Late October Fishing Diary, 1993


Elmer G. Wiens

I like fishing. So I jumped at Werner Reimer's offer to angle for Thompson River, "freight train" steelhead. A steelhead is a salmon-like rainbow trout that migrates to the Pacific Ocean for its adult years, returning to spawn in the river or stream where it hatched. Spences Bridge, a centre for steelhead fishing action, is a two and one-half hour drive from Chilliwack, British Columbia, along the Fraser and Thompson River canyons. Arriving mid-morning, Friday, October 22, 1993, we watch a fly fisher land a steelhead in a run of the Thompson River just south of town. During our second breakfast at Burrel and Emma's Cafe, two fishers from Lynden, Washington tell us of the two steelhead fish they hooked just after dawn near the mouth of the Nicola River.

That afternoon, we try a few tracts of the Thompson where Werner caught steelhead on previous fishing trips. First, we fish the Gold Pan run. No luck. Across the Thompson River, a dozen California big horn sheep clatter across a stony cliff face and dash up to the grassy mountain bench, alarmed by the thunder from an approaching southbound freight train. As we fish our way down river, Werner hooks and lands a medium sized, resident rainbow trout and a buck pink salmon. Behind Shaw Springs, three men join us after clambering down the high, steep riverbank. By dusk, we five fishers have beached and released half a dozen wild rainbows. Werner suggests that the river is too low for us to catch our prime quarry.

Thompson River - Werner Reimer

After dinner, a Spences Bridge local playing snooker in the Log Cabin Pub tells us the river is at a historical low level. He caught twelve trout that morning, on the fly at Marcel's Pool, by wading into the Thompson and fishing an area he could never access previously. The largest trout was four and one-half pounds. Not bad!

We stay at the Quarter Circle J Motel for the night.

By daybreak, we are at the very fishy looking run at the mouth of the Nicola River. Werner catches three scrappy, fat suckers using a snippet of red wool and imitation eggs. I switch to a red 'spin and glow.' A water ouzel alights on the rock pile near me, dips into the back eddy, and darts up the Thompson, around the corner and up the Nicola. An omen?

Yes! The fisher down-river takes an eight pound steelhead. The sun breaks through the clouds over the south eastern hills, clad with sage brush, pine and fir trees. A fish strikes my lure in the riffle at the edge of the rocks. I see a silver flash before my line goes slack. Another freight train rumbles along the Canadian Pacific railroad tracks behind us.

John Hegrinshe, fishing at the mouth of the Nicola, has a steelhead on his line, his rod doubled over. The steelhead battles furiously. Each time he gets the fish into shallow water, it charges off again, impossible to hold. When finally hauled onto shore, the truculent beast flops around, down and dirty in the sand. The bright, silver and brown speckled doe lies still just long enough to measure: thirty-two inches. Fat, sassy, and thick tailed, she could have gone fourteen pounds, and she hit John's 'gooey bob' like a freight train. Thompson River steelhead must be tough to fight through Hell's Gate and myriads of rapids on the Fraser and Thompson Rivers.

Thompson River Steelhead

Before a fierce rain storm drives us away, the young man fishing the Thompson from the north side of the Nicola River catches a "six to eight" pound steelhead.

We drive back to the Fraser Valley, the day's quest cut short by the unusual downpour in this desert like climate.

Like I said, I like fishing. So on Friday, October 29, 1993, I take the one hour drive from Vancouver to the Vedder-Chilliwack River. I grew up here, and I know the river intimately.

First, I try the runs and pools at the bottom of Peach Road on the north side of the Vedder River, and at the end of Giesbrecht Road on the south side. During the 1930's and 1940's, my Derksen grandparents owned the farm that is now the Vedder Mountain Campsite. This is a very productive and beautiful stretch of the river. Mt. Cheam towers in the east, and Vedder Mountain throws its shadow from the south.

Vedder River - Vedder Campsite Run

By 9:00 AM, I have counted three coho landed on the south side, and four more on the north side of the Peach Road pool. One-half hour later while fishing the Derksen Farm (Campground) run, I watch a fly fisher take a coho strike using a fly made from green yarn.

The late October morning air has chilled the marrow of my bones. After grabbing a coffee in the café at the Vedder Crossing Bridge, I drive to Slesse Creek, which marks the fishing boundary upstream on the Chilliwack River.

Slesse Creek Run

The Slesse Creek run is a popular run on the Chilliwack River this year. After waiting about one hour, I get to fish off the huge boulder in the middle of the run. From its vantage looking down into the water, I see numerous coho, spring, and chum salmon, with their retinue of trout, sulking and whirling in the deep vortex. I entice these fish with various lures, but too jaded or sagacious, they spurn my offers.

A bald eagle soars over, up river, and into the crown of a Douglas Fir. A water ouzel flits around the boulder's base, and bolts upstream and around the corner up Slesse Creek. It's going to get hot!

To my left is Guy Haber of Surrey, B.C., float fishing with a globule of fresh roe. His cast drifts his bait down the chute. Fish on! The bright spring salmon vaults from the water, tumbles "ass over tea kettle," and topples back into the rapids. Guy knows he's nailed a big one. After a long struggle, he guides the fish into shore. Grabbing the spring salmon's tail with a gloved hand, his friend hoists the writhing salmon from the boulder rimmed pool. Proudly, Guy displays his prize. The buck spring salmon rewards him by spewing milt down the front of his fishing vest. It measures thirty-nine inches: probably twenty-five pounds. Light brown spots cover its back, and a slash of red, its silver sides. A beast in prime condition!

Slesse Creek Run

A few minutes later, Guy repeats his feat. This time he releases a twenty pound spring salmon.

By mid-afternoon, I have seen a dozen coho caught, even more chum salmon released, and a few other spring hooked, but not landed. I briefly get into a spring, but I am unable to set the hook hard enough. It gets away.

In the late afternoon, I join a group of fishers at the Old Nightingale Farm run below the B.C. Electric Bridge near the town of Yarrow. We hook many chum salmon, and take a few coho salmon. The giant maples of Vedder Mountain smoulder in the sparse light from the sinking, pumpkin sun. A flock of Canada geese slices the mellow, late October air with their "V."





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