[Note: Mike wrote these memories for the kids in his family]
My family (Father John, Mother Win and I Michael) moved to BC in 1952, after a brief stay in Ontario.
I had fished with my father since the age of 2 in England on the beaches and piers and on a rowboat a couple of times. We fished in the lakes in Ontario (Simcoe and Couchiching) but were not impressed with the fish there.
We lived for an eight-month period on Senanus Drive in Thompson Cove on the water and had brought our 16 foot Peterborough cedar boat from Ontario. I used the boat to spin cast for rock cod and we eventually got Peetz wire line rods and reels and commenced to fish for salmon. We used mostly one pound weights. We also had bought Penn reels and coho rods in the first few weeks when we came to the Island as we went north from Nanaimo ferry to Qualicum and saw salmon in the river and the fishing shop there recognized us as easy marks. We used bucktails with those rods in the spring in the inlet and caught lots of bluebacks.
Luckily Jimmy Gilbert was on the school bus I took to North Saanich High and so told us what to do and we eventually moved our boat to his dad's dock in Brentwood. Since it was cedar old man Gilbert told us to haul it out on the dock after each trip and flush the motor.
An early memory was a June fishing Derby run by the VSIAA that we decided to enter. We still had the boat at Senanus Drive. At 6am we headed off towards Brentwood to see a line of boats across the mouth of Brentwood Bay starting towards us. One headed off at us and Stan Williams hailed us and told us we had to go back to the start line before fishing. (Stan was owner I believe of Wilson and Lenfesty Tackle Shop beside Straiths on Government Street.)
Gradually over that summer we learned where the fish were and that one pound weight did not get down far enough (except at dawn and dusk). We also learned to use Wonder Spoons, Tom Thumbs and a variety of plugs including Lucky Louies.
Old man Gilbert had an old modified outdoor toilet hanging on the edge of the bank above the marina and kept a cedar log smoldering under it and smoked salmon.
Gradually my dad learned all the spots and depths and salmon were always available. He and my mother Win Rose, fished almost all of the weekends together for about 25 years until ill health finally took her away. For many years, her biggest salmon was bigger than his but finally he got one bigger (she said he stuffed it with a weight;-))
I fished frequently with my father and mother until 1955. Typically, it was an all-day affair. My father had many- different boats in Saanich Inlet but for most of the 1953 to 1960 time he had boats at a Marina near Sidney. There we fished out to East Point and around James Island and nearby islands to Sidney.
In 1956 I moved to Vancouver to complete my degree at UBC. That started a 17-year hiatus from Saanich Inlet as I was at weather offices across Canada for that period of time.
Illustration 1: Salar with John and Stephen
During that period my father fished the inlet with my mother and developed lifetime friendships with many of the “old-timers”. In the late 60's or early 70's he bought the “Salar”, a 27 foot double ended twin skinned carvel (smooth skin) boat built in the 1956 time frame for the Canadian Navy. It had a massive Buda diesel engine and a large prop. The previous owner had built a full length cabin on it and my father could fish in all weather.
Illustration 2: Jim Gilbert, Vic Humphries, John cleaning fish for fish bank.
Sometime in the 60's John started fishing with herring strip and planers. He rarely used flashers. I had known the Rhys Davis family from high school and father used to get his herring from Rhys and also his “strip-teasers” the herring holders. John always fished the “bottom”. After many years and many lost weights, he had an excellent knowledge of the depths throughout the Inlet. For a couple of years, he had an earlier boat at Hall's Boathouse.
One of his favorite spots was Bamberton and many was the time I fished with him and we saw an eagle on a tree nearby and John would drop the lines to the bottom and pick up a rock cod that he would bring in and toss for the eagle that always made a spectacular approach and picked the fish out of the water and usually flew over the boat, maybe saying thanks. The fishing run from south of the old cement factory and to the north had an interesting profile and John knew it by heart. He frequently said “any minute now” as we approached the small ledges near each end of the run.
My family were never great fresh salmon eaters, however we loved the smoked canned salmon that Creed's used to do up for us. John and Win and Vic Humphries always gave fish to the Food bank and
the Seniors sites around the City including the Kiwanis Village.
Illustration 3: Food Bank, Vic, Win and John
Cod is more to my liking and we would frequently jig in MacKenzie Bay for a good sized ling. Or pick up a “red snapper” at a few select spots.
Win developed cancer in 1980 and by 1982 was immobilized and in the Gorge Road Hospital. John spent much of his time volunteering at the hospital caring for her and moved to an apartment about 100 yards from what was later called the Rose Wing. She passed away in 1990 and he still volunteered there until 2002 when he was himself admitted in failing health.
During the period of Win's illness, John would get up and fish from dawn till about lunchtime and then come home and care for her. He brought fish for the nurses and even lobbied the Minister of Health personally and got some small changes made at the hospital, in the form of a palliative room after Win died. He knew most of the building contractors and suppliers in Victoria and arranged for a large concrete patio to be built from donations and built several stone flower planters himself. The patio named Rose Patio took well over 50 yards of concrete.
During those troubled years, John fished by himself almost every day. The Salar was a hull speed craft and that speed was about 8 knots. He had replaced the Buda with a Volvo Penta 2-cylinder diesel. I had returned to Victoria in 1975 and had a 16-foot runabout and two young sons and we fished near him most weekends and if it was wet I would usually go with him.
In those days, he frequently was out from dawn to dusk as a break from the sadness at the hospital. We had a tradesman doing some work at our house sometime in the 80's and he was telling us of the morning before he came to work. He lived at the end of Brentwood Bay at the Royal Townhouses, I believe the name was. He said he was wakened about 5am to hear the thump of the big diesel and watched as John broke the ice by hand and moved the Salar out to the open water, a distance of several hundred yards. John had reinforced the bow with a brass fitting and had ironwood sheathing added to the bows wooden areas. The tradesman mentioned that he usually heard the Salar starting up at 4am in the summer as did all the people in the area.
John fished by himself weekdays as I worked and I frequently went with him on weekends as our boys grew older. They fished with him a lot and with him as a guide both the boys and our daughter won the junior derbies.
By the late 90's he started to have difficulty managing after a nasty fall on the concrete steps up to his apartment near the Gorge. In 1997 we fished over at Mill Bay, in what was his last trip, and we got a nice 15-pound white spring. As I helped him off the boat he said that it was his last trip and I was to sell the boat.