Friday 28th September.
I ordered a taxi for 9.40 am to take my mate and I to Manchester Airport and to meet up with Ian. We checked in and put the rod tubes through the separate loading conveyor before going through security and then in to the International departure lounge to await our departure time of 13.10 pm. The flight took off on time and we arrived in Vancouver at 14.30 local time (8 hours time difference) and after clearing customs we reclaimed our luggage and rod tubes very quickly. We had ordered a vehicle from Avis and soon left the airport in time to catch the 17.30 ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Naniamo on the Island. All was well until we took the road out of Vancouver to the ferry and the traffic became gridlocked due to an accident on the Lion’s Gate Bridge. This cost us a good hour and 30 minutes and we missed the 17.30 sailing. We managed to get on the later 19.30 sailing which got Us over to the Island for 21.30 and we then had a 4 hour drive to our destination in Port Hardy and arrived just after 01.30 am feeling very tired and crashed into bed about 02.30 am.
Saturday 29th September.
The purpose of the first five days of this trip is to visit rivers in the North of the Island to look for new places with potential for expanding the choice of fishing for this and future trips. So after breakfast we decided to visit the Marble River a river we had fished before but not some of the lower beats. On arriving we put on waders and boots and loaded the backpacks with reels, rods, lines and food and drink for the day ahead. We set off for a long walk down river to our furthest destination of Bear Falls and looked at potential pools on the way down. Some way down the river we met a father and son who had been staying on a campsite for the week to fish the local rivers and who were both marine biologists. The father was now retired and we spoke at length about the river and its potential. From our vantage point above the river he pointed out Steelhead in the pool and his son was in the river targeting them. The son had managed to catch a number of Steelhead and also Chinook salmon in the week that they had been there. Saturday was their last day fishing before returning home to Washington State. The information about the Steelhead was a good pointer to the rivers potential and so we continued on down river with more to think about. We reached the Falls after about an hours walk and decided to have lunch and then set up rods to fish the Falls pool with fly rods and spinning rods. After a couple of hours we decided to move back up river to try some of the pools we had spotted on the way down. My friend had managed to land a Coho from the Falls pool and this was the first fish of the trip. As time was now short before dark we looked at the access and types of pools as we made our way back to the vehicle. The walk was a round trip of 8.5 kilometres over some very demanding terrain and we arrived at the car at 19.30 pm. On our return to Port Hardy we managed to find a very nice pub that was still serving food and after a great meal and a pint we returned to the motel and soon after crashed out into bed and slept till 8.00 am the following morning. A very tiring day.
Bear Falls and the first fish of the trip.
Sunday 30th September and Monday 1st October.
After breakfast we took a drive to a river we had not been to before, the San Josef, in the North West of the Island which meant driving from Port Hardy to Holberg and then San Josef along logging roads for about 1 hour and 40 minutes. We spent the morning and the early afternoon finding access points to the river and likely spots where salmon may hold up. The river looked a good venue but needed at least another 12″ of water and if we came again we would need to check the river heights on the Canadian monitoring web site. We had purchased a sandwich from Save on Food in the morning the like of which we had never seen before and would have gone a long way to the feeding of the 5000. This consisted of a bread roll of 10″ long filled with 3 different meats, cheese, salad and two different toppings. A real feast that fed the three of us for the cost of 12 dollars. After lunch we headed back to Port Hardy and carried on along the A19 highway to two more rivers, the Quatse and the Cluxewe. On Monday we returned to the Quatse as it had rained hard most of Sunday and Monday in the early hours and we had hoped that this would have raised the river level. This was the case but not enough to make any difference to the fishing and so we carried on to the Cluxewe and explored various pools and also stayed until the tide turned and we could see fresh fish coming into the pool we were fishing but none took the fly. We called it a day at 18.00 pm and drove to the mouth of the river were it joins the sea at Port Hardy and saw a couple of seals chasing the fresh fish into the river mouth. After freshening up we went to a local pub that serves excellent food and retired at a very godly hour.
San Josef River.
Tuesday 2nd October.
After breakfast we decided to try the Marble River in the morning but found that the water level had dropped from our last visit and this made the fishing very testing. We decided to leave at 16.00 pm and head back to Port Hardy and the local River Quatse and arrived just as the tide was coming in. I decided to try a very heavy 10ft T17 sink tip with a self tied fly on a Waddington shank and with a clip on size 2 Owner hook. (see previous BC posts). After an hour of casting the fly and the T17 clipping the bottom I was stripping the fly in very short pulls to stop the fly snagging the bottom. With the fly dragging the bottom of the river a Chum decided he liked this method and I was into a cock salmon of about 3 kg. My friend managed to film the fish underwater to capture its release and return to the wild to continue its spawning process. At 18.30 we called it a day and returned to the motel to change and then have our last dinner in Port Hardy. In the morning we were moving to our new location in Campbell River.
Chum Salmon on the River Quatse just outside Port Hardy.
Wednesday 3rd October.
Moving venues is always a bit of a nightmare but it seems that we have perfected the art as we loaded the vehicle with all the luggage and made up rods for a quick cast at any river we fancied on our drive to Campbell River. First was breakfast at a little cafe we had found in the town and we had a combination of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, toast and drinks. We set off at 9.15 am and stopped at a couple of places to look at the largest of the Islands rivers The Nimpkish and then near Sayward Junction at a bridge that crosses the Salmon River and its junction with the White River. The river looked in perfect condition for fly fishing and so we spent an hour with sink tip lines on short switch rods but had no contact.
The Salmon River.
We arrived in Campbell River at about 14.00 pm and made for the tackle shops as we needed bits and piece of lines and hooks and I needed to replace my spinning reel as one side of the foot had been damaged and was only just holding in the reel seat. I chose the same reel, a Shimano Sedona, as this would give me a spare spool and the reel innards for the cost of the new reel. I don’t come from Yorkshire by the way. After the tackle shopping we booked into the Heritage Inn Motel and off loaded the vehicle of all the luggage and tackle and made ourselves comfortable in the three bedroom suite. The Campbell is our banker river as it has a hydro system that regulates the water level and so there is always enough to encourage salmon into the river. We decided to spend a couple of hours at the top end of the river to try out some new rods and lines that had been acquired since our last visit and to see if they performed as required. I tried out my 13ft 9″ LXi 6 piece 9/10# rod with a 600 grain Skagit head with 15ft of T17 and my mate was trying out a rod he had built using a 12ft 6″ 1 0# rated Block blank. The place we were fishing has a very fast and turbulent flow and needs a heavy and long sink tip to get down to the fish and the T17 didn’t do the job. Thoughts are that maybe a 20ft length of T20 giving 400 grains may do the trick. If not then its back to the tried and tested single handed rods in 9# with lines with 350, 410 and 475 grain 22 ft heads that we know work to get the fly down to the fish. We left the river at 18.45 pm and met a black bear with cub at our exit point but the bear decided to move on and allow us to get back to the car. At the motel we changed and then went shopping for food supplies for sandwiches for the next day and then to our favourite pub for our evening meal only to find that it had closed down and so we ended up a Boston Pizza. Back at the motel we loaded reels with lines we would need the next day for a visit to the Conuma River.
Thursday 4th October.
We had breakfast at the Heritage Inn were we where stopping for the rest of our stay on Vancouver Island and after preparing sandwiches to take for lunch we left the motel for the two hour drive over to the Conuma River. On arriving we changed into waders and loaded our backpacks with the things we would need for the day. As we knew this river well we decided to take short Switch rods and a small spinning rod to cover all the possibilities we could encounter on the river. The water level had dropped away from the higher level after the rain of the previous days and so the fishing was likely to be hard and it was. We managed to land 3 Chum Salmon to 18lb and a small Jack Coho of about 1.5lb. This part of the Island is very remote and has some fantastic views and wildlife. A friend of mine, Ben Ewart, contacted me on Wednesday to say that he would be on the Island on Friday 5th and was staying at the same motel for 3 days before returning to the mainland to fish the Harrison River a tributary of the Fraser River. We had a contact through the Salmon Fishing Forum as Ben (Big Ben) had seen some of my posts about the Island and he wanted to know some info which I was able to help with. I am looking forward to meeting Bens group for the time that they are here and we can exchange news and fishing stories. The Island is a beautiful place and I am posting a few photos of our trip today.
Friday 5th OCTOBER.
It was raining heavily in the morning and after breakfast we decided to try the Quinsam River which is a tributary of the Campbell River as this has been a good river with a rise in water level. The river was a bit coloured but we knew that this was a good thing in the Quinsam as it is not a deep river and the fish seem more ready to take. This was the case and I had two small Coho (Jack) and my friend had a beautiful Coho of about 15lb. Ian managed a Coho (Jack) and had on a very lively Chum salmon which straightened the hook and was gone. We had lunch, rolls with ham, beef, cheese ,coleslaw, tomato and onion, in the car about 13.30 pm and then drove to the Island pool on the Campbell. We had tried our double handed rods with Skagits and T17 and T20 in lengths up to 18ft on our previous visit to the Island pool and found that the head weight was not enough to get down to the fish as the flow is fast and turbulent. We reverted back to using our single handed 9# rods with 22ft sink tip lines of 410 grains and later we decided that this was a bit light and put on 470 grain lines which seemed to do the trick. I hooked a large fish and spent about 10 minutes in contact with the fish before it decided to make a last run and the tippet snapped. Four anglers appeared mid way through the session and three made haste to get in the water above us. One made his way down toward us and I thought I recognised him and sure enough it was Jack the father of Ben Ewert who I had contact with earlier in the week to say that they would be staying in the same motel for two nights before returning to the mainland to fish the Harrison River a tributary of the Fraser. I waded up to see Ben and we arranged to meet later at the motel. They left after a couple of hours as they were feeling the effect of their travel from the UK. We continued till 17.30pm until I had the mishap of taking a ducking and was wet from head to toe. Well not quite but definitely around the nether regions. We returned to the motel and I stripped off the wet gear and hung it in the Motel drying room. I called into Ben’s room to see the guys and had a very nice G and T and a chat about the fishing and passed on a few tips to help with their fishing tomorrow. We are going to fish the Nitinat River tomorrow which is a four hour drive with half the journey on logging roads so we are up early. Here are a few pictures taken during the day.
Quinsam River a tributary of the Campbell.
The Campbell River.
Some of the local wildlife.
Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th October.
I had a very poor night’s sleep due to a very stiff neck that hurt like crazy every time I moved and after breakfast decided that I would spend the day at the motel doing my washing a catching up with the blog. The other two took a trip out to Nile Creek and called in to the local tackle shop, http://www.nilecreekflyshop.com/ , and spoke with a very helpful team. They then went to fish the Oyster river for the afternoon and returned to the hotel around 19.30 pm and we went to eat at a new pub we had found the day before.
I met up with Ben’s dad, John, around 11.00 as he had taken a ducking in the water which had inflated his life jacket and in the process of righting himself had impaled the hook into the back of his hand. Seems like it’s catching after my ducking the day before. The rest of his group returned from fishing the Campbell and Big Ian , 6ft 8″, recalled losing three fly lines and a large fish after taking my advice to get his fly down deep. I was invited to join them for lunch and we found a nice bar that served good food. We ordered the soup of the day and three different flavours of chicken wings along with a jug of beer which was followed by another jug of beer to wash it all down. We left the bar and went to Tyee Marine tackle store so that Big Ian could replace his lost Skagits and purchase 40ft of T20 to make new sink tips. Ben had heard of the Snot fly that we tied and so he purchased some Owner size 2 hooks, a small plastic box with 6 compartments and a selection of coloured yarn for me to show his group how to tie them (refer back to last years post) . On our return to the motel we all gathered in Ben’s room for a bit of fly tying and loop making for the T20. G and T’s with a slice of lime was soon provided and I showed how the Snot fly was tied. Later a few cans of beer appeared and then a few more. My neck was suddenly feeling a lot better which I am not sure was due the Ibuprofen or the alcohol.
On Sunday morning Ben’s group had gone fishing early as they had to be back at the motel to load up for their trip back to catch the ferry to Vancouver and then to their accommodation on the Harrison River. As I had decided to rest my neck for a bit longer I was able to say my goodbye’s before they left around 11.00 am. Great bunch of guys that I will meet again in the UK for some trout fishing. As a footnote Big Ian, 6ft 8″ and 23 stone ex rugby player, had a meeting with a black bear on the trail back from the river when as he was in the front of the group who had disturbed the bear which shot off down the path banging into Ian’s rod as it raced past him. I think Ian was bigger than the bear.
The other two returned to the motel to pick me up and we went to the Quinsam River to see if we could tempt any of the salmon. The river had risen after all the overnight rain and was colouring up which we knew from previous visits would stir up the salmon. When the river is running like this the best tactic is to use spinning gear and we use a 7ft or 8ft spinning rod with a light fixed spool reel and 18ld braid with Vibrax or Mepps spinners with sizes 2 or 3 blades. I fished in a number of pools and managed to land two Coho of 7lb and a Jack of 2.5lb and also two Chinook of 12lb and 8lb and my mate had managed a Jack of 2lb and a very nice fresh Coho of about 9ld. Ian for some reason didn’t make contact with any salmon. He must be losing his touch. We fished till just after 18.00 pm and returned to the motel to change and then went to the pub for a meal and a pint of beer. Back at the motel we made sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunch and we would leave in the morning for a trip to the Nitinat River which is about a 3 hour drive away but with the heavy rain of the last couple of days should be running at a nice level for fly fishing for Chum and maybe a few Chinooks.
Some of the wildlife and one of the Coho caught on the Quinsam River.
Monday 8th October.
Change of plan as the rain had not changed the river level on the Nitinat we decided to explore the Adam River and the Eve River. The Adam is a tributary of the Eve River and they join at a remote camping spot down a logging road off Highway 19. We found that the Adam does not have a lot of access points but were it was possible to reach the river the potential looked very good and we logged this for future reference. The logging roads do not have what you would call good directions and we made a couple of wrong turns and only realised when we met the Eve River and it was flowing in the wrong direction. We do have a very good map book which also tells you of the fishing potential of most of the rivers on the Island and find very useful. We reached the campsite with not a person or car in sight and put on waders and jackets as it was still raining then set up Switch fly rods with Skagit heads and 10ft and 15ft T20 sink tips. The river looked perfect with a good amount of water from the rain of the last two days and was ideal for fly fishing. After two hours fishing trying different flies and different tips we had made no contact at all and when two locals came down to fish they soon realized the same that there were no fish running this part of the river. The decision was made to return to the Quinsam River and fish till early evening but again with no success. After visiting the Island 8 times now and my friend about 15 times we said to each other that this was the worst year we had experienced for the quantity of salmon in the rivers and wonder if The Island is having the same problems as in the UK.????????????????.
The junction of the Adam and Eve Rivers.
Tuesday 9th October.
We had a bit of a lie in this morning and went to breakfast at 9.15am and discussed the plan for todays fishing. The opinion was to try the Oyster River and so we left the motel for a drive down the coast road which is a very nice drive through some of the more affluent areas and views out over to the mainland and the Rockies. After reaching our destination we decided to take Switch rods and a selection of 10 and 15 ft T tips and a good selection of flies for Coho which we thought would be the main salmon to target. The river looked great with a nice height and perfect fly fishing runs in the pools we would be fishing. As we reached the first pool at the top of the piece of the river we would be fishing two anglers came walking down the trail and we knew them from our many trips to the Island. They had only just arrived on the Island and after a bit of a chat and passing on information as to the state of the rivers they moved on and we made our way into the first pool. No contact at all apart from a pull for Ian. We then waded across the river and down to the next long pool and still no fish landed and only a pull for me and one for my mate. We waded back across the river and made our way back to the car for lunch and discuss what to do next. Deciding to move on we drove to a spot lower down the river and again some nice fly water. Tactics changed throughout the afternoon and we tried fishing deep with T20 and then varying the tips to cover all depths up to clear intermediate and even floating with wake flies but still only one fish landed, a Cutthroat trout of about 2ld, and a couple of weak pulls to a variety of flies from very large to very small. We packed up 18.30pm and headed back to the motel to change and then a meal at Boston Pizza.
The Oyster River.
View from the coast road over to the mainland.
Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th October.
Wednesday was spent on the Campbell and we used both single and double handed rods with a variety of lengths and sink rates and a varied selection of flies but not one salmon made any attempt at a take. Ian did manage to land three cutthroat trout on small fly patterns and had one large fish on for a few seconds. Very puzzling as to the lack of interest from the salmon. Up at the Dam end of the river spawning channels have been put in over the years and also the river itself has had spawning areas created by putting in huge rocks to hold and encourage the retention of gravel.
Thursday we decided to drive over to the Gold River as the level was dropping after the heavy rain of the previous days. We fished three different spots on the river and also the Muchalack River which is a tributary of the Gold. We had very little success until the final pool on the Gold at about 17.30 pm when one of the guys hooked into a big fish that had a couple of very acrobatic runs and then snapped off the fly with its last somersault out of the water. Five minutes later Ian hooked into another very lively fish that came off the hook after a very short fight. Both fish were very silver Coho and had probably come into the river off the tide and as quickly as they appeared all went quiet again. We pressed on till just after 18.00 and decided to call it a day and go and eat at a restaurant in Gold River, The Ridge Roadhouse, that serves very good food. We left the restaurant for the drive back to Campbell River and after a bit of shopping got back to the motel at 21.30 pm. The scenery in this area is magnificent and the wildlife we saw todays included two Elk, two bears, an Eagle and deer.
The River Muchalack meets the River Gold.
The Gold River.
Friday 12th October.
As this trip was to seek out new fishing locations that we had not been to before we decided to travel over to Port Alberni and the Stamp river system. Using maps and published fishing guides we managed to get to a location on the Sproat River and this proved a good first choice as we had contact landed Chinook, Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat as well as having takes from other Chinook and Chum.
We moved on at 15.00 pm to take a look at the Stamp river and also the spectacular falls on the river. After checking out some fishing spots we moved on to a campsite were we could have a look at the falls. Spectacular is about the best description as the river cascades down until it reaches a narrow chasm and goes from 150 ft wide to approx. 30 ft wide. There is a fish pass to aid the salmon to reach the upper river and some manage to swim up the falls themselves and some manage to provide a meal for the local bears. This place was worth seeing.
The Upper Falls and part of the fish pass.
The Narrow Gorge at the bottom of the falls.
The power of the water is tremendous but the bears don’t seem to worry. One slip and down the falls they go.
A real highlight of the trip.
Saturday 13th October.
This is our last day fishing and also sorting out the cleaning of the hire vehicle and packing the rod tubes and cases ready for an early start on Sunday back to Naniamo to catch the ferry from Duke Point to Vancouver and on to the airport for our flight home. We are meeting up with two friends, who are still here fishing for another couple of weeks, in the evening for a meal and a chat about our adventures.
We decided to stay local and fished the top of the Campbell River and Ian had two cutthroat trout and a Coho from the very top but we had no joy from the main pool. More experimenting with a 12ft 10# double handed rod home built on a Bloke blank. We tried it out with a 625 grain Skagit and 15ft and 20 ft of T20 sink tips. The 20ft tip proved a problem to turn over without roll casting the line before going into the main cast and this worked well if the anchor was parallel to the caster but was not enjoyable to do for too long a time. Cutting the tip down by 2ft made a huge difference and was a lot easier and less tiring to cast. This gave a tip of 360 grains which would work on most of the pools we fish on a lot of the rivers but would be light on this part of the Campbell especially at this time of year when the river is that bit higher than early September. At the end of the Tyee season the dam releases more water into the river from the huge lake system above to be ready for the winter and the early snow melt. We also tested a new 4 density line with the same T20 tips and the 18 ft cast well giving a sinking tip of 410 grains which was made up of Float, Intermediate, Type 3 and type 7 sink and the 18ft of T20. More thought is to be put into making up a line using running line and T tip to try on the next trip. We fished till 15.00 pm and returned to the motel to unload the car and take it through the car wash ready for returning it to the Avis depot at the Airport. Waders and boots were put in the drying room and the bags and rod tubes were loaded ready for a quick departure in the morning.
We left the motel after breakfast for the drive to Duke Point ferry terminal for the crossing to Vancouver and then a drive to the airport. The plane left on time and with the eight hour time difference we arrived back in Manchester at 8.55 am on Monday the 15th October.
A little disappointing on the fishing side but the surroundings more than made up for this. The plans are already in place for next years trip which due to other commitments I will not be able to attend.
The start of Fall.
Anticipation of a meal.
A great place to be.
View of Conuma Peak from the car window on the logging road back from the river.
Next trip is to the Highlands for three days to finish this years salmon fishing.