means that the fish could be literally anywhere and your best bet for locating them is the age-old practice of following the fishermen. There are usually a few old-timers out there and they know the lake and it's habits. Of course you run the risk of finding yourself camped out with 10 other boats catching nothing because everybody followed the first guy out when he looked like he knew what he was doing when in fact he probably had no idea where to go either.

Everybody has heard of the Columbia River and the huge fish that swim in it. Trophy trout, fat tasty walleye and now unconfirmed reports of northern pike tempt the out of town angler to make a trip into the West Kootneys for a chance at these large fish. There is no need to park on the highway as far from any town as you can get and bushwhack to that special spot down the hill and across the tracks, the whole river is productive. Fish don't care if they look up through the water and see wild birch trees or the window of an elementary school, it's all the same to them, good habitat is good habitat.

I lived in Castlegar during the 80's and when I had a few minutes to spare I would walk the hundred feet down to the river and start fishing. If it was daytime I usually fished for Walleye, in the evening I fly-fished for trout. Nowadays, the fishing has if anything, improved. The fish are larger, they are easy to find but the trout in particular are no push-overs. Be prepared to fish small dry flies in difficult currents and don't take a boat on the water unless you really know what you are doing. The Columbia is no place for the novice boater to get his feet wet because that won't be the only part of him getting wet, it's a very wide and fast river with deadly whirlpools and unless you know what you are doing, you need to stay out of it. Luckily there is no need for those shenanigans as there is plenty of great shore fishing to be found and no need to drive anywhere to find it.

Logan Lake
The village of Logan Lake is perched oddly enough on the shores of Logan Lake. After a great burger in the local hotel it's a quick stroll across the crosswalk and you are fishing one of the great understated lakes in BC. A small unassuming lake, Logan is very fertile and when it hasn't been winter killed, it is fair to expect large, difficult to catch fish. I caught my first 10 pound trout in Logan Lake which I thought was pretty good until a women caught a 16 pound fish off of the campground-dock the following year. Logan Lake has on and off-years but it is always worth a try if you can resist the urge to drive right past it on your way to the other famous lakes in the area.

Dragon Lake is not located right downtown in Quesnel but it's close enough that I have included it here. It's a large lake that is ringed by houses and is popular for water-sport enthusiasts in the summer but in the spring and fall, it belongs to the fly-fishers and what a fly-fishing lake it is! Large fat fish come readily to a fly and they come in good numbers. A so-so day at Dragon is better than a fantastic day anywhere else although of course there will be days you would swear you that you had been dipped in fish repellent. Bring a good selection of chironomids, leeches and of course, dragon nymphs. In the fall a micro leech under an indicator fished just off the reeds can be deadly.

Whistler is surrounded with decent fishing opportunities but one in particular stands out for me. Alta Lake is home to some very nice sized cutthroat trout and is strictly catch and release fishing with a total bait ban. The lake is very close to downtown Whistler and although shore fishing is possible, it is better with a boat or float-tube. Cutthroat are generally ambush fishers and like streamers, leeches and Wooly Buggers but at this lake for some reason they are also partial to chironomids fished under an indicator close to structure of some sort like a floating log or a dock.

You may not have trophy water sitting right downtown where you live or you might be surrounded by it. The point is, before you cast your eyes over the horizon for that perfect fishing spot, take a glance down at your feet, you may already be standing in it and after all, where are you going to catch more fish? In your boat with your line in the water or driving down the road in your truck listening to AM radio while you travel hours away from where the fish are to a spot where other fish might be? Take a chance this year and fish the waters that are so well known that nobody really knows about them. Leave the secret far-away spots to the masses!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Turning Tides Jack Simpson

Turning Tides
Jack Simpson
Trevor Shpeley

We all know the name Brian Chan, and who hasn't heard of Phill Rowley, Tom Johanson and Gord Honey? They are great fishermen, writers and guides but what about the rest of BC? What about all the skilled fishermen and outstanding stewards of our waters? What about the virtuosos of the tying bench or the masters of old world boat building toiling away in their basements? What do we know about the people that give countless hours of their free time teaching newcomers techniques, ethics and etiquette?

There are hundreds of people like that littered through the BC angling community. They are teachers, lawyers, retirees and loggers. They come from every walk of life, some are well known, others are not. That's what this column is about; normal everyday fishermen who have distinguished themselves in the sport and deserve to be recognized for their efforts. I hope you will enjoy reading about these outstanding people as much as I will enjoy writing about them. Without further ado, here is our first profile.

Two AM is an ugly time of day to be heading out on a fishing trip, that's pretty early even for me but this day was special, I was headed up into the Cariboo to fish with a man I've known for at least ten years and seen in person maybe a dozen times, interior BC fishing legend and internet forum pioneer, Jack Simpson.

The first thing you notice about Jack when you meet him is the odd disconnect between his 67 years on this planet and his obvious vitality. His hair is still brown (ish), his eyes are piercing and while he certainly doesn't posses an imposing stature, it is immediately clear that messing with him would be something you would only do once.

Jack radiates confidence which is probably unavoidable for somebody that spent ten years flying radial engined prop planes for the Canadian and U.S. Military, a stint that took him overseas providing low altitude troop support in combat situations, sometimes returning the plane to the hanger with more metal than it took off with.

These days the only lead Jack tosses around is inside a weighted Leech. After a relatively late start flyfishing at age 40, Jack quickly became obsessed and enthusiastically embraced every aspect of the sport. He learned to tie flies, build rods, and find secret lakes. He became adept at modifying his boats to better suit his flyfishing needs and he has never balked at sharing the fruits of his labors with others. To date he has taught somewhere around a hundred fishermen to build their own rods and rare indeed is the person who fishes with Jack that doesn't walk away with a handful of his hand tied flies, many of which are his own creations such as the Bead Bodied Leech and the Black Hackle Nymph.

I first became acquainted with Jack online at Fish.BC which at the time was BC's largest fishing forum. He became their first and only moderator back in 1990 and literally thousands of fishermen have since benefited from his advice, guidance and acerbic wit. Did I mention Jack is opinionated? You always know where you stand with Jack. If he doesn't like somebody, he'll let them know but thankfully those people are few and I've never seen Jack hesitate to offer assistance to any stranger that asked.

Jack has moved on from his moderating days and has been helping companies evaluate and market flyfishing gear. He has been pro-staff for seven prominent manufactures and recently finished a term as director of flyfishing for Amundson Rods. Lately he has shifted focus to a company he founded, Sandpiper Flyfishing, which strives to provide gear to segments of the market traditionally ignored by the major companies.

Jack is also first on the scene to experiment with new equipment. If there is a new boat or rod that he likes, he gets one and puts it through it's paces. It is a measure of his popularity in the fishing world that he has little trouble acquiring demo models for that purpose. If he likes them, everybody hears about it. If he doesn't, they hear about that too. His honesty is a rare quality in the retail world and he sometimes pays the price for it.

Jack and Grace, his wife of 37 years, now live in Williams Lake in the heart of what many in the fishing community call “The Republic of Jack”. He continues to fish almost daily and if you walk up to him and introduce yourself at a lake, you will be able to count your self among the countless BC fisherman who have known and probably learned something from Jack Simpson.

If you know of somebody that should be profiled in these pages please email me at trevor.shpeley@gmail.com