Ebb & Flow Week 2: June 9, 2016
June 9, 2016 | 2021 Views
North Island Lodge manager Todd McIntyre’s words from the day before were still ringing in my head as my step-son and I pulled away from the dock for our final afternoon of fishing last week. “Ya just gotta believe,” was the advice he offered in response to fishing that had been hot and cold during the first trip of the year. But after a couple of hours of nothingness, and only a few fish reported on the radio, I was getting a bit discouraged, not to mention disappointed for Chris who was there for the first time and had patiently endured my endless tales of smash-mouth fishing from previous trips. But after we moved a bit further off McPherson Point, things changed.
Having seen only bits of bait here and there for a couple of days, I verbally erupted upon seeing a cloud on the sonar that plunged from the surface down to 150 feet. That’s when two rods went off. A third may have too, but unbeknown to us, it was already busy putting involuntary miles on a thoroughly ravaged rock fish. We subsequently circled back and found the bait ball again and repeated the experience, with the back rod picking up fish both times. We hooked up again shortly thereafter. “Ya just gotta believe.” Indeed.
True, we would have liked to catch more fish over the course of our trip, but as I reminded Chris ad nauseum through the slow periods, experienced anglers understand and accept the inescapable truth that Salmon are migratory fish. They can arrive and disappear with equal speed. Mother Nature is a bit odd that way; she can change her mind in no time flat. I heard the line: “That’s why it’s called fishing, and not catching” more than once around the lodge last week. But never mind. With four Chinook Salmon in the box for our final afternoon’s work and a Humpback whale getting vertical as we pulled up lines, there was no question it had been a pretty amazing trip, especially for Chris. And that was the important thing.
You see friends – and I’m sure many of you will agree – it doesn’t necessarily take a huge number of Pacific Salmon to make for an unforgettable experience, especially when fishing a mystical place like Haida Gwaii with family and friends who matter to us. A few fish a day, maybe the odd double-header and we’re happy as clams. And a nice turkey-sized Halibut caught incidentally on a mooching rod is a nice bonus for guys like Chris and me. While I’m at it, the ubiquitous Lingcod, by no means handsome, nor particularly electrifying to catch, is one of the finest fish known to the human palate, as is routinely proven by chefs at all three of The Club’s lodges. And although most people tend to regard Yellow-eye as the lunch-bag let-down of Halibut fishing, they do make superb tacos.
The point is that after listening to conversations around the lodges for several years, I have concluded that the combination of living graciously amidst the marine wilderness, encountering some of the planet’s most wondrous mammals (I’m talking whales here, not sea lions) and catching a few Salmon and other assorted species is generally enough to spark folks into making immediate plans to return. The look on Chris’s face as we cruised back for our final epic dinner told me he was already thinking that way.
The next day we were delayed in departing owing to 60-knot winds that turned Parry Pass into violent whitecaps with whirlwinds of vapour sailing across the surface at great speed. As the wind picked up and the boats at both North Island Lodge and The Clubhouse began to pound the dock, and vice versa, the guides prudently untied them and moved out to the channel off Lucy Island where they idled them into the wind and waves. For those of you that have fished Langara Island for many years you know it is the perfect place to fish and escape the wind. Such fierce winds are extremely rare occurrences, but once or twice a year a strong south-westerly like this one blows up and it is the only wind that makes it difficult to fish waters that are otherwise sheltered by Lucy Island. On that particular morning the guides headed out expecting a 30-knot wind, but were caught off-guard when it blew to 60.
Eventually things calmed down enough for us to comfortably boat over to The Clubhouse where our chopper had safely touched down on a land-based heli-pad. Stepping onto The Clubhouse dock, I noticed head guide Mike Tonnesen, legendarily known in these parts as “Screamer,” toting a box containing two chrome-colored specimens that appeared well over 20 pounds each. He had a knowing chuckle as he saw my jaw slacken. Huh?! That seafaring rogue had pounded his way over to Boulder Bay in a gale-force wind, found sheltered water and boated two magnificent fish! Now there is a guy who believes, I thought.
In the time since we left last Friday, my editor Chris Dale and I have received lots of information from up north. Screamer, Todd, and The Outpost manager Jordan Knight have all filed excellent detailed reports in the last 48 hours (all three reports and photos are live on The Hub), but in summary all indications are that the fishing is improving, including the appearance of a steadily increasing number of Tyees. Long-time Club friend Greg Garske currently holds the top fish of the year with a self-guided 39 off McPherson, not to mention a 59-pound Halibut he picked up on the troll along with two other similar slabs that he released. My friend and fellow UBC alumnus Rob Brett once again brought the team from Mott Electric for their annual foray of fun. Presumably Rob is a big believer after grabbing a 34 to claim the first and biggest Tyee of the season so far for North Island Lodge.
Last week also saw the first guests of the year touch down in Port Louis and the rustic elegance of The Outpost, where executive chef Stephanie Noel is holding court for enraptured diners, who among other delectable offerings tucked into the salt-encrusted, seaweed-wrapped Salmon that is a signature dish. Those first guests battled strong winds on day one to great success, with lots of fish hitting the dock by end of day and throughout those that followed. And if you don’t already know, Jordan claimed the first green jacket of the year at the KRUD table (the game needs a handicap system to give guests a fighting chance against the more experienced staff, I’m thinking).
The folks up at Langara Island meanwhile continued to incidentally catch Halibut from 18 to 60 pounds while trolling for Salmon, and not just out west where the larger fish tend to congregate but also off McPherson, Cohoe and Fish Bowl. At times, such as yesterday, large pods of cruising Orcas made it temporarily slower, but lots of fish were caught and released in the low teens, with Coho starting to show up in greater numbers. Todd says that guides DJ Shinduke and Jason Wilson each reported double-digit fishing yesterday on the west side with about 30 fish caught between the two boats and the odd Tyee in the mix, including Rob’s aforementioned 34 and a 30.5 for John Godlasky.
Other recent notable catches reported from our reliable friend Sara Meli in The Clubhouse gift shop are as follows: Rick Connors – 31; Marijke Mather – 31; Paulo Pessoa – 30 and Mark Basciano – 30. Sean Ivens gets honourable mention with a 50-pound Halibut.
Lastly, it appears that yet another wonderful culinary tradition has begun at The Clubhouse, where this week the inaugural Back Deck Bourbon Barbeque played to a sell-out crowd of anglers with an admiration for barbeque cuisine and the finest from the Jack Daniel’s family of whiskies. World-renowned pit-master Tuffy Stone made his way north from his home in Virginia to present smoked and grilled fare of every description. The back deck was awash in sun most of the trip and proved to be an ideal setting for guests to sample bourbon cocktails expertly concocted by Jack Daniel’s brand ambassador and mixology guru Gerry Jobe. By all accounts, big fun was had by all.
That’s it for now friends. Until next week, stay safe and well, keep a tight line, and remember – Ya just gotta believe!