THE BRAMWELL GROUP from left to right: John Lyotier

THE BRAMWELL GROUP from left to right: John Lyotier

Great day on Spider Lake

Bramwell clan enjoys outdoor adventure with Ralph Shaw and Larry Stefanyk

Last week I joined Larry Stefanyk on a precarious adventure that somehow turned out well. It all started when Larry volunteered to host a fly-fishing seminar and trout fishing day on Spider Lake for the highest bidder at a Pacific Salmon Foundation fundraiser banquet in Qualicum.

When the dust settled Larry had committed to host four people. It turned out that the day they chose was last Monday, March 11 and if you recall that was the first day of a stormy week. The group consisted of two teenage boys, Alexander and Benjamin, with their father Cameron Bramwell from Toronto, and John Lyotier of Bowser – the trip being a gift from grandma Bramwell.

Neither of the boys had ever fished for or caught a trout in their lives and to try to catch one on this cold day on a fly was more than a small challenge. It is no small compliment to Larry’s teaching and coaching abilities that everybody  landed a trout.

My role was really quite simple because I had John in my boat and he was an accomplished angler with many years of ocean fishing and fly fishing for steelhead, with dry fly under his belt, in the streams and rivers of the northwestern part of our province.

Fortunately for us the predicted storm and wind did not materialize until we were leaving the lake in the late afternoon. It was a cold, raw day that did not look very fishy. The Solunar Table predicted a minor period about 11:30 and we were fishing into a falling barometer. It was the kind of day that even severely addicted anglers such as Larry and I would hesitate before we went on the water.

Be-that-as-it-may, we were committed. Our method of angling was to slowly troll wet flies on sinking lines in the hope we would get action. I started with dragonfly nymph and sedge pupae. Larry started with a black leech, a green spratley and a dragonfly nymph. It is a basic and simple way of finding a pattern the fish might bite.

For novice fly fishers, trolling flies as we were in this situation can be done by anybody capable of slowly moving a boat, canoe or float tube through the water. The fly lines were slow sinking types that kept the flies off the bottom in moderate depths of 20 feet, plus or minus.

Larry’s boat was the first one to catch a fish when Cameron succeeded in bringing a prime 15-inch trout to Larry’s waiting net. A short time later John in my boat caught a prime 16-inch rainbow trout.

When we cleaned the fish during a gourmet shore lunch break supplied by Brenda Macintyre of the Salmon Foundation, we discovered the fish were stuffed with large black leeches. The mystery of what fly to use was solved.

After lunch Larry gave the boys a short session on how to set a hook and bring a fish to the net. During our afternoon session all members of the group played fish and the boys were both successful in bring a nice trout to Larry’s waiting net. At the end of the day, the Bramwell clan had 100 per cent success in each landing a fish and they went home with five prime rainbow trout from Spider Lake.

In spite of being cold and uncomfortable at times, I am certain the two boys will remember their first encounter with fly fishing in a venture sponsored by Grandma and in the process, conservation efforts of the Pacific Salmon Foundation were enhanced. Thank you to all involved.

Message to all anglers fishing local lakes – for the next few weeks do not hesitate to start your day by trolling leech patterns on slow sinking lines.

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We are entering the season of important conservation fundraisers. In our Valley the Ducks Unlimited event celebrating 75 years of conservation efforts will take place at the Filberg Centre on Saturday, April 6 in Courtenay. Tickets at $50 each are available from Greg Sawchuck at 250-338-6187 or Julie at 250-339- 6843. Look no further than the Ducks Unlimited Farm in our Valley for reasons to support this historic conservation institution.


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.