Before you get reading, I just want to clarify that this series of blog posts have been transferred over from an old website “Great West Charters”. This was the original guiding company I started back in 2009 with my cousin. We were inspired by both of our Fathers and Grandfather to get out there and do what we loved for a living and I am forever grateful for this crazy path angling has taken me down.
I put blog titles in bold to separate the old blog articles. I hope you enjoy my plethora of epic grammar fails and reading content that comes from the heart.
Fishing Your Way! February 1st 2015
Everyone out there steelhead fishing seems to have their preference of style. Whether it be a centre pin, level wind, spin caster, or a single/double handed fly rod I think that we can all agree that they all work. Some like the thought of fishing as much as possible so they are more inclined to take a level wind or spin caster with them and get as many casts as possible to increase their odds. Others like to take a centre pin rod and get one cast, whereas a person fishing a level wind or spin caster will get three casts in the same amount of time. I fish a pin rod for the enjoyment of playing a fish drag free in the most simple of ways. Then there is fly fishing..... some say it is a slow way to catch winter steelhead and they wouldn't try it simply because they catch more fish on gear. But getting back to the start.... there are a lot of ways to catch fish and in the end we are all fishing for the same reason, to catch these beautiful fish and see them up close and personal before releasing them back into the depths for future generations.
I started fishing for steelhead on a 7' Berkley Cherry wood rod from Walmart with a Shimano 4500 spin casting reel. I caught a lot of fish on that rod. I then moved into a level wind Shimano Convergence, and drifting my float down river was never easier. Next I found a centre pin reel for sale and tried it out. Casting took a bit of getting used to after the ease of a level wind and spin caster, but, once I picked it up I didn't look back. The free flowing drifts and natural presentation was incomparable. Although I was getting less actual fishing in because I was reeling what seemed like and endless amount of fishing line in after every cast, I was catching more steelhead then previous years.
One Christmas years ago my Dad bought me a double handed fly rod. Previous to it I had only casted a 9w Diawa single handed rod with a #3 reel and #5 line... needless to say, I wasn't the most experienced in the fly fishing department. After endless hours and line wrapped every imaginable place on my body at one point or another, I started to understand the concept of fly fishing. This was an eye opening experience, feeling every time I was out I was relearning the sport of fishing. I don't know much about golf but the one similarity I can put from golf to fly fishing is: a golfers swing is like a fisherman's cast. Think of Tiger Woods on his hot streak with a machine-like swing that was "proper", but also winning the odd tournament at the same time was this guy they called John Daily. John Daily had the most janked swing going but he could get the ball out there and had an unreal short game. Same goes for fly fishing. You have the guys that can cast a mile and have perfect form. Then you have the guys that have this unorthodox method of getting their fly where they want it but they know exactly what their fly is doing under the water. The point is, casting the "right way" is good and it doesn't limit you, but casting YOUR way will probably be the most productive way.
The moral of the story is do not get caught up in the prestige of fly fishing or catching more fish on a gear rod, but no matter your fishing style always do what works for you. Don't be afraid to mix and match different techniques and be innovative in how you fish. The most important part of it all is to have the etiquette and courtesy towards fellow anglers no matter how they are fishing. Fishing to me is a place to get out and enjoy good company, experience nature and everything it throws at me, and to get lost in the curiosity of what I will hook next!
Until next time, keep your tip up.
Winter is Upon us January 6th 2015
Do you ever wonder why it is so tricky to catch a winter run steelhead? Well this year I finally figured it out. It was new years day, around 10 pm a few friends and I were sitting around the wood stove playing a card game- when my friend Andrew had the brilliant Idea of going for a swim in the river. Always looking to live life to its fullest I did not hesitate at the opportunity. We jumped in my truck and headed for the river. The temperature outside was a balmy -3 when we got to the rivers edge. We got down to our swim trunks and waded into the river. It was cold. So cold that Andrew's foot got stuck to a frosty rock on the way in. I was slowest to get in, and was just about to make the plunge all the way in when I heard the other two come up from the water gasping for air and screaming like little school girls. This did not help my confidence to jump in. I got into a push up position and not wanting to be the one guy that didn't do it lowered myself into the cold silence underwater. It was like nothing I have ever felt before. My whole body seized up in shock while the air in my lungs disappeared at a rate I have never felt before. As I lifted my head out of the water and the sounds of the river slowly filled my ears again the only thought I had in my mind was "how do steelhead endure these waters?" My respect for steelhead is very high but after that plunge I am at a loss for words on how to describe winter run steelhead.
The next day I got out my single handed Epic 480 fiberglass rod and hit a river I knew had a few steelhead, in hopes to pry one off the bottom with a juicy egg pattern or worm pattern "fly". I managed to tie into one of my favourite battles so far with a winter run steelhead on a 4 weight fly rod. I was making casts upstream and giving large mends creating a natural drift for my worm pattern fly when BAM, fish on! At first I thought I was just going to strip in a trout, when all of the sudden my little Hardy reel started screaming out line. Having hooked this fish right in the tail out of a deep pool I had two options: put this little rod to its limits and try and hold it up stream, or go for a swim down 400m of cold rapids filling my waders, as losing this fish was not an option. After a few good cartwheels and a couple more good solid runs I was able to get this beautiful fish to shore, putting my rod and line to its limits. As with every steelhead my heart was racing when I closed my hands around the wrist of its tail, I popped the hook out took a few photos and let him slip out of my hands back to that ice cold water to carry on his journey.
Needless to say the fishing report for Greater Vancouver Island.... Winter Steelhead are showing up now and you should see an increase in numbers over the next couple of weeks. Get out there on the river and make memories, spend time with friends, family and experience your own adventure!
Until Next week, tight lines and keep your tip up!
The First Tug December 16th 2014
It was a late fall day and I just got off the phone with my old fishing buddy that had moved to Northern BC to chase steelhead. I hit my fly tying table, tying countless flies preparing for the next day. My go to steelhead fly this fall has been a gold and pink “prom dress”, it is more of a spoon than a fly in my opinion. Once done tying a box I gave Jake a call, asking if after a year of chasing steelhead if he was ready to catch his first steelhead. He jumped on the opportunity to get on the river and we made plans to leave my place at 7am the following morning.
Eager to get on the river Jake and I left Courtenay while it was still dark, headed out to the West Coast to “Zippermouth” river. Having caught a good amount of steelhead on this particular river before I let Jake take the lead swinging through the first hole. Once he worked his way gracefully down to the honey hole, he rolled his first steelhead which undoubtedly spat the hook before he could feel a head shake. I have never seen a mans eyes go from excitement to frustration this fast before, steelhead fishing can do funny things to a man. Once we gave the rest of the run a good sweep I decided it was best for us to break down our rods and head to the top section of the river, and work our way back towards the truck. The whole hike Jake was a little frustrated that he didn't stick his first tug. Being a good friend, I told him it would be ok he would get another chance.
After a twenty minute hike we made it to the first pool. One of my favourite things about fishing is watching someone hook their first fish, be it a salmon, trout or my favourite a steelhead. That being said I gave up the first cast again for the next run of water. Jake let his fly out and slowly swept the inside corner, letting out a bit more line each swing. Within minutes he got a solid tug which seemed to let go right away. I thought he was going to give the water a frustration tap with his rod as he thought he lost another one. Just as the echo from his bellow to the fish Gods subsided, the slack in his line was straightened out by the fish that was swimming so fast upstream she fooled Jake into thinking he had lost another one. Just the opposite of the last time, his face went from disappointment to shear excitement and joy. The sound of his reel sang through the valley like the sweet sound of…. well a steelhead peeling line out. We went on that day to hook almost a dozen more steelhead at times taking turns side by side hooking fish. Its days like this that steelhead fisherman live for.
Always wet your hands before handling a steelhead and only remove their heads from the water just long enough for a photo. The future of this unforgettable fishery depends on how we treat these wild fish!
Jake releasing his first steelhead
I personally love catching fish, but over the past couple years the most rewarding experience for me is helping others get on the river with their friends and family. Catching that fish that everyone dreams about, seems like a bonus in comparison to the look on a persons face hooking their first fish, especially a steelhead. This feeling is what drove me to start up Great West Charters on Vancouver Island. Vancouver Island provides a river fishing experience like no other place in the world as you can fish year round on the river for steelhead, using all types of techniques.
Spoons and Flys December 8th 2014
I remember my first time being introduced to fishing gear. My uncle gave me a box of spoons.... being young and eager I tied one on the end of my spinning rod and hit the lake. My favourite spoon as a kid was a golden croc with an orange stripe on one edge.
Years later I was introduced to steelhead fishing. I started off with a spinning rod with a float, a touch of pencil lead and the infamous "seducer berry". Later on I was showed how to fish a "blade" on the end of my float producing a good amount of steelhead when egg patterns and pink worms were not working.
Then came the fly rod.... oh the frustrations. Just when I thought I had it all figured out. Let me tell you, catching a "unicorn" on the swing was a daunting task. If it wasn't for the river being so peaceful, I would have lost it like Clark Griswold in "Christmas Vacation" trying to figure out his christmas lights( go to 2:55 in this youtube clip for reference if you have never seen this scene. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rp8lwpvQEIM ). That being said, after putting in lots of hours and learning what my fly was doing under water I started to catch a few fish. One of the "flies" I was introduced to by a friend is called a prom dress, also referred to by a fellow angler as a "full chicken". As soon as I put this fly in the water I realized it was the perfect imitation of a spoon. I had flashbacks of fishing as a kid and immediately went to my fly tying table and tied up a gold prom dress.
The moral of this story is; sometimes you have to go back to the basics even if it means casting a "full chicken" to spark the interest of a steelhead pinned against the bottom of a river watching your traditional flies swing past.
To tie your own prom dress follow instructional video below. Choose your favourite colours and add a feather if you want.
Prom Dress instructional video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZuuM_QTBu8
Happy fly tying and fishing! Until Next time Keep your Tip up!