Sunday, 9 August 2015

Fly Fishing for Pinks – North Island

We should hope that this climate change summer we have been having is not repeated. Our local rivers are devoid of water, so much so that even the smallest of salmon, pinks, are having difficulty moving into and up, and they require only a few inches to move and spawn.

Climate change will result in lower, warmer, oxygen-depleted water in summer, lack of spawning habitat until fall rain comes and then flood rains in late fall that wipe out or bury spawned eggs. The only rivers open for fishing at this time are controlled flow with dams above for water release, like the Campbell, Puntledge and Big Qualicum.

In addition, the arrival of pinks has been much slower than the norm. They arrived only last week in the Salmon, and into the Campbell, a month late for both. Volunteer hatcheries, like the well-subscribed Nile Creek fishery haven’t seen much to date.

I hesitate to suggest some headwater dams are needed to control flow because the current BC government hears: run of river power companies. The Toba Inlet desecration of 15 streams is a stark reminder that we need public – not private – dams for salmon, not power. See the image link at the bottom of this article.

And if salmon cannot get into rivers, they don’t spawn, and it’s a good question how long they will survive in saltwater before hormonal maturation kills them. In Port Alberni, there is another problem. On the good news side: 1.8 million sockeye in the Inlet. On the bad news side: the Stamp/Somass/Sproat water temperature is higher than these most sensitive of salmon can take. Those that go into the system, begin dying at 20 Degrees C.

The confluence pool of the Stamp/Sproat can be littered with dead sockeye in warm years. They look like bars of silver on the bottom, but represent a bad outcome for salmon. In addition, Qualark Creek, on the Fraser, has in the last week been 18.7 Degrees C, with the Fraser flow down 36% to 2530 cubic metres per second. Sockeye begin dying at 20 degrees C.

There is no estimate of Fraser pink run size at present, but judging by the outstanding fishing we have been having in the Victoria area, it should meet or exceed 15 million fish. DFO estimates are a week away. Locally, we seldom take these fish fly fishing, but shore anglers take some with gear in Ross Bay as well as the Victoria Golf Club (in Oak Bay) where Enterprise Channel gives way to the Flats. As well, many chinook have been taken off the corner point this year.

On my annual camping/pink fly fishing trip, I fished the estuaries of rivers north of Campbell River. The fly fishing was good, surprisingly so because two years previously (pink are two-year life-cycle fish) the fishing was abysmal. Also, the odd-year run is the poorer of the odd/even alternative, unlike the Fraser which peaks in odd years, as in 2015.

I had the great negative fortune to have my camp blow over in the daily 20 to 30 knot winds that make Johnstone Strait almost frigidly cold to stand out in for more than a few hours at a time. My Snowbee ZR2 ended up broken under my table, stove and other heavy things. Then my antediluvian All American Diamondback splintered on the shaft, rather than the more likely ferrule.

After some electrician’s tape medication (I did not have any Red-Green duct tape with me), I made a long, heavy, slow switch rod of the remaining, unbroken pieces. It cast the line a mile but I was sure happy I also had a light, responsive, Mystic, 11.5 foot, 7-8 weight switch rod with me. What a superb little rod, particularly for a wrong shoulder single Spey cast. I am left handed and the Johnstone St. wind always blows into my left side. To avoid being hooked in the face, I have cast so much off my wrong (right) shoulder, that I am better at it than off my correct (left) shoulder sans the wind.

And in cross winds, to avoid your cast blowing up and back over your shoulder, you will find that a diagonal forward stroke to the windward side will send your line out and onto the water somewhat true. Without a wind, a diagonal trajectory for your tip – bad technique – just results in an open cast with a balloon to the side and little distance.

I am told there is a video of me landing a pink on the Mystic site, but I can’t find it. See Nile Creek Fly Shop for the rods (Note 2 below). To keep from breaking the tip of your rod while releasing a fish, take a tip: when the pink has been played out, get its head on the surface and surf the fish into you by extending your rod to the side opposite the fish. When the leader comes within the grasp of your stripping hand, in the same moment, release the line from your rod hand, and the rod will straighten without breaking the tip.

Finally, please release all fish in the water. Don’t drag them up onto the gravel, remove the hook, and kick them back into the water. It breaks their slime, they may pick up a disease, their bodies are not meant to lie on shore rather than be supported by water and it may kill them.

And one final thing: one day, as we stood on the bar before deep water, a mid-size female killer whale came up in front of the guy next to me about five feet from him. He promptly turned his pants brown. And he and I released a lot of expletives.  A minute later, the same, I think, killer whale came up five feet from him, 15 from me, and we both had heart attacks.

Which leaves some interesting questions: was it the same killer whale? It sure looked like the same female of the same size. And why would it go underwater, turn a circle and come up again? Does a killer whale have a sense of humour? This implies great intelligence. Do killer whales like to scare the pants off humans? I don’t know, but they have to be really smart to appreciate their own actions.


2.      Nile Creek Fly Shop:

No comments:

Post a Comment