Our Man In Canada
November 22nd, 2004

West Coast Fall
By Rory Glennie

Again, one does not need a calendar to know what season it is out on the wet coast. Just look around and you will see commercial fish boats with Canada flags hoisted aloft upside down in protest, and a gaggle of fishing boats in "closed" waters defiantly plying their trade. That means it is fall and the tensions over allegedly racist fisheries regulations have flared up. This seems to be a seasonal sport where teams of different stripes vie for a larger portion of a finite fish resource.

In all the seasons past has any of these teams really won? Not really. Have the fish won? Not really. There have been far too many long periods when populations of salmon have been precariously low, with only a few peaks of abundance. This year it would appear we have one of those few peaks. Such is the cycle of B.C.'s Pacific salmon.

I bumped into an old fly fishing buddy at the hardware store the other day. He was aglow with wild eyed reports of the initial burst of silver-bright Pink salmon hitting the beaches of East-central Vancouver Island. The day before we had a "pink" rain that annual day of heavy showers during early August. It is that pink rain which really turns on the beach fly fishing as migrating Pink salmon nose ever closer to the shore in search of their natal streams. My buddy was out there, in it, for about ten hours straight. He is a member of a growing cadre of hard core beach fly casters who live for the moment when the first pinks arrive.

Pinks are just about the perfect late summertime quarry. They are willing biters, good scrappers, great on the table, a minimum of gear is required to pursue them effectively, and they're usually present in sufficient numbers to give even the most ham-fisted among us a decent crack at catching one. And, they are the fuel of a strong recreational angling based economic generator. If you missed the fun this year, make plans to get out on the beaches next. This is perfect "family vacation" type fishing during a pleasant time of year. Beaches and families just simply go together.

Current Issue!

Hot on the tails of the pink salmon come the first silver-bright coho. Many times the pinks and coho overlap in run timing as the tail end of one blurs into the head-on rush of the other. Usually the first good rains in September urge coho towards the beaches. Many of the same places with easy access to public beaches where one casts to pinks are the same ones fished for coho. Nile Creek, Trent River, Black Creek, Oyster River, and Campbell River are a few of the better known locations, and all are within a few hours drive from the cities of Parksville in the south, Campbell River in the north, and Courtenay in the middle.

As the weather cools down, the small lakes of Vancouver Island follow suit. This signals the beginning of the late season trout fishing. While they're are not anything like the famous "big fish" waters of Brian Chan's bailiwick, their rainbows and cutthroats do have their own special charm. Mostly rainbows and cutthroats are the fish of these ponds. There are, a few which are home to such exotics as brown trout. One, Cameron Lake, which is the head pond of the Little Qualicum River, offered up a brownie of 19 pounds earlier this year. Sadly, it wasn't taken on a fly, but I speak of this catch simply to illustrate the potential of some of these intimate waters. There are also a handful of little lakes, which have been receiving an experimental fertilizer treatment for a few years now, in order to boost the base food productivity, which, to our delight, grows bigger trout. As anywhere, not all waters are created equal, so a bit of snooping around can pay off handsomely. The Provincial Fisheries Branch publishes a comprehensive stocking list for Vancouver Island lakes which is quite useful in trip planning.

As weather in the fall can be unpredictable, it pays to be prepared for the unexpected and to take in stride whatever occurs. But, all in all, fall is a grand time to be out on the water. ~ Rory Glennie

We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!

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