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Archive for February, 2009

Remembering a fishing partner

Published on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

When I returned from Denmark in late January, I wrote an email to Luke about our upcoming winter and spring fishing plans. As usual, I included a couple of recent fishing photographs in the email, hoping to motivate him so he would join me on these cold days. A week later, I received the unfortunate news that he had passed away after complication in a surgery. It was very unexpected, because Luke was just a couple of weeks away from turning 43.

Luke’s two passions were fishing and sailing. He was not the best fisherman, but he was a great fishing partner. I would like to use this opportunity to share some of our most memorable fishing trips, to celebrate and remember the life of Luke Kominami.

We first met in 2003 when he volunteered to help at Fish for the Future. Even though he enjoyed fishing, he had never tried river fishing so I introduced fall coho fishing to him in fall 2004. The addiction wasn’t hard to pick up. First he bought a drift rod, then his uncle bought him a Calcutta Conquest. These were followed by waders, boots and fishing vest. Roe curing came not long after that. When I picked him up for fishing one morning, he showed me this piece of wood. “Look what I carved up last night. It’s my new float for today!”

Because we both have flexible work hours, we were able to fish on weekdays. During the peak of the season, he often showed up at my doorstep at 4:30am so we could stand by the Chilliwack before sunrise. October 6th was the best day for us in 2004. We both caught many coho salmon and watched a big chinook salmon engulfing a big chunk of his roe just below the water surface.

We also fished the Tidal Fraser River regularly during the salmon season. Although we always had success on pink salmon, Luke always seemed to be able to entice those freshly arrived chum salmon. Whenever we see chum salmon moving by, we would always say, “Luke should be here, he would be catching them unlike us right now.”

After doing more sailing than fishing for two years, he joined me for another coho salmon season in 2007. We did not catch as many fish as previous seasons, but one trip that lasted from dawn to dusk stood out from others. October 5th 2007 was sunny and the Chilliwack River was getting low and clear. The search for coho salmon took us up and down the river. We were both unsuccessful in searching and landing fish. Most runs were void of feeding fish while we had long-line releases at others. Finally, persistence paid off at dusk, when we both hooked into a couple of chunky coho salmon. We were completely exhausted, but glad that we had kept at it until the end.

Our last fishing trip took us to the Squamish River on October 29th, 2008. The rain poured heavily that day. I was on a mission to find a school of big coho salmon, so I was pacing fast and Luke was having trouble keeping up as usual. His only fish from the trip was a bull trout and there were no sightings of coho after six hours of searching. I suggested that we visit one more spot that may possibly produce. His first words were, “Does it involve walking?”

We arrived at the last spot by car and I bolted downstream to the run where I thought the fish were holding. Meanwhile, Luke stayed under the canopy to dry a little and catch his breath. I arrived at the run, whipped the lure out and immediately hooked into a large coho salmon. I looked upstream and screamed “Luke!”

A small figure started moving in the trees. The evening fog started creeping in at the same time. After I released the fish, I sat and waited but there were no signs of Luke. I could not see anything beyond 100 feet because of the fog by this point, so I resumed fishing. I did not encounter another fish as I had first expected so I returned to the car, only to find Luke sitting by it.

“Where did you go?”, I asked.
“I heard you calling, so I moved down, but then I heard you again and thought that you were back at the car, so I walked back.”, he replied.
“Huh??”, I thought, then I realized that he must have heard my echo in the fog.

Our last fishing trip was unsuccessful and We were completely soaked from head to toe, but enjoyable nevertheless. These are moments created from a fishing bond that will be remembered and treasured forever.

Luke was the type of person who would apologize repeatedly for being one minute late. He never asked for favours, but helped others when needed even if it meant inconvenience for himself. Sometimes he did things that made us wandered, “how did he do that?”, like the time when he beat us all in ten pin bowling. Other times he did things that made us wandered, “why is he doing that?”, like the times when he made a weir to hold his catches even though there wasn’t a current in the water. He will be remembered whenever we stand on the river bank where we once fished on.

Fishing interrupted

Published on Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Three hook-ups on Thursday, two on Friday, one on Saturday, one on Sunday, perhaps I can stretch the good luck streak to five days. I went down to the sweet spot at 4:30pm to catch one hour of fishing before dark. The wind was blowing pretty hard but in the favorable direction so casting feathers was not an issue.

This is what the fish fell for yesterday.

I casted around on the beach for thirty minutes before wandering onto the rocks. Just as I was ready to take another step, I ran into this.

It was just tucking itself into a ball and staring at me. At first I thought it was dead after finding so many dead birds lately. Obviously it was injured, otherwise it would have moved away long before I walked up to it. I decided to make a call to have it picked up, but first I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to look like an idiot if it flew away when the animal control guy showed up. I walked more closely, it moved a bit and showed its injured leg. It attempted to fly, but it was too tired.

Soon after a few phone calls, someone from Richmond Animal Protection Society arrived and it wasn’t a challenge to catch it.

I resumed fishing, hoping that Mother Nature would reward me after some good deed. I don’t ask for much, a 12lb bull trout, or 12 1lb cutthroat trout would do. No such luck, it got dark not long after so I ended the shortest outing of this month.

Just another exciting fishing adventure at Garry Point Park.

Birthday present

Published on Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

The weather didn’t look so appertizing today, after so many sunny days that we had this month. I still talked myself into heading out for a few hours, it just wouldn’t seem right if I did not fish on my birthday. The wading jacket came out from the closet again and off I went to Garry Point at 2:30pm, just before the tide peaked.

Yesterday surface action had me tossing around the idea of using fry patterns just in case those were in fact what they were feeding on. I threw some fry patterns from last year into the box, just in case the big ugly leech did not work.

A couple of fish rolled once again just before the tide peaked. I missed a couple of hits, but overall it was a rather slow but relaxing day. At 5:00pm, just before I was ready to pack up, one bull trout decided to take the fry pattern just below the surface. I saw a big flash in the water as soon as I hooked it. It didn’t seem bigger than the other ones that I have been catching, but it put up the strongest fight out of all the fish in the last several days. It took a few minutes, but it was not a problem on the 6wt rod.

Once I released it, it was time to call it a day as I was pretty wet and cold. It was a good birthday present from Mr Fraser.

A hat trick

Published on Saturday, February 21st, 2009

Once the bite is on, it just does not stop! We returned for the third day in a row to see if a hat trick could be produced. The fish did not disappoint us, at least one of them anyway. This little guy fell for the same chartreuse leech pattern and we could not entice several other risers, both big and small, right in front of us. Another fantastic February fishing day in the Tidal Fraser River under the sun.

Definitely spoiled!

Published on Friday, February 20th, 2009

After experiencing some phenomenal winter estuary fishing yesterday, there was no question that I had to return today. Would these fish be at the same spot again? They might, they might not. The unknown can keep drawing me back day after day, the tug is definitely a drug. Today I returned with the fly rod and brought Marco along. The tide was right, the sun was still shining, it was going to be a good day regardless if there were fish or not.

Our first stop was obviously to where I found some fish yesterday. Both of us flung our flies out. I chose to use a big chartreuse bunny strip out, just something that I had tied up roughly (well, I can only tie up flies roughly…). Marco tried some of his minnow patterns. Big vs small, whose fly was going to tempt those hungry wolves in the bay?

Garry Point Park was packed with kids today, probably because the weather was so nice. Who could expect almost T-shirt weather in February? The wading jacket came off today, it was very enjoyable to fish without so much weight on the back.

Fifteen minutes went by, we looked like two colourful clowns flinging whips around for no apparent reason to other park goers. Finally there was a sign. I felt and missed a quick tug in the shallow while chatting away. It was definitely a fish, the stripping speed was fast enough to keep the fly off the weed bed. Now I was excited, connecting with a fish on the fly would be a first in the Tidal Fraser for me. I kept sending the fly back to the same spot, hoping to find another tug, which came not long after. This time the fish was not so quick. A swift hookset brought out some flashes directly in front of me. “Fish! Fish!”, I made sure Marco was aware of what was happening as if he was a mile away, but he was actually just standing next to me.

It was not a big bull trout, the smallest one I’ve seen this year actually. I slid it into my hands after a short fight. Size does not really matter when it is a first on a new technique.

I sat back on the log to dry myself off while Marco, who seemed to be in disbelief but glad to see a fish, returned to fishing right away. By now we had the attention from people in the surrounding area. We were no longer the colourful clowns who flung whips around pointlessly. “Is that a salmon?” “Why did you let it go?” If the answers get people out fishing, then we’d gladly answer them.

Once I was not so saturated with water, I went back to my lucky spot. I chose to cast more closely to the rocks, thinking that there maybe fish in shallower water. To my disbelief, I left another tug at the beginning of my strip. The hook was never set, I simply wasn’t prepared for it. After a dozen or so more casts, another fish attacked the fly. The strike this time was hard enough that it was hooked solidly from a light hookset. It swam toward me quickly while I stripped in my line madly. Once I caught up to what appeared to be a bigger fish, it swam straight out, peeling a good length of line from my Islander reel. I was getting spoiled at this point. Five hook-ups in two days at a spot that is five minutes from my house is more than what one can ask for. In the meantime, Marco took over the camera and captured some shots until the fish was landed.

It was definitely much bigger than the first fish, in both length and weight.

Beside spotting a rise in a different bay, these were the only two fish of the day. It wraps up a week of winter bull trout hunt in the Estuary Fraser River nicely. Good luck to all who plan to venture out this weekend. Take advantage of these perfect fishing conditions while they last.

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