Saturday, February 28, 2009
January 15th, 2009
Steelhead Society of B.C.
232 W. Broadway
Premier Gordon Campbell
Room 156, West Annex,
Dear Premier Campbell
re: Designation of Steelhead as an Official Emblem of British Columbia (Provincial Fish)
Further to our earlier request of February 26, 2004, the Steelhead Society of B.C. again asks the government to give serious consideration to designating the wild steelhead (Oncorhynhus mykiss) as B.C.’s provincial fish for the following reasons:
- B.C. has a provincial flower (Pacific Dogwood, designated in 1956), a provincial gemstone(jade, designated in 1968), a provincial bird (Steller’s Jay, designated in 1987), a provincial tree(Western Red Cedar, designated in 1988), and most recently a provincial mammal (Spirit Bear).However, despite the cultural significance of fish to British Columbia, a provincial fish has not been designated as an official emblem of the province;
- Wild steelhead (and their land-locked equivalent, rainbow trout) are distributed throughout most of B.C. British Columbia is the only province in Canada with native, wild steelhead populations.These populations are the largest remaining in North America. The world records for the largest steelhead caught in fresh-water, and the largest steelhead caught by fly fishing, are both from British Columbia;
- B.C. is world famous for its unequalled wild steelhead sport fisheries, which are an economically and culturally priceless part of our heritage. The designation of wild steelhead as our provincial fish would add to these values.
We look forward to your response.
Steelhead Society of B.C.
Friday, February 27, 2009
SHANK - Partridge double waddington shank, 25-55mm
HOOK - Gamakatsu Octopus hook, 6-1/0
TAIL - Orange Amherst, orange Rhea or Ostrich, 2 dryfly grade Grizzly hackles, Krystal flash
BODY - Orange Seal fur or substitute
HACKLE - Orange Mallard flank
RIB- Copper wire
WING - Fake Burnt orange Spey Hackle
BEARD - Orange Rhea or Ostrich
EYES - Burnt 30lb monofilament
THREAD- Shrimp pink 6/0
HOOK LOOP- 50lb+ Fire line or 35lb Slickshooter doubled over the shank
WEIGHT- Lead wire tied onto the bottom of the shank
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Here is one of my favourite fishing pictures. I took this photo of Jack Hemingway speyfishing on the Bulkley River a few months before he passed away. I guided Jack for a couple of years while working for Maxwell Steelhead Guides.I took this photo as Jack was fishing a run in up river from Trout creek called Paradise Lost. Jack was a joy to fish with and I can honestly say from what I could tell he lived life to the fullest.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
David Smith, a writer and photogropher based out of Whistler, recently spent a day on the water with Whistler Flyfishing lead guide and Loop tackle pro staffer Pat Beahen.Dave wrote a short story about that wintery day back in December which appeared in Mountain Life Magazine. Check out the story here.Dave got some amazing photos on the trip, Pats Loop opti jacket contrasting perfectly with the river and snowy background. Check out more of Dave Smith's work at www.davidmauricesmith.com
The staff at Whistler Flyfishing has been helping in the development of a new series of switch rods from Loop. Switch rods are the perfect fishing tool for the angler that values versatility. They are equally at home beach fishing for Coho Salmon as they are swinging flies for winter Steelhead. Much lighter than most switch rods currently available,the new Loop's were designed as single hand rods that speycast well. They are light and fairly fast with a smooth progressive action that is distinctively Loop. There are two rods In the Opti Switch series, both featuring Loops' stylish and comfortable new grip and durable cross weave technology. We expect these Opti Switch rods to be available early this spring.Give the fly shop a call at 1-888-822-3474 for more info on this and any other Loop tackle products
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Check out flybc.ca for the best in British Columbia fly fishing information, whether you be looking for information on BC Steelhead rivers, beach fishing for Salmon or stillwater fishing for Kamloops Rainbow Trout, flybc.ca is a great resource. Flybc has a great online fly fishing forum including discussion boards specific to speycasting, rod building, fly tying and fish politics. There is also a special 'ask the experts' stillwater section featuring advice from Brian Chan, Phil Rowley and Doug Porter.Spend some time on flybc you will find the online community to be one of the friendliest around.,
Friday, February 6, 2009
Fish Alaska West and Receive Casting Instruction from Dec Hogan and a Free Rod and Signed Copy of a 'Passion for Steelhead'
We're announcing a special program for the week of June 12 - 19 at Alaska West. This week involves swinging flies for the hottest, brightest king salmon of the season, and includes spey instruction by the legendary Dec Hogan.
Guests who book a trip with us from June 12 - 19, 2009, will receive at no charge, courtesey of Deneki Outdoors, a single- or double-handed fly rod of their choice. In addition, Dec will autograph and give to each angler a copy of his book A Passion for Steelhead at no charge.
Here are the details.
- Single- and double-handed rods from major manufacturers all qualify. Custom and bamboo rods do not qualify.
- This offer applies only to the week of June 12-19, 2009.
- Rods must be selected by April 1, and will be either delivered to guests at Alaska West or shipped upon receipt of final payment for the trip.
Incredible king fishing, spey instruction from Dec Hogan, Dec's book and the rod of your choice - what could be better?
photos by Cameron Miller
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Whistler Flyfishing is proud to book Bulkley River Steelhead trips with a variety of Bulkley river guides and lodges. The one that we have been working with the longest is Maxwells Steelhead guides. Denise Maxwell, pictured above, offers 6 day guided fishing packages utilizing her fleet of Wooldridge jet boats to access the best water on the Bulkley River.
Here is a great Steelhead article written by one of Denise Maxwell's guides, Matt Sharpe who also works at Pacific Angler, one of the finest Vancouver tackle shops. Matt will be back on the Bulkley this September working his butt off to ensure Maxwells' guests the finest in BC Steelhead fishing.
The Steelhead Shuffle... Matt Sharp, 2009
The life of a steelhead guide is one of cold, early mornings, long hours and one all-consuming, teeth-grinding prayer, "Come on Fish, take that stupid fly". At times it can be stressful - not to mention tough on dentist bills, but between the fingernail biting and praying, we have the unparalleled opportunity to observe, teach and dissect what makes a good steelheader. Even from a wide diversity of styles, skills and personalities, it is easy to classify steelheaders in three groups:
1. The novice, who can count the wonderful, real, screaming runs on a hand and a few fingers.
2. The intermediate, who has begun to understand the obsession that is steelheading a
3. the expert - who with time, dedication and skill has grasped a few of the steelhead's endless secrets.
For the most part, this is the range of skill I see from my clients, but there is an elusive fourth class of angler. They are a rare breed who seem to possess an intimate connection with the river and an intangible knack for landing fish. Guides call this class of fishermen the vacuum cleaners. They catch fish when no one else can - and on days that the steelhead are kind, they rack up epic numbers that the rest of us can only dream of.For years, I have tried to understand what makes the difference between vacuum cleaners and the rest of us. For the most part the answer is simple. They are talented casters; have years of experience and fish with confidence from the first cast of the day to its last. However there are characteristics that stand out. I have compiled a few brief articles analyzing my observations, hoping to make things easier for us mere mortals.
The first skill I would like to look at is sometimes overlooked. It is called the steelhead shuffle and all vacuum cleaners have mastered it. I met this lady six years ago. She is a wee lady from Colorado who looks better suited for doting on grandchildren than chasing steelhead. At first glance, I feared that a big fish might pull her into the river. She fishes a single hand rod, does not have a monster cast, takes nice long breaks for tea - and like me,enjoys watching someone else catch fish as much as landing one herself. That said, she is a vacuum cleaner. She lands more steelhead in a season than many take in a lifetime.
It took me a few years fishing with her to understand it, but it boils down to three simple factors. Though her cast is not long, it is precise and rhythmic. She fishes with confidence without losing her concentration and most importantly, she has mastered the steelhead shuffle. Let me take a moment to explain what I mean by the steelhead shuffle. Using the classic swung fly technique, the angler casts somewhere between 90 and 45 degrees across stream. When the swing is complete - dangling downstream for a good five seconds - the angler steps (plural) down river and casts again. This process of stepping every cast continues until the end of the run. It may seem simple but the way an angler moves down the bank of a river can make the difference between fish to the bank and no fish at all.The first rule of the steelhead shuffle is to keep moving! Do not stop, do not make more than two casts to one spot, and do not take baby steps! Having said that, I do not want to put pressure on those of us who are not comfortable with long,fast steps in the water. The river only knows how many times I have become over confident and ended up taking a swim. You do not have to move fast - this is not a race. Remember our wee lady (Though she didn't look it, she was well past her 70th year). Her steps were small. She took her time to pick through the rocks and she made sure to cover the same distance each time, knowing that when the guide said three steps it meant she took five or six. You save more time and cover more water making a conscious effort to cover distance rather than rushing a few baby steps and casting to almost the same spot. All vacuum cleaners understand that the more water they cover in a day, the better their chances.Work to make the steps part of your casting mechanics. Get a rhythm and stick with it. Steelhead may be elusive but they are aggressive. If you can show them the fly within a reasonable distance, they will take it. After two casts to one spot, it is very unlikely there is a willing steelhead sitting in a given stretch of river... so KEEP MOVING! The second rule of mastering the steelhead shuffle is distance. How many steps should one take? This is where a vacuum cleaneruses experience to makes alterations to best cover the water. Do not fret, there are a few rules that will help you develop these instincts. First take into consideration two factors: water clarity and water temperature. These factors dictate how far the steelhead can see and how much distance the steelhead is willing to move to take a fly. In warmer water - 54 + - with over four feet visibility, start with three to six steps (6 to 12 feet). Cover water! Especially if you're fishing with a partner. Warmer water makes steelhead willing to move farther for a fly, so take advantage of it. There may be only one fish in a given run. The faster you find him the sooner you can move to the next piece of water where there may be more.In colder waters or with less visibility, slow down. Use a two to three step rhythm. (3 to 6 feet) In cold water anything below 48 degrees, aim for one to two steps (2 - 4 feet) and in extremely cold conditions, 43 degrees and below(mostly saved for winter steelheading) go to a 1.5 - 3 ft step.
Nowthat you've got a rhythm, taking into consideration the temperature and clarity of water, learn to vary your steps to suit the river. The vacuum cleaner looks at the run and dissects it. From experience and common sense, he/she will see where fish are most likely to sit and vary the steelhead shuffle accordingly.
In water that looks fishy (In the sweet spot or bucket of the run), he will slow down subtracting a step, maybe two. In water that feels wrong(The swing is not perfect, speed is not walking pace, or the structure of the river is poor holding water), he speeds up, adding a step or two into his routine. This being said, he still covers the water making every cast count. He simply wastes less casts doing it.
Angle of Attack
Vacuum cleaners also use their shuffle to vary the angle of swing. In the classic pool with little in the way of structure, this is unimportant, but in pools that have heavy structure (boulders, ledge rock, interesting currents) the angle that the fly swings in front of a steelhead can make the difference between a bent rod and a missed fish. I have seen numerous occasions where an angler moves through a run with no success and a vacuum cleaner comes in behind him with a varied angle of attack and hooks a fish. Look at the run, is a large boulder breaking the current? Is a heavy riffle playing havoc with your swing? These areas make for excellent steelhead holding water but the current can make swinging the fly difficult. An experience angler will know that this is the time to vary his shuffle. Instead of taking steps directly downstream, step out into the river or vice versa, back towards shore to work around the structure. Try to keep about the same number of steps, only change their direction. If you are using a five step, try two downstream and three across stream. In some instances, I will take all of my steps across river without moving down. I cover farther into the river but more importantly, I have changed the angle that the fly is swinging. I may do this for a number of casts until I can wade no further (especially if there is no one fishing behind). At the same time, there may be pockets of structure close to shore where wading to the bank will cover the water more effectively. This may sound simple but knowing when to take a few more steps out into the river or a few to the bank is an important skill. Wade carefully and understand that the few feet of added distance to your cast is not as important as the varied angle at which your fly is swinging.
The fish may be sitting only thirty of forty feet from the bank but taking a few more steps into the river will give him a different look at your fly. Please note that this is not an excuse to wade across the river with the water lapping at your arm pits. I never recommend an angler to wade over his waist. Besides the safety issue, all vacuum cleaners are aware that if they are standing in waist deep water there is a very real possibility that a steelhead is sitting behind them.Study the current and plan your attack. Look for the spots where you should fish your way out, then fish your way back. With time, you will begin to find the sweet spot for wading each part of a given run.
The last trick that an experienced steelheader can accomplish with his steelhead shuffle is depth control. In many conditions, swinging a fly close to the bottom is extremely important but a run rarely holds a uniform depth from start to finish. A vacuum cleaner knows how to vary his depth with only slight modifications to his cast and shuffle.In deeper water, heavy current or with light sink tips, start by casting more cross stream than the standard 45 degrees down. With an aggressive mend, this will dead drift the fly for a longer period, giving it time to sink. If the desired depth is not achieved break up the timing of your steps. If you are using a five step, take four steps, cast cross-stream, mend, then take your last step. This will prolong the dead drift giving your fly and tip more time to sink before the swing starts. The more steps you take after the fly has landed the deeper the fly will sink. Look at the water. Have you had any snags in the last half dozen casts? Your fly may need to be deeper so add more steps. Try two or three after your fly has landed. If you start to encounter snags, simply step more before the cast and less after.To be successful you must cast across stream or a little upstream, taking your steps before the fly starts to swing. This is key. When the fly starts to swing, never move - just like any other swing keep as still as possible until the fly is downstream and has dangled for at least five seconds. There are a hundred variations to the steelhead shuffle but the successful ones all take into considerations the factors I have laid out. Next time out on the water take a moment to think about how you are moving through the run.I can guarantee it will bring more fish to the bank...... and remember to KEEP MOVING and COVER WATER!
Matt Sharp, 2009
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Here is an article written by Michel Beaudry about my good buddy Tom Thomson. It appeared in this weeks edition of the Pique Newsmagazine, a local Whistler newspaper published each Thursday. Tommy is a true Whistler kid having actually grown up here. Despite his young age Tom is a seasoned saltwater guide with over 10 years saltwater guiding experience, most recently at Peregrine Lodge and the last two seasons at Langara Island Lodge in BC's Queen Charlotte Islands. Tom got pretty heavy into Steelhead flyfishing a couple of seasons ago and quickly became one of my favourite peoiple to Steelhead with. I think it took all of 5 minutes to get Tom casting the speyrod like a champ. Honestly catching Steelhead consistantly didn't take too long either. Aside from working at Langara Tom helps Whistler Flyfishing guide Yos Gladstone promote Chromer Sportfishing, a company specializing in west cost angling adventures. The pic above shows Yos and Tom pretty excited with the Queen Charolottes Chinook salmon they are about to release. Here are a couple of Steelhead pics from the Cheakamus, Bulkley, Fraser and Thompson rivers as well. It is no surprise that Tom is such the angler as it runs in his blood. Toms' dad, Whistler town council member and local legend, Tom SR used to do the CKNW Sea Watch report on Vancouver radio station CKNW, spending his weekends on the ocean keeping tabs on local fishing conditions.
Tommy Thomson: It's all about the positive
By Michel Beaudry Thursday January 29,2009
It's not often that a 24 year old starts a conversation with: "My dad recommended that I..." But that's exactly how Tommy Thomson started ours. The only son of Whistler's most popular citizen (see Pique Dec. 31, 2008), the younger Thomson confided to me over coffee last week that his council-member father had suggested he keep our conversation as positive as possible. I nodded in agreement. That was fine with me, I said. As long as he didn't mouth platitudes and clichés.
I needn't have worried. After a two-hour exchange that flew by like the ragged remnants of a storm before an Arctic high, I came away convinced that his dad's counsel was largely unnecessary. Why? Because Tommy is about as honest and naturally-positive a young man as I've ever had the pleasure to speak with.
And once again I was thoroughly impressed with the community's success in raising its children....
But I'm getting ahead of myself. A thoughtful, articulate kid with an open-faced smile that is as guileless as it is friendly, the younger Thomson's discourse is animated by an engaging streak of exuberance that seems to be characteristic of those raised in this valley. Hip, happy - and seemingly without a care in the world - he nonetheless displays a social sensitivity that is startling for a guy his age.
"I have a real thing about keeping the local flavour alive at Whistler," says the long and lanky fly-fishing guide they call 'Tommy Tyee'. "I travel a lot. I get out of the Whistler bubble often. But I always look forward to coming home." Why, I ask. "Because I love the people here," he says simply. He pauses for a moment. "You know, being a kid in this valley gave me the opportunity to grow up with people who are really unique and cool individuals. You'll never find people like that anywhere else."
And then he reels off a list of names - Tyler Massey, Nick Vagelatos, Robby Dixon, Matt Friesen, Andreas Morel, Tim and Alex Orr. "These are just some of the guys I grew up with," he says. "When we get out riding on the mountain together now, it's just as real and cool as it's always been. It all comes down to that special Whistler buzz, you know. And it's definitely been a big part of our success as a destination. I mean, if tourists see how excited the locals are about playing on the mountain, then they get excited too."
But there's a caveat, he says. "Sure, Whistler is way more Disney-like than it was when I was growing up. It's stupidly expensive to live here and the gap between the folks who are already established and the seasonal workers who come here to live their dreams is growing every year. But at the end of the day, you can get what you seek from Whistler."
He smiles and his blue eyes crinkle with pleasure. "It's not about the lifts or the chain stores or the Peak-2-Peak gondola," he says. "It's about the mountains. If you want to go for a walk or a hike or even a ride - it's all there. And it's all free!" Now he's laughing. "Heck, I'm totally okay with climbing to earn your turns..."
It's not just talk. "Who at my age can afford a $93 lift ticket?" he asks rhetorically. And then he addresses one of the biggest issues for his generation. "It's definitely tough to make ends meet if you're a young person living at Whistler. After all, these are expensive sports we're involved in. When all is said and done - after you've paid for your bike and your board and all the other equipment you might need at Whistler - there's not a lot of money left over." Another smile, but this one is tinged with the sad reality of what he's about to say. "That's why so many of us have to leave Whistler, to make enough money to come back here and play." A long pause. "You see, for me, being a waiter or a bartender at Whistler just doesn't make it anymore..."
Fortunately for Thomson, an early infatuation with fly-fishing combined with strong people skills (once again the apple didn't fall far from the tree) led him to the kind of job that most people can only dream about. "I've had a passion for fishing since I was a kid," he explains. "Freshwater, saltwater, it doesn't matter. As long as I'm outside with a fly on my line, I'm happy." Thomson's first fishing job was at a lodge on the west coast of Vancouver Island called Roger's Tyee Camp. He was 14 years old. And although he spent that first summer washing dishes, by the next year he was ready to guide clients on his own. "I guided at Roger's for four years," he says. "And then I moved up to the Queen Charlotte Islands."
His eyes light up the moment he mentions B.C.'s legendary northern archipelago. "It's a hugely magical spot," he says. "Big water; amazing salmon fishing. And the marine wildlife is out of this world. In one day you might come across a handful of big humpbacks, or a couple of Minke whales or even a pod of Orca." Another happy smile. "And the old growth forests there - totally impressive. You can really feel the spirit of the place." He then tells me of his Haida friend, renowned artist Frank Williams, who has filled him in on what it was like to grow up in this enchanting environment. "He's got an incredible number of tales," Tommy says. "And it really puts island life in perspective."
For the last few years, Thomson has been guiding at Langara Island Lodge, widely considered to be the benchmark operation in the business. "It's so cool to have climbed the ladder and to be doing something I love so much at such a high-quality operation," he explains. "I can't say enough about that place. Langara is not so much a business as it is a family. I've met more great people there than I've met anywhere else in the world." He stops speaking. Looks at me to make sure I'm following. 'This is important,' his eyes tell me. He continues speaking. "You know, I consider myself very lucky to be working there. In fact, it's something I look forward to every year. From May to October I'm a happy guy..."
It's fortunate too, he says, that his Whistler buddies, Yos Gladstone and Jord Dunstan, also work at Langara. Indeed, Thomson has even embarked on a business venture with Gladstone. "We organize customized fishing trips throughout B.C. and the company is called Chromer Sports Fishing," he explains. (For those not up on the fishing lingo, "chrome" alludes to the silvery hue of fish scales.) "I want to be as much a part of the business as I can," he adds. And laughs. "But it's definitely Yos's thing. He's a wizard when it comes to organizing things. Compared to him, I'm just the PR hack..."
While guiding does a great job of paying the bills, salt- and freshwater fishing are certainly not Thomson's only aquatic passions. Like so many other Whistler-raised kids - Tyler Massey, Claire Daniels, Johnny Burgess and Manny Osborne-Paradis immediately come to mind - Tommy Thomson is mad for surfing. "I feel so at home on the ocean," he explains. "Just the feeling of being on the water; catching that first wave..." He laughs. His eyes shine again. "I'm getting excited now just thinking about it."
And Thomson hasn't been afraid to indulge his love for the demanding sport. "Over the years," he says, "I've travelled to a lot of amazing surf destinations: Hawaii, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, Peru and Brazil. And no matter where I go, surfing continues to humble me." Another burst of laughter. "For example, I got totally worked on this last trip to Hawaii. I mean, the ocean can really put you in your place. There's no room for posers in the waves. Unless you're ready to pay your dues, you'll never get good at it."
Still, he says, like big-mountain riding, big-wave surfing is more about community than anything else. "It's all about sharing the magic of the waves with your friends," he explains. "When you've been out on the water with buddies on a big day, you come home just buzzing. And nobody else gets it but the people who were out there with you..."
Which brings us to our final subject. And it's a theme tinged with a certain amount of regret for the young world traveller. "Whistler is still a long shot for me as a place to settle down in," admits Thomson. "And I hate to say that. But it's the truth..." Another long pause. "I'm sad right now thinking about it. It's really tough. I mean, what better place than Whistler to raise kids? As somebody who grew up here, I know just how great this community can be. It's the best. But I have to be realistic. Is there really a place for me here? I don't know. Right now I just can't see myself being able to afford to raise a family at Whistler."
It's a sensitive subject for many living in the valley. And yet one that I believe is vital to Whistler's sustainability as a bona fide community. After all, if there's no room for its young, homegrown citizens, what does Whistler really stand for? "Exactly," says Tommy.
But his buoyant personality refuses to stay down for long. "You know," he says, "this conversation has really got me thinking. Maybe I need to raise these issues with my friends more. What are the challenges that my generation needs to take up now? What do we want Whistler to look like in 20 years? These are the questions that we need to ask ourselves if we're really serious about making a home for ourselves here."
Before we part, Tommy wants to make sure I understand how valuable our morning chat was. "You know, I realize you can't just keep taking in this life," he says. "I realize now that it's time for young locals to start giving something back to the community. Now I just have to figure out exactly what that might be..."
This fly was tied by Mike Orlowski (aka- little Mike) at the shop. It is pretty typical of the tubes we were tying this past fall for Steelhead on the Bulkley river. After fishing shank flies for most of last year it was good to get into tubes again. I used to tie a tube fly I called the Sea Creature out of Polar Bear, Arctic Fox and Llamma. I hadn't tied this fly much in the last few years as I've been mostly fishing with Intruder style shank flies. I was given a sweet fly this past fall by one of the nice folks at Eumer. It reminded me of my old favourite the Sea Creature so I got back into tying these fur flies. The addition of the monster cone adds weight and action to the fly. My purist friends call it a lure but the name is quite fitting cause these flies really produce.
TUBE - Eumer teardrop tube chrome silver
HOOK - Partridge Nordic Single #4
TAIL - chartreuse Amherst
BODY - none
HACKLE - purple schlappen
COLLAR - purple and blue mallard flank
UNDERWING - shrimp pink finn raccoon
WING - kingfisher blue arctic fox and royal blue finn raccoon
OVERWING - blue ostrich
CHEEKS - jungle cock eyes
HEAD - Eumer Monster cone