Northern Vancouver island august 9th-17th
Day one: Unlike most years, the night before i actually managed to sleep decently so i wasn’t over tired. But i cant say the same for my cousin. After picking him and his dad up, we started our annual trip. He looked dead tired and for good reason, Fly fishing for salmon was only 5 hours away! The flight from Edmonton international airport to the Comox Valley airport is a short flight, only 1 hour and 10 minutes! Making the travelling so much easier to bear! We arrived in Campbell river around 5:30 and after unpacking and setting up rods we decide to grab a bite to eat. (IF you’re ever in Campbell river, go to banh thai! Awesome thai food!) By 6:30 we had finished dinner and by 7 we were on the river. Once we got a serious look at the river, we immediately noticed 2 things. The first issue was high water! Holy **** it was up a good 2-3 feet from previous years. Meaning salmon would shoot through the system and be tough to locate. Second being, where are the fish? No fish rolling on top. The very odd splash every now and then but not as many as previous years. Then i slid my polarized glasses on, to see little grey splotches along the bottom. Game on.
With the higher water, the typical extra super fast sink poly leader wasn’t enough to hit the bottom. You need a serious sink tip, ranging from 10-15’ of t-14. Enough salmon were hooked that night, but only one landed. Which was a stunning 24 inch chrome buck. Hitting the 7-8 pound mark!
Day 2: The second day began with me waking up at 4 am, because the river was so close, so i geared up and headed out, only to realize day light started coming through around 5:45. So i sat by the river listening to music and thinking about tactics to try and figure out where these fish were exactly. By the time day light came around, i started making my descent to the river. Only to realize again, the water was very high and crossing in strong current up to your stomach isn’t exactly the safest feeling. So after figuring out how to make it across the feeder creek. I finally made it to a run. Bombed a few spey casts but nothing to show for it. By 8 i had hooked nothing, Before packing it in, and heading back to sleep just decided i’d bomb a huge cast as far as i could to see if i could find a fish. Perfect presentation, huge double spey cast, nice big fat mend, and before the line even made it through the first half of the swing. I vicious grab was felt, and i set the hook into the hottest fish of the trip. Rocketed into the air jumping, twisted, and flying! I had wondered if i hooked a small steelhead, but after a short-ish battle, i brought in a 19” chrome coho, with my brite chartreuse fly hanging out its mouth! First coho i’ve ever landed and it felt awesome. So i called it a morning!
As a group we decided we’d try something new, and left the sink tips and big rods at the hotel that afternoon and switched over to coastal cutties. Boy did we have a blast, most fish on dries and some taken on ESL’s along with a nice baby steelhead and a pink that decided they wanted the egg sucking leech pretty bad.
More pink action in the evening with more fish hooked, and better numbers landed!
Day Three: The third day involved more pink and cutty action again, nothing that eventful that day happened, but had some serious salmon break me off.
Day four: was a bit different, we slammed the salmon early morning and then moved locations. Campbell river, north to sayward to change the type of fishing. We fished a beautiful river named the adam, that we saw one monstrous riser (brown trout) but as soon as the effort was made to hike the canon from the bridge, he had gone into hiding and couldn’t find him anywhere.
Day 5 Changed my perspective on pink salmon fishing. At first i brought along the 5 wt looking for sea run cutts and dolly varden, but that changed pretty quickly. A new alternative was found on an estuary and i cant say i’ve ever had that much fun fishing for pinks this way. You stalk the fish as the move up and down the estuary, I had my 5 weight in my hand with an intermediate tip for the streamer i was fishing for cutties, but i switched over to a pink handle bar and cast it upstream, let it sink for a bit, and then began a slow strip. I had been told the key to this fishing was an extremely slow un bearable strip similar to chironomids. But sure enough the first cast, my line came tight and BAM chrome bright pink catapulted into the air, snapped my 8lb tippet like nothing. Changed tippet to a heavier class, 10 lb, and the very next cast same thing played out, line came tight, fish went nuts and the hook popped out. On the third cast, I made a solid attempt to land this fish with the 5 wt i had in my hand. Next cast, and it felt as though the fish very gingerly picked the fly up, so i set hard into the fish. GAME ON. This fish had some steam, running me up and down the estuary, toying with the flimsy stick i had in my hands, but i finally managed to subdue him and beached him! What a rush!
High tide came and we had to opt for something different, but the rain came down hard and put us in our cabins for a bit. But when it subsided we decided we’d spend the evening looking for some monster cuts, and perhaps a steelhead. No luck, but did managed to get an awesome picture!
Day 6 was the day my cousin and uncle would leave, they decided they loved the cuttie fishing so we made our way back to the river in the Campbell river area, a lot of fish had been small that we were catching, but a seriously epic moment came along. I had hooked a few smaller fish and missed probably about a dozen fish on the dry within the first 30 minutes of fishing. But i came around a bend and saw this tiny little piece of water that slowed down and looked deep enough to hold a fish. I had my goddard caddis on and put presented it in a downstream fashion. First pass, nothing, second pass, nothing, and then the third pass a beautiful 15” cuttie!
After Working my way upstream, i hit a hole that had some smaller cutties hanging aroud the last time i fished it, so i figured i would work the little hole. The fish seemed very sparse at the hole unlike other times, but i let the fly drift over a nice looking riffle and watched a big shadow cruise up and gulp the fly, another 14” cuttie was on!
I was fishing behind everyone because i figured it was their last day, and so i’d let them have the best shots at fish! No matter i hooked enough fish to make myself happy, but i had found out the others above me had little next to no luck at all! A bit saddening, because their last day wasn’t as great as they had hoped!
After dropping them off, my dad and i figured we have a nap and then fish the Campbell again that night. Fish were seriously in! Landed plenty of pinks and they were slamming flies!
Day 7 involved us heading back north up to the estuary, hit the incoming tide and stalked more pinks, this time i brought the 7 wt to be able to handle the fresh chrome fish. Cast, drift, slow strip, slow strip, slow strip, line tightened and went into battle with a big male! Landed the biggest fish of the trip, being a 25” long very heavy male that put on some acrobatics and put me into my backing!
The picture didn’t turn out as great as i had hoped but he was a brute!
Continued to hook fish that afternoon and beached about 6 and lost 7.