Ebb & Flow Week 16: September 16, 2016
September 16, 2016 | 2063 Views
From my seat in the chopper, the sight of the humpback whale waving goodbye from just off Pillar Rock was an amazing and curious thing. Of course she wasn’t really waving goodbye with those massive flippers. She was just slapping the surface the way humpies do, likely as a means of stunning baitfish prior to scooping them up, mouths agape. But it was fun to contemplate this highly intelligent and gentle-spirited leviathan one last time, and imagine that she really was wishing us all well from her home, as we began the airborne journey to ours.
In fact, we were on the very last chopper of the season for The West Coast Fishing Club. With all other lodges closed down except for The Clubhouse, we had been inordinately privileged this week to fish the waters of Langara Island unfettered by any other boats. It had been a wonderful feeling of solitude. On board the chopper were our friends, The Dock Rockers, four of the most talented musicians and singers that most of us will ever hear in such an intimate setting, where guitar amplifiers miraculously work in spite of being plugged in so very far off the grid.
At the same time though, it seemed puzzling to be leaving on this mid-September morning. Below us were calm waters, highly agreeable weather and the odd commercial fishing vessel still working the waters for the Salmon that yet remain. It would have been a great day to fish I thought quietly. But for those of us who took in this last trip of 2016, it had been the grandest of finales.
We had to be patient at times in our search for fish, but eventually we all found them. Almost everybody limited out on Salmon, and the trend towards larger and larger Coho continued, with most of the action taking place off on the northeast side of the island. No Tyees on this trip, although there were two taken on the previous trip (September 8-11) to The Clubhouse, the largest of which was a 31.5 for Darrell Gillan. And as the luck of the Irish would have it, the very last Tyee of the season – an even 30 – went to Padraic Kelly.
What we didn’t have to look hard for on this last trip was wildlife. We fished routinely in the immediate vicinity of Humpbacks throughout the trip, and for the first time I saw one come straight up and out of the water in close proximity. The breath eventually does return after witnessing something like that but it can take a while. We saw pods of Orcas on the move too, including an enormous bull whose dorsal fin could be seen slicing through the water from great distance. A din of seabirds was appropriately constant in the ears, along with the frequent snorts of sea lions that thankfully remained on the rocks and well behaved.
And yes friends, there was music. This last trip had been a season-ending party for some of The Club’s most frequent guests and some happy first-timers who were dazzled nightly as The Dock Rockers kicked out high-energy tunes across an amazingly wide range of music genres. People danced, sang along, wined and dined like Monaco royalty, and some – three couples to be exact – celebrated milestone wedding anniversaries.
Weather? Sunny and down-right hot during one noon-hour in which I snoozed peacefully on a deck chair in shorts. That was the same day that Mick Dalla-Vee, Marc LaFrance and Ian Cameron (three quarters of the Dock Rockers) stayed out on the water over lunch and did business with Chinook and Coho Salmon until each had filled their quota. Marc’s 19-pound Coho was the largest of the year for The West Coast Fishing Club, eclipsing the mark of 18 pounds that had been set just days earlier. Ian grabbed the biggest Chinook of the trip with a 28-pound “Tryee.” Guitar slinger Brent Knudsen joined me and my good friend Lloyd Larsen on a self-guided mission that afternoon on “The Highway” between McPherson Point and Langara Rocks. It was a great session of hooking into 15-pound-plus Northern Cohos to end the year, along with a Blue Shark for Brent that thankfully sawed through the leader before we had to figure out what the heck to do with it.
Alas, I am home now and pecking out this final salvo of the season while my friend and editor Chris Dale awaits, as he has every week all season long, choosing the pictures that we hope will help to describe these experiences that, in spite of our best efforts, remain utterly indescribable. It was just 48 hours ago that I bid a quiet farewell to the Humpback off Pillar Rock, and it is a most pleasant memory to tide me over until next she and I meet.
You and I will meet again too, dear friends. And when we do, we’ll again make indelible memories with some of the people that matter the most to us. The heady anticipation will build in the days and nights before our trip, and we’ll double check the alarm on the eve of departure. And when at last it’s our turn to board the helicopter, we will again be wide-eyed with excitement to soon gaze upon some of the world’s most rugged and impossibly beautiful seascapes.
Upon arrival we will be greeted once again by truly amazing people whose work and cheerfulness are nothing short of inspirational. We won’t know exactly how they pull off these 100-plus day marathon seasons, nor for that matter how the enigmatic Salmon find their way back to these waters year in and year out. But we will be eternally grateful they do.
And so until that time when we meet again in the marine wilderness, please do stay safe and very well friends.
And always keep a tight line!