Northern Adventure

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Posted by Loren E on 2010-09-19 22:47:51

After a great summer of beach fishing I packed up my stuff in California and made the drive back up to Washington to start my second year of college. I had to move into a new house on the 10th, but classes don’t start until the 22nd, giving me a window of opportunity to extend the summer beach fishing, just in a very different venue. My girlfriend and I packed up the car and headed to coastal British Columbia for some car-camping and adventuring to cash in on the beauty of the pacific northwest before having to put all focus on school and jobs.

We road-tripped around for 6 days, exploring all the small black lines in our back-roads map book. It wasn’t just a fishing trip as my girlfriend doesn’t fish, so we hiked and explored together, but I got a fair amount of time in on the water. Weather-wise we got a little of everything, from warm sunshine to pelting rain. The scenery was great, especially once we got a ways away from main highways. On our first night we saw a couple of bear cubs, and later in the trip I saw an adult black bear across a river from me feasting on salmon. Also saw bald eagles, waterfowl, and all kinds of life.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of fishing, with my only experience of fishing for salmon in the salt being last August and September in Washington before my freshman year. We got to our first beach campsite late the first night and I woke up at dawn the next day to check the nearby river mouth. There was no shortage of jumping salmon, but none wanted anything to do with the clousers I was throwing so we moved on to find more camping and different fish.

After a long drive the second day and a bit of a creepy twilight-zone experience in which we drove through a small town after midnight and kept coming back to the same place somehow without any luck in finding our way back to the main highway, we finally found a campsite by the beach. Dawn session on day two started windy and overcast. I checked the nearby river mouth and then made my way out to the main beach and started blind casting. After a while without any signs of life I thought I saw something in front of me out of the corner of my eye. The over-anxious fisherman inside of me convinced me to cast incase it was a fish, and so I threw a cast nearby. As I started to retrieve my little pink over white clouser the water bulged and I came tight to something heavy. The fish thrashed at the surface and took off, leaping clear out of the water. Not long later I had my first fish in hand, a wild coho. That was the only sign of life for the windy morning.

The same spot fished very differently the next morning. The tide was considerably lower, so that the water was below the steep slope of the beach and created a shallow flat that extended far offshore so that you could wade out a hundred feet. The wind was gone and the water was dead calm with a thick fog. I waded way out and started casting. Then at my feet four small flounder came by. With no signs of salmon I couldn’t resist dropping my fly in to watch them fight for it. Of course when one got hooked wakes started to appear, cruising past me and tight to the beach. I missed my shot but realized I should be out of the water as the fish came in so tight to the sand. For the next three hours I patrolled the beach, as school after school of salmon lazily cruised right next to beach, usually 15-45 feet out. The school would make a decent sized wake, with the occasional fish rolling. It felt like bonefishing meets roosterfishing in Canada, as I would see the wakes of a school of fish cruising along, position to make a shot, and then after not getting eaten sprint down the beach to get ahead of them for another chance. A well-placed cast was usually jumped on. It was thrilling as the schools were spooky in glassy calm water only two feet, but when I got the fly in there I could often see a wake split off from the school and track the fly before I would come tight. These fish were amazing fighters, screaming into the backing with rooster-tailing line in tow, and then putting on acrobatic displays as they slashed and jumped and charged back at me. In a couple of hours I managed to get five eats, hook up on three, and land two of those.

I would have liked to have stayed in hopes of this same scenario playing out again the next morning, but decided it was time to start heading back in the direction of home. We stumbled across a beautiful remote river mouth way out a dirt road, and after setting up camp I hiked out to the beach and cast on the flats without any action. A couple of other fly fishers arrived that same evening, and over the next two nights we made some great new friends sitting around the campfire at night after fishing. Anyways, the next day after arriving a bunch of fresh fish moved in. They staged in the tide water, where there was basically an estuary between the river and beach. They were constantly jumping and rolling, and packed in thick. I tried stripping my clouser but this method didn’t work. A couple of generous locals keyed me into the tactics necessary for the tide water. They gave me a few small green flies (“California Neils” I think that have adapted to become the “coho bugger” in the northwest). Dead-drifting these flies with a tight line was the key, and I quickly hooked up. These tide water fish were the craziest fish of the trip, running down almost to the beach and then back up as if they were headed upriver. Still in salty water they were chrome bright. The action was fantastic until the tide started to go out and they went lock-jaw. It was neat having these Canadians give me a few flies and key me in, especially as none of my flies were what these fish wanted.

The next day again I wanted to stay for the flooding tide to see if these fish would go back on the bite or if more freshies would move in but we had a long drive ahead so we packed up in the morning and started the trip home. It ended up being a bit of a nightmare with a flat tire only a few miles into the trip; I was glad that Dave Sellers showed me how to change a tire earlier this summer on our backpacking trip! We ended up having to drive a few hundred miles on highways at only 45 mph on the dinky spare before making it back to Washington today, where I had to spend $700, WAY more than I spent on this whole trip, to have all 4 of my tires replaced (gotta love all-wheel-drive). It was a bummer of an ending to the trip, but on the brighter side at least it was at the end, and not earlier when it could have ruined the entire adventure. Anyways, great scenery and chrome fish are all I can ask for in a trip, and making some new friends while exploring completely new areas was a bonus. I think I have a good feeling of where I might be headed come next September!

Cheers -Loren Elliott

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