Weigh West Resort

Pestered Salmon - Vancouver Island, B.C.

By Jim Birkholm

Some things just aren't meant to be; then again, some others are, no matter what a guy does to stop them. So it was with a trip to British Columbia, Canada. Under all odds it never should have happened, but it did. It got spawned by accident on a Monday morning from my office in Washington state, U.S.A. I had been negotiating with Shawn Bennett from Weigh West Resort for a few months by phone. He runs a fishing lodge on Vancouver Island, B.C. north of me about ten hours. It's a full camp, has all the goodies anyone could ask for, and then some. The fishing is great if you like salmon, lots of them and big ones and you don't want to kill yourself getting the job done.

Route to Tofino

As editor of FAOL I had wanted to have him as one of our sponsors, he wanted me to come up, see the place and pester a few of his fish. Now that seems like an easy thing to do, but time away from here is precious as hen's teeth and it's a long days drive by car, and not cheap by plane.

"Tell ya what, Shawn," as I leaned an elbow on the desk pad, "I'll see if I can find the guy who runs the sight-seeing pontoon-plane here at Liberty Bay. The summer season is over now, maybe he likes to fly-fish. I can try to talk him into flying up there and I can spend a couple of days taking pictures and annoying a few poor salmon."

Now, you can see how likely my chances are about to be. That is a lot to ask of luck. Mostly, if I don't have bad luck, I don't have any luck at all. I drove the four miles from the office into Poulsbo, Washington, stopped at the wharf, asked the harbor-master. She said the float-plane guy was out of Seattle, but she had his phone number. Later that day I called, heck so far my luck hadn't run out yet. Answering machine. Drat, I hate those infernal things, but left a message anyway. Later that same day, he called me back., he did not fish and didn't even like to eat the things. But, he knew a fellow who might be interested. The plot thickens.

The next day I called the number, it was a flight service with float planes operating off of Puget Sound. Nope, not a chance. But I had told Shawn I would at least try. My next try was to find a charter service using wheeled aircraft. I started calling.

Served by Northwest Vancouver Air In fact, I lucked out. I had never before used the services of Northwest Vancouver Air, a flight service that takes folks back and forth here in the great Northwest. They fly all over the place, hard to find a place not covered and with plenty of connections too. They were just great to work with.

Shelly Tate My schedule kept changing for 'Murphy's Law' reasons and yet they were able to keep up, make changes and get the job done. If you use Northwest Vancouver Air, ask for Shelly Tate. You will get excellent service. Seems to be something they value.

SA Mastery Series Wet-Tip Express The fly line I chose to use was a Scientific Anglers Mastery Series Wet-Tip Express. (WF-375 Grain) These things shoot like rockets, float where they are supposed to, sink like a brick at the front end, and don't hinge when cast. They have that new stuff, AST; makes the surface of the line stay clean and scream through your line guides. One or two false casts and you're, 'Out There!'

Sage 9wt RPLXI The trip offered a good chance to fish the rod FAOL selected as the 'Pick of the Show' in Salt Lake City. I used the FIVE piece travel rod by Sage, the 9ft, 9wt RPLXI. What more can I say, it's a cannon, a velvet cannon. If you're in the market for a very packable fly rod, demand superior performance, beauty and quality, look no further, this rod was designed, not 're-designed' especially for salt-water fishing. It does what it is supposed to.

G1000 9wt

I had also made arrangements with Todd Vivian of Lamiglas to borrow a rod for the trip. I had cast some of their rods at the Salt Lake show, but not any of the four-piece pack rods. Todd said I should try the new G1000 series pack rod. It sells for just under two hundred bucks at most dealers and I figured it may be a good time to try one out. It arrived three days before I flew out and I did not have a chance to cast it before I left. No big deal, I trust Lamiglas. Their rods are made for fishermen . . . by fishermen . . . period.

Opening the case at home let me take a real look at the rod. No hurry like when I am in a fly shop or at a show. The tube was well made, the sock stays inside and is divided into four sections. After putting some paraffin on the ends of the male sections and turning off the ceiling fan, I carefully assembled the 9 foot 9 weight. It was straight, felt like a medium-fast rod, which is what they mark it at, and flexed correctly. It was not as light in hand as some of the real high priced rods of these days, but was not in any way objectionable. Everything looked fine, into my airline tube it went. When it next saw the light of day it was in British Columbia and about to do battle with some silver salmon.

Fin-ite II 8/9 The salmon up there are big and mean. I called Fin-Nor and got a 'Fin-ite II' to use. I chose the 8/9 made to hold a nine weight line and enough 30 pound backing to tie up 'King-Kong.'

The drag on the reel was, 'Buttery-smooth.' It was not the first time I had picked up the reel, I had looked it over well at the Salt Lake City show. My investigation then was more that of a machinist than fly-fisher. It looked good, felt good, had all the features and I liked it. But now I was while sitting in my easy-chair at home with no distractions.

Note cork drag

I dug into the box and plucked out the little booklet. Yes, I am one of those, the guys who really do read them. After reading the whole thing, I unscrewed the reel's drag knob, took off the spool and there it was. The big ring of cork, plenty heavy enough to brake down anything I would ever go after and due to it's size, made the reels drag as gentle as a kittens breath.

The book told me how to reverse it so I could reel with my left hand; yes, I am one of those too, even though I cast right handed. I actually enjoy having to change them over, makes me feel I have somehow personalized the things. I petted it a few more times, looked it over some more tucked it into it's neoprene pouch and handed it to my wife for her inspection. As you know, she fishes.

"Wow, this baby is great. It's the big cork drag that does that, right?"

"It is and now you know why I have wanted a 'Fin-nor' reel for so many years," I replied. The next test would be fishing it. I was booked to fly to Tofino, B.C. Canada on Friday the thirteenth of October from Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington.

Northwest Vancouver Air My wife dropped me off at the ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle Friday morning, a cab to Boeing field, and onto a Piper Navaho to Vancouver, B.C. A larger plane finished the trip and by three I was at the rather rustic airstrip for the venture.


The Tofino Airport

The Fly Fishing Boats
Shawn Bennet was on hand with my ride to Weigh-West lodge, a change of clothes and I was fishing by four p.m. My guide was 'Karma,' he is the 'fish-master' there and is kind of like a head-guide. My high hopes were only exceeded by the velocity of the wind. As the area is shot with islands and channels we were soon in the lee of one and casting for salmon. Five hours since I left Seattle, not bad.

Rough Conditions The wind switched and evening challenged us and after pestering a few small coho we opted for some dinner and a steady place to stand.

My accommodations at Weigh West were more than adequate with a living room, fireplace and a big balcony overlooking the charter office, dockage, restaurant and bar.


Shawn Bennett

After chow I relaxed with some cable T.V. and dreams of big fish. Morning found me staring into fog. Thick, gray, solid, pea-soup fog. Not to worry, G.P.S. to the rescue, after a seven a.m. breakfast Shawn and I were on the water following the directions of the way-points programed into the navigation unit. By ten or so the weather changed, the sun bore thru and the world opened up to reveal some of the famous scenery which the area is so noted.

The town of Tofino, population of 1200, receives about a million and a half visitors a year. I now can see why. It's like living in your own post-card. Fabulous country. He asked me how I liked it, "Reminds me a lot of Canada," I replied. Shawn and I got along well. He runs the charter office, is a well noted fly tier, a darn good guide as the day would show and can cast. He suggested a pet fly of the area and I knotted one on with a free-swinging loop. He did the same. Only a few stabs with the 375 wet-tip and I was firmly attached to a blue and silver thrashing, spinning, mad-as-heck silver salmon.

Panic Time The moment devolved into a scene of panic. Cameras were grabbed, lense caps removed, suggestions offered and tension peaked. "Hang on a sec," I said. "He had two with him, I'll just keep him out there, you make a few casts, ya should be able to hang one too." Shawn made the suggested few with no results and landing my fish became important.

Tailing a Silver

Not wanting to injure the fish he reaches over the side and tails them. The tail of a coho is not as hard as some salmon, but it can be done. We did. A couple of quick pictures and back it went. I held it for a bit as it got it's bearings, then with a grateful wag of it's tail, off he went.

Castwell's Marblehead With the 'skunk' off of the boat for the day, I switched flies, turning to my personal favorite, Castwell's Marblehead. I figured if the fly worked off the coast of Washington, it should work up here. It did. In fact, it seemed to be the hot fly for the day; kind'a made mine.

The day brought a repeat of the scene several times over, splattered with fantastic scenery, various sea-birds and great comradery.

Breakfast with the Fish-Master Karma

My trip was a complete success. The rods worked, the fly-line worked. The reel was the sweetest I have ever used. Dinner that night with new found companions, a solid nights sleep and rain in the morning. It really rained . . . and blew too. Karma and I left the dock at about eight a.m. and plowed our way into the approaching storm. I had until noon to fish and by gosh I was going to fish.

Karma and Silver Salmon We got one fish. Karma got it. On a purple woolly bugger. I don't do 'buggers.' At the dock by noon, changed, had some lunch, packed up and was in the air by three p.m., in Seattle by five and home by seven.

Did I have a good time? Will I go up again? You know that answer to that, of course! Probably in August of 2001 the wife and I will drive it. Should take about eight hours from here, supposed to be wonderful scenery on the trip. We both will enjoy that. And she needs to pester some salmon too. ~ JC

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