Courtenay – a river runs through it and in the process is making a growing number of happy anglers of varying skill levels using many types of gear.
The Puntledge is our home river and since the pink salmon opening last month and now the chum salmon opening it is truly making a contribution to the happiness of local as well as guest anglers who come to the Valley to fish our increasingly popular chum salmon runs.
As of this writing the river is open for retention of two chum salmon. You are requested to release with care all chinook, coho, and steelhead salmon plus unmarked cutthroat trout you may hook while trying to catch a nice bright chum salmon for smoked fish treats.
It is assumed the same level of care is practised in releasing any chum salmon you may choose not to keep. While it is frequently overlooked by many levels of government and tourist agencies, the current recreational fishery on the river is an important contributor to the bottom line of many business operators in the Valley that serve the needs of anglers.
Starting in early September with the pink salmon opening and continuing for as long as the chum run lasts, the open air theatre on both sides of the Condensory Bridge attracts hundreds of viewers who come to watch moments of great drama and spine-tingling excitement as the piscatorial actors play their hearts out in the intrigue and suspense of who will hook a salmon. The last time I was at this theatre there were in excess of 40 actors and a revolving group of theatre viewers.
There is another place to watch a very different type of river theatre. If you drive up Fifth Street to where it crosses the tracks and turn right and travel down the little hill you will be on First Street at Puntledge Park where Morrison Creek enters.
Here the angling drama is very different. Park your car and begin a slow nature walk that has all the qualities of a great symphony with nature’s band of river, birds and breezes supplying the music.
For starters the mouth of the creek is closed to angling to protect the Morrison Creek lamprey which is on the endangered species list. Take a moment as you cross over Morrison Creek and watch the remnants of the pink salmon run and the growing numbers of chum salmon gathering at the mouth of the creek.
The slow, synchronized effect of nature’s band takes over as you cross the playground and enter the woods along the path by the river. The sounds of Courtenay are left on the edge of the forest and you enter a place where only the sounds of the river, the birds and the breezes combine to create a sense of nature right in the middle of our urban centre.
The picture with the column is of a lone fly fisherman enjoying the thrill of his sport in the solitude of the river. As I watched he had close encounters with two chums and when we visited on the shore he taught me a new loop knot he had just learned which was a special gift from a fellow angler.
It is a soul-enriching experience to stroll along the river in this magic place whether you are an angling participant or some one recharging your spirit’s nature batteries.
Further along First Street you come to Rod and Gun Club Road. Turn right and follow it out to the parking spot on the bank above the river. At this point you start on the Rotary Club Riverside Trail that will lead you onto the Ruth Masters Trail and nature reserve she donated to the Valley.
While much of the reason I write about the river is for anglers there is also the equally important aspect of non anglers being able to react with nature in these important places.
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Notice – The Puntledge River Hatchery in hosting an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 20. On this interpretive day the staff will be handling, sorting and spawning salmon. There are hourly guided tours, children can make their own fish prints and local enhancement societies will have displays and tell the stories of their projects and operations. It is a great day to connect with nature.
Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.