Jack Van Delft
Well just over a year ago, we decided to pack up all our belonging and sell our house and everything we owned and move the family over to Vancouver Island, Canada from Byron Bay, Australia in search of new beginnings. I chose the island for two reasons my sister and her family and the countless opportunities for fishing. From lake fishing to ocean fishing and everything in between. Landing in August meant I would be able to settle into some early pink salmon returning to the rivers as well some sea-run cutthroat action starting to show up along the coast lines and river mouths. Leaving Australia I had the idea that I would engulf myself in as many different types of fly fishing as I could as well as meeting as many fly fisherman with the same idea. One year on the salmon are returning the pinks have come and gone the coho’s and chum are in full swing. We’ve waited all summer for the rains to come to kick start the salmon but it came late and now we can’t seem to get rid of it. I’ve been hiding away in small coastal creeks to get away from the flooding waters and have been happily rewarded with large coho’s and chinook that can hardly fit in the water system there returning to.
One day in mid-October I can relive one of the most memorable fishing days. It was wet and damp we had received three days of rain and finally the weather had broken. The water level had dropped but was still a tannin colour and by the second day I couldn’t take it anymore. I looked back into my journal from last year and saw that I had fished several smaller creeks on the east coast of Vancouver Island when the water was higher than usual. I decided that morning that I would take a chance and fish a river I hadn’t fished since last season. With all this rain, all I could think about was how far the coho’s had pushed upstream. I hadn’t hiked that far up this river last year because the coho’s were down near the river mouth last year. With sling packed and a smile on my face I was off. As I was hiking I pasted my favourite holes with nothing in site which meant I would be hiking a few kilometres before I see some fish stacked up. From that point on the bush got thick, I mean “dense” is a better descriptive word. It looks like there hasn’t been a human or animal there for many years. The bush on both sides of the river was either hip high ferns or my most hated devils club thorns 5 feet of the worst of the worst thorns. When I had the chance, I walked the edge of the rivers on boulders to broken shale. The hike was beautiful passing over log jam after long jam of old growth trees that had fallen centuries ago. You can only imagine the storms and floods that would have come through this river in the past would have been an incredible sight.
Once I reached the first deep run I settled down and rigged up my two-handed rod. Starting off with my trusty micro intruder, a favourite of mine for these small rivers. Second swing in and bang I was onto a solid fish. I didn’t know straight away what I had hooked into but it fought well. After a good long fight, I got him in and it was a truly beautiful buck rainbow with markings I will never forget. After a quick photo, he was off and back into his hole. What a great start to the day. From then on, the river changed shape it went from log jams with long riffles to stepping up to pools and running to the next pool. I started as usual swinging from the top of the pool down and after a couple of casts I hooked up to a feisty Coho nothing big but boy he was scrappy. Running me up and down the pool and with some aerial acrobatics to keep me focussed. After landing that Coho I couldn’t wipe the smile of my face. After release I kept swinging the pool and came up with a few more small rainbows. Time to move on and discover what else is upstream. I had to cross the river a few times and water depth was getting close to that point where it’s, make it or break it but I pushed on because this day was all about discovering new water and nothing was going to stop me. Around the bend, I found the holy grail of all pools/runs. It was a sweeping right hand cover with a rocky corner turning downstream to a deep pool of at least 6 feet rounding the corner and pushing up against a shale cliff then flowing into a nice slow tail out. Picture perfect. Well once again starting at the head of the run I cast out and swung the fly. As the fly was almost parallel with the bank I started to strip and what I saw follow behind my fly was a huge Coho chasing it down. My chest started pounding and all I could think of was, Grab it!!! At the last second when the fly was getting to shallow it turned away and swam back into his pool. I was pumped went back in for another swing and this time he wasn’t so lucky he came out I stripped a little faster and bang he grabbed it. First thing he did was run me back into the pool and had his head down like an angry brown trout. Twisting and turning and carrying on like his life was going to end. After a tremendous fight of dogging it out and head shakes to boot I got him up against the bank and after a big thank you released him back into the river to go about his business. There’s something about catching Coho salmon in the rivers their non-resident fish that have fattening up in the ocean for their last big hurray to pro-create and keep this fishery alive. Small rivers can produce some large salmon get out there and discover what’s in your backyard. Vancouver Island is an amazing place with rivers, lakes and ocean to fish. I love this place.
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