heeello there... Ain't yoo just the god darn purdiest liddle thang in dungarees this side o'
views and Bald Eagles swooping overhead.
The Fraser and Harrison Rivers have the lot.
A year has passed and we're back again. A slightly different
line-up, with a few additions to the team, but with everyone looking forward to the trip
with at least as much enthusiasm as in 2003, because this time some of us knew just what
was waiting for us! And those that hadn't experienced British Columbia before had already
been told about it in great detail by those who had!
My mate Steve had come along this year, along with
Lars-Goran & Daniel
from Sweden, and Svend and Claus from Denmark, and of course Johnny, Morten, Thorke and
myself from the previous trip- nearly a 747 full on our own it seemed. So after all
meeting up at Heathrow we set off on the long British Airways flight over the Atlantic.
Several hours later the taxi pulled up
outside the familiar motel in Mission, and after booking in and getting a bite to eat
everyone finally crashed out in bed- completely exhausted from the marathon journey. But
of course, with the jet-lag being as it is out there (8 hours behind the UK), we were
awake at 4am and getting ready to go and fish. Somehow the tiredness had evaporated within
a few hours kip (well for everyone except Daniel!), and in what seemed like a lifetime,
the Canadian guys started to turn up with their monster trucks and boats ready to drag us
down to the Fraser again to get our arms pulled off- with any luck. Unfortunately our
guide Dan had gone AWOL in the preceding 12 months, and Oly was at work doing a proper
job, but John had arranged everything perfectly and Chris had joined him as before- along
with his friend Owen, and Wade had joined the band using Oly's boat, because he had blown
$15,000 worth of engine out of his own the week before. Yeeouch!
and me cuddle a lump as Owen slips his boat into shot.
another dirty day down the river.
As you'd probably expect, the fishing was every bit as
good as we'd hoped for, and for me personally, it was all the better for being a year when
the Pink Salmon aren't running up the river. As much as I'm pleased to have witnessed and
experienced the 'Pink Run' (as opposed to the 'Brown Run', which is something I never
wanted to experience in the first place...), the problem is that with so many fish in the
river, many of the fish hooked are snagged rather than hooked fairly (by our British
angling standards anyway), and to me that spoiled it a little. Although to be honest, the
Canadian guys seemed a whole deal more un-bothered about it all than I did. This
though, with the predominant species running at the time being the Chum Salmon, mixed in
with some Coho and Springs, almost every fish without exception was teased into taking a
lure or jig fair and square. Ok- when I say 'teased' into taking it, I really mean they
just grab it as they swim by, generally speaking. But its still much better- as far as I'm
days out fishing, we had some great sport catching innumerable hard-fighting Chum on
either marabou jigs in bright lurid day-glo pink, purple or red, or on Croc spoons dragged
quickly through the fast current. Some of the guys were also lucky enough to cross swords
with some phenomenal Spring Salmon- with Thorke, Johnny and Svend all catching some
leviathans of over 40lbs, while Steve and I failed to get a take from them on our lures-
save for one which Steve had a tremendous scrap with... thanks possibly to being hooked in
the tail! Truly fishing to make you pull your hair out, because all around the boat were
huge (and I mean HUGE) Springs leaping from the surface. It was worth noting that all the
Springs were very dark in colour, and a long way down their life cycle, and that all the
fish that were caught took plugs with rattles in them rather than spoons (which we were
using...!), and it seems that was the necessary trigger to make a 'non-feeding' fish
strike at a lure out of aggression rather than hunger.
And as far as the Sturgeon go, I think
everyone in the party caught plenty of fish and some huge fish, with Lars-Goran &
Thorke landing the two biggest of the trip at around 7 and a half feet long each! Steve
caught the first (and second) big ones brought to our boat after we saw two big ones leap
from the water in the vicinity of the same bend on the river as we motored downstream. We
dropped the anchor, put out some baits, and 15 minutes later Steve was having a work out,
after catching hold of the rod next to him as it threatened to be pulled over the side!
We quickly found out on the trip that although the
mesh roe-balls we had used before definitely caught fish, the use of big 'splats' of roe
wound around the hook and bound into place with bait elastic clearly
'balls'. I would think this is partly due to the extra scent wafting down from the bait,
but also because the loose eggs breaking away in the current also serve to get a burley
trail going too- which would be further enhanced every time a strike is made shaking the
bait free from the hooks. Now chumming the river is not allowed out there in BC... so I
guess you could say that we were employing tactics of, erm, 'aggressive bait-changing'.
Whatever you might call it, it certainly works.
Steve's first biggie of
the trip after we dropped in at a spot where we saw two large Sturgeon crashing.
Chris's boat silhouette
as the sun streams through the clouds over the Harrison River.
And landing yet another
salmon taken on the
marabou jigs. Photo: Johnny
But another thing that also works is the dreaded
'stinkbait'. Steve and I
had noticed a dead Spring Salmon corpse floating down the river in a bad state of
decomposition, but little did we know that Wade would go and drag the thing out further
downstream, ready to use as bait.
That evening saw Wade in his back yard at home (not
in the kitchen, that's for sure), with an industrial dust mask on and Vick's Vapour-rub
stuffed up his nose, stripping the flesh from the carcass into an airtight tub... and
still gagging at the almighty stench. The thing is, when you're out on the boat, as much
as he asks you to stand back when the tub gets opened, and as much as you just know its
going to smell like hell, you just can't help taking just a tiny little whiff- just to
see... I didn't realise the human gagging reaction was so quick and so involuntary!
Absolutely bloody awful. The thing is, the stuff must be like an all you can eat buffet
for the Sturgeon, because they love it, and on one day in particular, the Stinkbait even
outfished the fresh roe by a mile for Claus & Morten. But the advantages must be that
the creation of a smell trail down the river is certainly no problem with a flap of that
draped over your hook, and I suppose it must be convenient too, because you sure as hell
don't have to worry about refrigerating your bait for maximum freshness!
Other than the stinkbait though, the whole trip and
experience was full to the brim with positives.
Like the last day, when me and
my lucky gonk friend Morten got to fish together. I've probably mentioned before in
the 'Canada 2003' bit that we
really had some fun, especially with our Canadian guiding buddy Chris who also seemed to
be very much on a similar wavelength on a lot of stuff. So we made a point of telling
everyone that on the Friday, the three of us had a day set aside to fish together.
it came to pass that on the final day of our trip, the three of us were
to hit the water together and have a "full-on" day messing
about on the
Goran gets worked over by yet another Chum Salmon.
Look at the teeth on
this Chum caught by Lars-Goran. Like it's been eating grenades.
Stinkbait. And yes, it
does smell as bad as it looks. No- actually it's worse.
Now all the blokes there take the mick out of Chris
for being really anal about his boat. He doesn't like any dirt on any of his fishing
tackle, upholstery, deck... nothing. He wipes every speck of filth off it as it appears,
every item has a specific place, and when you're playing a big fish out, he's handing out
instructions left right and centre (in the nicest possible way)... 'Bring the fish this
side...', 'Keep your rod up!'... 'Mind the engine hood!'... 'Andy- dude, I love you like a
brother, but hit my boat with that lead again and you're going overboard...'
etc etc etc.
So, on our day out my little Danish gonk buddy and I decided to play him up a little bit-
just for fun.
As I was
walking down to the boat ramp in the morning, I found a huge earthworm slinking down the
edge of the path; 'Hmmm... could come in handy...', I thought, and slipped it into my
pocket. We stowed all the stuff aboard, and Chris went to park his truck and trailer. So
while he was away, I curled the worm up on his seat and folded down the back of it so he
couldn't see it. He jumps onto the boat, and me and Morten are sitting back in the boat
looking over the engine...
AP and a male Chum in
the sunlight on the Harrison.
Johnny delighted with a
huge Spring Salmon from the Harrison. A real monster.
Chris and his 'stolen'
Sturgeon- as guided by yours truly! Piece of cake this guiding lark.
'You guys ready to go?'
stop we get to, Chris decides to tie a new hook and bait on one of his rods, and he's at
the back of the boat on his knees and he's passed the reel end of the rod up towards the
front of the boat between us.
'Yes Uncle Chris'...
And then suddenly this huge worm
shot between our heads and landed with a 'plop' in the drink.
'You currants!'... And that set the
pattern for the rest of the day.
'Fancy a sandwich Morten?'
'That would be nice'.
So I pass him his
sandwich, and he takes a slice of tomato out of it and slaps it all over Chris's reel.
Meanwhile, seeing what Mort was up to, a huge dollop of tuna-mayo was slapped out of mine
and rubbed all over his rod handle.He passes the rod
forward, still looking out the back of the boat at his rod tip, not at his reel... and
then sticks his hand straight in the mess...
'Uuurrrghh naaaah! You
currants!'... And of course the juveniles aboard fell about giggling.
A few fish and an hour or so passed, and
Mort was fannying about while he played another fish in, and 'politely' asked Chris if he
would hold his hand through the process, cos he needed 'guiding'. Then he sneaks his hand
over as Chris is stood next to him, and takes hold... Ahhh, what a lovely picture- such a
warm and cuddly shot of Chris holding Mort's hand... something which always goes down well
in the macho world of the Canadian Outdoorsman.
'That'll be on the internet by next Wednesday
then...' I says.
'Aww you currants!' says
The day followed much the same path-
the crack was great, the sarcasm and ribbing merciless, and in the end it just got to the
point where I was just laughing at Morten crying with laughing. But the thing is, while
all this was going on we were catching bloody truck-loads of big Sturgeon. We finished the
day with 25 of the big, ugly things boated and released in total, and 10 of them being
over 5ft 5" long. Awesome dude.
The Canadian guides are
just soooo friendly, helpful and supportive. Especially Chris- seen here 'bonding' with
Morten. A truly touching and beautiful moment...
Morten gazes lovingly
into the eye of his prize.
Frodo, these 'ere
Sturgeons can be the most awful 'andful..."
The best was saved for nearly last
though, because near the end of the day, Mort had 'action on rod 3' (or 'Anal on 3' as
it's now christened after our 2003 trip). Talking of which, Chris says he's had several
problems in the last 12 months where he's had paying customers on his boat and he's
pointing at a rod: 'We got anal on 1' and they turn round and stare at him like he's some
kind of freak. Anyway, I digress. I had some slight Anal on 2 also, but then
waiting for the bites to develop, we start to get a bit of Anal on 1. 'Anal on 1' says
Chris, but we just ignored him and concentrated on our rods. So he picked it up. Suddenly,
Morten strikes and he has a big fish on:
'Good work Mort!' I said.
Then suddenly, Chris strikes and he's in. 'Here Andy- grab this
'Naa, you have it- I'm just enjoying
teasing this little spot of anal on 2 mate'.
'Andy- just grab the rod!'
'Naa- you have it. Just enjoy
So he starts fighting the fish. And
then my 'teasing' develops into the big-bite... and I did the Mark Of Zorro thing and
missed it completely!! So Chris tries again:
A very pale, almost
white, White Sturgeon of 6 feet 4 inches (if I remember rightly). Good work Chris.
'Backwoods' moment. Owen continues the fish-licking tradition first
introduced to us by Dan the year before. Call the cops...
'Sure you don't want this rod- it's
a nice sized fish?'
'Nope- I'm fine watching you two
enjoying yourself'. And then I kind of had an idea...
So I picked up a pair of Chris'
guiding gloves, put them on, and then stood between the two of them as they did battle, in
the same way Chris does. And then started...
'Morten- bring your fish this
side please if you can. Keep it out of the other lines please. No- Morten, I said this
side...', pointing towards the opposite bank like I was directing a plane into landing.
'Chris, can you keep your
rod high please. That's it, niiiiiice and high...', just gently pushing Chris' rod upwards
with the palm of my hand. 'That's good... that's good, buddy. You're gettin' the hang o'
'Morten- mind the engine hood for
Christ's sake...', as his fish tried to circumnavigate the stern of the boat.
'Chris, can I check that drag a
minute- it looks a little tight...Ok thanks- we're good with that...'
'Can you just move to the right
please Chris. Gimme some room to work here. Thank you buddy...'
everything in BC pulls your arms off. Wade and a Bullhead that grabbed the
jig. I couldn't even feel it on the line and just kept wondering why I kept missing a bite
over and over! Cheeky little sucker.
I then grabbed the fish, and then
struggled to drag it inboard because it probably weighed around 100lbs, finally slipping
the barbless hook out as it lay on the deck...
'You wanna picture with this one
then buddy....?' I asked, pointing down at the fish curled up on the deck.
And Morten and I burst out into
another fit of laughter.
'You currants...' said Chris. 'Its
like being on a boat with a pair of f***ing chimps...!'. He did have a picture with it
The perfect end to a perfect day came when
right at the death Morten and myself managed to scrape together a double-header-hook-up
just as we were packing in- and both fish were over 5 and a half feet again! It could only
happen in British Columbia. This is one of the few day's fishing I've had where I've
actually finished the day with aching arms and a sore groin ('no butt-pads allowed-
they're for wusses' was one of the in-boat rules for the day). A day that will stay with
me for a long, long time, I guess. Thanks a million, Chris & Morten.
That was a truly special day on the river,
because every single one of us caught, and between the four boats 68 Sturgeon were caught
and released. Not your average day on the water!
The final evening we had terrific, huge meal,
with everyone present and correct/incorrect, and then a very drunken late night follow up
by Chris, Owen, Steve and myself at local nite-spot 'Roosters', which finally culminated
in a 4am collapse into bed for yours truly, with Owen, Chris & Steve also littered
around the motel room in various stages of disrepair!
Steve and I were lucky to have a few extra days to
kill after the other guys had left for home, which they were to do the following day. So
later that morning, after our goodbyes were said, and e-mail addresses and numbers all
swapped, Owen gave us a lift into Vancouver, where we planned to have a three days walking
and sightseeing. After a driven tour of the Downtown and Stanley Park areas of the city,
and bit of local advice from Owen on places to go, we were soon dropped off and booked
into our hotel, and my it was nice to actually be in bed in the morning and not have to be
up before dawn for once. So after a leisurely lay in and breakfast, we decided to make our
way over to Vancouver Aquarium.
his massive Chinook. Remember-
he's 6 foot 8 tall... The
smoker just ain't big enough.
and Wade with a snagged Chinook.
with the starfish in a saltwater tank at Vancouver
Chinatown, Vancouver, and live
Snakeheads all priced up and ready to go. I hope to make acquaintance with some of these in
the wild in Thailand & Malaysia in 2005... with any luck.
of the lovely Capilano river just outside Vancouver.
place is excellent, with thousands of species of marine life to be observed, and they have
displays of all sorts of things, including Arapaima from the Amazon (which are awe
inspiring... hmmm, now there's an idea for a trip...) to a huge saltwater tank inhabited
by everything from starfish to Sturgeon.
Now that reminds me of a couple of interesting tales
about the Sturgeon which I heard. Obviously they are equally happy in salt or freshwater,
but to be honest, I think if you left one on your back lawn and just went out and hosed it
down every day or two it would be fine. Apparently, many years ago, the Fraser valley was
flooded really badly, and water stood across the fields in any place where it was flat and
low enough for some period of time. It took as much as two months for the waters to recede
and the land to be firm enough to work again with the plough. But yet when the farmers
went back to the fields and started their furrows, they were turning up Sturgeon which
were still alive... after two months wallowing in the 'paddy-fields'!
Similarly, we were also told that in years gone by,
the indigenous Indian tribes would occasionally catch a big Sturgeon in their nets. Now
obviously a 300 pound Sturgeon is going to take some eating, so they would rope the
unfortunate thing to a tree at the side of the river or lake, and then just cut slabs of
meat from it as they needed it, while the fish would remain alive in the water's edge for
days or even weeks. Pretty distasteful to us in this day and age, but in the harsh reality
of life back then, the best way of keeping the fish fresh in the times long before the
appliance of science.
We also spent some time just walking for miles
around the city. For the most part, the areas we passed through and took in were very
cosmopolitan and clean, although there were one or two districts that had you holding onto
the bag straps a little tighter than the others. But I think one of the most interesting
bits (well, apart from the restaurants and bars at night time), was having a wander
through Chinatown. The market stalls there smelled everything from terrific to terrible in
a space of five metres, as the smell of garlic, spices and lemon grass mingled and fused
with the rancid stench of dried squid and fish which looked like they had been stuck at
the back of your radiator for a couple of months.
Best of all though, being into the fishing thing, was having a
browse around one of the Chinese fish markets there. There was a kind of 'Pick-n-mix' crab
counter, where the customers could just select as many live Blue Crabs as needed, put them
in a bag, weigh them, pay the rate and take them home as a meal... or even a pet- or hey,
maybe even both. Also in the shop was a compendium of tanks and trays containing live
prawns, lobsters, huge Dungeness Crabs, Hagfish, Snakeheads, Catfish, Abalone, Cichlids
('I want...... that one!'), Flounder... and the array on the ice counters was even more
eclectic, and included the carcass of a large Halibut ready for dissection, and some huge
giant squid. Maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but we found it a really interesting place
to have a nose about.
All too soon it was our final day, and as if to
prove what a wonderful city Vancouver is, the sun shone down from a blue, cloudless sky as
we took a taxi for a short 20 minute drive up to the north of the city to visit the
Capilano River valley.
It really is amazing speaking as someone from the UK, to actually
be right in the heart of downtown Vancouver... and then 20 minutes later to be standing
looking down a truly beautiful river gorge. The Capilano River looked absolutely stunning,
with clear, fast flowing water, and thick, verdant pine forest clinging precariously from
the rocky faces of the gorge. We followed the river's course for a few kilometres
upstream, and watched some anglers catching Coho Salmon from one of the pools. Even while
we were watching, a Chinese guy came down, stood on a rock, had a couple of casts, then
hooked a really big fish. We went closer to watch as he played it out, and eventually he
lifted out a 20lb plus Spring Salmon, stuck it in two plastic carrier bags... and then
scurried off home with dinner for 38 draped over his shoulder without even making another
Eventually we wound up with
aching feet at the Cleveland Dam, where the Capilano River is stopped in its tracks to
form the imaginatively named Capilano Lake. And as we stood and looked off the dam wall,
in one direction the horizon was spiked with the snow dusted tips of far distant hills,
symmetrically reflected in the mirror-like surface of the lake; while below us a torrent
of water cascaded into the abyss of the valley, sending it's smoke to hang like morning
mist in the surrounding forest canopy. A prettier or more spectacular spot we couldn't
have found to finish the last day of our trip.
I'm absolutely certain this won't be the
final visit to this lovely part of the world...
You can contact
Chris for info on his guiding services here... firstname.lastname@example.org
Go on... you know it makes
into the eye, don't look around the eye..." Standoff with an
Arapaima in the aquarium.
at the pick-n-mix crab counter... Sign: "Please use the tongs
Sea Otters. All
together now.... ahhhh.
Capilano Lake from the Cleveland Dam.
And the other side of
Cleveland Dam as it empties into the Capilanoooooooooohhhhh....
goodbye Vancouver. Until next time.
Would you trust this to drive a boat?
Not in that state anyway.
Two incredible things happened after
the end of our fishing jaunt!
The first was that someone
stepped on Chris' boat with dog-shit on their shoe and got it all over the upholstery!! I
hear the guy got away with it and survived, although his feet are now facing in completely
different directions and Chris' roe balls have taken on a whole new texture.
The other was that a week after
the end of the trip, I received some pictures of perhaps the most incredible fish I've
seen- certainly from freshwater... and caught by a customer on Wade's boat... 10 feet 3
inches of British Columbian Hogfish...
Click below to see the "Pig Of The
Photo courtesy of Chris Fox & Wade Gienow