Travellers tales - "Snow Bull"
Last year we ran two stories from world travelling fisherman Guy Elson - 'Fly Fishing Adventures in Guatemala' and 'Bluewater in Belize' (see the links at the end of the article to read these again). Now Guy makes a welcome return with a new travellers tale from British Columbia where he has been chasing Bull Trout in the snow and ice around Squamish, B.C.
by wandering fisherman - Guy Elson
Vancouver offers all the trappings you would expect from any great modern city, but with one unique advantage. Located on the pacific coast of Canada, Vancouver really is the gateway to one of the remaining untouched wildernesses, British Columbia. The vast ranges of heavily wooded 'Flat Iron' mountains that rise out of the oceanic Fjords are only equalled by the diversity of the Flora and Fauna that resides there within. The deep saltwater inlets are home to Giant Halibut, Orka and Seals. Late summer , Autumn, and early winter marks the spawning run of the Salmon with vast numbers of Chinook, Sockeye, Coho, Pink and Chum Salmon returning from the ocean to the rivers they where conceived in. Spring brings Steelhead to freshwater, whilst Rainbow trout, Kokanee, Cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden, Brook trout and Bull trout can be found in the rivers year round. But if that's not enough the really heavy weight bruisers of the river, Sturgeon, are plentiful in any of the larger rivers of BC, like the Frazer.
Roughly halfway between Vancouver and Famous 'Whistler' ski fields lies the sleepy town of Squamish. During the winter months the Squamish River is shallow and gin clear, but when the snows melt huge log jams in the centre of the river tell a very different tale. As we waded through the snow towards the river bank, our guide, Dan, told me that several of the Brown Bears in the area had not hibernated this winter due to the mild conditions. The Salmon that spawn, and eventually perish in the river are central to the ecosystem of Squamish, providing food for many local inhabitants including some forty thousand Bald Eagles that descend annually upon Squamish to Feast. Dan explained how each animal would eat different parts of the Salmon, the fatty skin and heads are favoured by bears, Eagles and Seagulls like the flesh, leaving the entrails for the Coyotes.
The set-up was a 4wt floating line with a sink tip, 4lb tippet with an inch long fry pattern to imitate the salmon fry which where hatching at the time. The tactic was to cast upstream of a potential fish holding area, mend the line, allowing the fly time to reach the correct depth at the mark, then slowly swing the fly though desired section of river. Steelhead where starting to enter the river but we where after Bull trout and Cutthroat. As we meandered down stream the vast scale and beauty the Squamish Valley revealed itself with snow capped peaks descending into untouched pinewoods. The snowbound shingle beaches either side showed signs of a Cougar (Mountain Lion) and Elk crossing the river, real wilderness. We approached a submerged log which funnelled the silent oily current into a deeper channel, I felt quietly confident. Casting north of the obstruction the line snaked down with the current, traversed the channel and promptly snagged on the rivers bed. Giving the line a good tug to free it, the snag tugged back in response, before charging downstream with purpose. With feet to spare, I managed to turn the fish from a tree root that dissected the icy current, back into the main channel. For several minutes the fish refused to budge, but eventually it was coaxed up into the shallows to reveal a healthy 4lb Bull Trout. Elegant white lines edged its pectoral fins and its snakelike appearance suggested this was a sea run trout. Dan told me that Bull Trout had been considered a pest species until 20 years ago when there numbers had fallen so dramatically that they where added to a protected species list. They predate heavily on Salmon fingerlings and other Trout, and it is apparently not uncommon to catch them with a Trout's tail hanging out of there mouth. We returned the Bull Trout to the snowy river and continued fishing into the afternoon under the constant surveillance of the Bald Eagles.
Articles by the same author
- Essential Skills - Dry Fly and Mayfly with Oliver Edwards
- New Canadian Beaver report spells doom for Scottish salmon
- Fly Fishing for Atlantic Bass - new book reviewed
- The Streamside Guide - Road Trips
- Wet Fly Fishing on Rivers - Essential Skills with Oliver Edwards
- Venezuelan smorgasbord at Los Roques
- Pope of the Madison
- The principles of layering - the base layer
- Game Fishing by Bob Church
- The Streamside Guide - Planning the Trip