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Thursday, 9 May 2013

Gone Fishing

I can’t say that I have been a life-long fisherman. I can say that there was a time in my life, probably from my late twenties until my early forties, when fishing was one of my favourite things to do. There is a sound that kind of goes z-z-z-z-z, z-z-z-z-z-z-z  that is unforgettable when a salmon hits a lure and the fishing line takes off into the water as the fish speeds off trying to get free of the hook by sheer force. That sound is like a payoff at a Las Vegas slot machine except that you are not rewarded right away. You still have to get the darn thing into the boat.

My guess is that I am not alone in that there have been times in my life that I was really interested in one activity for a period of time and eventually I would let that interest wane and become involved with something else. At one time or other I was keen on sailing and tennis. I even joined sailing and tennis clubs. For a few years I was hooked on rollerblading. I used to love kayaking. It wasn’t as if I got bored. Nor did I lose complete interest. It was just time to move on to something else. Tennis might be the only one of these pastimes that I can’t see myself doing as I get older. I’m just not the old gaffer type who has learned some off speed shots to confuse two other old gaffers on the other side of the net. Shit! Why not be honest….I just can’t run like I used to!
Growing up in Montreal, Quebec, I never had many opportunities to go fishing. About the only time I can remember actually being out on a lake in a boat with a fishing rod was when I was about 19 and got together with some co-workers at the Simpson’s department store in Pointe Claire, Quebec for a day out on Lac St. Louis. We drank some beers and had a great time. I think we caught a fish or two but tossed them back as the word at the time was that the lake, which is part of the St. Lawrence River, was polluted. I remember getting sunburned really badly and getting lathered with Noxema when I got home.
A year or so later I was living in downtown Montreal at a frat house and one of the roomers was a student from British Columbia who paid for part of his schooling by working as a deckhand in BC each summer. His stories peeked my interest but I had no idea at the time that I would later be spending many hours out on the Pacific Ocean.
One summer when I was in Banff another guy and I tried fishing in the small Spray River that feeds into the Bow River right near the Banff Springs Hotel. The river was glacier fed and the water was as cold as ice. We never got a bite and were highly doubtful that there actually was any fish in the river.
It was in the late 1970s that I really got interested in salmon fishing. I was working in Vancouver at the time and every so often I would go over to Vancouver Island and rent a boat for the day. I fished near two cities that have both laid claims as being the salmon capital of the world, Port Alberni and Campbell River. I also rented a boat once at Bowser Bill’s at Bowser, BC which I have written about elsewhere on here. Another placed I rented a boat was at a place called Patterson’s at Qualicum Beach. One day I caught 2 salmon just off the shelf drop-off a few hundred yards out from the beach at Qualicum Beach.

Sometime around 25 years ago almost all of the old boat rental places closed down. The insurance rates skyrocketed and it was just about impossible to make a go of it. Today, they only way to go salmon fishing if you don’t own your own boat is go out on an expensive charter.
Somewhere along the line I picked up a salmon rod and a Peetz reel. Peetz reels are made of a hardwood like mahogany and have brass fittings and gears. This ain’t no plastic spinning reel. They are built to drag in big fish. The company that makes them is still in operation in Victoria, BC. The mechanism is kind of simple but very practical. Owning a Peetz reel is a bit like becoming serious about your hobby.

Peetz reel.
In 1981 we moved over to Bowen Island just off of Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. Our next door neighbour was an outdoors kind of guy and I went salmon fishing with him several times. At first he had a 2 seater speed boat that was very awkward to fish from. Later he bought a used Bayliner. One weekend the neighbour took me and one of my salesmen up to Gibsons to do some fishing. Gibsons was where the TV series The Beachcombers was filmed. We parked the boat in the marina and walked up the ramp to a pub called Molly’s Reach that overlooked the ocean. We had a few beers and my salesman had brought along some pot. By the time the sun had disappeared we were totally wasted and we hit the sack early. I remember waking up in the middle of the night not knowing where I was and banging my head on the ceiling. It took me a few moments to realize that I was sleeping in the bow and that the ceiling was only a foot or so above me.

Salmon catch at Gibsons, BC.

Relic and Bruno Gerussi.

Molly's Reach, Gibsons, BC
I got married in Saskatchewan on August 1st of 1981 and we travelled through the western US to San Francisco and up the Pacific coast on our honeymoon. We stopped off in a little town called Winchester Bay, Oregon and went out on a salmon fishing charter. We caught a couple of salmon that we brought back to Canada. As we were coming back to shore the captain spotted a marlin flaying about. These were not marlin waters and how the fish ended up in the area is a mystery. Someone gaffed the marlin and it was brought ashore. A few years ago we stopped off at Winchester Bay and we were told that the marlin had been stuffed and had been displayed for about 30 years before they decided to take it down.
Out on the salt chuck in Oregon.

Confused marlin at Winchester Bay, Oregon 1981
I used to fish for cod down on the rocks below our house on Bowen Island. You catch them with a thing called a buzz bomb which is kind of a diamond shaped piece of lead with a hook that flutters as it drops to the bottom of the ocean where the cod live. I bought a whole wack of these lures at the old Army and Navy store in downtown Vancouver where many fishermen bought their gear at the time. Cod are a pretty stinky fish when you are cleaning them.
We moved back to Vancouver from Bowen Island. I had hired a secretary from Saskatchewan and knowing that her husband was a prairie guy I thought he might be keen on doing some salmon fishing. I picked him up about 5:00 a.m. one morning and we headed off to Sewell’s boat rental in Horseshoe Bay. We both lived in Richmond, BC at the time. I got pulled over for speeding by a cop near the airport and after I explained that there really wasn’t any other cars around and that we were going fishing he just let us go without a ticket. That was about as lucky as I was going to get this day.

Fishing with Shane Kenneally.
We checked in at Sewell’s Marina in Horsehoe Bay and a young guy once overed the boat over before sending us on our way. We were just leaving the harbour when it dawned on me that my secretary’s husband was frightened by the ocean. He seemed to be very anxious. We were headed to Passage Island which is just off of West Vancouver and on the west side of the this little island is a shelf where I had caught salmon before. As we neared the island I suddenly realized that we didn’t have any rod holders on the boat. We had to go back to the marina to get them. I don’t know what I was thinking at the time. I wanted to get back to the marina as quickly as possible and I was also kind of concerned about the other guy’s fear of the ocean. I gunned the motor and on our way back we hit a few waves. And then it happened. My rod complete with my prized Peetz reel bounced off the back of the boat and into the water never to be seen again. What a bummer!
Horseshoe Bay.
 I went deep sea fishing in Hawaii a few times. On the first charter I caught a marlin. My wife at the time’s parents had a condo in Honolulu. I went out with my later to be ex father and law and a friend of his from Saskatchewan. There were also about 4 American tourists. Everyone else on the boat other than the crew had a few alcoholic beverages other than me and all of them got seasick when we got out to open waters. You might say that I was the last man standing. When the marlin hit the lure I was the only one capable of reeling it in. They use steel line to fish for marlin and the lure bounces along the surface of the water. The marlin kind of looks like it is dancing on the water after it strikes the lure. That big dorsal fin actually collapses when the fish is in the boat and you may notice in a lot of photos that someone is holding the dorsal fin out.
My ex father-in-law and his pal Emanuel with Maui Maui in Hawaii. They have both passed on.

My marlin in Hawaii.
Marlin rod off of Hawaii.
The second time I went marlin fishing was less eventful but I did catch a few Maui Mauis which are part of the dolphin family and yellow in colour. On both fishing trips I gave the fish I caught to the crew.
On the west coast of Vancouver Island there are two towns at the opposite ends of Long Beach and Pacific Rim National Park, Tofino and Ucluelet. Tofino is more touristy with a number of seaside upscale lodges. Whale watching and salmon fishing are two of the bigger draws in Tofino. Ucluelet also has some lodges and a fair sized first nation’s population. Ucluelet is also where the The Canadian Princess is moored. The boat has been made into a hotel and about a dozen or so salmon sports fishing boats  are tied up next to it. The Canadian Princess is owned by the Oak Bay Marine Group in Victoria, BC. They also own resorts at April Point on Quadra Island, Painter’s Lodge near Campbell River (John Wayne and Bing Crosby spent time at the original Painter’s Lodge), a spot on Langara Island and Pedder bay, and a resort in the Bahamas.
The Canadian Princess also has a lodge close to the boat. I stayed at the resort 3 different times. The first time was the only time I stayed on the boat and was when I was dating my future wife. The rooms are pretty small and the beds are very narrow. On that first stay we were just guests and never went fishing. The other two times I stayed at the resort.
Fishing at a resort is quite expensive. Being wealthy doesn’t hurt. For some it is a once in a life experience, perhaps a special gift to dear old dad. Often guests are part of a corporate group. It is kind of a neat tax write off if one can manage it. I was part of one of the latter groups. My wife at the time, worked in the tile business (she still does) and a lot of her suppliers and contractors took part in the two day trip. Many in the group were Italian-Canadians.
Canadian Princess, Ucluelet. BC.


Catch of the day.
Fish on!
On one of the trips out to the Canadian Princess we all met out at the small aircraft airport near the Vancouver International Airport. I can’t remember if we flew on a Dash 6 or Dash 7. When we landed at the Tofino-Long Beach airport the pilot brought us within a few yards of the bus that was to take us to the Canadian Princess. I was impressed. The following is a general description of one of those fishing trips.
Everyone was pretty gung-ho about going fishing and after a pleasant dinner most of us hit the sack early so that we could get a good night’s sleep and be up and ready the next morning. It was still dark when we got our wake-up calls. Coffee and a light breakfast were offered and we were given bags with our lunches in them. Some of the group seemed to be in a sort of a fog as we put on our rubber pants and rubber jackets. The captain introduced himself and moments later we were headed down the channel out to the open ocean. There was something like 20 of us on each boat.
Charter captains all have their favourite fishing spots and we headed out through the rolling sea to find this captain’s special spot. Most of the group stayed inside the cabin and it didn’t take long for a few to become seasick. One of the tricks to avoid seasickness supposedly is to keep your eyes on the horizon. Just the smell of burning gas and rolling water can make some people sick. Sitting in the cabin wasn’t the best idea because you can’t see the horizon from there.
The style of fishing on the boats owned by the Canadian Princess is called mooching. Basically what this is is having your line drop off the end of your rod into the water and giving it a tug every so often. You really can’t troll on a boat with 20 fishermen. As odd as it may sound, there are times when you are actually fishing upwards. By that I mean the rolling water is sometimes higher than where you are standing.
More and more of the group started to get seasick and there was a bunch of sad looking individuals now in the cabin. About half of the group managed to get in a full day of fishing. I never throw up out on the open sea but I did this time, probably because I ate some lunch. I was glad I had the rubber clothes on because the wind blew the stuff right back on me. I might not have been able to hold my food down but I never actually felt sick. One thing that really ticked me off was a sales manager who went into a he-man act like everyone who was sick was a pansy. His bravado certainly wasn’t appreciated by those with the pasty white faces.
That night some of us went out for dinner and another sales manager from my wife’s company insisted on picking up the tab. He said something about it only being the company owner’s money which was fine by me. The next morning only about half of the group turned up for the 2nd day of fishing. Some swore to never get on a fishing boat again. Mooching isn’t my favourite way of fishing but I still had a good time.
My interest in fishing started to wane. One summer day I took my kids up to Painter’s Lodge near Campbell River. We chartered a boat at the lodge and it cost me something like 350 bucks for 4 hours. I didn’t fish myself and left it up to the kids. They only caught one salmon. We fished near an area called Ripple Rock. You can actually see the currents going two different ways and what appears to be a ledge of water about a foot or so higher than the water next to it. Many years ago over 110 people drowned in this area and something like 120 ships were damaged or sunk. In 1958 they set off a huge dynamite explosion that could be heard in Vancouver to make the sea in the area safer.The last time I went salmon fishing was about a dozen years ago with my son who was about 12 years old at the time. We rented a boat in Campbell River and went over to Quadra Island. We had a fish finder screen on the boat and you could see the schools of salmon going by beneath the boat. Occasionally the salmon would jump out of the water nearby. We never caught a thing.
Painters Lodge, Campbell River, BC.

My son Dean fishing off of Quadra Island when he was 12.
Now that I am kind of retired I have had some thoughts about getting out on the ocean again. There is an old salesmen’s joke about the 3 “F’s”….If it floats, flies, or f__ks….rent it! The joke kind of makes sense. Owning a boat is very expensive.
Being the old salesman that I am I think I might have figured out how to go fishing cheaply. I am thinking about printing up a little poster and leaving them at the nearby marinas. “Retiree available as company or crew. Will keep quiet or tell stories depending on your wishes. Will supply I dozen beer of your choice or a 26 ouncer.
It might just work!

I drew this years ago.
Fishing...the good life!



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