On Sunday, Oct. 27 I spent a few hours watching what I used to do with great pleasure – fishing chum salmon with a fly rod on the Puntledge.
The reason I have backed off has to do with getting too old to chance a tumble in the river, but this in no way diminishes my pleasure of watching the river and other anglers enjoying the challenges of playing an angry chum salmon.
It isn’t the World Series of baseball or the Grey Cup of football, but for the people of the Comox Valley and our visitors, the annual chum salmon fishery is a significant event. I am not certain when it will reach its climax, but it is close.
For many anglers it is the culmination of a river season that started with pink salmon in July and will come to an end in the near future unless it gets an unexpected boost from a late season in-river coho salmon fishery. In the meantime, their smokers have been on overtime with all the fresh chum salmon.
If you recall last Sunday was the first day we had a serious wind in several weeks. It was also accompanied by usually warm sunny weather. My morning on the river was one I would recommend to any serious fisher or person who loves the outdoors.
I saw a scene on the river that had all the qualities of one of those extreme paintings that show great swirls of colour across a canvas and seem to have no relation to reality. If you recall most of the trees still had their leaves. What I saw on the sheltered waters of the river just above a rapid was great swirls of red, green and yellow leaves that were swirling in the current and if you can imagine a painting about 50 by 40 feet, I witnessed a surrealistic painting by nature.
I tried to capture the beauty of the moment with my camera but all I got was a reflection; however in my memory book of important moments in the outdoors this beautiful picture has a secure place. Another beautiful scene was a fly fisher playing a chum salmon, dressed in a green jacket silhouetted against a backdrop of red leaves on the trees, and a seriously bent fishing rod. I suggest these are events I would have missed if my attention was focused on the river and its fish.
As I stood on the bank above a tangle of roots extending from the bank I noticed a growing accumulation of carcasses of spawned out salmon. There were chinook, coho and chum bodies in the collection for future river nutrients.
The first good storm we get may have occurred last night. If my weather forecast is correct, it will wash these nutrient-rich carcasses out into the Comox Estuary where they will return to the ecological system of life and in the process fertilize our estuary.
Next year when the little salmon make their way into the ocean the nutrient rich small creatures that broke down the bodies of their parents will be the food of a new generation. This reminder of the cycles of life was another bonus from my non-fishing walk.
Beach fishing is an additional jewel in our collection of fishing for shore-bound anglers. On page one of the 2013-2015 British Columbia Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Guide there is the following statement –“It is your responsibility to ensure what species you are allowed to retain and that the area you intend to fish is open.”
They give the DFO Recreational Website to get up-to-date information. I went to this website and obtained the following information: “Coho Map 2013 and 2014 chinook and coho openings for Area 14, Courtenay, Comox and Qualicum – Hatchery coho (marked): Coho salmon with a healed scar in place of the adipose fin.
“Portion of Subarea 14-11 (Baynes Sound): in that portion of Subarea 14-11 Baynes Sound inside a line from the Cape Lazo Light, then to the P-54 Bell Buoy on Comox Bar, then to Longbeak Point, then south to the mouth of Hart (Washer) Creek: September 1 – December 31, 2013: two coho, one may be wild(unmarked). FN0445 – 2013-05-31.”
(Note – the area is bounded on the north by Subarea14-14 Comox Harbour – my addition). Shore anglers and small boat anglers should enjoy these normally calm waters.
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.