A Float Tuber's Surprise
by Courtney Ogilive
As I sat watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I anxiously awaited prepared for the year's salt water fly-fishing season. As I considered this, I realized a kind of comparison: normally coho are the salmon finals - and these fish deserve the title.... but, let me tell you a story of surprise and difficulty.
It was during one of my daily fishing trips (on my way home from work) to the Qualicum Bay area. My late day fishing destination was the Ice Cream Bay area during the last week of August, 1999. Over the past few years I have noticed a pattern; large fish come into the bay before dark and cruise the shore. So, with little time to fish this was a likely spot. As I approached the shore, there was a young woman fly-fishing in the spot I normally fish. She was just a beginner and I enjoyed watching as she struggled to cast any distance for several coho surfacing a short distance from her. Casually, I suggested a few tips that might help her with her cast and soon after she was into a fish that moved in a bit closer. I placed my float tube into the water and finned out past a gravel bar that shows itself about 1/4 tide out.
There is a great gravel shoal here with deep dips that can hold bait fish from the predators. After casting to some Coho, with several hook-ups, I noticed some floating sea weeds and bait fish going crazy! I cast a large Mickey Finn into the weed bed expecting perhaps a nice Coho. CRUNCH, it felt like a vice vibrating down my 11 foot noodle rod that I use as a salt water fly rod. It was a large spring salmon, damn, I had 8 lb. Maxima leader on a 5-6 weight, 11 foot noodle rod. Hang on!
This fellow perhaps wondered, what was sticking into his lip and he wanted no part of it. With a thrust of mighty energy he was off towards the mainland. I turned my tube around and began to fin and fin and fin and follow. Laughing all the while, wondering what I was doing.
I had little hope of even see this fish. But, like the fishing fool I am, I followed him. Now, for anybody that has caught a spring salmon on light tackle, you know that luck has a great deal to do with the entire process. All of a sudden I realized that I had $70. SlimLine connected to this fish and after quickly glancing at my reel I was running out of time. My backing is a deep red colour and I could only see a little line. Oh, oh, and I was finning to beat hell. Meanwhile, this fish was barrelling deep. As near as I can figure, the noodle rod gave enough resistance without breaking my leader, yet slightly tiring the fish.
While this was going on, I hadn't noticed how far I had been pulled by the Fish! During this time of year, there is a fishing armada that works the boundary area near the mouth of the the Big Qualicum River. And yes, I was about 3/4 of a mile out amongst several boats, and the fish was still a going concern. Fortunate for me there was no wind and the water was like a mirror. The only thing I saw of this fish was a giant swirl when he was hooked and that was it. By this time I was wondering if this fish wasn't a dog fish or something.
I was, way out in the channel in a float tube, surrounded by (gulp) sharks, killer whales, giant dog fish ....what else!
About 45 minutes had gone by and I was getting to the point of exhaustion. But; the fish was tiring and that was good news. Constantly working the fish towards the surface I finally got a glimpse of this fellow. It was a salmon, and then he went deep again, but by this time I was really in the zone with this fish and was able to tire him and coax him to the surface. It was a large spring salmon and not coloured. Several boats had moved a bit closer and were yelling and slapping the sides of their boats.
A new concern arrived; how am I going to bonk this large fish? I knew how active they become when they are struck and I decided I wanted this fish. I placed my left hand into the gills and hung on; this itself was a battle. I didn't want any blood dripping into the water around me and all I had to hit the fish with was a good size set of pliers I kept in my tube pocket. After a few good whacks on the back of the head, the only blood showing was from my fingers holding this big fish through the gills and rubbing on its teeth. I tied the fish with my fish line and began my trip back to Ice Cream Bay. All the while watching for signs of seals and dogfish or any other sea monster willing to visit.
It took about 1/2 hour to get back and the tide had gone out while I was engaged with all the excitement. It was a fair walk back to the truck and I was very tired by now. I could barely lift the fish into the truck box and put my gear away. The young lady was there to welcome me back and she was wondering what I was doing out there! She had thought I had hooked into a large coho. Perhaps I scared her when she saw the big spring.
This fish weighed in at 35 lbs. and served up many good meals. Since then I have targeted these early fall freight trains especially at the mouth of the Little Qualicum River. During the last few weeks of August and into early September you can fish for these monsters as they gather for their final swim. I suggest you prepare better than I originally did and if you are lucky enough to hook-up, hang-on! Watch for boundaries and use gear that will slightly slow the fish. Large streamers with plenty of flash ;blue/red, yellow/blue, try imitating a large needle fish or shrimp. You have to be careful with your leader, they have teeth - sharp teeth! Before you tie on your fly slide on a slim transparent plastic tube, approximately 1 1/2" long. This tube will slide freely and not really interfere with your casting. And a special note, 12-15 lb. leader works fine and if you're in your right mind don't use a noodle rod or a float tube!
Today, we use pontoon boats and 8-10 weight fly rods with lots of backing and reels that have adequate drag systems that will take the torture. If you are interested in knowing more about this World-class fishery in our back yard or coming along for the ride please contact me directly and I will do all I can to get you into the fish of your life.
Courtney Ogilvie, Ogilvies Sportfishing Adventures, Qualicum Beach ,B.C., 250-752-3149 firstname.lastname@example.org