Returning the Favour

Published on July 22nd, 2011 by Mark

Like many of you, I love this sport, and consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to participate in so many fishing opportunities. It is my way of communing with nature, letting go of the stresses of my normal life, and spending time with friends and family. Developing an interest in fishing is probably one of the most precious gifts I received from my father, one that was not given without hardship.

He endured the 2:00 am wake ups of an overly excited child who could not sleep, being told after a ½ hour row that his protégé needed to return to camp to pee despite fish activity all around the boat, being handed his favorite fly rod, now tipless, as a result of being stabbed into the ground during the walk down to the boat, being continually harassed for the funds to purchase more gear, and always having to give up the “big one” as practice for his student fisher.

Most of you, I’m sure, will remember being on one side or the other of many memories such as these. We have shared countless quiet hours bobbing in a boat, or standing waist deep in moving waters. Now approaching 80, dad can no longer hike the rivers or flail a fly rod about all day long and is thus limited to fishing from a boat.

It had been a while since we did the chuck, so I decided to surprise him with a trip to Port Hardy. Although somewhat extravagant by my teacher’s salary, I knew that I was running out of time for a trip like this with dad, and we had both always dreamed of a trip like this.

After the 2 hour ferry ride from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo, and 4 hour drive up island we arrived at our destination. Bear Cove Cottages is 10 km south of the town of Port Hardy. Owners Wade & Shannon Dayley are friendly and eager to assist with your vacation in any way they can.

Bear Cove Cottages

Bear Cove Cottages

The accommodations were exceptionally clean, very comfortable, and well appointed with a fully functional kitchen. We loved it, and since Wade provided a light breakfast, and full lunch on the boat, we used our kitchen each night to prepare our dinner.

Bear Cove Cottages

The cottages are equipped with satellite TV, Wifi (although I purposely left all my electronic devices at home for this trip), and a jetted soaker tub, so any down time can be well used. The view from the cottages was also spectacular, and we spent some time watching eagles from our deck.

Early the next morning we set out with Wade to do some fishing.

Early morning in Port Hardy

BC Ferries Northern Exposure

Wade’s boat is a 25′ Grady White Sailfish, powered with twin 150 yammies. Dad had always wanted a boat like this, so fishing from one was a treat, and I felt completely secure with our knowledgable captain and solid boat.

25' Grady White Sailfish

I was impressed with the fishing gear. I loved the 12 foot Rogue River Salmon rods paired with the Trophy XL Tyee reels. These were a pleasure to use for salmon. I love these single action reels for salmon. I noticed that many of the other charter boats used large level winds for salmon, which made me appreciate this setup even more.

After a run of about an hour, we settled in with a few other boats and got our gear into the water.

On our way to the spot

After arriving, the fog rolled in thick. Navigation without a GPS chartplotter and radar would have been foolish. I was glad our boat was fully outfitted. The sounder was marking many fish, and TONNES of feed.

Needlefish on the sounder

Birds were also everywhere, feeding on the baitfish.

Birds prey on needlefish

This is an example of the size of the needlefish that were everywhere.


To “match the hatch” we used small anchovies in UV teaser heads behind flashers. Details like trolling speed, fishing the most productive spots (we picked up a fish almost every time we went over this one spot), charging the UV heads, and getting the correct bait roll were all important, and separated the boats who were catching from those who were not.

We were immediately into fish. First a smallish spring, by Port Hardy Standards.

A smallish spring, by Port Hardy Standards

Then a small coho.

Small coho salmon

Then dad got into a slab. This was a hot fish, that took some serious runs.

Fish on!

I’ll admit it, Wade and I were worried (and Wade helped him out a bit by maneuvering the boat).

Dad fights a chinook salmon

But eventually we did manage to boat the fish, the biggest of the trip!

Big chinook salmon from Vancouver Island

It’s funny, this picture does not do justice to it’s size…this fish had some serious shoulders.

Of course I also got into many fish, just none approaching the size of the one my dad got.

Northern Vancouver Island chinook salmon

To top off our day, we then went bottom fishing to pick up some cod, ling, black bass, a pair of 30 lb halibut, and finish our full limits.

The second day was a carbon copy of the first, except we did not retain as many fish (no need to be greedy).

This area is unspoiled. Nothing beats the rugged coastline of BC. Kelp beds everywhere attest to the clean water, and richness of sea life.

Rugged BC coast

At the end of each day. Wade took our fish into town to be professionally processed, vacuum packed, and frozen. We simply picked it up on our way out on the final day.

Good to see these guys out and active

Thanks to Wade and his wife at Bear Cove Cottages for the hospitality, expertise, camaraderie, and for accommodating my dad’s special mobility needs.

If you are fishing this area without a guide, be sure to observe the local fishing practices. Boats take turns making runs at the most productive spots, and pull out and away from the tack when they get a fish on, so as to avoid any disruption to the orderly manner in which the other boats are moving. It all works surprisingly well.

Whoever your fishing mentor is, make sure you take the time to thank them. I’m glad I did.

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