Going Tyee Fishing in Campbell River can be sooo much fun.
I wrote this blog posting last year at the end of the season, but I wanted to revitalize it for this year in the hopes that the boys will let me go Tyee fishing with them again. As this is a seasonal, yearly ritual in Campbell River. I was however, told that I was not to have baileys and coffee while I row because I might miss setting the hook and that would be a very serious offence. The 2014 season opened today and that is something truly to be celebrated.
I finally had the opportunity to go Tyee fishing, it has been years since I managed to get on the water for some serious fishing and when you go Tyee fishing it really has to be all about the serious, ask Brant from Peniuk’s Sport Fishing or Steve from Tall Tale Charters just how serious it really is. As a matter of fact; it is as important to the person rowing the boat as it is to the person reeling in the salmon, there are some serious accolades given to a guide when he has facilitated the catch.
There is something ritualistic about the act of casually sauntering down the Tyee Club dock, packing the gear into the specially made row boat, then slipping the boat into the water. Existing is an atmosphere of silent reverence, while a lineup of veteran rowers perform the same ceremony. The hushed banter on the dock centers around who caught the largest Tyee so far, which tides have been the most productive, how many fish are being caught and what gear have been caught on.
Evening is fast approaching and there are quite a few clouds in the sky, but it is a reasonably warm, late August evening. This is actually the best time of the year to be fishing for Tyee. The season opens on July 15th and runs until September 15th, so there is limited time, but it seems to me that the bigger fish are always caught toward the end of the opening. Rumor has it that lately all the fish have been caught on the morning tides, but you just never know, that could change, maybe tonight.
It’s clear from the start that we are going to have a great time, the synergy in our boat is established right away with both of us girls being here for the good time, the relaxing mood, the picture taking and I almost forgot. The fishing, oh the Tyee fishing in Campbell River. Our guide Jim or James as we called him, is an easy going guy that is tolerant of our childish antics. It has not always been that way, I’ve been kicked out of a row boat before, the guy was waaay to serious and I guess I just wasn’t taking the situation seriously enough for his liking.
You are required to register with the Tyee Club and make sure you have the proper fishing licenses before you go out Tyee fishing, this is to ensure you are playing by the rules of the game, there is no point in spending all that time setting up and rowing for the big one unless your gear has been tested, you have paid the fees to the club and you have a clear understanding of what you are getting yourself into.
Believe me, Tyee fishing is an art form, it takes years for the rower to perfect the ability. The key to catching the big one is in the movement of the plug (or spoon) in the water. Keeping your rod tip down and pay close attention to the seaweed that inevitably gets caught on your line. The rod tip should produce a steady rhythmic, gentle bounce which means your plug or lure is working its way through the water presenting an action similar to a wounded herring.
Not that this really means much because; correct me if I am wrong here, but I do believe that Chinook salmon do not feed immediately before they enter a river, so the movement would be more to aggravate them to strike than to impart the possibility of a meal. But none-the-less this is the action that has been proven to be the most successful way to nail a big one.
Because the guide has to row from the bow of the boat, and us girls were stationed in the stern, I got to drive the boat to the Tyee Pool, what a shame, I haven’t done that in years and it gave me a sense of power to be in control of that massive 4.5 horsepower motor. Just kidding, but it was fun.
Just around the corner of the mouth of the Campbell River Estuary we approached the edge of the Tyee Pool, not that you can see the pool from the surface, but most of these seasoned veterans know exactly where the pool begins and ends. But we do know it stretches from about here to the Argonaut Wharf about 50 metres from shore.
Personally I have had the opportunity to scuba dive in this area so I have a pretty good idea of what the lay of the ocean floor looks like and believe me it really looks like a pool. The gentle slope from the beach dips to 30 or 40 foot depth (depending on the tide) quite quickly, then flattens out for a bit then rises on the other side, so it very much resembles a pool at the bottom of the ocean.
We spent a couple of hours on the water, rowing back and forth, paralleling the shoreline, there were so many people I knew fishing alongside of us that it became quite a social event. But alas, we didn’t catch anything, we didn’t even get a strike.
There was one caught that night though. It was really something, as soon as the salmon was hooked, every other boat within striking distance either pulled their lines out of the water or moved quickly away to give way. The boat that was engaged, was rowed away from the pack and they played the fish outside of the pool, all of that without one word having been said. I guess this is a code of ethics that does not require vocalization, it just happened as if it was a natural reaction. Such synergy amongst the rowers.
About a half hour later the bell at the Tyee Club tolled, three tolls means it was a 30+, a bronze pin, at 30 Lbs you can register, then the value of your prize just goes up with the weight of the salmon, 40+ is a silver, 50+ is a gold etc etc etc. They had landed the salmon, within the confines of the rules and another name has been immortalized in the Tyee Club of British Columbia’s book of fame.
We didn’t catch any salmon that evening, but we had a great time trying. James chose to row back to the dock, it was pitch black when we got in. A good time was had by all, and all that fresh salty air must have been the reason I slept so well, while dreaming of catching the big one- next time.
The Tyee Club of British Columbia is ranked at the top of the world’s most exclusive fishing clubs. It only exists in Campbell River and has been active since the early 1920’s. For more information on the club visit the Tyee Club’s website, for guides and facilitators visit GoCampbellRiver.com > Fishing.