Tubing steelhead on the Vedder

Published on January 28th, 2009 by Chris

Today I woke up to a bit of snow on the ground and more falling from the darkened sky, it is always amazing to me how snow changes the look of our world. It almost gives it a fresh, new and clean look. I know it makes the commute for many a headache, especially when it comes to the morning rush hour. To me, as I get ready for a morning of fishing I think of readers of this website who are caught up in the traffic jam and hope they are all driving safely.

I feel guilty that I live so close to the Chilliwack River and can almost fish every day. I wish however that day will come for many and I hope there will still be fish for them. That is why my mission today was to get to the river at first light in the hope of getting one in the tube for the Chilliwack River steelhead hatchery program. Because of this highly successful program and the dedicated hatchery staff, we on the Chilliwack Vedder River have a good run of steelhead for many British Columbia anglers and others from throughout the world to fish for. Some people condemn hatcheries but in this changing world if it was not for them I believe we would not have the angling opportunities on the Chilliwack Vedder River. What is better, no hatcheries, no fish or hatcheries with a strong run that we have most years on this system and the opportunity to fish for them? Personally I choose that latter.

I was running a bit late this morning so I did not stop at Tims and instead enjoyed a cup of home brew as the Leaf Mobile carefully delivered me through the snow covered roads to the starting spot for the day. As I arrived, two anglers were already hard at it. I pulled into an area where I could watch them and sipped on the last of my coffee and chewed on a bit of toast that I had wrapped in some tin foil to keep it warm, I hate cold toast. I also hate the cold temperatures that I know will freeze my guides and my hands today but the snow falling silently around me indicated that it was indeed steelhead weather. I had a further excuse to stay in the warm confines of the Leaf Mobile as an angler stopped by for a chat and told me about the 21 pound plus hatchery steelhead that he caught on the first of January, what a way to start 2009. He showed me a picture of it too. Grin

While he headed up river, I listened to the radio traffic reporters and heard all about the traffic accidents everywhere in the Lower Mainland and out to the Valley, why don’t people drive to the conditions?

I finally got brave, geared up and headed to the flow picking my way carefully down the snow covered rocks. I was just getting ready to make my first cast and I heard a whistle from one of the two anglers working in front of me, I saw his pole arched nicely.

“Let me know if it is a wild”, I said. I put my rod and back pack down in case I needed to sprint to the fish, I was hoping at the same time that it was a wild as I had not been able to tube one since the 2009 program started on January 15.  I then heard what I wanted to hear,“wild”, off I went.

I met up with another forum member; sorry I couldn’tt match his face to his handle. Embarrassed He offered to help tubing it which I was very grateful as the place where we would have to slip it in the holding tube was not too friendly. We quickly made our way down to Chris, the fortunate angler. I slipped the tube off my shoulder and we zipped it open, we had some trouble getting it into its temporary home but after a few tries and 4 very cold hands we had it safely in. Chris slipped the hook out, we close the 7- 8 pound buck in, good one for the program as most years bucks are harder to get than the does. The 3 of us felt good as we had all done our part in getting a fish that will ensure more steelhead for you all to enjoy in a few years, be you strictly catch and release or like to take one home. That choice is freely yours, which is the good part of fishing.

We moved the fish from where we tubed it and I moved it a bit off the main part of the river, making sure there was a bit of a current and the fish’s head was facing into the current. I found a convenient snag which I could tie the tube and its occupant to. Once tubed we were also very concerned for the well being of this precious steelhead.

I phoned the hatchery and gave them the location to Bob, the hatchery manager who answered my call. Bob told me that they would be down as quickly as they could, it is the first tubed fish of the day.

While I waited for the hatchery staff I did a bit of fishing but I had no success over the next 45 minutes. Fishers came and went, there were more on the river than I thought there would be for a snowy day. I checked the fish a couple of times that it was doing OK, it was fine. The Hatchery staff, Ron and Kelly appeared on the dyke and in no time they had transferred the steelhead from my tube into the blue carrying case. A short trip was quickly made to their truck and the steelhead is deposited in the oxygen-fed tank and was on its way to the Chilliwack River Hatchery. Before they left I told them I hoped that I could call them again today. Grin

I sat in the Leaf Mobile for a while watching different anglers working the run, to see if anyone else connected but they did not so I decided to go to my “hot spot”, where I have taken two hatchery fish over the last 2 weeks.

I was warmed up some now after the drive to the new location and I was back on the river at 10:20am, very few anglers at this spot. Grin I saw no tracks in the snow on the side stream where I have been fishing but I wondered if the entrance far down river is now too low with the dropping river.

I lost confidence in the side stream and headed over to the main river. As I reached it, I saw Gwyn a few hundred yards below me. I fished a likely looking run but even though it looked fishy, I found no takers. I headed to another run and I saw Gwyn working to it too. He got there first. Grin Just as I reached it I saw Gwyn’s pole nicely bent. “That’s the third one and I just started at 10, should have been here a few minutes ago as I released a nice wild” he related as he played the fish. As he got it to the beach, it was a nice fresh hatchery doe that he decided to retain. As he filled in his license I wondered if there might be a fourth there, I was hoping.

I threw a few casts where we were standing and then moved to the top of the run. The Maple Leaf Drennan that I had put on last night along with some new main line was bouncing along happily in the ripple at the head of the run, it was about 2 to 3 feet deep. I could even see the Maple Leaf logo through the falling snow. Suddenly its journey downstream was interrupted, it was swimming below the surface but not for long as my strike brought it to the top for a brief second before the fish on the end had pulled it back under. “There’s another Gwyn!” I said happily. I saw that it was a good sized one, maybe close to 12. I prepared for a good fight but it did not happen as the fish surrendered quickly. I said to Gwyn “does it look like the one you released”, “no I do not think so”, he replied. “Maybe it is a moving fish”, I said as Gwyn easily slided the very docile doe into the tube and then tied the rope up to a large rock. Once again I was pleased that we have another for the hatchery.

Another phone call to the hatchery and Lynne said that they were on their way to pick up another fish and would get them to call me, which they did a few minutes later. They said that they had two to pick up now and would be getting to me in about 30 minutes or so. That gave me more time to fish as I waited once again. Even though I was confident of hitting another, I did not.

Kelly and Ron once again were the pick-up crew and the process from earlier in the morning was repeated. As I was cold, I followed them out to the truck. As they transferred the fish to the tank, a young family that were out for a walk stopped and had a look at the 3 steelhead swimming freely in the tank. The children and their mother asked a number of questions such as what we were doing. Of course we were pleased to answer their inquires. Maybe one day they will be doing what I was doing today.

As the truck pulled away with its precious cargo of three and I headed back to the Leaf Mobile, I felt good that I had done my small part today of making sure that there will be steelhead in the future for you and I to enjoy.

Tomorrow, actually it is now today is another day to be out on the river for another adventure of seeking out that steelhead, hoping I can be fortunate to encounter once again this magnificant game fish. Around 7 hours to spash down, I hope. Grin Grin

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