I started tying flies in 1941 at Sunalta Junior High School in Calgary. I still remember the names of the two teachers (Mr. Cooper and Mr. White) who organized a group of Grade 9 students into a fly tying club. The flies we tied were By-visibles, Black Gnats, March Browns and Coachman plus other traditional patterns.
We fished the Bow River and many rivers and streams in the area such as The Dog Pound, Jumping Pound, Brag Creek, the Elbow River, the Ghost River and beaver dams wherever we found them. Our principal means of transportation was bicycles. We didn’t have access to cars very often, because during the war gasoline was rationed, so our fishing was limited to bike travel most of the time. The primary species of fish were Rainbow, Eastern Brook, and Lock Leven trout. As I recall we caught some nice fish and created some traditional “fish stories.”
Fast forward about 76 years to the Lake Trail High School in Courtenay where the principal and staff have joined forces with members of the Comox Valley Fly Fishing Club to teach a beginning course on fly tying and fly fishing. It is my sincere hope that some time near the close of this century there will be some elderly person recalling their junior high school instruction to this glorious madness we call fly fishing.
During most of January and now into February the weather has not been friendly to active angling, so one of the best cures of anxiety due to lack of fishing opportunities for me is to pursue my hobby of fly tying. Over the past month it has done much to relieve my fits of yearning and longing to go fishing.
If you are new to retirement or are a young person interested in fly tying I suggest you join the Comox Valley Fishers Club or check out the programs on the Internet. The Comox Valley Fly Fishers club meets every third Tuesday at the Filberg Centre in Courtenay at 7:30 p.m. Fly Tying with Norm Takes Place at the Royston Hall every Friday from 9 a.m. till late in the afternoon. You can bring a lunch if you wish. There are often fly tying courses at recreational programs put on by the City of Courtenay.
Fly tying can evolve to a creative form of art; but for most anglers it is simply a way to make your own fishing tackle – in this case various fly patterns.
In many respects the Comox Valley is a fly fisher’s dream when it comes to choice of species and types of waters available for challenging your skills. If you enjoy river fishing we have the Courtenay-Puntledge system with its many tributaries. North of town you come to the Black Creek and the Oyster systems, to the south you have the Trent, the Sable and farther south the Big and Little Qualicum systems.
Local lakes such as Maple, Comox, Spider, Wolf are good fly fishing venues. We are also blessed with excellent beach fishing for salmon and trout in the following: Oyster River and Black Creek beaches, Little River near the ferry, numerous open beaches from the Powell River Ferry area, south to Cape Lazo. There is also good beach fishing at Royston and south to the Qualicum River and Nile Creek.
We also have excellent open ocean fly fishing along kelp beds and reefs plus trolling bucktails. Not many locations offer such a wide variety of waters to practise your skills as a fly fisher. As a word of caution, always check the current fishing regulations for the specific rules that apply to species of fish and the waters where you plan to cast your flies.
Pictured with this column are about 70 Tom Thumb deer hair flies. This simple pattern is one that I frequently tie. It is essentially a dry fly pattern in that it is designed to float. The flies represented in the photo are made to represent sedge flies, mayflies and other insects that float on the surface where the trout rise to take them.
When I tie large numbers of these flies, visions of large trout taking flies from the surface are frequently blurred with the task at hand, sometimes resulting in errors to the fly.
Fly tying can be a slide show of great fishing moments.
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.