You stand chest-deep in the surf, your right arm upright and weaving like a snake. The wet fishing line glistens as it arcs back and forth in the evening light. With a final thrust you play the out line, landing the fly where a slight ripple on the surface has caught your eye. Seconds later the fly goes under, and the line sings off the reel.
Having heard about the great fly fishing on Vancouver Island, you have planned a week split between salt and fresh water excursion. Today you are just off the shoreline of Campbell River’s Rotary Park, a favorite fly fishing spot for both locals and visitors. An Alaska-bound cruise ships glides north as you arch your back and jerk up the rod to set the hook.
For 15 minutes, you play the cutthroat trout – you reel, it runs; you reel, it runs again. A shout of encouragement from a fellow fisher brings a smile to your face Soon after, the exhausted fish is within reach. Removing the hook, you gently cradle the fish in your hands, helping it regain strength. With a sudden flick of its tail, the fish swims off into the depths.
For the next three days, you will fish the shore between Campbell River and Nanaimo, not always catching a fish but always releasing those that you do.
It’s mid-week as you pull into Tofino, a quaint village on the west central side of Vancouver Island. Nearby Clayoquot Sound is the perfect location for fly fishing and you have booked a charter for the next two days.
Early in the morning, you board the 17-foot, customized fly fishing boat. You and another guest comment on the beauty of the areas as your guide points the boat toward some of the hot spots. It is mid-July, and the Sound is teeming with chinook salmon, sea-run cutthroat trout and other game fish. In your tackle box are flies imitating herring, needlefish, and anchovies, the most common bait fish found in Clayoquot Sound. On the advice of your guide, you have also packed along a few shrimp imitations and two other reels with line types to cover most fishing situations.
The boat bobs in the gentle swell between the north tip of Vargas Island and the southern end of Flores Island. Some big chinook are in the area, and , yesterday, your guide returned to the lodge with four salmon and two very happy fishers. Following instructions from your guide you set up your rod with a reel holding 100 yards of heavy line, five weight sink line and a needlefish fly. Your fellow guest follows suit. As you begin casting, the guide expertly holds the boat steady while sharing tales about the area.
A holler from your fellow fly fisher signals a strike. Judging from the way the line is screaming off the reel, the guide shouts that he’s hooked into a chinook – probably in the 18- to 20-pound range.
The guide maneuvers the boat to keep the line from tangling in the propeller as the fish dives deep and circles around the stern. He struggles with the powerful fish, getting it close to the boat only to have it run deep again.
Finally, 45 minutes after it strikes, the chinook lies side up next to the boat. Hauled aboard, the fish is unhooked and placed in a cooler to keep fresh. Offering congratulations, you begin casting again, knowing your turn at landing such a beauty could be moments away.
You drive off the ferry at Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island and head down Beaver Point Road. Just ahead is Weston Lake. It’s the last day of your week of fly fishing – and you plan to spend it going after some of the rainbow and steelhead trout the lake is famous for.
Parking along the shore, you strap on your fly fishing vest, your favorite artificial fly hooked on within easy reach. Your first two casts produced nothing but the third is hit by what turns out to be a two-pound rainbow. You release that fish and the next four you land. You while away the afternoon before heading to an island resort where you have booked a room for the night.