River—Minnow and spoon-bait— Coquitlam River—Vancouver angling—Scarcity
of gillies—Off to the Narrows—Angling in the Pacific—Playing a salmon in
a swift tide—Dame Fortune’s amends—Off Vancouver Island— The Campbell
River—The Cowichan River—Advocacy of the fly—The best months—Trout
fishing—The fly season—The fry season—A visit to Seymour Creek—A lonely
forest—Track of the grizzly—In search of a trail—The Vedder river—A
charming retreat—Wading for Dolly Vardens—Capture with the fly—A magic
evening scene—The North Thompson River— The Columbia River—Kootenay and
Okanagan—The course of the Columbia River—Great trout lakes.
GOING further west,
between Mission Junction and Whomack on the Canadian Pacific Railway,
there is the Stave, another salmon river. It runs from Stave Lake, five
miles distant from Ruskin. The lake itself is only about three miles
long, and is fed by a triplet of small rivers flowing from the north.
Fraser salmon run up the Stave to spawn. It has many swift reaches,
where conoes and spring fish rest, and are in a mood to take the fly. If
the river is discoloured, a medium-sized spoon or a large Devon minnow
are suitable lures. The Fraser is beautifully flanked at Ruskin, with
hills well coated with thick brushwood. Lurking shadows play about their
shoulders, and over their summit the snow-clad heights of the Selkirk
Mountains flash and sparkle. A quail rises on the banks of the river,
and flies at a pace that gives this bird, almost extinct in England, a
valued place amongst American winged game. It slows off halfway across
the water, but the impetus has been so great that the wings do not flap
until it drops into cover on the opposite bank.
Coquitlam River is the
nearest of any importance to the sea, east of Westminster. It, too, is a
tributary of the Fraser, and flows from Coquitlam Lake, only a few
miles’ distance from the main river. Whilst it is scarcely equal to the
Stave or Harrison from an angling point of view, it holds a high place
amongst the sporting rivers of the province. The lure intended for the
smaller game is often taken by big fish, and a valuable addition is made
to the basket.
At Vancouver the salmon
angler again can mount his trolling rod and enjoy good sport in the
Narrows, where the Pacific sweeps in at full tide. There the peaceful
harbour, sheltered by mountain and forest, affords anchorage to the
great ocean steamers which sail to the Orient. -
The novelty of
rod-fishing for salmon in the open Pacific was so unique that I embarked
on the expedition with keen interest.
The difficulty in
Vancouver is to find a boatman to whom the destiny of the angler and the
fishing can be safely entrusted. It speaks well for the prosperity of
the city that there is practically none of the sporting leisure classes,
such as one finds in dumping quantity in Ireland and Scotland. There the
shoemaker’s last and the crofter’s hoe are willingly set aside for a day
with rod or gun. In Vancouver it is otherwise. One might spend a week in
quest of an efficient attendant, and fail to discover him. The makeshift
is a person to be studiously avoided. In desperation I picked up one,
who undertook to row me to the fishing ground, and to my horror I found
he was not acquainted with the elementary principles of rowing. The tide
had carried us out for about a mile without particular effort. When it
came to facing a cross-current his incompetence was so marked that I had
to take the oars myself and row to North Vancouver, where I dismissed
him and procured an Indian substitute.
I was fortunate,
however, on another occasion to find an Irishman who was taking a day's
holiday, and to whose qualifications as an excellent boatman was added
the ardour of an enthusiastic angler. In his hands I was perfectly safe,
and I cherish the most pleasant recollections of his skilful services.
On the first ebb of the
tide, we put off, skirting the shores of Vancouver Park, a piece of
virgin forest where the finest specimens of Douglas pines are still
preserved. The Narrows derive the name from the closing in of the
mountains on either side of the sea, leaving only a space of about half
a mile for traffic. A lighthouse is placed on the extreme land point on
one side, and the remains of a forest, intervening between the sea and
distant mountains, are on the other. The pent-up ocean flows in and out
at an enormous pace through the cutting. Three creeks join the sea at
the Narrows; the furthest west is Capilano, the next Lynn, and the third
The cohoe salmon run up
these creeks and hang about at the mouths during the summer-time
awaiting a spate.
Large spring fish are
found amongst them, but not in any number. The condition of the tide
determines the angling ground. With a spring ebb, the salmon come far in
and are caught between the lighthouse and Capilano Creek. As the tide
passes to the neap stage, one must go further out, and seek them off
Whitecliffe Point and the mouth of the Squamish River.
There is no difficulty,
however, in discovering their whereabouts. Cohoe are as lively as
grilse, and rise to the surface as freely. The first day I found them
off Capilano creek in shoals; a dozen at a time they sprang out of the
water. Unfortunately it was too deep to fish for them with a fly,
although up the creeks they take it freely. A spate is needed to put
these mountain torrents in condition, and during my stay they were
almost dry. There was nothing for it but to mount a spoon-bait. Cohoes
which do not average more than 7 lbs. prefer a small lure. Some anglers
embellish it with a red tassel a la pike mode, but I confined myself to
an unadorned pattern. The tide was at full ebb when we began to troll.
There was no need to be told which were the best places; the salmon
themselves soon indicated their whereabouts. Direct against the current
or across it yielded the best results. The fish feel the force of the
outgoing tide to a degree that makes them eschew its full strength, and
confine themselves to the edge on either side.
My first fish took the
spoon just on the margin, and fought as hard as any grilse that I have
caught, and my experience covers hundreds. He first kept to the slack
water, where he gave a couple of short runs and tried to divest himself
of the spoon by jiggering. This policy proved to be unavailing, and he
dashed off, and either by accident or malice prepe7ise got in the midst
of the current. The tide was running like a mill race—a mile a minute it
looked— and fifty yards of line were stripped off the reel before the
fish stopped. It is an old dodge of a salmon to get into a swift current
and stick there, swaying his broad tail from side to side. The worst
part of the business was the enormous quantity of driftwood that the
outflowing tide was carrying. I was in constant terror of getting my
line foul, a hundred yards of which were out at the time. At one moment
a huge log, fifteen to twenty feet long and thick in proportion, swept
right across the line. I held my breath and set my teeth in expectation
of calamity, but, marvellous to relate, it rolled over it without a
touch. It was time, however, to shift my quarry, and tightening up the
line and throwing the rod well back, I treated him to the Irish
discipline of “ giving the butt.” Gradually he came, and once on the
move I followed up the advantage until I had him in slack water. But the
dragging cost me the fish. He came close to the boat, near enough for us
to admire his broad sides and tail, when he quietly slipped off within a
few feet of the gaff.
Dame Fortune made
amends by giving me a brace, 6h lbs. and 4\ lbs., within the short time
at our disposal, beside which I hooked and lost a couple more. It is a
common experience to lose a large proportion of salmon on the
spoon-bait, particularly grilse, which cohoes resemble not only in
appearance, but in the softness of their mouths.
Off Vancouver Island
this kind of fishing can also be indulged. The open sea near the coast,
at the mouth of rivers and creeks, is prolific of salmon life, and fine
creels can be made. On the island some of the best known salmon angling
is to be obtained. The Campbell is the chief river, which yields record
fish annually. It rises in Buttles Lake, flows through upper Campbell
Lake, thence to Campbell Lake proper, and joins the sea above Willow
Point, opposite Cape Mudge, covering a distance of about forty-five
miles. The mouth of the river is the best place for fishing. Some angler
has yet to establish the possibility of alluring these big fish with a
fly. It is a misfortune that they are got so readily with a trolling
rod. Few anglers go to the trouble of applying more scientific methods
to their capture. The art of trolling requires no technical knowledge,
whilst the fly does; and only a small proportion of those who visit the
Campbell River are proficient in its use.
Next to the Campbell is
the Cowichan, which is easily reached from Victoria. It rises in
Cowitchen Lake, and flows through Duncan, falling into Cowitchen Harbour
about ten miles from its source. In its physical features it differs
from the Campbell, being swift and with abundant rapids suited to the
fly. The lake itself is good at the outlet, where a great many fish
July and August are the
best months for spring salmon on Vancouver Island. During September the
Campbell River ceases to yield heavy fish. The cohoes run freely during
that month, and can be caught in the Pacific and the creeks which
intersect the island along the coast.
It may be said of
salmon-angling generally, that its success is dependent upon the time
the fish run from the sea. It is then that they take a bait or rise to
the fly. Their sporting propensity wears off during their stay in the
river. I know, from long Q experience of Irish salmon fishing, that a
pool may be well stocked and not one out of a score will look at the
angler’s lure, the exception being the fresh arrival from the sea. It is
of the first importance, therefore, to obtain accurate particulars in
regard to the time the fish run. The omnibus information, that salmon
angling is good from July to November, is too general to be of value.
What we know is that the time varies on different rivers—some are early,
others late. This goes on from year to year without much change. The
danger is that one may travel hundreds of miles to a river and, on
reaching it, be as badly off as the man a hundred miles from anywhere
with the wrong cartridges.
Trout, on the other
hand, are permanent residents, and the angling season is more
indefinite. Here again a knowledge of their habits is valuable. When the
fly is on the water, is always the best time for angling. This rule is
of universal application. There is a set-off in many parts of the
Dominion against cultivating the acquaintance of the streams during that
period. It is the time when the pestilential black fly bites a piece out
of the angler’s flesh, sucks his blood, and then flies off with the
piece! Waiving that point, May and June are the best months. In July and
August the fry appear in the rivers and lakes in myriads, and receive
the trout’s undivided attention. This is the case at home, and I found
it exactly the same in the Dominion. When the fry appear the fly is at a
discount, minnows and spoons doing most of the execution. These spinning
lures imitate the habits of live bait, being bright and wriggling, which
trout and bass seize with avidity.
FISHING A VICTORIA CREEK
As far as my
observation went, there is very little fly on the rivers and lakes in
There is a further
circumstance that is demoralizing to trout in Canadian waters. When the
salmon run up the rivers to spawn the trout follow them, intent on
devouring their ova, which are deposited on the gravel beds. So absorbed
are trout in this pursuit that they rarely look at any other food. They
are then freely caught with salmon roe, a poaching method of angling
that is most reprehensible. I fear it is widely practised in the
All the salmon rivers I
have mentioned hold trout. There are many others scattered all over the
province. The Cowichan in Vancouver Island is excellent, and very fine
specimens are taken in it. With a canoe, using a light rod and
medium-sized flies, good sport may be enjoyed. The creeks all round the
coast may be reckoned upon. During the flitting of the natural
Ephemeridae the best baskets are made. On .the mainland, near the city
of Vancouver, the creeks already referred to are favourite resorts for
the angling community.
The water was so very
low during my stay in that district that I was able to see the fish in
the deep pools.
Seymour Creek is a
swift river that flows through a cutting in the forest, and may be
described as a type of the streams that trout frequent. It is very deep,
and in some parts is so closed in that it can be heard but not seen.
From high banks its line can be traced for miles through the forest, a
black shadow by contrast with the green foliage and lichened rocks.
Other reaches are streaks of light, where the rapid water breaks into
sparkling crystals over log and boulder. The victims of the great forest
fire which, years ago, swept the district with disastrous effect, still
stand in charred magnificence. Black and dismantled Douglas pines rise
hundreds of feet, towering far above the living trees which, by
comparison, are insignificant. The solitude of the place was typified by
a lonely crow that rose and flitted before me, always choosing the stump
of a dead fir as its perch, as if its blackness and detachment were in
keeping with its mood. I followed a corduroy wagon road for some miles
in quest of the trail which led to the river. I could tell whether it
was leading to or from the creek by the crescendo or diminuendo of its
One human being only
crossed my path in the forest; he was armed and in quest of bears. He
showed me where one had been shot a few days before.
“Black bear?” I asked.
“No, a grizzly.” Of the trail I was searching for, he knew no more than
myself. I tried to force a way to the river by means of a steep
declivity, but, after scrambling down a hundred feet, I came upon a
ledge of rock and, on looking over, found myself on the summit of a
precipice which might have served for an eagle’s eyrie. I beat a
cautious retreat. It was the kind of place one not in search of a
grizzly might find him, and, being practically a cul de sac, might lead
to unpleasant consequences. Bears are not given to attacking except as
the easiest way of making their escape. Having nothing in the shape of a
weapon more formidable than a salmon gaff, I declined the risks.
One thing soon learned
in the forest and mountains is, that without a guide it is inadvisable
to leave the beaten track. At length I discovered the trail, which
proved a most difficult one. The way was blocked by fallen trees, abrupt
descents, and other impedimenta inimical to flesh and clothing. I was
compelled at one point to scramble over a charred log, which blackened
my nether garments beyond the point of defensible respectability. The
day had been exceedingly hot, and the mutterings of a thunderstorm could
be heard in the distance. When I got to the river I found it very low,
like Capilano and Lynn. The force of the current during spate could be
deciphered in the stones in the river’s bed. They were as smooth and
polished as pebbles on the seashore.
The only time to get
fish during low water was at dusk or break of day. I met an angler on
leaving Vancouver that had fished the creek that morning. He had taken
half a dozen good fish which looked to be from lb. to 4 lbs. weight.
They were all caught before sunrise. Similar results might be achieved
after sunset, so I was informed, but I had no mind for facing the forest
in the dark, as in Canada there is only a brief period of twilight.
Pursuing the journey
inland, there are many good trout rivers. The Coquitlam and Stave,
already mentioned as tributaries of the Fraser, fish well before the
salmon begin to run, and trout abandon themselves to the quest of spawn.
Another place that repays a visit is Lillooet River, flowing from
Lillooet Lake, and only a short journey from Stave. It amply rewards the
aspirations of the fly fisher.
Vedder River is about
six miles from Chiliwack, on the south side of the Fraser. It is
interesting not only from an angling, but from a scenic point of view.
It is exceedingly beautiful, and one of the most delightful retreats.
There is a hotel built on the river, and a new and more commodious
establishment is in prospect. The old one lost a considerable portion of
its frontage through floods, that are at times terrific. The river is a
sharp descent from Chiliwack Lake, only a few miles distant, and rises
and falls rapidly. A couple of winters ago, the wooden bridge that
spanned it, and the tennis court
A MOUNTAIN CAXON, WHERE TROUT ABOUND
fronting the hotel,
Were washed away. The bridge has been replaced by an iron structure, and
a more elevated spot has been selected for the hotel. It is a convenient
centre for angling trips. The trout run to a large size; four to six
pounders are not uncommon. They are taken with small spoons or minnows.
Dolly Vardens are plentiful in the Vedder, which can be caught with the
fly up to I lb. or lb., and on a light rod and tackle they give lively
It was my good fortune
to meet at Chiliwack a young architect from Vancouver who had graduated
in the English School of Angling. Both he and his wife were enthusiasts.
The latter, donning high rubber boots, defied the numerous fords, whilst
her husband and myself, equipped with waders, fished the deeper pools.
The river is intersected with tributaries, and the main stream separates
and unites many times in its precipitous course. Shallow noisy reaches,
followed by pools with a silence befitting their depth, and a cataract
here and there, are the conspicuous phases of the river. Where a March
brown or a Wickam fancy tripped over the gravelly shallow, the flash of
a Dolly Varden would appear, its blood-red and orange spots glinting in
the sunlight. Then the rod would quiver, and the chase down-stream
begin. The Vedder possesses all the exciting elements of sport—swift
rapids, swirling eddies, dangerous snags. A branch trailing in the
stream would invite sanctuary to the lively captive; how to steer him
clear and keep one’s balance was a problem painful enough at the moment,
but how delightful in retrospect!
Deep pools where we
knew the bigger fish lay were approached in a different fashion. There
was abundance of fry and minnows in the creeks. These we captured with a
dry fly, and mounted them on a Thames flight, the only method of
outwitting the wary game. My companion earlier in the week broke his
cast in a fish that must have been 6 lbs. The trout could be seen the
next day, springing out of the water, with the gut hanging from him,
apparently indifferent to this unusual appendage. Further up the creek
the forest trees, interlacing in thick impenetrable foliage, cast a cool
shade over the river, a vista of a magnificent range of mountains
amongst the glaciers, where the river rises, showing beyond. The peaks
stood clear-cut above the pine-clad woods, and in the evening light,
there stole that wonderful violet atmosphere that sheds such a
mysterious halo over God’s everlasting hills.
Of larger rivers there
are many, where the different species of trout are found. The North
Thompson, which joins the Fraser at Lytton, flows through Kamloops Lake.
Rising in the Quesnel region, and drawing its life from the union of a
small triplet of lakes, of which Albreda is chief, it winds in a
southern course, receiving the contents of other streams at various
points. Its water is clear, and most of the trout species make it their
The Columbia River also
flows through the Quesnel northern district, south of Canoe River,
traversing hundreds of miles. Its course lies through Golden,
Windermere, East Kootenay and Nelson, an interminable stretch of water.
Kootenay and Okanagan
Rivers offer further angling facilities, as well as the Skeena and
The Great Lake trout
can be caught trolling, and battle royals can be had with fifteen and
twenty pounders in the Shuswap, Kootenay and Kamloops lakes. There the
formidable steel-head trout of the Salmonidai order is discovered, as
well as the larger specimens of the Salmo kamloops, or Dolly Varden.
These fish, like our European Salmo fario, affect cannibal habits on
reaching the years of discretion and scorn the fly.