Published on Tuesday, August 30th, 2011
Here is the latest video feature that we just finished for the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC.
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Here is the latest video feature that we just finished for the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC.
In the past couple of weeks, fishermen have been parking their cars by the Tidal Fraser River from Steveston to Mission. They, myself included, stood and searched for fins on the surface. On most days, it has been pretty dull. Occasionally, our heart missed a beat when we spotted a rise, but yet most have not found a tug at the end of their line. We know that they will come as they always do around the Labour Day long weekend, yet we choose to look for them well in advance. This madness takes place once every two years in late August. It is the anticipation of Fraser River’s pink salmon season.
What could possibly cause these irrational behaviours? It is pretty simple really. For two to three weeks, anyone with a fishing rod has the opportunity to catch dozens of pink salmon every day without having to travel very far. There are not many places where you can enjoy this pleasure. While pink salmon are not desired by most foodies, they are very popular among anglers. They return in masses, at least 17.5 million fish in this year’s forecasted return, and they are very willing to bite a lure.
So if you live in Vancouver and enjoy fishing, be sure to experience this fishery at least once in the next few weeks. Below is a list of pointers that I think you should know before wetting your line for pink salmon in the Tidal Fraser River.
When Capilano River‘s water level spiked to the extreme yesterday due to the heavy downpour, I was getting pretty restless knowing that many coho salmon would be making their way up the river. After last month’s licence mishap, I really wanted to catch some coho salmon for dinner. Even though it had stopped raining overnight, I didn’t want to be on the river bank before dawn in case the level had not dropped. It is never good start of a day when you walk to the river in the dark only to find it unfishable.
I woke up this morning and found the river level had dropped to very fishable level, so I was somewhat disappointed, thinking that I may have missed a good opportunity. Nina and I decided to give it a go this evening to see if some fresh fish would move into our favourite spot.
We arrived at 5:00pm. As we walked down to the spot, a lady was walking back up. “It’s a good day to be doing that.”, she said. “They’re jumping everywhere!”
Hearing that just made us even more excited, but at the same time I knew the fishing was going to be pretty frustrating. There have been many trips in the past when I stood by the river watching countless splashes but only to come up empty handed.
When we reached our spot, they were indeed jumping. Not only they were jumping, they were finning and they could be seen moving along in the shallow water in 2s and 3s at a time. Some were so close to where we were standing, I could have scooped them out if I had a landing net with me. Seeing that many fish just made me more anxious to get a line in the water. Because of the bait ban in place between August and October, we were limited to artificial lures. I set up Nina’s float fishing rod with a blade at the end of the line, while I armed myself with the usual spoon on my spincasting setup.
The water condition was perfect. The height was just right, the flow was just at the right pace, and it had a tea colour to it. One couldn’t really ask for a better condition for coho salmon fishing. We tried our offerings for twenty minutes or so, while fish continued swimming by us. These fish were obviously not slowing down to take a peek at our presentation.
Meanwhile, other anglers had showed up at our spot, but they were not as prepared. Lacking a pair of waders when the river is flowing high is never a good idea, our newcomers were limited to fishing at a few less desirable spots.
After not showing any result for awhile, I changed the way that I presented the lure a bit. Instead of casting blindly to where fish were jumping, I decided to cast not too far away from fish’s travelling lane and allowed the spoon to swing across so hopefully one would notice and attack it. That strategy paid off shortly when a small coho jack swam up quickly to hit the spoon just before it reached the shallow water. It was one of the smallest coho that I have ever caught. I brought it in without any problem and gently slipped the hook off so it could go back right away.
Not long after, another fish tapped the spoon while it was crossing the travel lane. The tug was pretty light so I did not set the hook hard enough. It was a much bigger fish judging by the size of the flashes in the water and the bend of the rod. Not surprisingly, the hook was spat out seconds later. I should have brought a stiffer spinning rod.
At this point, Nina wanted to try something else. The blade was just not working. I decided to put a jig with a rubber grub tail on for her. Perhaps something out of the ordinary would trick them to bite.
Within a few casts, her float dove and she was into a good fish. It almost looked like a snag at first as the rod was bending fulling while the fish stayed deep down. After holding its spot for awhile, it finally started running and leaping a couple of times. It was a pretty big fish, but was it a coho salmon? At first, Nina yelled, “Bull trout!” Highly unlikely I said. As it came closer to shore, I assumed that it was a coho salmon judging by its chrome body, but was still not entirely sure. When the fish finally reached my hands, I could see the absence of the adipose fin. I then noticed the fully spotted square tail. “Summer steelhead!”, I said. Nina looked on with disbelief.
What were the odds? With hundreds of coho salmon swimming around, a summer steelhead was the last fish that I thought we would encounter. This is a good reminder that every fish needs to be identified correctly before it is kept or released. In the Capilano River, both hatchery marked and wild steelhead are required to be released. Knowing how precious this fish was, I made sure Nina kept it fully in the water while I fetched the camera out of the bag. After a few snaps to capture the memory, Nina opened her hands and it slowly swam back to the pool.
We fished until dark this evening and watched more coho salmon splashing around. Nina of course was pretty satisfied with her first ever summer steelhead, while I was bummed about my coho salmon as usual. Nina said, “I guess there’s no dinner tonight.”
Overall, it was another fantastic outing, without having to go too far away from home. It’s lucky to be an angler in Vancouver.
If you enjoy fishing, then you probably find August to be a tough month in British Columbia. It is tough not because of a lack of fish, but because there are too many options to choose from. Salmon are returning to all the rivers, lake fishing is still reasonably good, but what we really enjoy doing is travelling to the interior part of this province for some excellent fly fishing in trout streams.
After our success last August, we decided to visit Fernie once again and experience the fly fishery that the Elk River system offers. Those who fish in British Columbia are very fortunate because there are not too many places around the world where you can access a world class fishery without paying much. It is a world class fly fishery for a few simple reasons – Its breathtaking setting, the lack of angling pressure and of course, the amount of fish!
For the third time, we are calling the Red Tree Lodge our home away from home during our visit. Situated in the heart of Fernie, it allows us to travel to all our fishing spots without much effort. What we really like about the Red Tree Lodge is its large shared kitchen. There is nothing better than being able to cook up a fine meal for yourself after a long fishing day. Red Tree Lodge also caters out-of-town fly fishermen who want to do a guided trip on the drift boat in its summer packages.
The fishing this year was a bit more challenging than last year. Just like everywhere else in BC, this was partly due to the higher river level. On our first day, we found it hard to make a fish rise for our dry fly, but nymphing certainly worked well. We visited some of our old spots where they were productive last year. Many spots have changed slightly, but it did not stop our fishing partners Carlo and Shane pulling fish out from there.
Our main target species was westslope cutthroat trout, which is unique to this part of the province. They are generally 12 to 16 inches long, but every now and then a 20 incher would make an appearance.
Mountain whitefish seemed to be in good abundance this year. Although they look similar to a carp or other minnow species, they are in fact salmonids. Quite often we would come across some slots where a school of whitefish congregated and they definitely would not let a nymph pattern passing by. On the 2wt rod, these deep divers can put up a pretty good fight.
The weather was fantastic for the most part, except the odd thunderstorms that would make us take a detour. The summer weather in the East Kootenay can be rather unpredictable. While fishing under the sun and catching plenty of fish on our third day, a dark storm rolled and was unnoticed until the first drop of rain came. Within minutes, hail and lightings were also coming down so we had to run back to the car for refuge.
One of the highlights during the trip was our drift down the Elk River. Drifting is a pretty common way of access this river system as it maximizes your fishing time by taking you from one run to another on the boat. This year, we brought our Outcast Power Drifters, which are one-man inflatable boats designed for this purpose. Both Nina and I were excited but also anxious, as we had never drifted before. We were assured by our companion Carlo, who is experienced in boating on moving waters.
After some hesitation, we finally did our drift on the fourth day. The experience was indeed very refreshing. While the entire ride was mostly smooth, there were a few little funny episodes caused by the lack of coordinations in my arms. That being said, we made it in one piece. The boat was surprisingly stable and comfortable throughout the ride. Rafting from one run to another between fishing sessions is actually a very refreshing change, I can definitely see myself doing that again.
On our fifth day, we also visited the Kootenay Trout Hatchery. This trip was not entirely for pleasure, but we were on assignment for the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC. One of the tasks that we had to complete was to produce a couple of video features for the society on some of their projects in this region, which will be available for viewing later on this month.
I had never been to the Kootenay Trout Hatchery and was glad that we did it. This little gem is more than just a hatchery, but a tourist attraction. Prior to entering the hatchery, you’re greeting by a pond of large rainbow and brook trout, which can be fed. The visitor centre has a display of aquariums that house freshwater fish species from British Columbia, as well as a tour of the hatchery operation. The hatchery also has a “learn to fish” pond filled with trout, which is open to visitors anytime for fishing.
After our visit to the hatchery, we decided to do as much fishing as possible since it was our last evening. Fishing in the evening hours can be hot. The hatches are peaking, the water is shaded, trout become fearless and aggressively take flies on the surface. We walked to some of the spots where we had luck catching them on nymphs and they were definitely active. Every few minutes, a fish would sip down a Mayfly or other insects as they landed on the water. We ended our final day by experiencing the best dry fly fishing that we’ve had all year. On our way back to the lodge in the dark, both deer and elk had come out to play.
Overall, this has been another memorable trip with good friends and fish. This was our third visit to Fernie and it certainly will not be the last. We will be releasing several video features on this trip in two weeks from now, so please stay tuned for those!
Last year, we put up a video of me fishing with a pole for small coarse fish in the Tidal Fraser River and there were quite a few questions about this type of fishing. Last month, we decided to have a little fun after catching lots of brook trout, by pulling out a longer pole to fish for them. The pole is between 6 to 8 meters long and can be adjusted into three different lengths if needed. Since we were catching plenty of fish in less than 10 feet of water, I decided to use a small coarse fishing float. I balanced the float with a few small split shots and tied on a small chironomid pattern at the end. I caught some fish, but as you can see in the video, bringing them in became a big challenge.