No. I’m not really a fisherman. I’m the type who prefers to hire a charter off the coast of British Columbia, let someone else drive the boat, bait the hook and set the line. If a fish is dumb enough to grab the line assigned to me, I do the mighty fight to bring the poor fish near to the boat, then unashamedly, let someone else bonk its noggin and remove the hook. Not a hero at all. But dang, I have fun. So, when some other non-baiter grabs my fishing line to haul up a monster salmon. I get a little defensive.
It was my Tyee. I did the dance. It was supposed to be my salmon. We’d been out there drifting the shores of the Pacific for hours without a bite – bobbing endlessly under the blazing sun. I was bored and just like when we ice fish on the frozen lakes in Alberta, I did the ice fishing dance. And dang it! The rod I had been watching started to dance too. Problem is – a boastful braggart from Burnaby (3B) swooped in for the kill.
3B lunged at the rod while I froze mid-twirl. And, as I stared like a wallflower, they did quite a daring dance. A frantic tango but with a hook clenched in the fish’s lips instead of a rose. Much of the time the fish lead, tormenting his partner by taking more line, pulling this way and that. As the salmon slowed to a death march, the line was reeled in and the net took the fish in the final plunge. A mighty thump with the fish club ended the 10-minute boogie. A panting 3B held up his limp partner – a 32 lb perfect chinook salmon. A Tyee as they in the sport fishing world say. Those of us who have yet to land the big one still call it – the one that got away.
3B wasn’t that bad really, the gloating and the retelling of the saga to those that were still in the boat just goes with fishing – right? The deeper the water, the bigger the fish and of course, the bigger the tale. And really who can blame a fisherman for bursting buttons on his florescent PFD vest. That tug on the line, the zing of the reel and the fight to the bitter end is exactly what he paid the big bucks to do. And, even though the rest of us went back that day with headless herring from the bait box, the experience and the adventure was exactly what was promised.
Google for “charter fishing coastal B.C.” and you’ll come up with at least eight million hits. (Far more than the hits on your fishing line!) On the map, resorts dot the inside passage, Vancouver Island, and further north beyond the Haida Gwaii within sight of Alaska. They are opulent, or rustic or crowded or remote.
Fishing guides are a species of their own. Where else can you find a guy that can steer a boat, gut a herring to tie on a line, roll a smoke and tell a ripping good tale full of salty seadog superlatives – all at the same time as they find the sweet spot for salmon. They must roll their eyes in disbelief when people like me squeal “I got one! I got one!” and look the other way while they do the dirty work.
With all the hours you bob along the shore, you learn amazing things. But – what happens on the boat stays on the boat. Let’s just say that the corporate crowd didn’t talk stocks or acquisitions, the professors didn’t talk school, but they all talked fish. The big one, the little one, the one they caught, the one that got away. The one they want to catch, and of course the Tyee the other guy snagged while you did your dammed stupid ice fishing dance.
I’m not bitter, over the course of one three-hour excursion west of Superstition Point, the four fishermen in the boat caught 1 lingcod, 2 yellow-eye rockfish, 1 quillback and 8 halibut. And, if you’ve ever heard stories about bringing up a halibut from the bottom of the ocean and how hard it is to do, it’s true. Pulling a cranky halibut up through 260 feet of rolling water is like pulling up a pallet of cement while standing on a skateboard. It ain’t easy – but look how easy the boasting is once you’ve done it!
It’s not all about the fish really. The scenery is spectacular and if you don’t stop to look at it, you need to bring your head out of the saltwater and breathe. Eagles crowd the skyline while tree roots claw the rocks just above high tide. Seals and sea lions frolic and sunbath while whales – though exciting to see – ruin the fishing for everyone. One trip out for the corporate crew had them jaw to jaw with a whale. It surfaced so close…they could smell his breath. (Heck, I bet their story is better than mine!)
Okay, …it’s all about the fish. As we headed out for one last try at the crack of way-too-early on departure day, I pointed at a pod of whales frolicking in the warming yellow rays of the sun creeping across the waves. It was the best show ever, but it was also the last chance for salmon – damn it! The guide didn’t even turn his head to look; the throttle was nailed further to the floor. We were fishing not sightseeing! If there was a fish to catch, there’d be no 3B dancing with my Tyee.
Favourite Finds for Fishing:
Campbell River on Vancouver Island has always been a hot spot for salmon. A popular guiding outfit is www.coastwild.com.
Still, at Campbell River, a fantastic fishing charter with accommodations is Painter’s Lodge www.painterslodge.com
Oak Bay Marine Group at Pedder Bay is only a few minutes from Victoria. Bring your own boat, rent own or charter. http://pedderbay.com/
West Coast Fishing Club on Langara Island for the ultimate in opulence while fishing www.westcoastfishing.com
www.hellobc.com/things-to-do/fishing/ for the 1.5 million bites on the web.