There is always something to fish for in BC...
I was always skeptical about fishing for fish which doesn’t eat, just haven’t seen the point there, but here I was heading airport again to catch flight to British Columbia the homeland of all Pacific salmon species. When I was sitting on a plane to Vancouver, I already had a kind of sense that I am not arriving in a best part of the season. Knowing that there is always something to fish for in BC was not enough. In mid June there are stillwater rainbows and that’s about it. Lakes and ponds are not really my favorites and that’s not much different from what we´ve got in Europe so that didn’t interested me, I wanted to fight one of those Chinook, Chum or Coho beasts. Bottom line - I wasn´t really happy about it.
Everything changed few days after my arrival. My kind girlfriend took me to the tackle shop which was next to her work and 5 minute´s walk from our appartment. She said: “No worries.. They are nice, I already told them everything about you and they gonna help you out…”. Alright then. They were actually really nice, especially when they realized I am fly fishing only. David owner of the shop gave me a quick lesson about general fishing, added regulation books for fresh and saltwater in BC (two different departments, two different licenses!!!). In the end of our my lesson he said: “Hit Cap, there are some Cohos running now. It´s hard, but they are there...”. I was pretty surprised about such an early run, but further study showed how much I missed during my homework.
So let´s start from the beginning. There are five salmon species known on West coast – Coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch), Chum (Oncorhynchus keta), Pink (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), Sockey (Oncorhynchus nerka) and King (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). All of them have a similar journey. Once they are born in freshwater, they migrate to the ocean, where they are spending most of the lifetime till maturity. Mature fish are heading back to the freshwater system where their journey begun. Reaching freshwater salmon digest entire digestive system to increase a space for growing genitalia, that means NO EATING! Except this journey species are not really different from each other.
Cohos are probably the most popular salmon species, especially here in BC. They are picky, good fighters and meet is delicious. In freshwater they stay silverish for quite a long time and the run is probably the longest. Starts in some places in April and we´ve still observed some old and colored fish in the end of February.
Chums are also known as dogs, dog-salmon, I just called them beasts. Huge fish, great fighters, run is relatively short and they don’t last very long in freshwater. Male are well known for secondary sexual characteristics. Their body is changing, typical is huge hump on back and huge “dog” teeth. Which are helping males to fight each other. Personally are Chums probably my favorite species, such good fighters. Loved it!!
Pinks are sopuse to be the smallest species. In Fraser valley area the run is just every odd year and I didn’t have that luck.
Sockey is the similar to Pinks, unfortunately the size of the populations is very small around Vancouver.
The last species is known as a Chinook, King and mostly called Spring, the biggest of all 5 species. In some river system they can reach more than 25kg. Probably the most valuable sport species, especially in saltwater.
Current situation with human pressure, disappearing of natural environment, wild salmon populations would probably not be able to survive. That’s why some of the rivers have their own hatchery which supports wild salmon run includes Capilano river. Little permanent exhibition in Capilano hatchery shows that percentage of hatchery fish survival is about ten times higher. All hatchery fish can be recognized by missing clipped adipose fin. When I first heard about hatchery, I´ve been skeptical and almost disappointed, I ran out of one rainbow-stocking bullshit to another one?? Not really. This type of fish production is by my opinion sweet and kind of sustainable solution. Fish or fries are released small, so the entire live cycle is influenced just a little. Question about reducing of genetic diversity and increasing of unwanted mutations is another arguable theme. Hatchery (clipped) fish are allowed to be kept and the wild boys have to be released.
Back to Capilano, which is one of the short rivers which runs through North Shore Vancouver, which means 5 minutes ride.. How sweet is that??? My first time there fulfilled all my expectations.. In the middle of the city runs beautiful river, protected from city noise and stress by steep hardly accessible canyon. First days were tough, everything was to light, gear fisherman is another story. For now let´s just say: “They were everywhere…”. Nothing about fly fishing was easy there, casts, wading, current, deepness.. Tough conditions, let me tell you. Especially without my speyrod, which was still “on the way..”. Roll cast with sinking line and heavy jigs or streamers were killing me, but I got over it. Actually did hook some fish every day or had at least decent contact, but didn’t lend any single one!!! The closest I´ve ever been when I hooked a 3kg fish on my 6 wt in the middle of strong run. Fought the fish for five minutes, had a really good look at it from about ten feet in front of me. Then the fish took off and showed me why I should not have use 6 weight anymore. It´s just not doable, even that little guy was unstoppable..
A little flustered had to leave BC for few months and went to upstate New York, where fishing was also great, but that´s a different story and I had my unfinished business in BC. Came back in mid September, when the season should’ve been already there. Unluckily there wasn’t enough rain yet to get the true fish run into the rivers. So again I went through couple of hopeless days, when gin clear water and my zero knowledge of salmon fishing made me struggle again. By that time my speyrod finally reached my hands and I was more than happy and more than ready for my first fish… And it happened!! On the weirdest fly, in the middle of beautiful sunny day, I actually did landed about 3kg hatchery coho. My buddy, who was with me that day, said that I didn’t even look happy, but I was…mmmm ok, let´s say I was satisfied. I went couple of extra miles for that fish and I finally fulfill one of my dreams, I was not able to show any more emotions, don’t know why…
Since that I was getting better, fishing every other day, tying new flies at night.. Classic “eat, sleep, fish” time. Coho´s wild or hatchery, it was a great time.. I was getting better, but I was not even close to gear fishing guys. Some days I did a little better, but most of the time I was losing.. Of course didn’t much care about that rivers were beautiful, landscape couldn´t even say word and fish… same thing.
To be continued…