Monday, September 6, 2010

First Cast Fly Fishing: British Columbia Journal

We flew from Boston to Seattle on JetBlue (www.jetblue.com).  First time on JetBlue Airlines.  Being 6’4” I liked the extra leg room and the personal TV sets with plenty of media content from ESPN, NBC, & Discovery Channel allowed us to pass time without thought…especially the fishing shows!
A note for future Seattle/British Columbia travelers…Prior to travel, we contacted a Seattle based (local small business) car rental company called Mashariki Rentals(www.masharikirentals.com).  We found this company on Craig’s List and the owner (Lui Waweru) provided excellent service at an incredibly fair price.  In fact, we rented a Dodge Caravan for under $30.00 per day with unlimited mileage!  We never had any issues with the vehicle and Lui’s service provided the convenience of door-to-door service. 
Leaving Seattle, we headed North and on our first day we fished the mighty Frazer River in Hope, British Columbia (2 hours from Vancouver).  While in Hope, we stopped in at Cheyenne Sporting Goods to purchase our fishing license’s and also asked for some tips on fishing such a large/fast river.  Steve Schroeder, manager and local guide, was incredibly helpful by providing much information…even the best spots to target Sockeye’s on the fly.  After a 5 minute drive and within 15 minutes, we hooked into our first Sockeye’s…thanks Steve!  As our day passed on the river, we also saw black bears, eagles, and every 20 minutes or so, a giant sturgeon would leap from the water! The sight was amazing and the splashing sound would have you believing that a plane crashed in the river…truly jaw dropping!  So, if you head to the Frazer River or any other part of B.C. for Salmon fishing, pack your 8wt and 10wt fly fishing rods.  Our Scott Fly Rods and Galvan Fly Reels, along with an Orvis class 5 fast tip sinking line, performed well…although, we quickly learned that heavier tipped lines/Shooting Heads in the +300 grain class, in big strong current rivers, out fished the class 5 fast sink lines.  From the Frazer we switched gears and fished the lower Skagit River.  The Skagit River is just around the corner from Hope, and is ideal for single handed 4wt-6wt fly rods, either float or sink line.  The Skagit River, regularly produces wild rainbows and on occasion Bull Trout.  We caught and released bow’s on woolly buggers and large caddis patterns #4-#10.  The lower Skagit River is located in a National Forest/Park.  The access points to the river are easily accessible by the designated parking spots complete with port-o-potties…just get ready to be attack by mosquito’s as you gear up…they bite through your clothing!  The upper Skagit is located in a canyon area and the best fishing is past the walk-in camp ground.  This means you must park your car at the entrance and then follow a path for about 3-5 miles.  While on the trail,  we met two older fly fisherman who recently had heart surgery(within 12 months).  So, the path/hike is easy and well worth it because very few people fish the pools past the campground…plus it’s arguably the prettiest Section of the Skagit River.  After the Skagit we headed East, but soon found ourselves wanting to head North.
We headed North because the climate towards the East was much dryer, hotter and the topography was yellow/brown scrub desert…much like what you would see on the eastern slope of the USA Rockies.  The land was beautiful, but we came to BC to see trees and snow covered peaks…not to bake ourselves in dry/sunny 90-100 degree temps!  So, moving along, we traveled the back roads, through ranching country, we reached Bella Coola after about 1.5 days drive.  We spent 7 days in Bella Coola and put in some serious fish time (I will let the pictures of Bella Coola and fish speak for themselves).  But, if you happen to travel to Bella Coola and would like information of fishing spots, give me a shout or contact Markus Schieck at Tweedsmuir Travel (www.tweedsmuirtravel@belco.bc.ca.)  Markus is an avid fly fisherman and gladly provided us with many amazing spots on the Atnarko and Bella Coola Rivers.  (He also is the booking agent for the BC Ferry system).  Overall, we loved Bella Coola and would return in a heart beat. However, Bella Coola is not what I would call family friendly (i.e. no water-parks, ice cream stands, movie theaters, video arcades, playgrounds, etc).   After Bella Coola we traveled by BC Ferry (25 hours) to Port Hardy, Vancouver Island.  During our passage we stopped in three towns (Ocean Falls, Shear Water and Bella Bella); all of which can only be accessed by boat or sea-plane.  We did not spend much time in these towns.  So, not much to say about these places other than quiet, cute, quant and remote…good places to check-out of mainstream life. Once on Vancouver Island, we headed south to fish the world famous Campbell River. 
Initially, the Campbell River looked extremely disappointing. The river ran through residential neighborhoods and the industrial/not so friendly aesthetic looking part of town.  However, once again we stepped into the local fishing shops and was told of the fly fishing catch-release only section…so, off we went.  By mid day, we caught a handful of Pink Salmon and watch several silvery King Chinooks jump before our eyes.  One fellow angler told us he caught a 55 Lbs King last year in the same spot.  Not to take away his skill and strength needed to dance with such an amazing fish, timing and the right gear are everything with catching Salmon of this size. By this time in our trip, we grew tired of catching Pink Salmon.  So, we headed to the Pacific side of Vancouver Island. 
Unfortunately, the major runs of Salmon were still off shore on the Pacific side.  If you chartered a boat, you could motor 10-20 miles off shore and fish for Salmon with down-riggers & bait.  However, when the fish are in, it is possible to cast of the sandy beaches, or the rocky coast in places like Tofino and Ucluelet.  We opted to do the tourist thing and explore. 
Tofino is a wonderful seaside town ideal for families, surfers and those who wish to have more modern conveniences (bars, restaurants, and tourism services of all kinds). Be sure to eat at SoBo…it offers up great organic meals, and don’t forget to take a few chocolate pecan cookies for the road!  We liked Tofino, but we fell in love with Ucluelet because it was less touristy and seemed more like a working town/fishing village.  Plus, Ucluelet has the “Wild Pacific Coast Trail” just minutes from town.  This trail is easily accessible by people of all abilities and offers the most amazing views of the rocky shore line, Islands, and wildlife.  In fact, we watched grey and humpback whales breach, spray and play just off shore! Picture yourself watching the sun setting on the Pacific, whales playing before you, and a full moon rising over your shoulder…add in a fine Malbec from Argentina and what a life moment!  Oh, in Ucluelet, don’t forget to eat at Jiggers Seafood.  Jigger’s is a meal on wheels type place and is run by a local fisherman.  So, all the fish is super fresh and the fish & chips (salmon, halibut & cod) are to die for!  Hit the Liquor store just a around the corner and wash it down with your favorite adult beverage while sitting outside on picnic tables (when in Rome…).  On to the mainland; where we visited Whistler, Pemberton, Squamish, Vancouver, and finally a 1/2 day in Seattle.
Wow…Whistler/Blackcomb is an amazing place and I can easily see why the 2010 winter Olympic games were held there.  Whistler village looks as though every square inch had been planned…modern and nice looking, but far from the streets of downtown Telluride.  Things to do in Whistler start with gondola rides to both peaks, mountain biking down the mountains, an extreme mountain bike course, rafting, golf, hiking, shopping and so much more.  Naturally, we found our way to the local fly shop called Whistler Fly-fishing (www.whistlerflyfishing.com).  WFF store was loaded with great products from Loop, Sage, Patagonia and more. The store reps/guides Justin and Mike were kind enough to point us to several of their personal hot spots on the Birkenhead River and Seton Portage area…thanks guys.  We also met Clint Goyette on the river and he also recommend some amazing spots.  Clint is a guide as well and can be reached at (www.valleyfishing.com).   What might be hard for most people to understand…a few of the Chinook Salmon photos you see were caught just north of Whistler in a town called Pemberton, BC.  Add it up…within 2-3 hours outside Vancouver, and you are in Mountain Lion, Bear and Salmon country…not to mention year round outdoor activities…truly amazing for the adventure traveler!
With only a few days left, we put the rods away and headed to Vancouver to see the sites.  We toured China-Town Gas-Town, and Stanly Park.  Did you know Vancouver’s China-Town is the 2nd largest in North America? Needless to say there is lots to see an do…not mentioning good food!  While in Stanley Park, we watched a Cricket match (1st time), walked the paths along the ocean, and we played Lawn Bowling with the locals (I am a big Bocce Ball player, so this was a real treat for me!) For those you are not in the know, Lawn Balls are weighted on either side. This makes for crazy curving approaches to the Jack, not straight on rolls to the Pallini ball like Bocce…much like a golfer putting to the angles and slope of a golf green.  Well, it was good-bye BC and off to Seattle for our last day, my birthday and flight back to Boston.
In Seattle, we visited the Arboretum Japanese Gardens, Aquarium and Pike Street market.  The garden was built by a Japanese architect and as the locals said, it is much more authentic than the wildly popular Kubota Japanese Gardens.  We loved the garden and highly recommend a visit.  As well, the Aquarium was a pleaser and should please both youth and adult.  Pike Street market offers up tons of opportunities to see, test/taste an array of foods from the around the world.  For instance, the honey from Snoqualmie Valley Honey Farm was sinfully amazing.  You can order on line at www.honeyexpress.com and we recommend the spread types of any flavor.  Before leaving, we had to have one more taste of  the best wild smoked salmon you can find in North America…be sure to visit any of the fish vendors for a variety of smoke salmon.  And, being a true New Englander, we had a cup of clam chowder that was arguably the best we have ever had! 
Thank you British Columbia and thank you to all the wonderful people we met along the way.  We hope to return soon and we highly recommend a visit!

Copyright © 2010 Mark Foley. All rights reserved

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