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Title: Fishing in British Columbia - With a Chapter on Tuna Fishing at Santa Catalina
Author: Lambert, Thomas Wilson
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Note

The punctuation and spelling from the original text have been faithfully
preserved. Only obvious typographical errors have been corrected.










  M.A., M.B., B.C. (Cantab.); M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. (London).

  _Late Surgeon to the Western Division, Canadian
  Pacific Railway Company._







The Author hopes that this book may prove of some interest to anglers by
giving a short account of the fishing which is to be obtained in a part
of the world hitherto little exploited, and well worthy of better

British Columbia only became fairly easy of access after the completion
of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1887, which placed it within two
weeks' journey from London. Before that time it was cut off by the
immense prairies of the north-west of Canada, and could only be reached
by a long journey round Cape Horn or over the Isthmus of Panama. Since
the date given, however, a new era has dawned for the country, and all
the southern part of it has been opened up by railways. Thus its waters
have been rendered easy of access to any fisherman willing to try them.
The position of the country on the map resembles that of Norway and
Sweden in Europe, and the general resemblance is borne out by the
features of both countries. Each possesses a deeply indented coast line
and a wealth of pine forests, lakes, and rivers. But the climate of
British Columbia is much milder; the valleys are richer in soil, the
mountains in precious metals, and the waters are inhabited by different
species of fish. And whereas the Scandinavian peninsula has some ten
millions of people, British Columbia supports as yet but one hundred
thousand of population, including Indians.

It is without doubt a country of great possibilities. The summer climate
of the southern central plateau is very bracing and dry, resembling that
of the southern Californian winter; while the winter climate of the
coast is like Devonshire. Game, both large and small, is still plentiful
in the south, while the northern part is one of the best big game
districts of the world.

British Columbia is the home of the rainbow trout, which flourishes in
all its rivers and lakes to the furthest north, and spreads southwards
into the neighbouring Pacific states, where it has, however, to compete
with another species, the cut-throat trout. The eastern limit of the
rainbow is the Rocky Mountain range.

The chief purpose of this book is to give some idea of the habits and
peculiarities of the rainbow, and the sport which it affords in its
native haunts. The author spent some twelve years in the interior of the
country, and has fished a great many of its numberless lakes and
streams, so he may claim to write from practical experience. But he
writes also with the hope that perhaps someone more competent may in the
future publish a complete history of this most interesting fish, and
solve some of the problems which are here but alluded to. For there is
ample scope in these almost virgin waters for both the naturalist and
the fisherman, to whom these notes may perhaps serve as the blazes on a
mountain trail, and as some slight record of the sport that was to be
obtained in the earlier days of British Columbia.

Though the inland waters swarm with Pacific salmon at certain seasons,
the fish are useless for purposes of sport. They take no bait of any
kind when they have once started to migrate up the rivers. In the salt
water, however, and while waiting at the mouths of rivers, they take a
spoon-bait freely, and the smaller kinds will in the same conditions
often rise readily to the fly. But it may be stated, as a general rule,
no salmon are ever taken on bait or fly as they travel, and when they
reach the upper waters.

The Dominion Government has recently tried the experiment of hatching
and turning out 250,000 of the small fry of the Atlantic salmon from one
of their hatcheries; and, should success attend the effort, a great
attraction would be added to the inland streams; but a period of some
few years must naturally elapse before any opinion can be given as to
the success or failure of this attempt.

British Columbia is reached as soon as the traveller crosses the summit
of the Rocky Mountains, just beyond Banff, on the main line of the
Canadian Pacific Railway. The summit, which is known as the Great
Divide, separates the Pacific Slope from Eastern Canada. The crossing
once made, a country is reached in which there is a great change in
climate, fauna, and flora; and in the rivers, instead of the so-called
speckled trout, the muskallunge, black bass, and Atlantic salmon, are
found the rainbow, silver, and steel-head trout, with the five species
of the Pacific salmon. This last fish is not a salmon at all, but only
bears the title by courtesy, because no other Anglo-Saxon name has been
given to it. The early settlers mistook it for a salmon, and called it a
salmon because it so closely resembled one in appearance and habits,
just as the ruffed grouse was, and is, called a partridge in Eastern
Canada. But it has no true English name. Scientifically, the five
species of Pacific "salmon" belong to the genus _Oncorhynchus_, and each
is mostly called by the Indian name which distinguished it when the
white man first arrived, such as _quinnat_ or _cohoe_. The physical
relationship of the Pacific _Oncorhynchus_ to the Atlantic _Salmo salar_
is not unlike the physical relationship of the grayling or char to the

The rainbow is found before the Divide is reached, in some of the
streams flowing eastward from the Rockies, but it does not follow them
much below the foothills; and it abounds in the rivers and lakes among
the mountains themselves. But it is not until the central plateau of
British Columbia is reached, a country of rolling hills, valleys, and
open range abounding in lakes and small streams, that the best fishing
grounds are encountered, the true home and headquarters of the rainbow

The streams and lakes in the mountains are too turbulent, and fed by too
much glacier and snow-water, to make the best fishing grounds. The
guide-books of the railway speak highly of the fishing through the
mountains, but there is better to be obtained lower down, and my advice
to the traveller is to make no stop for fishing purposes until Sicamous
is reached, at the head of Shuswap Lake where the Eagle River enters it.
The Thompson River flows out of the lake at the other end, and the
Shuswap Lake and Thompson River constitute the best fishing district of
British Columbia, and will be the chief subject of the following pages.

It should be premised, however, that there is plenty of what may be
styled "virgin water" in British Columbia besides the streams and lakes
described in these pages. In a few years the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway
will render accessible a network of rivers and lakes some four hundred
miles to the north of the present line, and the addition to the angler's
opportunities by this will, of course, be very great.

The cost of the fourteen-day journey from London to British Columbia
will be at most £50 each way; it can be done for much less. There is no
charge for the fishing, and ordinary living expenses are not high. One
can stop at the hotels along the Thompson for 2 dollars a day, in
Kamloops for 3 dollars a day, in the Canadian Pacific Railway hotels at
4 dollars to 6 dollars. There are no extra charges, except at the bar,
which in British Columbia it is considered the duty of everyone to
support liberally. A stranger will find that a few dollars spent
judiciously and with tact in this way will usually be productive of
quite astonishing results. In the West a drink puts everyone on equal
terms, and at once establishes a feeling of _camaraderie_. It might be
said to correspond somewhat to the old custom of offering the snuffbox.

The natives understand it as a sign that the stranger wishes to be on
good terms, that he does not consider himself superior in any sense,
that there is no side about him, that he is willing to drink with them
as an equal. He will certainly receive a like invitation, and he must on
no account refuse; to do so is an unpardonable violation of Western
etiquette, even if everyone present insists on taking the part of host
in turn. There is, however, no cause for alarm on the score of
temperance, for it is quite _de rigueur_ to ask for a cigar or to take a
mere apology for a drink. If the stranger thus satisfies Western ideas
of what is right and proper he will usually find that the individuals
who had apparently hitherto regarded him somewhat in the manner that a
strange dog seems to be looked at by his fellows in a new street will
quite suddenly be most interested in his pursuit and most willing to
help him in every possible way with advice as to someone who can tell
him all about the river or lake and the best way to get there. Perhaps
even the result may be an offer of a horse or hospitality for a night or
two from some ranchman who may live near the place he wishes to get to.
The people of British Columbia are, as a rule, most generous and
open-hearted when they are approached in the right way. All men are
equal in the West; there must be no question of standing on one's

As regards outfit in general (fishing tackle is dealt with later), it is
the greatest mistake to take a lot of useless luggage. Any rough fishing
suit will do, and a strong pair of boots. Waders are not needed, except
in the coast rivers. Everything can be got in the country itself. The
Hudson Bay stores or the general store which is found in every little
town will provide everything that is wanted. My advice is to procure the
outfit in the country itself, because they know best what is needed for
the local wants.




  The Rainbow Trout--Names--Distribution--Appearance--Size
  in British Columbia--Its Food--Fly-fishing for--Sporting
  Qualities--Possibility of New Species being
  Discovered      1


  Season for Trout Fishing--Principal Districts--Tackle
  Necessary--"No Drawing-room Work"--Advantage of
  Plenty of Time--Poor Fishing in the Rockies--The
  Thompson River--The South Thompson--Its Course
  and Character--Clear, Swift Water--Difficulty of Landing
  Big Fish--A Lost Thirty-pounder--The Successful
  Cherokee Fisherman--Fine, Calm Days Best for
  Fishing--Mosquitoes not Troublesome                   9


  The Kamloops District--Kamloops as Headquarters--May
  Floods and Fishing in Shuswap Lake--Silver-bodied
  Flies--Streams Running into the Lake--The Eagle
  River--Advantages of a Steam Launch--A Big Catch--Possibilities
  of the Prawn--A July Spectacle--Fishing
  at Tranquille--Kamloops Lake--Savona's Ferry--Great
  Sport in June--Dolly Varden Trout--A Fifteen-Pounder--Falling-off
  of Sport when Salmon are Running--The
  "Salmon Fly"--Size of Catches on the Thompson--August
  a Bad Month                                           20


  What is the "Silver Trout"?--Evidence in Favour of a
  New Species--Difference in Appearance from the
  Rainbow--A Jumper--Native of Kamloops and Shuswap
  Lakes--A Bag of Twenty-four--The Dolly Varden--Origin
  of the Name--Not a Free Riser--Grayling--Chub
  and Squaw Fish--Great Lake Trout--The Silver
  Fish at Spence's Bridge--Salmon or Steel-head?--Cut-throat
  Trout--Possible Fishing Tour in British
  Columbia                                              34


  Other Lakes--Long Lake--Its Silvery Trout--Fish Lake--Extraordinary
  Fishing--Fifteen Hundred Trout in
  Three Days--A Miniature Gaff--Uses of a Collapsible
  Boat--Catching Fish Through the Ice--Mammit Lake--Nicola
  Lake--Beautifully Marked Trout in Nicola
  River--"The Little Red Fish"                          46


  The Kootenay District--Sawdust and Dynamite--Fine Sport
  in Vancouver--Harrison River and Lake--Big Fish in
  the Coquehalla--The Steel-head in the Fraser--Need for
  Better River Protection                               65


  The Salmons of the Pacific--Legends Concerning Them--The
  Five Species--Systems of Migration--Powers of
  Endurance--Absence of Kelts--Do They Take a Fly?--Terrible
  Mortality--"A Vivid Red Ribbon"--Points
  of Difference Between the Quinnat and _Salmo salar_--Work
  of the Canneries--Artificial Propagation              72


  The Diplomat and the Salmon--The Struggle for Existence--Salmon
  and Steel-head Liable to be Confused--Sport
  in Tidal Waters--The Campbell River--The Pioneers--A
  River of Fifty-Pounders--Smaller Salmon on the
  Fly--Method of Fishing--Tackle--Typical Good Bags--The
  Steel-head--Cost of Fishing--Dangers of Over-Fishing
  for Canneries--A Good Trolling Time                   91


  Recapitulation of Salmon and Trout Problems--Importance
  of Preserving British Columbian Fisheries--Possibility
  of Introducing Atlantic Salmon--Question of Altering
  Present Close Season for Trout--Past and Present
  Neglect of Trout Fisheries--Need for Governmental
  Action--Difficulties in the Way of it--Conclusion    107


  Tuna Fishing at Avalon, Santa Catalina Island        118



     The Rainbow Trout--Names--Distribution--Appearance--Size in British
     Columbia--Its Food--Fly-fishing for--Sporting
     Qualities--Possibility of New Species being Discovered.

The Rainbow trout (_Salmo irideus_) is a true trout of the same genus
as, and closely allied to, the common trout (_S. fario_) of the British
Isles, where it is also now acclimatised. It holds the same position in
every stream, lake, and river of the northern part of the Pacific Coast
of North America as the brown trout does in the United Kingdom. Unless
the water, for some local reason, is unsuitable, it is met with
everywhere, until further south it overlaps with the cut-throat trout,
which ultimately seems to take its place.

In the small mountain streams it is very plentiful, and is generally
called the brook, mountain, or speckled trout, and when of larger size
is known locally as the "red side"--a name which often very aptly
describes it. The name "rainbow" is not much heard or used locally.

In the different lakes and rivers the fish varies a good deal in size,
numbers, colour, and appearance--so much so that when these waters are
better known the naturalist may be inclined to name and describe several
varieties of rainbows, perhaps even may discover new species.

This fish is confined to the west side of the Rocky Mountains, save in
the head waters of the streams which take their source from these
mountains and then flow east. Often two streams flow from a lake, one
east and one west, and the rainbow is found in both; a good instance of
this is found in the Kicking Horse and the Bow rivers. The latter flows
east from the divide, and the rainbow follows it for some distance into
the prairie; but as this river ceases to be a mountain stream and
becomes sluggish and discoloured traces of the fish cease. But in the
clear streams of Eastern Canada, near the great lakes, its place is
taken by the spotted trout (_Salvelinus fontinalis_), a beautiful and
game fish, member of the char family, unknown west of the Rockies.

In appearance the rainbow is well worthy of its name, and may justly
claim to be the equal in beauty, if not the superior, of any of the
Salmonidæ. It is clean-cut in shape, perhaps rather lither than the
brown trout, and when large it is not so deep. The colour on the back
is an olive green, with the usual characteristic black spots, and at the
side a few red ones; laterally the green shades off into silver and
sometimes gold, while along its side from gill to tail flashes the
beautiful rainbow stripe, varying from pale sunset pink to the most
vivid scarlet or crimson; often the effect is as if a paint-brush dipped
in red paint had been drawn along the fish's side; the belly is silvery
white; the anal, ventral, and pectoral fins being coloured in proportion
to the colouring of the individual fish. The general appearance is very
striking, and in a fine specimen is certainly one of great beauty. When
fresh from the water and in brilliant sunshine the fish rivals the
object after which it is called; the living rainbow on its side shows a
play of delicate colour which it would be hard to surpass or to equal,
even in the heavens.

From the fly-fisherman's point of view the fish may be said to run up to
4lb. in weight; by which statement it is meant that the fly is readily
taken in both stream and lake by fish up to this size. Mr. F.J. Fulton,
of Kamloops, states that he has never landed a 5lb. fish on the fly, and
he is an authority on the Thompson River. Personally, I have never seen
a rainbow over 4lb. which I knew to have been caught with the fly; but
I have seen a model of a fish of 12lb. caught with the fly in 1891 in
Kamloops Lake by Captain Drummond. There is, of course, not the
slightest doubt that the fish grows to a much larger size. Mr. Walter
Langley caught a rainbow of 22-1/2lb. on a small spoon in Marble Canyon
Lake about May, 1900, and the photograph of this fish was published in
the _Field_. I have also seen very big specimens which had been speared
by Indians in the Thompson and sold as "salmon"; two of them I weighed
myself and found to be 15lb. and 12lb. respectively. While, therefore,
there is some evidence to show that these large fish may be caught with
spoon and minnow, it may be stated as a broad fact that the rainbow is
not often caught with the fly over the weight of 4lb., and that up to
this size he takes it freely.

The fly is taken best during the months of June and July, when there is
a rise of the stone fly in the rivers, and flies of all kinds are
plentiful in the lakes. At this time, indeed, natural fly seems to be
the main article of the fish's food. But the small fry of the salmon and
of its own species are also devoured in great numbers, and in late
summer there are grasshoppers as well; these are very plentiful, and are
eagerly snapped up as they fall into the water. No doubt a further
great source of food supply is the spawn of the salmon, which must be
very plentiful on the spawning beds. It forms the usual lure of the
Indian fishermen.

The feeding-grounds of the rainbow are the eddies and the back-washes in
the swift-running rivers, into which flies, grasshoppers, and other food
are carried by the current. A very favourite haunt is at the mouth of
creeks and streams running into a lake, or where a large river runs into
or out of a large lake. Food is naturally plentiful at such places, and
at certain times the fish gather there in great numbers, splashing about
and chasing the small fry. They will then take a silver-bodied fly most

In many of the smaller mountain lakes where fly seems to be at certain
seasons the rainbow's sole food, no other lure will attract it, but with
the fly great numbers may be caught. The fly-fisher also scores among
fish gathered at the mouths of creeks swollen by summer floods. The
minnow, also, both natural and artificial, is useful in these
conditions, and it will account for much larger fish, up to 10lb. and
even over; these monsters have probably forsaken a fly diet and taken to
small fry. But there is no doubt that the rainbow is, quite as much as
our own trout, a fly-feeder, and that it takes the artificial as readily
and, owing to want of education, and, perhaps, also to natural boldness,
with even greater freedom and less regard to the nature of the lure or
the skill of the fisherman who throws it.

So far as strength and gameness go the rainbow is fully the equal of the
brown trout, and, in my opinion, its superior, though, as its play is
often aided by the very strong water it frequents, its strength may
sometimes appear greater than it would in our smaller streams. For this
reason fishing for rainbows in British Columbia has always seemed to me
to resemble sea-trout fishing more than the fishing for brown trout;
perhaps less skill is necessary, but there is a stronger fight.

The rivers and lakes of British Columbia are at present an angler's
paradise, and will probably long continue to be so. And it promises the
additional interest that the fisherman is not treading a beaten and
well-known path. There is pioneer work for him to do. There are many
problems for him to solve and discoveries for him to make. In the
numberless lakes and rivers stretching far up through northern British
Columbia to the Arctic, it is not unlikely that several new species of
the Salmonidæ await description.

The big-game hunter has shown what secrets may lie hid in so wide a
land, for since these northern regions have been explored for big game
and gold (from the date of the Klondike rush in 1898) no fewer than four
new species of the sheep family have been discovered; a pure white
mountain sheep, for instance, has been found to exist in great numbers.
"Heads" of this sheep are now quite common, but it is a most curious
proof of the general ignorance of the country ten years ago that such a
remarkable animal was then entirely unknown. Had any explorer in those
days reported seeing such an animal without bringing any tangible proof
to support his story, he would have been universally regarded as a most
unique liar, in a part of the world where such people are far from
uncommon. The enormous moose heads recently brought down from Alaska and
northern British Columbia were undreamt of not so many years back, and
the Alaskan grizzly is, too, I believe, a new species.

It is, therefore, far from unreasonable to believe or to hope that as
the country is opened up the fisherman will also achieve new conquests.
As yet they lie before him, for he only follows slowly in the footsteps
of the pioneer and the big-game hunter; he requires a railway and an
hotel, and he must be able to dispose in some manner of his catch, which
he cannot do unless he is at least near some settlement. I have
conversed with numbers of prospectors and hunters from all parts of the
north-west, and they all have the same account of teeming rivers and
lakes. Many a weird fish story have they told me, but none have really
been fishermen; they have simply caught fish for food, and have not
noted them much except with a view to their edible properties. It is,
therefore, highly probable that, as these strange waters are gradually
made accessible to the angler and become as well known as the more
southern rivers of British Columbia, many interesting facts will become
known too, and new varieties of trout and other fish will be discovered.
Even those southern waters are, in truth, little known, and several
interesting matters which could well bear investigation will be put
forward in these pages.


     Season for Trout Fishing--Principal Districts--Tackle
     Necessary--"No Drawing-room Work"--Advantage of Plenty of
     Time--Poor Fishing in the Rockies--The Thompson River--The South
     Thompson--Its Course and Character--Clear, Swift Water--Difficulty
     of Landing Big Fish--A Lost Thirty-pounder--The Successful Cherokee
     Fisherman--Fine, Calm Days Best for Fishing--Mosquitoes not

Fly-fishing for trout in British Columbia may be said to begin in April
or May at the coast, but in the interior it is June or July before much
success can be obtained. If time be no object, good sport might be
obtained in the coast rivers and lakes during April and May, and a move
might be made to the interior waters during June and July, while August
is about the best season for the big salmon fishing on Vancouver Island.
During September and October good sport may still be obtained, and the
fish are then in the best condition; but usually the attractions of
shooting prove too much for the local sportsman, and the rivers are more
or less deserted. The southern waters may be divided into three
principal districts--namely, the coast rivers, the Thompson River
district, and the waters of the Kootenay country, which all seem to
possess special peculiarities, though the rainbow is found in them all.
But in the coast rivers the steel-head, or sea-trout, is alone met with.

As regards rods and tackle for trout fishing, large rods are out of
place in British Columbia, and quite unnecessary; an 11ft. split cane is
the best, and long enough for any river; a 14ft. rod is very unhandy in
a rough country or among trees, and all local fishermen use a small rod.
Tackle should be of the same kind as one would use for sea-trout
fishing, and should be strong. As regards flies, size is the most
important consideration, as the usual patterns are the ordinary
sea-trout and loch flies. The imitation stone fly is about the only fly
that should resemble the natural insect. Rather large flies are used on
the rivers, and smaller on the lakes, but this question may be left till
individual streams are described. For a general supply large sea-trout
flies (Jock Scott, Silver Grey, and Silver Doctor, etc.), with some
March Browns and stone flies of the same sizes, and an assortment of
smaller Scottish loch trout flies of various patterns--these are all
that are needed. The artificial minnow of various kinds, the spoon, and
the dead bait on a crocodile or Archer spinner are all used, and the
prawn has lately been tried with deadly effect on large fish. Bottles of
preserved minnows and small prawns would therefore be a useful addition
to the equipment. It is also wise to take plenty of strong casts and
traces, as local fishing tackle is not to be trusted.

It must be noted well that fishing in these waters is no drawing-room
work; great sport can be got, but the best is often only to be obtained
by a certain amount of "roughing it." The rivers are not always in right
condition, nor the weather always favourable--unfortunate facts peculiar
to every river in the world--and it is only when all things are
favourable that the best sport is obtained. To have plenty of time at
his disposal is the great thing for the fisherman, for it is only
natural that a man passing through the country and having only a couple
of weeks at the outside to spare may easily find nothing but
disappointments. No one must expect to get off the Canadian Pacific
express and find the rainbow trout eagerly expecting his arrival.

The district best known to me is that through which the Thompson River
runs, from the Shuswap Lake to its junction with the Fraser at Lytton.
The Canadian Pacific Railway follows the river in its whole length, and
thus renders it very accessible. Many other smaller streams and lakes
are part of the Thompson water system, and afford good fishing. The
river runs through the "dry belt," which is so called owing to the
smallness of the rainfall, which only averages about 8in. in the year.
It is from this cause that the banks of the rivers are very open and
free from brush, which makes them easy to fish and to travel along;
while, for the same reason, the country is generally open rolling hills,
covered with grass or scanty pines, affording a great contrast to the
moist country at the coast, where the rivers run through thick woods and
impenetrable bush, which render them very difficult to approach and fish
unless they are shallow enough for wading. The fishing to be obtained
along the Canadian Pacific Railway as it passes through the Rocky
Mountains is not very good, the guide-books notwithstanding. At Banff
there is a little fishing in the Bow River, but it is poor, and the fish
do not seem to take the fly. In Devil's Lake lake trout, a species of
char, can be got on the spoon by deep trolling up to a very large size;
but it is not a very high form of sport, and cannot be compared to the
rainbow trout fishing along the Thompson.

The South Thompson River has its source at the western end of the great
Shuswap Lake, near Shuswap station on the Canadian Pacific, and joins
the Fraser at Lytton; at Kamloops it is joined by the North Thompson,
and the combined stream flows into Kamloops Lake, about seven miles
below the town, running out again some twenty miles below at Savona's
Ferry. Its total course being about 140 miles, and almost all of it
fishing water, it is a fine river. The water is usually clear, varying
in breadth and in swiftness of current according to the nature of the
country it flows through. In places it is broad and calm; in the canyons
it is a rushing torrent. Its pace below Savona's is from eight to twelve
miles an hour, above Kamloops probably not more than two to four. The
South Thompson from Shuswap Lake to Kamloops is always clear, owing to
the filtration of the lake, and fine fishing can be had in some of the
upper rapids and pools. Near Kamloops the current is too sluggish, and
sport is not very good. The river flows along the South Thompson valley,
an open country with scattered farms and cattle ranches, bordered by
bunch grass range and hills covered by yellow pine, very beautiful in
spring and early summer. It is the central plateau of British Columbia,
and has an exceedingly dry climate, with hardly any rain, very healthy
and bracing, the altitude being about 1200ft. above sea level; it is
very hot in summer, and sometimes cold in winter. Fishing begins here
early in June, and, though it is little fished, there is no better part
of the river. In Kamloops Lake the rainbow is very plentiful, and good
fishing may be obtained as early as June at Tranquille, where the river
flows into the lake, and causes a slow, wide-sweeping eddy. From
Savona's Ferry, the outflow of the lake, down to Ashcroft is the
best-known part of the river, and here the current is very swift and the
banks are rocky and steep. Near Lytton the canyon is so deep and the
banks so steep and dangerous that fishing is out of the question.

On the whole there is probably no fishing river in British Columbia to
beat this one for the size and quality of the fish, though it does not
afford the large bags that can be obtained on the Kootenay. It is a very
sporting river, owing to the strength of the current, for a big fish is
hard to hold if it once gets out into the main current, away from the
side eddies. Mainly owing to this is the fact that there seems to be no
record of fish over about 4lb., for a larger fish can get into the main
stream, where the force of a ten-mile current drags on it and the line
to such an extent that there is no chance of holding it. Such large
fish are rarely met with, but every fisherman on the Thompson has
stories of them, and they are all the same and coincide with my own. It
was only once my luck to hook a really large fish. He jumped out of the
water twice close to me, and I had a splendid view of him, and judged
him to be about 8lb. He headed for the opposite bank, and just as a
break was inevitable the fly came back. Other men have told me the same
story, but such large fish are hooked so seldom that it is not worth
while using a stronger rod and tackle. Though very large fish are
undoubtedly plentiful, they seldom take either fly or any other bait,
and perhaps deep live baiting would be the only means of successfully
fishing for them.

The average fish is from 1/2lb. to 4lb., but much larger fish are in the
deep pools. I once was shown at Spence's Bridge three supposed salmon in
the winter which had been speared and sold by the Indians for two
shillings apiece. I noticed their perfect condition and bright red side
stripe, and, on examining them more carefully, pointed out to an
experienced fisherman who was present, and to the proprietor of the
hotel and others, that these fish were large rainbow trout. The largest
weighed 15lb., the two others 12lb. apiece. This incident happened at
Spence's Bridge, on the Lower Thompson. On another occasion of a visit
there, the bar-tender of the hotel, who happened to be a young
Englishman, told me that the angling editor of an American sporting
paper had stayed off there and proposed to try with spoon and minnow for
large rainbow trout, which he had heard could be got. The next day they
went to where the Nicola River, a large stream, flows into the Thompson
about half a mile from the hotel. The angling editor was provided with
strong spinning gear and rod, and much to the bar-tender's surprise,
very soon got into a fish of most surprising strength and dimensions,
for they saw him several times, and estimated him at the unbelievable
weight of over 30lb. The fish took them rapidly down to some impassable
rocks, and went away with everything but the rod. I believed this story
at the time, and see no reason to disbelieve now, though of course the
size of the fish was probably over-estimated. No other fish was seen or
hooked. The only point which I would wish to call attention to is the
probable great size of the rainbows in this river, though none have as
yet been taken with the rod. Mr. Langley's fish of 22lb. proves that in
the lakes these large fish exist. At this place Mr. Inskip has also
caught some large fish by spinning, and some very good bags of smaller
fish have been got on the fly.

The Thompson is not very much fished. Near Ashcroft the local sportsmen
from that small town fish it, and Savona's Ferry is visited from
Kamloops when the fish are taking; but Kamloops Lake must provide an
inexhaustible reserve of fish to take the place of fish caught, so that
the river could never be really fished out or much overfished under
present conditions. The Indians also fish, and generally with the
illegal salmon roe, but do not make great catches; the fly is more
successful when the fish are taking it. Nets and dynamite would be
useless in this river; therefore, even should a far greater population
inhabit the surrounding country, which is not likely for a great number
of years, this beautiful and striking river will still afford great
sport for many generations. There are long stretches which are never
touched except by a stray Indian or Chinaman with a grasshopper or bit
of salmon roe on a string tied to a long willow pole. Some years ago a
nondescript individual who said he was a Cherokee half-breed turned up
at Savona's Ferry and earned a living by fishing. Every day he caught
more fish than he could carry, though he never revealed his secret. Some
believed that he used set lines. His success showed that trout were far
more numerous than was generally believed, but the fly fishermen caught
as many as usual. He was the most successful fisherman I ever saw.

It is a fact very striking to the English fisherman that the best
fishing days in British Columbia are the exact opposite of ours. Fine,
bright hot days without wind are the best, both on river and lake; cold
and rainy days are always bad, a fortunate thing, as such days are very
uncommon. Strong wind is, oddly enough, the greatest enemy of the
angler, especially on the lakes; it nearly always puts the fish down.
The only thing that seems to account for these curious facts is the
probability that the stone fly and other flies are not hatched out
except on hot days, while the fish are regardless of the gleam of the
gut in the water. My own experience has always been that the hottest
days are the best. Except for rocks and stones, and clambering up and
down very steep banks, the Thompson River is easy to fish, and trees are
not troublesome. Mosquitoes are almost absent, except in the south
branch, and the Canadian Pacific, as has been said, runs along its whole
length, thus giving easy access to the river, while hotels exist at most
of the stations. The railway company publishes a pamphlet on shooting
and fishing, but the Thompson River is altogether omitted, which is
certainly very strange, as the line runs along the banks for its whole
distance, and there is no part of British Columbia in which such
excellent fishing can be obtained, and no part of Canada which enjoys
such a climate or offers such strangely attractive scenery.


     The Kamloops District--Kamloops as Headquarters--May Floods and
     Fishing in Shuswap Lake--Silver-bodied Flies--Streams Running into
     the Lake--The Eagle River--Advantages of a Steam Launch--A Big
     Catch--Possibilities of the Prawn--A July Spectacle--Fishing at
     Tranquille--Kamloops Lake--Savona's Ferry--Great Sport in
     June--Dolly Varden Trout--A Fifteen-Pounder--Falling-off of Sport
     when Salmon are Running--The "Salmon Fly"--Size of Catches on the
     Thompson--August a Bad Month.

The Thompson district may be described for fishing purposes as beginning
at Sicamous junction and ending a little below Spence's Bridge,
including the Shuswap and Okanagan lakes, Kamloops, Nicola, and Mammit
lakes, and the mountain lakes in the neighbourhood, all of which are
more or less part of the Thompson watershed. Of this country the town of
Kamloops is the centre, situated at the junction of the north and south
branches of the river, and seven miles above Kamloops Lake, its name
meaning, in the Thompson language, "the meeting of the waters." By
virtue of its position it is an excellent headquarters for anyone
wishing to fish in the district, for by rail, stage, or horseback every
portion of it can be reached from there, and there are good stores to
outfit from, and good hotels--for British Columbia. Fishing in this
district cannot be said really to begin till May is well advanced. It is
when the snow begins to melt in earnest and the rivers and creeks come
down in flood that real sport commences, and this usually happens
towards the end of May. No sport can be obtained in the Thompson River
below Kamloops Lake at this time, as the water is discoloured by the
North Thompson flowing in at Kamloops, which makes fishing useless, and
it is only in the South Thompson and the Shuswap Lake that good sport
can be obtained.

As the rivers begin to come down in high flood the trout congregate at
the places where the streams flow into the Shuswap Lake, doubtless for
the food which is brought down, and after two or three hot days, when
these small mountain streams rise rapidly, fishing is always good. The
fish may be seen leaping and splashing in great numbers at the place
where the turbid waters of the stream mingle with the clear water of the
lake. Small fry are the object of their pursuit, and if a silver-bodied
fly is thrown over a moving fish he takes it with a rush almost without
fail. It is a most exciting form of fishing, for the fly must be thrown
quickly from a boat or canoe over the fish as he breaks the water in his
rush for the minnows, and if he fails to see it further casting is often
useless, till another fish repeats the same manoeuvre. It would seem as
if the trout were lying in wait till a small school of young salmon or
trout became entangled in the strong eddies of the stream, darting out
upon them when thus comparatively helpless. An occasional fish may be
got by casting here and there over the water, but it is only when the
trout are moving on the surface that really good sport can be obtained.

All the Shuswap mountain creeks and rivers during late May and in June
and July give opportunities for good fishing of this kind. The Eagle
River, about a quarter of a mile from Sicamous, is a good example; and
there are numerous other streams at various points in the Shuswap Lake
(some probably almost unknown) which can be fished at this time of the
year. I remember a bag of 80lb. of fish taken on the fly at the mouth of
Eagle River some few years ago in three hours' fishing; but it has not
been equalled lately, though there is no reason why it should not be, in
favourable circumstances. The time to look for is when the first flood
comes down the Eagle River after two or three hot days, and there must
not be any wind to speak of on the lake. The fish may be seen leaping,
from the hotel windows, and it is then that the fisherman must row his
fastest to the mouth of the river, and if they are still moving when he
gets there his success is assured. The best way to enjoy sport on the
Shuswap Lake is to hire a steam launch and cruise round to the mouths of
the various streams and try them in turn. Anasty Arm, Scotch, and Adam's
Creek are the best known. A canoe or boat must be taken to fish from,
and unless sleeping accommodation can be got on the boat, it is
necessary to camp on the shore. If a steam launch is beyond the
fisherman's means, the only other way is to hire a boat, with an Indian
or other guide, and carry a tent and provisions. Wood and water are
plentiful, and there is only one objection to the plan, that the
mosquito is often very numerous and troublesome on the Shuswap, and
Sicamous is by no means exempt. If, however, the sportsman can sleep on
a steam launch, this nuisance is got rid of, as it is only on the shore
that the mosquito is plentiful. No more pleasant or sporting trip could
well be undertaken than one in the Shuswap Lake from Sicamous in June,
with a suitable steamer or launch, for great fishing, both with fly and
troll, would be certain at the mouths of all the creeks and rivers; and
if a rifle were taken, bear, both black and grizzly, are by no means

There is also another place, hitherto little fished except by the
Indians, which is well worthy of a trial. It is in the centre of the
lake, where the four arms meet, a place well known to the men who log on
the lake. It takes the form of a channel less than half a mile wide,
connecting the four arms of the Shuswap Lake. Here in 1903, in early
August, two men camped, going up on a logging steamer from Kamloops.
They trolled across and across the channel, and caught in about ten days
some thirty large silver fish, the biggest being about 15lb. Many were
lost including one monster supposed to be about 25lb. The best day's
sport was about eight large fish. I do not know whether this place has
ever been fished since, but it certainly deserves a trial. At the mouths
of the various creeks I have never heard definitely of anything over
7lb. being caught but the fish are always in splendid condition and give
a great display of fight. The best flies are those with silver bodies,
such as the Silver Doctor, Silver Grey, and Wilkinson. A dead bait on an
archer spinner is very deadly, and the abylone spoon; a half-red spoon
is to be avoided, or a half-gold. A large species of char may be caught
by deep trolling with a weight and spoon; but it is a poor kind of
sport, and the fish is not game. The prawn has never been tried on the
Shuswap Lake; it might be worth a trial. Large trout have been taken on
the prawn in the coast rivers; but it is possible that they were
sea-trout and not rainbows.

The upper part of the South Thompson, for a mile or more after it leaves
the Shuswap, is good at the same time of the year in certain pools and
eddies, or riffles as they are called locally. I once, in early July,
saw a wonderful sight on this part of the river, at a place called
Sullivan's Pool. I was passing in a logging steamer on a very hot
morning, and in a back eddy which forms this pool, under a cut bank, the
water was alive with large trout chasing the small fry on the surface.
As each fish drove the little fish upwards a band of about thirty
mergansers attacked them from above. A curious and very lively scene was
the result, such as I have never seen before or since. On returning
about seven in the evening, at my request the steamer was tied up to the
bank, and I put out in a small boat with a boatman, though no fish were
stirring and the mergansers were sitting gorged in a row on the bank.
However, I hooked and landed at the first cast a beautiful 4-1/2lb.
rainbow, which was promptly cooked for dinner. If it had been possible
to fish the pool in the morning a great catch could have been made. At
this time of the year good fishing can be got at Tranquille, where the
river flows into Kamloops Lake and forms a slow-moving eddy. Fishing is
the same here as in the Shuswap; it is only good on hot, calm days, and
wind puts the fish down. It is best when the fish can be seen splashing
on the surface in the early morning or evening, when good catches of
fine fish may be made; but, as wind is by no means uncommon, it is not
always that circumstances are favourable.

Tranquille is seven miles from Kamloops, on the other side of the river,
and comfortable accommodation can be got at Mr. Fortune's ranch. It is a
beautiful place, but mosquitoes are not unknown. Here Capt. Drummond
landed a 12-1/2lb. fish on the fly, and a model cut out in wood was
preserved for a long time, but was burnt in a fire that took place there
some few years ago. This is the largest rainbow caught on the fly that I
have ever heard of. In May and June, before the fish will take the fly,
there is often fair sport to be had with the minnow and spoon in
Kamloops Lake; unless the north branch of the Thompson is in very high
flood and discolours the water too much. The north branch, which joins
the South Thompson at Kamloops, is no good for fishing; its waters are
seldom clear enough, and seem to be fed too much by glaciers, with no
large lake to clear and filter the water. There are several rivers of
the same type in British Columbia, and fishing does not seem to be good
in any of them. At the western end of Kamloops Lake the Thompson flows
out again to join the Fraser at Lytton; the stream is swift and strong,
running when in high flood at the rate of twelve miles an hour. In 1894
there was a very high water, and the stationmaster at Savona's wired to
Ashcroft, a distance of twenty-four miles, to say that the bridge had
just been carried away. A reply came giving the time of its arrival,
which was just two hours afterwards. The _débris_ swept away the
Ashcroft bridge and also the bridge at Lytton.

At Savona's the fishing of the Lower Thompson begins, and at this point,
about a mile from the mouth of the river, there is an excellent hotel,
kept by Mr. Adam Fergusson, one of the "old timers" of British Columbia,
who came into the country with many others in the early days of the gold
diggings on the Fraser River. This is really the only fishing hotel on
the upper mainland of British Columbia, and is an excellent
headquarters from which several lakes can be reached, as also many
places on each side of the Thompson River. This part of the Thompson
River affords good fishing from Savona's to below Spence's bridge,
wherever the water is accessible, and, though a little sport can be
obtained in the latter part of May, chiefly with spoon and minnow, it is
not usually till July that the river is in really good order, when the
excess of snow water has been carried off and the river begins to fall
and get clearer. The hot weather sets in at the beginning of June, and a
quick rise of the river is an immediate result. On a rising water the
trout will not take. Often there is a pronounced fall in the middle of
June, owing to cooler weather setting in, though this does not always
happen. When it does occur excellent fishing can be obtained. I remember
its happening in the middle of June, 1901, and for a week there was
tremendous sport; a trout rose to every cast of the fly; but as soon as
the water began to rise again everything was at an end.

At the end of May, before the water begins to rise, a fair number of
fish can be taken by spinning from the bank with spoon and minnow at the
mouth of the river. But these are another fish, called locally the Dolly
Varden trout, a species of char, a handsome fish with pink spots and
light pink flesh, and good eating. They take the fly later on
occasionally, and run from 3/4lb to 4lb., but are not so lively as the
rainbow, though they are a strong and game fish. I once took fifteen in
a day's fishing with the minnow, and they can also be caught by trolling
from a boat near the mouth of the river, the sport being varied by an
occasional rainbow, often of a larger size than those usually caught
with the fly. In May, 1903, a Dolly Varden of 15lb. was taken. It is a
curious fact that during the fly season in July very few of these fish
are ever taken, either on fly or spoon, or by trolling in the lake.

The fly-fishing season at Savona's really begins about the first of July
and lasts till the salmon first arrive in the beginning of August, when
fishing invariably falls off, probably owing to the fact that the trout
follow the salmon to their spawning beds to prey on the eggs; at least,
such is the local reason given. Whether this is true or not it is
impossible to say, but in any case the fact remains that about this time
fly fishing falls off for a few weeks coincident with the appearance of
the salmon, and generally is poor during the whole of August, at any
rate at Savona's. (It is often as good as ever lower down the river.) If
a grasshopper is used some fish may still be caught, especially if the
bait be allowed to sink. Later on, at the beginning of September, the
fish will again take the fly and continue to do so until the end of the
season, about the middle of October, while I have been told by an ardent
fisherman that he had excellent sport in November during a snowstorm,
regardless of the law of British Columbia. The excellence of sport in
July depends a good deal on the rise of the stone fly, or "salmon fly"
as it is locally called, and it is not until this fly makes its
appearance that fishing becomes really good.

This insect in appearance is the same as the English stone fly, but is
much more plentiful on the Thompson than I have ever seen it elsewhere;
in some seasons every bush on the bank is literally covered with the
flies, and later on the rocks are strewn with their dead bodies. A good
stone fly season is always a good fishing season, for the fish are
clearly very fond of them, and may often be seen sucking them into their
mouths as fast as they fall into the water, or jumping at them as they
dip down to the river's surface to lay their eggs. I have often seen the
salmon fly become suddenly very numerous about mid-day or an hour or so
before that, the hot sun hatching them out, and at once the trout are
on the move, readily taking a fly tied to imitate the natural one, and
continuing to do so as long as the living fly is on the water. At this
time the best hours for fishing are the middle ones of the day, however
hot and bright they may be, for in the earlier and later hours the fly
is not on the water. I have never found, as a rule, that very late or
very early hours are favourable on this river during this month, except
just at the place where the river leaves the lake, which is usually good
in the evening, especially after a very hot day. The best fly at this
time is one tied to resemble as nearly as possible the living salmon
fly; but if the natural fly is not on the water, others may be tried,
such as the Jock Scott, the Silver Doctor, Wilkinson, March Brown and
other well-known flies. Some local men swear by a claret body, others
prefer a yellow or green; but, whatever fly is used, I believe that it
should have plenty of hackle and body, and be of good size (Nos. 4 and
5); small flies are not advisable.

Great bags must not, as a rule, be expected on the Thompson; fifteen to
twenty good fish is an excellent bag on this river. Mr. F.J. Fulton, of
Kamloops, who has fished this river more than anyone else, has never
done better than twenty-four fish; but these twenty-four fish would be
48lb., and ought to include at least a couple of fish about 4lb. apiece.
On the Thompson the angler must carry his own fish, besides climbing up
and down some very steep banks under the glare of a northern sun, whose
heat is increased tenfold by the water and the bare rocks. Such a day's
fishing is no mean trial of endurance, while the fierceness of the
stream will generally account for a good percentage of lost fish. With
regard to the falling off of sport in August, it may be quite possible
that the salmon may really have nothing to do with the poorness of
fishing at this time, but that the real reason may be that the fish are
fat and gorged with the abundance of fly and grasshopper, and lie
lazily, deep in the pools. In other parts of British Columbia fishing is
poor at this time, and in waters the salmon cannot reach. And this
reasoning is rather borne out by the fact that towards the end of August
or beginning of September the fish begin to take again, though the
salmon are still running in vast numbers. One of the best catches I ever
saw taken from the Thompson (thirty-six fish) was got in early October,
and the trout rose up among the travelling masses of salmon and took the

Every part of the Thompson is fishable to below Spence's Bridge, over
forty miles from Savona's, and the fishing is often irregular, by which
is meant that when sport is good at Ashcroft it is not very good at
Savona's, and _vice versâ_. I have known the fish to be entirely off at
the mouth of the river near Savona's, while good bags have been got a
few miles below. This will show that sport on this part of the Thompson
is somewhat variable; but still one point may be emphasised, namely,
that during the two months of July and August there is always good
fishing to be obtained at one point or another along the river, and all
can be easily reached from the Savona's Hotel. The southern bank is
followed by the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and is
therefore easy of access; the northern bank can only be reached on foot
or on horseback, and is therefore not so much fished. To fish this bank
far down it would be necessary to seek hospitality for a night or two
from some rancher.


     What is the "Silver Trout"?--Evidence in Favour of a New
     Species--Difference in Appearance from the Rainbow--A
     Jumper--Native of Kamloops and Shuswap Lakes--A Bag of
     Twenty-four--The Dolly Varden--Origin of the Name--Not a Free
     Riser--Grayling--Chub and Squaw Fish--Great Lake Trout--The Silver
     Fish at Spence's Bridge--Salmon or Steel-head?--Cut-throat
     Trout--Possible Fishing Tour in British Columbia.

It still remains a question, which has never yet been decided, whether
there are not two distinct species of trout in these waters. There is no
question that locally such is universally thought to be the case. Every
local fisherman speaks of having caught a red side or a silver trout,
and firmly believes that they are distinct species. Should this be
really the case, it is a matter of no little interest, as a new and very
beautiful species would be added to those already known and described. A
brief account of the evidence, for and against, may not be out of place,
and might result in some final conclusion being arrived at. For several
years two Americans came every season to Savona's Ferry to fish, and,
becoming impressed with the beauty of the so-called silver trout, they
sent a specimen to Professor Starr Jordan, of the Leland Stanford
University of San Francisco. The first specimen did not arrive in good
condition, and another specimen was sent, in the preparation of which I
personally assisted. It was a fish of about 1-1/2lb. in weight, a very
beautiful specimen and a most typical example of the silver trout.

Professor Jordan described this fish as a new species, under the name of
_Salmo kamloopsii_, and he so describes it in a monograph on the salmon
and trout of the Pacific Coast, published by the State Board of
Fisheries for the State of California. In this account he gives expert
reasons, founded on the number of rays in the anal fin and tail, the
position of the opercula, and the size of the body scales, suggesting,
moreover, that the fish might turn out to be a connecting link between
the true salmonidæ and the genus oncorhynchus or Pacific Coast salmon.
He suggested that a further specimen should be sent, in order that the
intestinal tract might be examined; but this suggestion was
unfortunately not complied with. I am not prepared to say whether
Professor Jordan still adheres to this opinion, or whether the silver
trout has been fully recognised among ichthyologists as a distinct
species. In a recent letter to me, however, he states that he considers
the Kamloops trout to be "only a slight variation of the steel-head,"
which statement shows that its exact identity is not established, for
the steel-head is absolutely unknown in these upper waters, and the
silver trout never goes down to the sea. To the best of my belief it is
a fact that no further specimens have been examined by any naturalist of
note, and the question is therefore still _in statu quo_. It is a
matter, I would humbly suggest, that is well worthy of solution. So far
as I am aware, Professor Jordan is the only expert who has examined this
fish. The only other evidence as to its existence as a distinct species
is the widespread local opinion, which is also held by the half-breeds
and Indians, who undoubtedly believe that there are two kinds of trout
in the Thompson River. Such evidence or belief is not scientific proof,
but is certainly of considerable weight, until it is proved to be

I have always been firmly convinced that the two fish are perfectly
distinct, and this opinion is fully shared by all the local anglers. If
two well-marked specimens are seen side by side the difference in
appearance is most remarkable. The silver trout is less heavily built,
the head is smaller and sharper, the scales are smaller in size, and
the stripe on the side is violet instead of pink. There is only one
alternative opinion, namely, that for an unknown reason some rainbows
acquire this peculiar silvery appearance. Whatever may be the final
decision, the fact still remains that a fish of a different type from
the ordinary rainbow is common in these waters, and is well deserving of
a description. The back is green, with the usual black spots, the sides
and belly of a bright silver, like a fresh-run salmon, but instead of
the pink or crimson stripe of the rainbow there is a similar band of a
delicate violet or purple hue. If two well-marked specimens are laid
side by side the difference is most marked, though difficult to describe
exactly. The silver trout is a cleaner-cut fish, and looks exactly as if
it had come straight from salt water; one would hardly feel surprised to
see the sea lice sticking to its sides.

From a fisherman's point of view it is gamer, and is always out of the
water when hooked, appearing also to be more addicted to taking
silver-bodied flies, being more of a small fry than a fly feeder. It is
usually caught at the mouths of streams running into the large lakes,
and at the outflow of the Thompson at Savona's, where it can be seen
chasing the small fry on the surface. It must, however, be admitted
that some local anglers consider it to be merely the rainbow when in the
pink of condition, with the colour simply modified by the clear waters
of the lakes, and there is, moreover, no doubt that the poorer the
condition of the rainbow the deeper is the red of its stripe, though, on
the other hand, I have seen splendid fish in which the stripe was very
deep crimson. Spent fish, however, have always a deep red stripe.

This silvery fish seems to be chiefly native to the Kamloops and Shuswap
lakes, whence it spreads into the Thompson. It appears to be much less
common in the river than in the lake waters, except just at the outflow
near Savona's, which is a favourite resort, where in warm evenings in
July and August it may be seen chasing the minnows in the first pool. A
few years ago I made a bag of twenty-four fish, weighing 48lb., in two
evenings between the hours of seven and eight; four of these fish
weighed 4lb. apiece. The fishing here must be done from a boat, as the
eddy where they move is beyond the reach of the bank. It is a most
exciting kind of fishing, as it is almost useless to cast except over a
moving fish; the pool is still for some minutes, and then, in a moment,
a dozen or more fish will be at the surface rushing among the small fry,
who leap out of the water to escape them. If a silver-bodied fly be
thrown over one of these fish he is certain to take it, and if two flies
are used the second fly is certain to be seized as well, while, owing to
the strong water, a desperate fight is the result, and the strongest
single-gut is often broken. But it is by no means on every evening that
this sport can be enjoyed, and in some seasons the fish are much more
plentiful in this pool than others. It must also be in hot, still
weather, as a wind always puts them down. The fishing obviously depends
on the presence of the shoals of small fish, probably young salmon. The
silver trout lie in wait for them here, and when a shoal is entangled in
the strong eddy they rush upon them. This is the same form of sport
which can be enjoyed at the mouth of the streams which run into the
Shuswap Lake, the Eagle River at Sicamous, and Scotch and Adams Creeks.
In connection with this fish it is worthy of note that the rainbow is a
species which shows little tendency to vary from the type. I have caught
them in a great number of the streams and lakes of this district, and
they never seem to vary in the least. A specimen from one lake could not
be distinguished from any other; they are always typical rainbows with
the red stripe, and no silvery fish are ever seen, unless the lake is
directly connected with the Thompson River. Thus the silver form is
found in Shuswap, Kamloops, and Nicola lakes, but in the large mountain
lakes which have no open communication with the river only the ordinary
rainbow is found. There is only one exception, the Long Lake near
Vernon, which contains a beautiful silvery fish, to be alluded to later.
This lake is, I believe, indirectly connected with the Shuswap.

There are other interesting fish found in the Thompson and the Kamloops
and Shuswap lakes, but they are not of much use to the fisherman, though
occasionally caught. The Dolly Varden trout, a species of char, has been
alluded to, and is the only one which affords much sport to the
fisherman; it runs to a large size, as has been stated, but does not
often take the fly. Its curious name is said to be derived indirectly
from Dickens and the time of his tours in the United States, which
produced a Dolly Varden craze in hats and some kinds of calico patterns,
of which one with pink spots was supposed to be the correct Dolly Varden
pattern. On seeing this fish for the first time, some young lady is
supposed to have exclaimed that it was a "Dolly Varden trout," and the
name appears to have been generally adopted. However this may be, there
is no other name for the fish except its scientific one, and it is known
all through the West as the Dolly Varden trout.

It is strong and game, but not so lively as a trout. It takes the fly
very seldom, and then generally only when about a pound or less in
weight. On the other hand, in May it takes the minnow and spoon quite
readily. Later on, in July and after, it is rarely that one is caught. I
once caught two of 4lb. and 5lb. on a fly in July, the only ones so
caught during that month, and have landed many on minnow and spoon. That
it reaches a large size is proved by the capture of the fish alluded to
above, which weighed 15lb. The man who caught it informed me that it was
got on the fly, and I was never able to find out the true history of its
capture, but strongly suspect it was lured to its doom by a piece of raw
beef. The Dolly Varden is a greyish-coloured fish with light
salmon-coloured spots of rather a large size.

An occasional grayling is caught on the fly, but they are not plentiful.
I have never seen one over 2lb. A small fish, like a grayling, but
without any adipose fin, sometimes takes the fly; it has a bright orange
tinge on its side, and has white flesh, which is firm and very good
eating. The chub is very common, and will take the fly, but is regarded
as vermin, being very poor eating; it runs up to 4lb. and over. The
squaw fish, also, will take the fly sometimes, but more often the minnow
or grasshopper; its flesh is white and tasteless. It is a large-mouthed
fish greatly resembling the chub and attaining about the same size. Both
chub and squaw fish are great devourers of fry. In the Shuswap Lake, by
trolling in deep water with a lead attached, a large grey char with pink
spots can be caught, running up to perhaps 20lb., and being usually
known as the lake trout or great lake trout; it takes a spoon, but is
very sluggish, and does not give any real sport. The Indians catch these
fish. I have never heard of their being caught in Kamloops Lake. With
reference to the run of Pacific salmon, it is interesting to note that
large silvery fish have been caught by minnow and spoon in the Shuswap
Lake, notably in the narrow strait mentioned above. Mr. Inskip has
within the last year or two written some letters to the _Field_
describing the capture of a number of silver fish up to 10lb. weight
near Spence's Bridge, at the mouth of the Nicola river, where it joins
the Thompson. He believes these fish to be salmon, and it is possible
that his view may be correct. But it is also possible that they may be
silver trout or steel-head trout; the evidence is not yet complete. No
salmon have ever been taken in this way with spoon or minnow above this
point, in spite of the number of years that fishing has been carried on
in these waters. The Indians never catch salmon by trolling with the
spoon, though they troll persistently for trout, the line being fastened
to the paddle of their canoe.

Mr. Inskip states that these fish never take the fly, and he has only
caught them in October. There is, of course, no doubt of the truth of
his statement, and a possible explanation might be that the steel-heads
run up as far as this point, and go up to the Nicola River. It has never
been thought that the steel-head runs as far as Kamloops Lake, and I
have never heard of anyone who claimed to have caught one; it is,
however, quite within the bounds of possibility that some of these fish
may come up with the salmon. The problem can be easily solved by
counting the rays in the anal fin; in the true trout these rays only
amount to about nine, in the salmon there are fourteen to sixteen
well-developed rays.

The cut-throat trout is unknown to me. I have never caught it in British
Columbian waters, unless some fish mentioned later in the account of the
Nicola River belonged to this species. It may occur in some of the
southern British Columbian coast rivers, and is common further south in
the neighbouring States of the Union. Prof. Jordan states that it is
always found in the country of the Sioux Indians, and hazards a
suggestion that they may have taken their tribal mark from it. This mark
consists of a couple of lines of red paint under the jaw on each side of
the neck, and is very similar to that which gives this fish its curious
name. The rainbow and the so-called silver trout are the only kinds
which are met with in the central plateau of British Columbia.

The next subject for consideration will be the fishing in the mountain
lakes; but before proceeding to it it may be as well to consider the
fishing as a whole in the waters already described, for the question
which most naturally suggests itself to an Englishman is whether the
sport to be obtained is worth coming so far for. Anyone with the
necessary money and time at his disposal might prefer Norway or
Scotland. It would certainly not be worth anybody's while to come such a
distance to enjoy the two or three weeks at Savona's, which represent,
at the outside, the time of the best fishing on the Lower Thompson. It
would be necessary for the fisherman to have plenty of time at his
disposal, so as to visit the different places at the time when the
fishing was respectively at its best. Thus June could be spent in
trying the sport on the Shuswap Lake, with Sicamous as headquarters,
while a visit could be paid from there to the Okanagan Lakes, which can
be easily reached in three hours by rail. In July the Lower Thompson can
be fished from Savona's as a headquarters, while from there several
lakes can be tried during July and August, the trip being concluded by a
visit to the salmon rivers of the coast during late August and early
September. After that time big game or duck shooting might be tried. The
time mentioned would also allow for a visit to the fishing on the
Kootenay River near Nelson. There is hardly any need to say that all
fishing in British Columbia is free to everyone, and, although there is
a little more fishing done than a few years ago, no one need be afraid
of over-fishing. There is plenty of room, and there will continue to be
so for a very long time yet, except in a neighbourhood close to any very
large town. The fishing in waters hitherto described may be compared, in
my opinion, to very good sea-trout fishing, which it closely resembles.
As stated before, sport depends, as in every country, on certain states
of water and weather. A great bag cannot be an everyday occurrence, but
if the right places are visited at the right time there is great sport
to be obtained.


     Other Lakes--Long Lake--Its Silvery Trout--Fish Lake--Extraordinary
     Fishing--Fifteen Hundred Trout in Three Days--A Miniature
     Gaff--Uses of a Collapsible Boat--Catching Fish Through the
     Ice--Mammit Lake--Nicola Lake--Beautifully Marked Trout in Nicola
     River--"The Little Red Fish."

The Thompson and its two great lakes, the Kamloops and Shuswap, having
been dealt with, the fishing in the mountain lakes remains to be
described. The sport to be obtained in some of these waters must be
somewhat unique, for though I believe it is surpassed in size of fish by
some of the New Zealand lakes, it is impossible that it can be surpassed
anywhere in the weight and number of fish captured in one day's fishing.
There are great numbers of lakes far back in the mountains in which no
fishing has ever been done, and others there are in which no one but a
stray prospector, hunter, or Indian has ever thrown a line; but these,
of course, need not be considered. There are a good number which have
had their capabilities tested, and are locally more or less well known.
The chief fishing lakes in this district are the Nicola and Okanagan
lakes, which are very large, and the smaller ones Fish and Mammit,
together with numerous smaller lakes which are less known. In the
Okanagan district, near the little town of Vernon, there is a beautiful
piece of water called Long Lake, about sixteen miles long by less than a
mile wide, about four miles from the town. The water is very clear and
the lake very deep, the cliffs on each side running down sheer into the
water. The trout in this lake are remarkable for their size and extreme
beauty; the rainbow characteristic is entirely absent, for they are of a
pure silver colour, with the merest trace of a pink tinge along the
side; they resemble, in fact, a fresh-run grilse straight from the sea,
and no fish which could be called a rainbow is ever caught. The fish run
to a large size, 5lb. being by no means uncommon, and fish from this
weight up to 12lb. have been often caught. These large fish are caught
by trolling in the ordinary way with spoon and minnow, for the fly
fishing is very uncertain. There appear to be certain places along the
sides of the lake to which the fish come up from the deep water on the
look out for fly food; but on the whole it is a trolling lake; and
differs in this respect from almost all the other lakes to be mentioned.
It may be that these fish are the same as the specimen described by
Professor Jordan, and are really a distinct species, feeding mainly on
small fry, and not much addicted to a fly diet. In appearance they
certainly deserve the name of silver trout. I am not aware that any
specimen has ever been examined by any scientific authority on fish.

I fished once in July on this lake, and caught two fish about 1-1/2lb.
apiece on the fly, while another of about 3lb. was taken on a minnow.
Dr. Gerald Williams, of Vernon, fishes here a great deal, and gave me
the above information. He prefers this lake to the neighbouring Okanagan
Lake, but stated that the same fish were to be found in both. This lake
seems well worth a visit, for if only a few fish were the result of a
day's work their beauty and possible size would be worth the trouble,
while the lake and its scenery are characteristic of the most beautiful
part of the interior of British Columbia, surrounded as it is by rolling
hills of bunch grass, range, and pine-covered bluffs. Vernon can be
easily reached by train from Sicamous, on the Canadian Pacific Railway
main line.

About twenty-three miles from Kamloops there is a lake known as Fish
Lake, in which the fishing is so extraordinary as to border on the
regions of romance, though locally it is considered a matter of course.
For lake fishing, in point of numbers, it is impossible that this piece
of water could be beaten; it is like a battue in shooting, the number to
be caught is only limited by the skill and endurance of the angler;
indeed, little skill is needed, for anyone can catch fish there, though
a good fisherman will catch the most. Also fish can be caught on any
day, some days being better than others, but a blank day is an
impossibility. The lake is twenty-three miles south of Kamloops, and is
reached by a good road, and there is now a small wooden house, where one
can stop and hire boats. Ten years ago there was only a trail, which was
rough travelling on horseback, with a pack horse to carry tent and
provisions. The lake has been a fishing ground for the Indians from time
immemorial, and fish used to be brought down by them to Kamloops from a
fish trap built in the creek running out of the lake. I have also seen
them fishing with bait and spearing fish at night; but the true bait for
Fish Lake is the fly, and, contrary to the usual case, the white man
with a fly and modern tackle can make catches which far surpass any that
the Indian ever made. The trap has now been abandoned, and the Indians
do not fish on this lake any more. From time to time half-breeds and
cowboys came into Kamloops with stories of big catches of trout made
with a willow bough and a piece of string with a fly tied to it;
sometimes 300 or 400 fish would be brought down which had been caught in
this way.

This stimulated the sporting instinct of the inhabitants, and a few
visits were paid to the lake and good catches were made, but the
fishermen who went were of a very amateur kind. In the summer of 1897 an
American proposed to me that we should go up and try what good tackle
could do; in fact, he proposed that we should go up and try to make a
record. We went up in the first week of August, and the result far
surpassed our wildest imagination. We fished three full days, and
brought back 1500 trout, which weighed 700lb., cleaned and salted. The
first day we caught 350, for some time was wasted in finding the best
places. The second day a start was made at 5 a.m., and we fished till
long after dark, about 9.30 p.m., catching 650; the third day we caught
about 500. The weather was intensely hot and fine, sometimes dead calm,
sometimes a strong breeze, and at night a brilliant moon; but whether
dead calm or blowing strong it made no difference to the fish, for they
were taking as freely in the moonlight as at mid-day. Flies were
abundant, and the fish were ravenous for both real and artificial; they
almost seemed to fight for our flies as soon as they touched the water.
Even when almost every feather had been torn off they would take the
bare hook. We fished with three flies, and often had three fish on at
one time; on one occasion my companion handed me a cast and three flies
with a few inches of running line which had been lost by me not twenty
minutes before. The hottest and calmest hours of the day afforded the
best sport, as is usual in my experience on all the waters of British
Columbia, though wind did not make any difference, except to make it
more difficult to manoeuvre the boat. Our fish were cleaned and salted
each day by some Indians so that none were wasted, and no fish were
returned to the water except the very smallest.

We had estimated our catch on the best day to be over 700 fish; but,
owing to exhaustion and the necessity of cooking our supper, after being
seventeen hours on the water, we did not feel equal to removing our fish
from the boat, and during the night a raid was made on them by mink,
which are very plentiful round this lake. Though it was impossible to
say how many had been carried off, 650 was the exact total of fish
counted on the following morning. If allowance is made for a rest for
lunch, and time taken off for altering and repairing flies and tackle,
it will be easily seen that this number of fish caught by two rods in
one day on the fly constitutes a record which would be very hard to beat
on this lake or any other. The best I was ever able to do again, with
another rod, was a little over 300. But the conditions of the weather
and the fly on the water were never quite so favourable. At the time
mentioned this lake was little fished, and the Indians with their fish
trap would catch in one day far more than we accounted for; but since
the lake has become better known, and the fish trap has been abolished,
it cannot be too much impressed on fishermen in this water that only the
large fish should be retained. In 1903 we only kept eighty-four fish out
of a total of 300 landed, and these weighed about 60lb.

This lake is a natural hatchery for trout, and its waters are alive with
them; it is about four miles long, shaped like a boomerang; the margins
are shallow, with a thick growth of rushes, among which the fish lie,
feeding largely on a small brown fly, which may be seen on their stalks.
In order to catch these, the fish may be seen jumping up and often
shaking the fly into the water. The best sport may often be had among
these reeds in the more open places; but the fish must be held with a
tight line, and prevented by main force from taking refuge among the
roots of the rushes and entangling the cast among them. When this occurs
a long willow wand with a salmon fly hook attached is an excellent means
of landing a good fish, which could not be touched with a landing net.

The water of Fish Lake is very clear and always warm, suggesting the
presence of some hot springs in the lake; though, if this is the case,
it does not prevent its waters freezing in winter. The water in the
centre of the lake is very deep, and fish may always be seen jumping
there of a larger size than those usually caught. Few fish can be caught
there by trolling a minnow or spoon, only an odd fish or so being the
result; though a minnow or small spoon be trailed behind the boat for a
couple of miles on the way home, nothing is caught. The fly is the only
lure on Fish Lake. The average fish is from 1/2lb. to 1-1/4lb., though
fish of 2lb. are common, while anything over 3lb. is unknown. I have
seen several of 3lb., but nothing over it, and if larger fish lurk in
the depths of the lake they have never been caught by Indian or white
man. There is nothing but rainbow trout in the lake, and in general
colour and appearance they vary very little, being handsome,
bright-coloured specimens, very game and strong; the flesh is firm, and
excellent eating when fresh caught. The altitude of this piece of water
is between 4000ft. and 5000ft., which causes the nights to be cold and
sometimes frosty even in August, while a cloudy day in these months is
often chilly, causing a dearth of natural fly and some falling off in
the sport. Should the wind be strong enough to prevent fishing on the
big lake, there is a small lake at the western end which can be entered
by a shallow channel, and often provides just as good fishing as the
large one. Almost any ordinary Scotch loch flies are suitable for this
water, a brown wing being perhaps the best, with a red body; the Zulu is
a killing fly, as also a minute Jock Scott, size being the chief matter
of importance. The fly must not be too large. On our arriving one
evening at the lake in most beautiful weather, two fishermen, who had
just left the water after fishing hard all day, informed us that it was
fished out, for they had only caught thirty fish of about 1lb. each; but
the next day we caught 300, and the fishing was the same as ever, for
the flies they had been using were Thompson ones, and the tail fly on
one of their casts would have been too large on some Norway salmon
rivers in low water.

It would be hard to conceive a more ideal place for fishing than this
most beautiful lake, situated on a high plateau, surrounded by its
reedy banks and flanked by woods of pine and birch, with waters of the
deepest blue swarming with fish, while overhead is a cloudless sky. Ten
years ago it was but seldom visited, now it is somewhat of a summer
resort for the people of Kamloops; but it cannot be said to be
overfished, as the season is very short--June, July, and August. Before
and after that time the cold interferes with the rise of fly and the
comfort of sportsmen. Formerly it was necessary to take a tent, and camp
on the shores of the lake; but now an enterprising individual has put up
a stopping house, which affords good enough accommodation for anyone
visiting the lake, and also the use of boats. The last time I visited
the lake, in 1903, the fishing seemed just as good as ever, and it will
probably be some time before there is much falling off in this respect,
unless the number of anglers who visit it is very much increased in the
next few years. For though doubtless more fish are taken by the fly, yet
the Indian fishing and the fish trap have been done away with. The
latter would probably account for an immense number of fish, which are
now saved to the lake; furthermore, there is no poaching of any kind,
and the infamous otter is unknown in British Columbian waters. At the
same time, the importance of returning small fish cannot be now too
much impressed on all fishermen who try this water.

Even in case Fish Lake should in time yield to the effects of
over-fishing, there are five other lakes known within a radius of a mile
or two, which are believed to be just as full of fish; though, owing to
the sufficiency of Fish Lake, their capabilities have been little tried,
and it is chiefly on the reports of Indians that their reputation
stands, though a few fish have been caught from the bank in one or two
of them. It would be quite easy to put boats on them should the need
arise, and larger fish are reported to abound in some of them. Very
probably the Indians are quietly fishing some of these lakes after
deserting their old quarters. In fact, all through this part of the
country there are many lakes, some occasionally fished, and others
almost unknown, and all abounding in trout. A boat is necessary in all
such lakes as have been alluded to; nothing can be done without one. Mr.
Walter Langley uses a collapsible boat, which can be packed on a horse's
back, and with this he has tried many lakes known to the Indians; his
22lb. trout was caught from this boat. In 1902 he visited some lakes on
the opposite side of the Thompson, about thirty-six miles from
Savona's, and reported the most wonderful fishing to me. With a
companion, he fished about five days, and brought back 700lb. of salted
trout; his catch included more than fifty fish of 4lb. in weight, and
the average fish was about 2lb. There were no small fish in the lake
they fished, and all were taken on the fly.

Mr. Langley had accompanied me in 1900 to Fish Lake, where we had
excellent fishing; but he reported the fishing on this lake to be far
better, owing to the large size of the fish; in fact, he described it as
the best fly fishing he had ever enjoyed. It may be noted that they had
several Indians with them, and a large number of the fish caught were
consumed on the spot, as a fish diet on such expeditions is a matter of
necessity, in order to limit the number of pack horses required. It is
fortunate that Indians are by no means averse to this article of food
and seem very fond of fish of all kinds. Before the white man came to
the country it must have been at many seasons of the year the staple
article of food, and it is for this reason that the Indians know so well
all the lakes and rivers where fish can be caught, making therefore good
guides to a white man in search of new fishing grounds. But it must be
remembered that the Indian does not use the fly, so that it is often
necessary to make very careful inquiries from them as to the manner in
which they catch fish in any fishing grounds that they may recommend;
and such inquiries are very difficult to anyone not acquainted with
their peculiarities and the Chinook jargon.

Many weird fish stories might be told about Fish Lake, but they become
wearisome, and enough has been said to give some idea of the fishing to
be obtained. It is, indeed, somewhat unique in its reality, and requires
no Western embroidery of detail to be added to the facts quoted. These
facts show, by the way, the immense fertility of the rainbow, where
conditions are favourable, its fly-taking propensities, its boldness and
voracity; all of which qualities will commend themselves to English
fishermen, and confirm the enterprise and judgment of those who have
introduced the fish into this country, where it seems to bid fair to
equal, if not even to surpass, itself in the same good qualities.

It is in the nature of a digression, perhaps, but as it has a bearing on
the primitive methods of obtaining fish, the following account of a
peculiar kind of fishing may be of interest here.

There is a large lake in the interior, up the Cariboo road, where the
half-breeds indulge in a curious form of sport. A large portion of the
lake is very shallow, and when it is frozen over the bottom can be very
clearly seen. When this is the case some of the half-breeds go out on
skates and mark trout through the ice, which they then pursue and
attempt to drive into the shallowest parts near the shore. A fine fish
is driven about until he appears to be quite exhausted, and finally is
driven into shallow water, where he often hides under weeds at the
bottom; a hole is then cautiously cut in the ice above him with a knife,
through which he is speared. A fish about 15lb. was once sent to me
which had been caught in this way; it was not a trout, but the large
kind of char, commonly known as Great Lake trout.

There is another lake called Mammit Lake, about twenty-five miles from
Savona's and about fourteen from Fish Lake, which affords very good
fishing. It is a large piece of water, about fifteen miles long,
surrounded by open bunch grass hills, and can be reached from Savona's
by a good road. Its name is derived from the large numbers of white fish
called mammit which abound in its waters, and can only be taken by the
net. This lake is little fished, but several fishermen who have tried it
are loud in its praises, notably my partner in the big catch on Fish
Lake, who informed me that he had better sport on its waters, owing to
the larger size of its fish, which appear to run about 2lb. or so in
weight, and few either smaller or larger. The evidence tends to show,
however, that it is somewhat uncertain, possibly owing to its extreme
liability to a good deal of wind, which may put down the fish or even
prevent a boat from venturing on the lake. It would seem advisable for
anyone who might wish to visit this water to arrange to camp there for a
week or more, in order to be on the spot to sally forth whenever the
fish are rising, for it would appear that this lake resembles Scotch
lakes in the fact that the fish come on the rise at certain irregular
times during the day, and in the intervals only a few can be caught by
hading or trolling. I only once visited this water in August, but was
entirely prevented from fishing owing to the high wind. The salmon had
also entered the lake, and their presence is supposed to militate
against good sport. July is the best time, and there is no doubt that
very good fishing can be obtained there, while the lake is easily
reached from Savona's, though there is no hotel accommodation, and it is
necessary to take a tent and provisions for camping-out purposes.

Nicola Lake is about fifty miles from Kamloops, and can be reached by a
bi-weekly stage. There is good fishing in the lake and in the river
which flows into the Thompson at Spence's Bridge. The lake is a fine
piece of water, over twenty miles long, and about a mile in breadth,
nearly equal in size to Kamloops Lake. It has been but little fished,
except by a few local anglers, and is full of very beautiful trout. I
spent the summer of 1891 at the small hotel at the foot of this lake,
but fished chiefly in the Nicola River, which flows out of it. The sport
in the river gave me full occupation, so that very little time was
devoted to the lake, for every day I caught as many fish as one could
carry back to the hotel, mostly small, from 1/2lb. to 3/4lb., with one
or two better fish of 1-1/2lb. to 2lb. At the place where the river left
the lake I used almost to fill a boat with large chub and a few good
trout; in the lake I made a few fair catches of a dozen or more fish
about 1-1/2lb. But all the information I gathered then and since about
this lake points to the fact that the best fishing is at the other end
of it. In the river I used to catch a few fish very beautifully coloured
about 3/4lb., with red and black spots on a golden ground; in fact, I
mistook them for brown trout, being ignorant of the fact that these
fish were unknown in British Columbia. It is my belief that these were
cut-throat trout. On a calm day fish can be seen moving all over the
lake, which probably contains very large fish. Mr. B. Moore, now
residing in Victoria, British Columbia, had a cattle ranch at its east
end, and has often told me of the excellent sport he used to enjoy, both
in the lake and the river which runs in there. Two hotels on the shores
of the lake give good accommodation and keep a boat.

In the autumn a little silver fish, about 1/2lb. weight, runs up the
streams from the lake in large numbers for spawning purposes, and is
sometimes netted; it is very good eating, but takes no bait of any kind.
The flesh is deep red. Locally it was supposed that these fish were a
species of char, but in a pamphlet published by the Government of
British Columbia on the fisheries it is stated: "There is another
smaller form of the sockeye salmon, found in many of the interior
waters, that appears to be a permanently small form, which is known to
writers as 'the little red fish,' 'Kennerly's salmon,' or 'the Evermann
form of the sockeye,' and which in some lakes of the province can be
shown not to be anadromous. This form is often mistaken for a trout. It
has no commercial value, and does not 'take a fly' or any bait. The
Indians of Seton and Anderson lakes smoke them. They give them the name
of 'oneesh.'" This is undoubtedly the fish which runs up the creeks from
Nicola Lake in the early autumn to spawn in large numbers, at first
bright silver like a salmon, turning to a crimson colour.

All are the same size; about 1/2lb. They are sometimes sold in Kamloops
for food. They are never seen in the lake, nor do I know if they return
after spawning. This fish is also present in the Shuswap, but not in
Kamloops Lake. The fishing in the Nicola River is very good as soon as
it begins to clear and subside from the early summer floods, and it can
be continued until the water gets too low in late August.

These lakes and rivers above described are at present the best known in
this district, but there are numbers of other lakes which are full of
trout, some of which are fished by the Indians, and in time will
doubtless become better known to fishermen. But it is quite evident that
anyone visiting this part of the country has plenty of choice, and, in
fact, would hardly find time to visit and thoroughly try all the rivers
and lakes described. This district of British Columbia has certain
attractions of its own, not present in other parts; the climate is
peculiarly fine and dry, with a most bracing and clear atmosphere.
Except for an odd thunder shower, rain hardly ever falls, so that camp
life is free from one of its chief drawbacks. Flies and mosquitoes are
not so plentiful, though bad in certain places. The general aspect is
much more open, with rolling hills of bunch grass and pine bluffs, which
give the scenery a different appearance from other parts of the country.


     The Kootenay district--Sawdust and Dynamite--Fine Sport in
     Vancouver--Harrison River and Lake--Big Fish in the Coquehalla--The
     Steel-head in the Fraser--Need for Better River Protection.

There are other parts of British Columbia which afford good fishing.
Excellent sport is still to be obtained in the Kootenay district, which
can be reached from Revelstoke on the main line of the Canadian Pacific
Railway. Twelve years ago the fishing was unrivalled, especially on the
Kootenay River. Very large bags could be got, though the fish were not
quite as large as in the Thompson. But it is unfortunately true that
since this district became a mining centre the fishing has been largely
spoilt. Professional fishermen have fished for the market, sawmills have
been allowed to empty their sawdust into the rivers, and probably alien
miners and others have massacred wholesale with dynamite. In the coast
district, of which Vancouver is the centre, there are plenty of rivers
and lakes. This part of the country has a heavy rainfall, which causes a
thick forest growth to cover the country and render the streams
difficult or even impossible to fish, unless they can be waded. This is
a drawback from which the upper country rivers are free. But, still,
fine sport can be had in many rivers and lakes. The Harrison River
affords excellent fishing as early as April. The fish run from 1lb. to
2lb., and take the fly freely. The river flows out of Harrison Lake to
the Fraser at Harrison Station. It must be fished from a boat. Bags of
thirty and forty fish are by no means uncommon. There is another river,
whose name has escaped my memory, which is very good when low enough for
wading, and flows into the Harrison Lake. The Hot Springs Hotel affords
good accommodation.

If the Fraser is crossed at Hope Station there is a little village on
the other side where somewhat rough accommodation used to be obtainable.
The crossing was formerly done in an Indian log canoe, a means of
transport which one would hardly recommend to anyone of a nervous
temperament, though perhaps now a boat may be used. A very beautiful
river called the Coquehalla joins the Fraser at this place, which I used
to fish in 1892. It consists of a series of fine pools and rapids for
some distance, perhaps two or three miles, until an impassable canyon is
reached, over which there is a natural bridge, and here, in the water
below, immense trout may clearly be seen, though I know of no means of
getting at them. At the time I fished this river, in July, the salmon
were coming up, and I cannot say that my success was very great. I was,
moreover, a stranger to the country, and could get no guide. Added to
this, my tackle, experience, and skill were all of a very inferior
order. But I found that the pools of this river contained very large
fish, which were then to me quite unknown monsters, and I spent many
long days on its banks in attempts to capture some.

I used to try each pool first with the minnow and then with the fly,
which was, of course, exactly the opposite of the right course. Several
good fish of 5lb. or so were landed and many lost. On one occasion, as I
was hauling in a small trout to remove it from my fly, I was startled by
an immense fish which leapt out of the water at it, close to my feet. It
must have been a fish of anything from 10lb. to 15lb. or more. It jumped
high in the air, drenching me with spray as it fell back into the water.
I supposed it to be a large salmon, but as a bright red stripe was
clearly seen along its side I know now that it was a rainbow trout.
Twice in this river small trout were seized as they were being drawn in,
but each time the single gut was snapped off by the fish. The higher
parts of the river were never tried by me, though once or twice I saw
large strings of trout brought in by cowboys. No doubt at this time of
the year the best fishing was in the upper waters. Probably the
steel-head or sea-trout comes up the Fraser as far as the Coquehalla.
Another stream called Silver Creek runs into the Fraser about three
miles below Hope, and I had much the same experiences along its banks.
It can only be fished when low enough for wading. I should much like to
try these two streams again, as I am confident that some very large fish
could be caught. It would be well worth trying the effect of a prawn,
fished deep. A Silver Devon ought also to be effective. Personally this
is the limit of my experience in British Columbia, but very good fishing
is to be got in the Coquitlam and Capillano near Vancouver, and in the
Stave and Pitt Rivers, which are a little further off. In all these
rivers the steel-head can be got on the minnow, seldom, I believe, on
the fly.

It is hard to say how far the steel-head may run up the Fraser--probably
at least as far as the Coquehalla at Hope, for up to this point there is
nothing in the strength of the current to prevent it; but above, in the
Fraser Canyon, the tremendous difficulties of the ascent may well stop
its further progress. The steel-head has not developed the powerful
tail and anal fin of the Pacific salmon, which must be a great aid to it
in passing through such strong water for such immense distances. It may
well be that the smaller tail of the steel-head renders it unfit for the
effort. Otherwise, there would be no reason why it should not travel up
the rivers as far as the salmon, just as the sea-trout does in European
rivers. This is apparently not the case. The Fraser Canyon appears to be
impassable to them, and they are only found in the lower tributaries of
the Fraser and shorter coast rivers. The steel-head is the sea-going
species of the rainbow; it is practically a silver rainbow, without the
red stripe, which only appears faintly after it has been some time in
fresh water. The steel-head is usually known as _Salmo gairdneri_, but
in a recent letter Professor Jordan informs me that its correct name is
_Salmo rivularis ayres_. He states that he has evidence to prove that
the original _gairdneri_ was the "nerka," which is the sockeye or
blue-back salmon.

The smaller sizes take the fly readily under favourable circumstances,
both in the salt water, at the mouths of rivers, and in the rivers
themselves. The heavier fish of 7lb. and upwards are more often got on a
minnow. Large ones up to 11lb. have been caught with the prawn in the
basin under the falls of the Capillano. Though I am not prepared to say
whether these fish were rainbow or steel-heads, the fact must be
strongly insisted on that there is considerable difficulty in
distinguishing between steel-head, rainbow, and the smaller salmon. In
the case of the two former it is a matter of experience. The latter are
easily known by the test of the anal fin and tail. Great confusion has
been caused, and always will be, until proper care is taken.

The Coquitlam, Capillano, and other rivers have been much overfished by
legal and probably by illegal means. The sport used to be excellent, and
would soon improve again under proper conditions.

It would be an excellent thing if an anglers' club was formed in
Vancouver, and part of the water preserved. If part of the water was
thus properly treated, and a small hatchery put up, no doubt the fishing
would soon be better than ever, while immense benefit would accrue to
the remaining public water. This deplorable state of affairs is merely
the natural result of the almost criminal neglect of the British
Columbia Government to do anything to preserve the valuable sporting
assets of the country. The Kootenay waters have suffered in the same
way, as also some of the rivers near Victoria on Vancouver Island. The
Dolly Varden trout is very plentiful in all these rivers. Some very fine
bags of large fish have been made in the Squamish River in Butte inlet.
On Vancouver Island there is good fishing, easily reached from Victoria.
The Cowichan River and Lake are the best known. Steel-head and rainbow
can both be got on fly and minnow. The flies used are even larger than
those on the Thompson. Personally, I have never fished on Vancouver
Island, but from all that I have heard I should say that sport is not so
good there as on the upper mainland.


     The Salmons of the Pacific--Legends Concerning Them--The Five
     Species--Systems of Migration--Powers of Endurance--Absence of
     Kelts--Do They Take a Fly?--Terrible Mortality--"A Vivid Red
     Ribbon"--Points of Difference Between the Quinnat and _Salmo
     salar_--Work of the Canneries--Artificial Propagation.

No account of the fishing in British Columbia would be complete unless
some mention were made of the salmon, though it is only in tidal water
that they can be caught with the rod, and though in the upper country
they are useless from the fisherman's point of view. The annual
migration of the Pacific coast salmon is a wonderful thing, about which
little has been written, and much requires to be learnt. To those who
have seen it, the phenomenon is most striking, and has vividly impressed
the western imagination, which revels in weird stories concerning it.
Thus it is current report that the waters of Harrison Lake have been
known to rise several inches from some unknown cause, only to be
accounted for by the immense rush of salmon into its waters; that
paddle-steamers have been stopped in the Fraser and at sea by the
salmon armies; that the backs of the fish have made stepping-stones by
which the Fraser has been crossed.

These and similar stories are the folk-lore of British Columbia, and yet
they are almost possible, so immense are the battalions of the salmon
which swarm to the Fraser and other large rivers. It is an astonishing
migration, full of interest and well worthy of study, not only to the
naturalist, but to the student of social economy, as this migration is
the source of an important food supply, and one of the chief industries
of the country. There are fifty canneries established at the mouth of
the Fraser, besides others further north, and between them they export
annually millions of tins of canned salmon.

The Pacific coast salmon in British Columbia comprise five species, all
belonging to the genus _Oncorhynchus_ of the salmonidæ family. They are
the king salmon or quinnat, a large fish running up to over 80lb., known
also as the spring salmon; the silver and blue-back salmon, which are
known as the cohoe and sockeye, and are the fish used by the canners;
and the humpback and dog salmon, which are of little value, and only
eaten by the Indians. The first named is the most interesting for the
purpose of this book, as it is the fish which affords the famous sport
at Campbell River. The silver and the blue-back only run to about 10lb.
The two last are pale fleshed, and are hardly considered fit to eat.

The king or tyee, quinnat, spring or chinook salmon (_O. tschawytscha_)
is the most important from the sportsman's point of view, but owing to
its occasional white or very pale pink flesh not so useful to the
canner. It runs from about 15lb. to over 80lb.; fish of 50lb. are
common, and some of 100lb. have been reported. It has sixteen rays in
the anal fin. The back is blackish, and underneath it is not so bright a
silver as the Atlantic salmon. It turns black and not red in the upper

The sockeye or blue-back (_O. nerka_) is the chief source of the cannery
supply. The anal fin is long, with fourteen rays. The back is blue and
the sides of a bright silver changing to a dark green and dull crimson
in the upper waters. Weight from 3lb. to 10lb. Flesh a deep red.

The cohoe, silver or fall salmon (_O. kisutch_) is also canned, weight
3lb. to 8lb., light green and silver in colour.

The dog salmon (_O. keta_), 10lb. to 12lb. in weight, fourteen rays in
anal fin. It is so called from the misshapen appearance of the head and
teeth of the males at spawning time. Colour of a dark silver, turning
black and reddish in the upper waters.

The humpback (_O. gorbuscha_), the smallest of the family, 3lb. to 6lb.
A hump appears just behind the head of the males at spawning time,
fifteen rays in the anal fin. The flesh of these last two species is not
much used.

Of these fish the spring salmon appears first in the Fraser in the early
spring, and progresses steadily up the river as far as it is possible to
go, apparently keeping more up the main current and avoiding the Shuswap
Lake to which the Thompson leads (at least it is very little noticed in
that river), whereas the sockeyes swarm up it in great numbers. It does
not seem to travel in large schools in these waters. A few arrive in
Kamloops Lake during July, but it is never much in evidence in the
Thompson River district. It is doubtless a very powerful swimmer.
Professor Jordan points out that this and the other species are
remarkable for the great number of developed rays in the anal fin and
tail, which must aid the fish immensely in its long journey against the
strong water of the Fraser.

The progress of all these fish is made by steady travelling in the
slacker water at the sides of the river. I have often watched them
slowly making their way upwards in the clear water of the Thompson, one
noticeable fact being that they do not rise much to the surface or ever
leap into the air, like our own fish. In the lakes, and occasionally in
pools of the Thompson, I have seen them roll over in the water, but
never leap into the air. It seems not unreasonable to suppose that one
reason for the leaping of the Atlantic salmon is because he is
practising for the time when he will have to jump a difficult waterfall
in the river he ascends. But in the inland lakes and rivers the Pacific
salmon never leap, and, in fact, are seen but little on the surface. On
the other hand the trout appear to leap quite as much as the European
species. On Fish Lake the rainbows are leaping continually.

The Pacific salmon has no skill in jumping, he merely swims on
continuously; indeed, he appears perfectly incapable of negotiating the
smallest waterfall. I have seen thousands of Pacific salmon stopped
hopelessly by a fall which would not hinder a small European sea-trout.
It may be that the tremendous nature of the journey already completed
has robbed him of the energy necessary for leaping, but experience would
lead me to believe that the Pacific salmon trusts to immense powers of
endurance, which enable him to travel thousands of miles against a
frightful current rather than to a short journey and one or two big

This fact is certainly worthy of further investigation and note, in view
of the introduction into British Columbia of the Atlantic salmon. There
must be numbers of rivers barred to the Pacific fish which would be
quite easy of access to the Atlantic. I doubt much if the quinnat could
tackle an ordinary artificial salmon ladder, though there are
undoubtedly numbers of streams in British Columbia which could be
rendered navigable to _Salmo salar_ by such means. A small hatchery
established on such a river might at once establish the European fish in
these waters.

On the other hand it is very doubtful if the present attempt to
acclimatise _Salmo salar_ by the introduction of small fry into the
Fraser can avail much. Few could hope to survive and compete with the
countless myriads of the sockeyes, while it is doubtful if the Atlantic
fish could ever make its way for hundreds of miles against the Fraser
current. It is not fitted for a slow journey of weeks and even months,
but rather for one of some few hours with a strong leap at the end which
lands it at once in the destined pool or lake.

There are two other points which will strike the fishermen in British
Columbia waters. One is the absence of kelts at any time of the year.
The other is the fact that, though the waters are often alive with young
salmon, none are ever caught on the fly. The first point is explained by
the fact that these fish die after spawning. There is no doubt that this
is well established, though there is something to be accounted
for--namely, the large specimens of each species, which must undoubtedly
either be survivors of a former run or else fish which have stayed in
salt water to a more advanced age. To take the example of a spring
salmon of 80lb.; this fish would, in Europe, be reckoned as at least ten
years old and probably a great deal more. Are we to conclude that such a
fish has never been into fresh water before, or is it not more probable
that he has only been in the habit of frequenting some lake at a short
distance from the sea, and returning thence in time to escape death from
exhaustion? The large specimens of the other species might also be
accounted for in this manner.

The second point is merely a fact, and does not require any explanation,
except that it may have some bearing on the matter of the adult fish not
taking the fly. I would not go so far as to say that these young fish
have never been known to take a fly, but I never remember catching one
myself, and they certainly do not take it as the salmon parr do in our
waters. It is of course possible that many may be taken and supposed to
be trout. But if such were the case, it would surely be more commonly
known and noticed. Very little appears to be known of the habits of the
young fish or the time they spend in fresh water before they go down to
the sea.

It has been a much debated question as to whether the British Columbia
salmon takes the fly, and it may be stated once for all that it does do
so, but only in tidal waters. In the up-country lakes and rivers it
takes nothing, and those who may have seen its migrations will easily
understand the reason. The fish have no time to feed or rest; they may
be seen ceaselessly though slowly pressing on in the shallow water at
the sides of the Fraser or Thompson, as if pressed on by the weight of
those behind, impelled by some all-powerful desire to get to their
journey's end, to spawn and die. None return, and the lakes and pools of
the rivers are filled with corpses, on which bears, eagles, and all
creatures which can eat fish are filled to the full.

There is no time to look at bait of any kind, for it is a terrible
journey through the rapid waters of the Fraser, and many fish show the
marks of bruises and cuts, while few are in an eatable condition by the
time they reach Kamloops Lake.

This journey would seem to take them three or four weeks from the time
they appear at the Fraser mouth, about 200 miles in distance. Anyone who
has ever seen Hell's Gate, in the terrible canyon of the Fraser, and
these millions of struggling fish slowly pushing their way upwards
without a moment's rest, impelled by the _vis a tergo_ of the swarms
behind, and each one anxious only to move forward, can easily understand
how impossible it would be in such a struggle for mere existence that a
fish should pause to take bait. Even in our own rivers running salmon
practically never take. It is only when they have reached some pool or
resting-place that they will look at a lure. But when these masses of
fish emerge into the large lakes, the first comers must still be
remorselessly driven on by the mass of those behind until the farthest
limits and some impassable barrier is reached. I have never seen the
spawning-beds myself. Jordan says they spawn in 1ft. to 3ft. of water in
rivers like _salar_, but one can readily imagine the desperate struggle
for existence that must go on as the swarms reach the grounds and fight
for positions; while no doubt on their outskirts are small armies of
trout and other fish eager to devour the eggs as soon as they are laid.
As the salmon seem to pass right up to the headquarters (_cf._ Jordan)
they would get beyond the _big_ trout. Probably it is here that their
numbers protect them, the trout being unable to penetrate their close
ranks until the eggs are laid and concealed in the gravel and death
begins to be busy among the salmon. Possibly here, too, may be some
protection, for doubtless the other fish prey on the dead carcases,
which would be a more obvious food supply than the hidden eggs. This
description of spawning-beds is mere imagination, as I have never met
anyone who had seen them; but it is probably much exceeded by the

A short description of what I _have_ seen will help to realise what must
take place on the spawning-beds. It must be noted that the salmon runs
are in cycles. Every fourth year is a big run of sockeye, and when there
is a small run of these fish there may be a big run of humpbacks or dog
salmon. One year in the early nineties the Thompson presented a strange
sight to travellers in the Canadian Pacific trains, though as the trains
pass this part in the very early morning probably few saw it. The line
here closely follows the river, and in the canyon rises to several
hundred feet above it, so that a splendid view of the river is
obtained. At this time, as seen from above, the deep blue water of the
stream was bordered on each side by a vivid red ribbon, which when seen
closer proved to be the array of sockeyes struggling up the side eddies
in countless myriads. How long this lasted I cannot say, but I saw it
several times on my professional journeys on the railway. It was a very
wonderful sight. Every fish was about the same size, about 7lb. or 8lb.,
and all were deep red in colour. The time of year was about September.

In 1901 I had occasion to go from Spence's Bridge to Nicola Lake in
early September; the stage-route is along the banks of the river, which
at that time was very low. A run of humpbacks was going on; the pools
were black with them, and the shallows between the pools presented a
most remarkable appearance; the water was only a few inches deep, and
between the stones the humpbacks were slowly wriggling upwards in
countless thousands, only half covered by the water. When the coach was
high above the river they looked like an army of tadpoles blackening the
river bed, their colour being almost black with a reddish tinge at the
sides. The male fish alone has the curious hump well developed in the
breeding season; it is situated just behind the head and is about
3/4in. high, resembling the hump of a camel; the female has only a very
small one. At an Indian village which we passed two or three Indians
were standing in the water armed with long gaffs with which they hooked
the fish out and threw them to the squaws on the bank, who were
cleaning, splitting, and hanging them up on long fir poles to dry in the
sun. A rancher living near here informed me that he took the trouble to
count the number on one pole and thereby estimate their total catch. I
forget his figures, but believe it was several hundred thousand--a mere
flea-bite to the total number of fish in the river, which must have run
into millions. The fish were unable to get into Nicola Lake owing to a
dam, and on my return journey, two weeks later, there was not a living
fish to be seen, the pools being filled with dead bodies, and the awful
stench of the river rising to heaven.

It seemed to me a terrible waste that all these fish should die, but
such is the fact, and it must be fortunate that they do not feed on
their way or they would clean out a river like an army of locusts. What
becomes of the trout during these invasions presents a curious problem,
for the condition of the stinking river would seem sufficient to kill
them unless they can escape to some lake. Possibly the trout flee
upwards ahead of the serried ranks of the invaders with the view also of
feeding on their eggs when they reach the spawning grounds. I have seen
the bottoms of good trout pools black with salmon in certain rivers and
have been told it was useless to fish them, and this fact I also
verified; while other pools higher up and not yet invaded gave good

These two instances will give some idea of the extraordinary invasions
by the salmon of the British Columbia rivers as it presents itself in
the Thompson district.

At the coast the migration begins with the large spring salmon, the
quinnat, which seem to appear off the mouth of the Fraser in January,
and run up the rivers during April, May, and June before the sockeyes
make their appearance, but never in such large numbers as the latter.
Their migration is more like that of the Atlantic fish, which they also
resemble in point of size. They are not so much used by the canneries,
whose season does not begin till July, and are only caught for the local
market, and by trolling with rod and line; these are the fish which
chiefly provide sport in the tidal waters of British Columbia.

As has been said they run up to 80lb. and over, and resemble our own
salmon in general appearance, though they are not of such a bright
silver colour, and are rather more heavy looking. The most obvious point
of distinction is the large size of the anal fin and tail, which contain
a great many more rays than those of our own trout and salmon. This
point of distinction is common to all the five species of the Pacific
coast salmon, and distinguishes them from the rainbow and steel-head,
which are true salmonidæ. The flesh, especially in spring, is excellent
eating, but possibly not quite so delicate as the Atlantic fish, and not
so highly esteemed. Perhaps this is partly owing to the fact that salmon
is so common and cheap, for a large fish can often be bought for a
shilling or half a crown.

I have seen an occasional large fish move in the Thompson early in July,
but have never noticed them in the Kamloops Lake in any large numbers,
though doubtless a certain proportion does come there. It would appear
as if the large size and strength of this fish enables it to run earlier
in the year and to stem the rivers when swollen by the melting snow in
May and June; while the smaller sockeye times its appearance to coincide
with the fall of the big rivers in July. It can hardly be a fact that
the quinnat never returns to the sea, for if that were invariably the
case, how could the large fish of 80lb., which must be of considerable
age, be accounted for? It would not be difficult for a fish to return
from a large lake like the Harrison, which is only some 50 miles or so
from the Fraser mouth. It may be that if these fish get far up the
Fraser, perhaps 500 miles or more from salt water, they may not have
strength to return. Jordan says the spring fish run over 2000 miles in
some rivers. But from spawning-grounds only distant a few miles they can
easily return, as could also the smaller species, unless, which seems
very unlikely, the act of procreation is fatal in itself. Still, the
fact remains that I have never seen a kelt in British Columbia nor heard
of one, nor does there seem to be any return stream of migration in
winter or early spring, a feature which could not escape notice if it
occurred to any considerable extent. Therefore if any fish return it
must be only a few scattered individuals, not one in a million of the
swarms seen passing upwards.

The Indians along the Fraser catch these fish by standing on certain
rocks with a large dip-net, by which they catch a considerable number as
the fish pass upwards.

In the first week of July or thereabouts the silver and blue-back salmon
appear, and the canneries at the Fraser mouth begin work. This is the
sockeye run, which is always very large, but varies in different years,
every fourth year being an extra large one. Drift-nets are employed by a
large number of boats, which may catch in one night thirty to eighty or
more fish, for which they get about 15 cents. apiece from the canneries.
The season lasts till about the end of August, when the run falls off,
and is succeeded by the run of the humpback and dog salmon, which are of
no commercial value. Indians, white men, and Japanese are employed, and
the mouth of the Fraser is a scene of great activity, while on the
American side large fish traps are employed in which many thousands of
salmon are caught at one haul. The following will give some idea of the
work of the canneries.:--


  1897      1,027,204 cases (48lb).
  1898        492,657   "     "
  1899        765,517   "     "
  1900        606,530   "     "
  1901      1,236,156   "     "
  1902        625,982   "     "

The first news of the approach of the sockeye is generally brought to
Vancouver or some other coast city by some sailing ship or steamer which
has encountered them in the straits of San Juan or the Gulf of Georgia.
Often strange stories are told of moving through a vast salmon army,
perhaps seven miles broad and of unknown length, all heading straight
for the Fraser's mouth, from their unknown feeding-grounds in the North
Pacific. Wild as some of these tales seem, yet they are more or less
true. For these immense shoals come through the San Juan Straits and
head northwards up the British Columbian coast towards Alaska, while
only a mere detachment enters the Fraser, a detachment of a few
millions. And also if it be true that none return, they can have no
leaders to show the way, but must retrace the route they took as smolts
on their way from the river to the ocean, impelled by the sexual
instinct to propagate the species. They appear to hang about the mouth
of the Fraser for a short time, then advance upwards as far as it is
possible to go, hundreds of miles into the interior, and up every stream
which will permit of their progress, where they eventually spawn and

The silver salmon and blue-backs run in separate shoals, and their
respective names show the difference between them. Very handsome fish
are they in spring, of a bright silver hue resembling a fresh run
grilse, and about seven or eight pounds in weight. But they quickly
become red, and in the upper waters of the rivers often present a far
from healthy appearance, showing visible traces of their struggles with
the rocks and whirlpools encountered in their ascent. This well-known
red appearance is not, however, altogether due to the effects of the
fresh water, for straggling late bands are described as entering through
the Straits of San Juan in the autumn which are almost as red as their
earlier fellows at that time in the upper waters of the Fraser.

On the heels of the sockeye come the humpback and the dog salmon, about
the same in size, and fine silvery fish before the breeding season sets
in. But it is late in the autumn when they arrive, and their flesh is
white and does not meet the demands of the market. The so-called hump is
only present in the breeding season.

An attempt was made to can and sell them as white salmon, but without
success; though recently a market has been found in Japan, whither they
are sent in the dried form. Japan, by the way, possesses a sixth species
of _Oncorhynchus_, the masu, a fish resembling the humpback, but this is
not known to British Columbian waters.

Although an immense toll is taken by the canneries, yet the supply of
fish still continues, assisted by the hatcheries which have been
supplied by the Government of Canada, by whose aid it is hoped that the
effects of over-fishing will be counteracted. For this hope there is
considerable ground, as the fishing on the Columbia River has been
restored by this means to something of its former condition.


     The Diplomat and the Salmon--The Struggle for Existence--Salmon and
     Steel-head Liable to be Confused--Sport in Tidal Waters--The
     Campbell River--The Pioneers--A River of Fifty-Pounders--Smaller
     Salmon on the Fly--Method of Fishing--Tackle--Typical Good
     Bags--The Steel-head--Cost of Fishing--Dangers of Over-Fishing for
     Canneries--A Good Trolling Time.

Though much more might be written about the canning industry and the
migration of the salmon, it is not material to the purpose of this book,
and has only been touched on to show how it bears on the question of
salmon fishing by rod and line; for it is often stated that the salmon
does not take the fly in British Columbia, as if it were a personal
matter and some perverse characteristic of the fish. There is another
story very popular in the west, relating what happened at the time when
the great fur companies held the country and were disputing and even
fighting for its possession. The Imperial Government sent out some
illustrious diplomat to report on the situation, and he described the
country as of no value and so hopeless that "even the salmon would not
take the fly." It is a tradition in British Columbia that on this ground
the now flourishing States of Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Oregon
were handed over to the Americans. The description given of the
conditions under which the salmon migrate is intended to show reasons
why the fish are unable to oblige the angler in this matter of taking
the fly. These conditions are obvious. The desperate struggle for
existence in an immense shoal of fish pressing upwards against the
tremendous current of a river abounding in strong rapids and whirlpools;
the length of the journey, several hundred miles in extent; the absence
of any chance of resting owing to the pressure of the multitudes behind;
and, finally, the state of exhaustion brought on by all these forces
combined--these things must, and indeed do, reduce the fish to such a
condition that its final energies are devoted to and exhausted by the
propagation of its species. Even if enough vitality were left to make it
take a bait, no sport would be obtained by the angler, and his sorry
capture would be generally unfit for food.

I have once or twice experimented by foul-hooking salmon in the tail in
the Nicola River, but after one feeble rush the fish was easily hauled
ashore even by light trout tackle, and returned to the water as
entirely useless to anyone except an Indian.

There is only one final conclusion to be drawn, that in the upper waters
of the rivers and the inland lakes the salmon do not take the fly or any
other bait, nor is there any case in which it has been even alleged that
a salmon has ever been caught on the fly. Occasionally large silvery
fish have been caught on spoon and minnow, but, in the absence of proof
to the contrary, it is most probable that these fish are either large
silver trout, rainbow, or steel-heads. Absolute proof of the capture of
a salmon is still wanting, though it is quite possible that such a thing
has occasionally taken place.

The question of salmon taking the fly in the tidal waters is another
matter, for there is not the least doubt that all the five different
species have been taken in this manner; though possibly not so often as
is stated, because the steel-head is a source of error, from its
resemblance to the salmon. A fish of 15lb. is taken on the fly and the
capture of a salmon is announced, on the strength of its weight and
size; whereas, on inquiry, it is found that the fisherman is certain
that it was a salmon, but can produce no evidence to prove that it was
not a steel-head. It is not everyone who can tell the difference
between a salmon and a steel-head on its mere appearance without
counting the rays on the anal fin or tail, and until this simple proof
is put to the test there will always be a doubt as to the frequency with
which the salmon is taken on the fly.

The size of the anal fin is so obvious a distinction of the Pacific
salmon that I have often observed it in numbers of small fry caught for
bait; the fin in a small fish two or three inches long resembles the
wavy fan-like fins seen in the Japanese gold fish, and distinguishes it
at a glance from the corresponding short fin of the young rainbow. A
curious error of this kind occurs in Mr. Rudyard Kipling's well-known
book, "From Sea to Sea," where he describes most enthusiastically a
day's salmon fishing in California on the Sacramento, and his capture of
numerous salmon on the fly. There is no doubt that his fish were

There is enough evidence from various sources to show that the salmon
take the fly in tidal waters, but it cannot be said that there is much
to show that they do so very freely, especially in the case of the large
quinnat salmon. But, on the other hand, the spoon bait is taken most
greedily by all the different species. It may be that the fly has not
been tried as much as it might have been, owing to the success of the
spoon. The result is that at present trolling in these waters with this
bait is the chief means employed, and has afforded sport unrivalled of
its kind by any other part of the world.

Very fair sport can be got in the Narrows near Vancouver or in the sea
off Esquimalt or Oak Bay near Victoria. But the place which has of late
years been distinguished by the most extraordinary salmon fishing ever
heard of is the mouth of the Campbell River on the east coast of
Vancouver Island. In the places first named, as also at the mouths of
several well-known rivers, salmon and steel-heads may be caught by
trolling and spinning, and occasionally with the fly. Thus seven or
eight fish are no unusual bag in the waters near Victoria, but they are
not usually of any very great size. The mouth of Campbell River appears
to be the only place yet known where the big salmon can be caught in any
large number, though it is quite possible that other places exist.

This river has long been a fishing ground for the Indians, who trolled
for the fish with a strong hand-line and spoon. The pioneers of this
fishing among white men were Mr. G.P. FitzGerald and Sir Richard
Musgrave, who made an expedition to these waters in the early nineties
and camped at the mouth of Campbell River, also trying Salmon River and
other places along the coast. They met with great success in the tidal
waters off Campbell River, but practically drew a blank wherever else
they tried. It was on this occasion that Sir R. Musgrave landed a 70lb.
salmon, which holds the record in these waters. Since then an increasing
number of fishermen have visited Campbell River, until of late years
there have always been a few rods on the ground; and a small hotel has
been put up. There is, however, not much fear of over-fishing, though
the time is past when a fisherman could have the whole of the water to

There are sinister rumours of a cannery and fish traps to be established
in the near future, and should these things come to pass then the
fishing which has been enjoyed will become a mere memory and perhaps
these pages its only record.

Mr. FitzGerald always enjoyed his best sport under the guidance of an
Indian and by employing the Indians' spoon, which is a plain silver
spoon with a loose hook. The main aim was always the large 50lb. fish,
smaller fish of 25lb. or so being regarded as a nuisance, and if
possible shaken off the hook. The biggest catch was eight fish six of
which were about 50lb. apiece; anyone familiar with salmon fishing will
know that this is no small feat after allowing for fish hooked and lost,
while it must be remembered that a fish of 50lb. may take over an hour
to land. Sir Richard Musgrave's large fish of 70lb. took an hour and a
half to land; it was a magnificent fish, the record salmon of the rod
and line. A cast of it was shown at Farlow's, in the Strand, and also at
Rowland Ward's, in Piccadilly, during the spring of 1897. The spoon
fishing of the Namsen and other Norwegian rivers fades into
insignificance beside such sport; two or more fish of over 50lb. were
the average catch, besides more that were hooked and lost, while the
numerous smaller fish were not considered worthy of notice.

Mr. A. Duncan reports excellent success with the prawn, which he was the
first to use, and it may be that with this deadly bait even larger fish
might be obtained. He also reports that with a silver-bodied fly in the
evening, but at no other time, he caught large numbers of salmon about
7lb. in weight, and could have filled a boat with them. He gives no
absolute proof as to whether these fish were salmon or steel-heads, but
it is his opinion that they were salmon.

The fishing is done by crossing and re-crossing the small bay into which
Campbell River flows, trolling from a canoe or small boat, the breadth
of the water being about half a mile; the method is exactly like
trolling in a Norwegian fiord just off the mouth of a river. It is a
curious fact that no sport can be obtained in the river itself, which
fully supports the contention put forth above that the Pacific coast
salmon ceases to take as soon as it begins to run, the taking fish being
those which are hanging about the mouth of the river preparatory to
running up. There seems to be no instance of the very large fish taking
the fly.

There is no need to say much as to tackle, except that it should be
strong and that there should be plenty of line. The native spoon can be
obtained on the spot. Some fishermen prefer a large rod as better able
to hold off a fish which runs under the boat; I should personally prefer
a short, stiff, steel-centred rod such as Hardy's 12ft. Murdoch--a type
of rod preferred by the Americans for yellow tail and tuna fishing. This
kind of rod is much handier in a boat, and almost unbreakable.

The following is a list showing some of the bags at Campbell River.

Mr. A. Duncan in 1904. Tyee salmon, eighteen; weight, 810lb. Average,
45lb. Cohoes and tyee under 30lb., thirty-two. Total, fifty fish in
eighteen days. Best day August 9th, 1904: Seven salmon, 56lb., 53lb.,
52lb., 16lb., 12lb., 7-1/2lb., and 4lb. The eight heaviest fish:
50-3/4lb., 56lb., 53lb., 52lb., 52lb., 50lb., 48-1/2lb., and 48lb.

Mr. Duncan says:

     Fish under 30lb. are counted as grilse. The cohoe salmon will take
     a fly; white with silver tinsel, I found best. They take in the sea
     at sunrise and sunset when they are jumping--in fact, more could be
     got in this way while they are actually jumping than by trolling,
     only they must be jumping and also fairly plentiful. I have got an
     odd one casting, but nearly all by trailing the fly. They give
     splendid sport on a light trout rod. The largest I got last year
     (1903) was 12lb. But they were not "running" this year, and I only
     got two of 7lb. each on the fly. Salmon are caught in Cowichan Lake
     (after ascending 30 miles of river); frequently I got one myself
     and saw others caught, though they are black and ugly. But I am
     told on absolutely reliable authority that great sport is had with
     tyee salmon (from 30lb. downwards) on the fly in the Cowichan River
     in the spring, and then only when the water is discoloured. They
     only take the fly sunk, and generally a leaded one is used.

It is noteworthy that this peculiarity of only taking the fly when
jumping is also common to the trout in the Shuswap and other large lakes
in the interior. Also their favourable time is at sunrise and sunset. It
might also be noted that Mr. Duncan makes no mention of the steel-head
or sea-trout. This fish runs in the Cowichan River and Lake in the
spring. The test of the number of rays in the anal fin and tail should
be applied to all these fish.

The sockeye does not appear to frequent Campbell River. The tyee and
cohoe frequent the coastal waters of British Columbia. But the feeding
ground of the sockeyes is some unknown part of the Pacific Ocean from
which they migrate and enter the waters between the mainland of British
Columbia and Vancouver Island in great shoals, through the Straits of
San Juan. Even then their stomachs are empty and contracted, showing
that they have already travelled some distance. Mr. Babcock, the
Fisheries Commissioner of British Columbia, states in his report for
1903: "The first fish are reported from Otter Point. From Sherringham
Point east their movement is clearly defined as they pass close in
shore. They come in rapidly with the flood tides, at times close to the
surface and breakwater; frequently during the last weeks of July and the
first two weeks in August, in years of large runs, they show themselves
plainly, a racing, leaping, bluish silver mass in the clear and rapid
moving waters." Then they appear to strike the discoloured water of the
Fraser, and follow it to the mouth of the river. In 1903, 2,948,333
sockeyes were delivered to the canners during the last two weeks of July
and the month of August.

The steel-head trout (_Salmo gairdneri_) is the anadromous form of the
rainbow, bearing the same relation to it as our sea-trout does to the
brown trout. It more closely resembles in form, colour of flesh, and
habit the Atlantic salmon than any other form found on the Pacific
coast. It spawns in fresh waters, and survives after spawning and
returns to the sea. It feeds in fresh and salt water. How far it
penetrates into the interior and up the Fraser is a matter of doubt. My
own opinion is that it only goes as far as Hope, being unable to face
the strong water in the Fraser Canyon, owing probably to the fact that
it is not equipped with the powerful anal fin and tail of the Pacific
salmon. It enters all waters near the coast, and is caught on the rod in
the Stave and Pitt Rivers. I have never heard of one being caught on the
Thompson. Trout fishermen in the coast rivers catch them with both fly
and minnow.

The following details of catches are quoted from an article which
appeared in _The Field_ in December, 1905, from the pen of Mr. L.
Layard. In 1904 twenty-four tyee weighing 1,004lb., average 41-1/2lb.;
forty-three cohoes weighing 297lb., average 7-1/2lb. Best fish 49lb.,
49lb., 50lb., 51lb., 53lb., 53lb., 55lb., and 56lb. He also states that
he saw two fish of 60lb., landed. In 1905, for July and August, fishing
for thirty-eight days: six hundred and eighty-eight salmon weighing
5,254lb. Best fish, 50lb. Best catches, thirty-six fish (275lb.) in five
hours, forty-four fish (330lb.) in six hours.

A Mr. J. Pidcock, fishing for his cannery from 3 a.m. to 9 p.m., in a
dug-out, using two hand lines, caught 706 salmon. Mr. Layard speaks very
well of the new hotel, and of a Mr. J. Thompson as boatman. He quotes
the hotel charges as £2 a week and 2s. a day for a fine sea boat, and
12s. a day as wages for a boatman.

He gives some interesting particulars of Campbell River itself, to which
a trail is to be cut from the hotel. There seems to be good rainbow
trout fishing for two miles in the river. The salmon are stopped by a
waterfall, where there is a large pool 30 feet deep, in which tyee
salmon, with humpback, cohoes, and trout, could be clearly seen. Mr.
Layard could not induce them to touch anything from the bank, but a tyee
of 18lb. was hooked on a spoon and lost two days afterwards by another
man from a canoe. The Indians stated that such a thing as hooking a
salmon in the river had never been heard of in their traditions. No
mention is made of the steel-head, and there is no proof given that the
above was not one of these fish. Mr. Layard was not equipped for
fly-fishing, but believes that the cohoes would have taken the fly.

An examination of these catches shows beyond dispute that there has
never been such salmon fishing as this in any other waters, and
fortunate indeed were those who first enjoyed it. Even yet the sport is
there, as Mr. Layard shows, and perhaps may still go on for many years
yet. In spite of adverse prophecies, possibly the cannery and fish traps
may never be built, for the quinnat is mostly useful to the angler.
Unfortunately nothing can be done to save this splendid piece of fishing
unless all the land and foreshore rights were bought up by some
philanthropist in the interests of sport, which is hardly within the
bounds of possibility; whereas if an offer for these rights is made to
the Government, for the purposes of fish-trap and cannery, a refusal is
impossible. Let us hope and even pray that no cannery is ever built, and
even if it is that it may soon be abandoned, for though I am myself a
fly-fisherman and think that trolling is only a poor imitation of the
real thing, yet in this place the great size and number of the fish make
up for other deficiencies, fulfilling the desires of the most ardent
salmon fisherman, and surely satisfying his wildest dreams.

The fishing at Campbell River can be enjoyed from June to September,
and steamers call there about twice a month on their way from Victoria
to the north; formerly it was necessary to take a tent and provisions
and camp out, but now accommodation can be got at the hotel. July and
August are the best months.

The best rod for Campbell River, as I have said, would be an 11ft. or
12ft. rod of the pattern of Hardy's Murdoch, a steel-centred split cane;
the reel should carry at least 80yds. of line and 100yds. of strong
backing; it would be well to carry a spare line. Traces and casts should
be taken, but spoons could be got better on the spot or in Victoria.
Tackle for fly-fishing might well be taken also.

The Americans use at Catalina for tuna fishing a line called cuttyhunk
line; it is very thin, light, and of tremendous strength. It is called
"twenty-four strand" line; the strongest man could not break it with his
hands, and yet it is not as thick as a salmon casting line. It makes
splendid backing for a casting line, and as a trolling line it is
absolutely unequalled. The size which will make good backing for a trout
line is nine strand, and is very hard to break with the hands.
Twenty-four strand is unbreakable; it only succumbs to the mighty tuna
when the whole line is run out. Another advantage is that it is
absurdly cheap, a 1,000 yard tuna line only costing £1. Three or four
hundred yards would go on an ordinary salmon reel and would form a
splendid trolling line. If I remember rightly, they use twelve strand
line for yellow tail fishing at Catalina, and consider it quite strong
enough. The yellow tail is a mackerel running from 25lb. to 60lb., and
is believed to be stronger and fiercer for its size than the tuna. The
cuttyhunk line is, however, absolutely useless for anything except
trolling; it is far too light for casting a fly or even for throwing a
minnow or any other kind of bait. It must also be well waxed with a
piece of ordinary yellow beeswax to prevent it rotting, because it has
no kind of dressing or protection from the effects of water. It would
need waxing at least twice a week. I have never seen this line except in
California, though it can probably be obtained anywhere in the United
States. In my opinion it is far superior in strength to any of our
English lines for trolling, while the price of a sufficient length for
ordinary purposes would be about half a crown.

It is more than probable that other rivers will become known before long
where the fishing may rival that of Campbell River. The sea coast of
British Columbia stretches far to the north, and most of it is
absolutely unknown to the fisherman, while even further north still
there are canneries on the coast of Alaska. I have seen salmon in Dawson
City which looked quite fresh run and had been netted in the Yukon; also
grayling which had been caught on the fly in the Klondike River. If ever
the present known rivers of British Columbia are fished out, there is
surely an inexhaustible supply further north. There can be no question
but that the Grand Trunk Pacific will in a few years open up a new
country of lakes and rivers, in which the sport should be at least as
good as those already known.

The fishing at Campbell River is apparently not confined to the mouth of
the river--at least in good seasons--as Mr. Layard speaks of fishing up
and down both sides of the strait from Seymour Narrows to Cape Mudge
lighthouse, a distance of 12 miles. A grant from the Government has been
made for a pier to be built at Campbell River, enabling all steamers to
call there, which will render it more easy of access.


     Recapitulation of Salmon and Trout Problems--Importance of
     Preserving British Columbian Fisheries--Possibility of Introducing
     Atlantic Salmon--Question of Altering Present Close Season for
     Trout--Past and Present Neglect of Trout Fisheries--Need for
     Governmental Action--Difficulties in the Way of It--Conclusion.

It will be very evident to those who have read the foregoing chapters
that there is a great deal to be learnt about the fish that inhabit the
British Columbian waters, and that several interesting problems require
solving. These facts should render the greater interest to the fishing.
The salmon perhaps present the most difficult questions, for their
life-history is evidently almost unknown. Their eggs germinate in the
hatcheries, and the fry are turned out into the lakes, but from that
moment to the time they return from the sea their movements are unknown.
It is not known at what age they seek the salt water, nor at what age
they return; while in the case of the sockeye their feeding grounds in
the Pacific are an unsolved mystery.

The most interesting trout problem is the identity of the silver trout
of the Kamloops and the Okanagan Lakes, whether it is a distinct and
new species, or merely a variety of the rainbow.

The identity and life-history of the small silvery fish which runs from
the Nicola, Anderson, and other large lakes into the small streams ought
to be a matter of some interest. This fish has been alluded to as a
miniature sockeye. It certainly presents the curious phenomenon of a
sockeye run in miniature from the deep waters of the lake into the small
streams, where it also turns red and spawns. It does not seem to be
known whether it also dies after spawning. It certainly takes no bait of
any kind.

In concluding this most imperfect attempt to give some slight idea of
the fishing in these waters, it is certainly not out of place to allude
to the immense importance and necessity of preserving the fishing for
the future. It is but lately that the British Columbian Government seems
to have awakened to the great importance of its fisheries, and even yet
it seems but little to appreciate the actual value and even more perhaps
the potential value of its inland waters from a sporting point of view.
It is almost superfluous to point out, in illustration, the value of the
sporting rights of the rivers of Norway and Scotland and their large
annual rental.

The value of the British Columbian rivers in this respect is at present
only small, serving merely as an attraction to a few visiting anglers
from England and the States, and a fishing ground for the residents of
the country. But even so they form one of the chief attractions of the
country, and will undoubtedly become more important, while their
potential value if the Atlantic salmon could be introduced is hard to
estimate. The evidence brought forward tends to show that the Pacific
fish is fitted for long journeys entailing more endurance and greater
swimming powers than the Atlantic fish possesses, but that the latter
can leap small waterfalls which are impassable barriers to the former.
One fish is a long distance runner, the other is a hurdle racer.

This fact is fully worthy of further investigation and thought. It might
lead to important results. By introducing small hatcheries which would
only cost a few pounds on suitable streams, the Atlantic fish might be
introduced in a few years. Salmon ladders might be placed round falls
which this fish could easily surmount, though they would be impossible
to the Pacific species, and by this means numerous useless streams could
be turned into valuable salmon rivers. From the lease or sale of such
rivers the Government would reap a handsome reward. The Atlantic fish
would probably have no difficulty in holding its own in the sea; for the
shoals of herring and oolachan would afford an ample food supply.

Large silvery fish have been caught, as has been said in a former
chapter, in a certain part of the Shuswap Lake by surface trolling,
whose exact identity is not well established, though they are probably
silver trout. Also many silvery fish have been caught lately on the
minnow at the mouth of the Nicola River where it joins the Thompson at
Spence's Bridge. These fish have been alleged to be salmon, though no
proof has been given that they are such. They have always been caught
late in the autumn, at which time all salmon would be red and out of
condition. These fish might be steel-heads, but it is far more probable
that they are silver trout, collecting at the mouth of the Nicola
preparatory to running up it for spawning purposes.

It is quite certain that very large rainbow and silver trout inhabit the
deep pools of the Thompson, but as yet no one appears to have captured
any of very large size on the rod. Possibly if the pools were tried
later in the fall, when the river has become low, by deep fishing with
live or dead bait, or the prawn, some very large fish might be landed.
The best time to attempt this fishing would be after the present close
season on October 16th or very early in the spring as soon as the ice
has gone. It is thought by the local anglers that the present close
season might well be extended for another month or so, to the middle of
November. For in October the rainbow are in splendid condition and show
no signs of spawning. Conversely, the spring season might be delayed, as
many stale fish can be seen in May and even in July. It is quite certain
that the rainbow spawns very late in the year, and further inquiry into
this question is needed.

It is unfortunate that trout have had little but nominal protection in
British Columbia. Their best protection has hitherto been natural
conditions and the social condition of the country--many fish and few
fishermen. For in a new and sparsely settled country there is no wealthy
leisured class who have much time to devote to fishing. Also many rivers
and lakes have been difficult of access. But these conditions cannot
last; they have changed much in the last ten years and are now changing
still more, in some districts not without more or less disastrous
results. Vancouver City has now grown to be a large place with some
forty thousand people, and the fine fishing of the Coquitlam and
Capilano is almost a thing of the past. The Kootenay mining district has
been opened by railways, and the once phenomenal fishing at Slocan Falls
and round Nelson has immensely fallen off; report says that here it has
been ruined by market fishing or worse, and in other parts of the
province saw mills have been allowed to dispose of their waste in the
rivers, and dynamite has been used for other purposes than mining. And
though the white man is liable to be occasionally pulled up by the law,
the Indian is apparently allowed to use spear, net, and salmon roe
without any interference.

The same remarks apply generally in the same way to the protection of
large or small game. The Nemesis which has fallen on many of the States
of the Union will undoubtedly overtake British Columbia unless the
Government fully rouses itself to the urgency of the matter before it is
too late and before these invaluable assets of the province have passed
away for ever. Many States of the Union have enacted too late the most
stringent game laws, and have spent vast sums in vain attempts to
restore what British Columbia still possesses and which could be so
easily retained at but a trivial expense and by the exercise of a little
foresight and trouble.

For some years small societies for the protection of game and fish have
existed in Vancouver, Victoria, and Kamloops, and, with most
praise-worthy perseverance in a good cause, have attempted to rouse
public opinion and stimulate the Government to take action. And it would
appear that at last their pertinacity has met with some measure of
reward, for the Government has appointed a head game-warden for the
whole province and local wardens for different districts. This method of
game preservation has been employed for many years in the older parts of
Canada and is in vogue in California, Montana, and probably all the
States. If properly carried out it should be of great benefit to British

In the past, unfortunately, whenever the question of game protection was
brought up in the Provincial Parliament, the ridiculous cry of "class
legislation" was always heard, generally raised by some labour member.
It should be quite clear to anyone that an efficient game law and
efficient provision for carrying it out will preserve sport for everyone
equally. The poor man is just as fond of fishing as the rich, when he
can get it; and the sacred fire burns as brightly in both peer and
peasant. But the rich man can buy a river or a tract of land and
preserve it for himself; and this he can do just as easily, and far
more cheaply, in British Columbia than in Norway and Scotland. Therefore
the best way is to preserve the game and the fish, so that there may be
sport for all, rich and poor alike. As they say in California, "preserve
it for the people and by the people." For unless this is done and proved
effectual, the time will soon come when the wealthier people will form
clubs for both shooting and fishing, and private game preservation will
close gradually the free waters of the province.

There have been other obstacles to proper protection. A most mischievous
and, I am firmly convinced, most false argument on the part of the
salmon canners has often been alleged as a strong reason why no
protection should be given to trout and why the law of the province
should be disregarded. The canners state that the trout are the salmon's
worst enemies, destroying both eggs and young. There is, of course, no
question as to the truth of this accusation. But the reasoning deduced
from it is wrong. It is quite impossible to destroy all the trout in the
British Columbia waters; and if it were not, no possible advantage would
be gained by so doing, because, by the inexorable laws of the survival
of the fittest and of supply and demand, the position of the trout would
be occupied by other fish which prey on the eggs and young of the
salmon. The decrease of trout would be supplied by an increase in the
numbers of the squaw fish and various species of char which are just as
bad enemies of the salmon.

Both the Federal and Provincial Governments are afraid to prevent the
Indians from taking fish or game in or out of season or to interfere in
any way with their usual methods of procuring them for food. The Federal
Government is the worst offender, because it erroneously believes that
if the Indians were in any way curtailed in their food supply, the
Government might have to supplement the want by rations, and thus be put
to great trouble and expense. It is as well to note that the Indians are
under control of the Federal Government. On the other hand the Indians
are amenable to the laws of the Province, except under certain
conditions on their own reserves, which in British Columbia are very
small, generally merely a few acres. The Provincial Government is,
however, naturally unwilling to act in opposition to the wishes of the
Federal power.

This attitude of the Federal Government is based on ignorance of the
actual conditions in British Columbia. The Indians of the province are
self-supporting and very good workers, having long ceased to depend on
hunting and fishing for their livelihood. They differ most essentially
from the Blackfeet and Crees of the plains. The British Columbian Indian
is quite capable of understanding the fact that it is inadvisable to
kill game or fish during the breeding season. Except, perhaps, in the
most remote parts of the province, he should be promptly taught that he
is just as much liable to penalties under the Game Act as the white man.
It would take a very short time to enforce the lesson, and until it is
done no Game Act will ever be really efficient, because the white man
will never respect and keep a law which is not enforced on Indian and
white alike.

This small volume is merely intended to give some idea of the fishing in
British Columbian waters, from facts gathered in twelve years'
experience of the province. It probably contains errors of commission,
perhaps, as well as of omission, and makes no claim to be authoritative
in scientific detail. But at least it contains some of that strange fish
lore which can be only gained on the river bank and by intercourse with
others of the same craft. It fairly represents what is at present known
among the fishermen of the province, with almost all of whom I am
personally acquainted. It is my sincere hope that someone better
qualified will, in the near future, deal more ably with the subject.

The ordinary Englishman often appears to be under a strange delusion
that British Columbia is situated in a part of the world which he
vaguely alludes to as South America, and it is somewhat curious that the
country is not better known, for it is a glorious land of great
mountains, forests, streams, and rolling hill, in which game and fish
are very plentiful, with a climate and conditions of life peculiarly
suited to Englishmen, especially those who have the instinct of sport.
An attempt has here been made to describe the fishing; but there is also
fine big game shooting, for the interior fastnesses of Vancouver Island
are the home of thousands of that finest of the deer tribe, the wapiti;
in the northern forests and the mountains moose, sheep, goat, and bear
are numerous; everywhere the large mule deer is common; ducks and geese
abound in the waters.

The soil of the valley is very fertile; gold, silver, copper, lead,
iron, and coal are among the natural products; there is an inexhaustible
supply of the finest timber in the world.

Surely British Columbia is a splendid jewel--still rough-hewn and uncut,
it may be, but one which will yet shine forth as one of the brightest
stars in the Imperial diadem.



                                I go
  To the island-valley of Avilion;
  Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
  Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
  Deep meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard-lawns
  And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea.

  _The Passing of Arthur._

The lines placed at the head of this chapter are in many ways not
inappropriate to Santa Catalina Island, with its little village of
Avalon, though meadows and lawns are somewhat conspicuous by their

For there can be little doubt that the name is connected with the
Arthurian legend, and must have been brought to this far-off land by the
early Spanish monks 200 years ago. No doubt the peaceful silence of the
island and the deep blue of the summer sea reminded one of them of some
island in distant Spain, where the great king is still sleeping. To
quote "Fiona McLeod":--

     This tradition is found among every European people. Where is
     Joyeuse Gard? Some say it is in the isle of Avillion off the
     Breton shores; some say it is in Avalon, under the sacred hill of

     Arthur himself has a sleeping place (for nowhere is he dead, but
     sleeps, awaiting a trumpet call) in "a lost land," in Provence, in
     Spain, under the waters of the Rhine.

The Californians have fortunately retained many of their beautiful
Spanish names, instead of changing them into Anglo-Saxon vulgarisms. It
is surely far better for a town to be called Los Angeles, Pasadena, or
San Francisco, than Southville or Jacksonville. Coronado beach and El
Plaza del Rey, the playground of the king, are ideal names for a

The island of Catalina lies 24 miles off the coast of California
opposite Los Angelos. About 30 miles long, and situated so as to act as
a barrier against the Pacific swell and the prevailing winds, it forms,
with the opposite coast, a kind of large bay or sheltered piece of
water, which is always smooth. It is only very occasionally in the
winter that a nor'-wester blows into it. It is for this reason, and this
alone, that Catalina is the only place suitable for tuna fishing, though
there are other islands which this fish frequents.

The island was bought by an Englishman named Banning for a sheep ranche,
and has been turned into a summer resort by his two sons; being owned by
Banning Brothers and Co., who claim sovereign rights over the whole
island, and have hitherto upheld them in spite of several legal battles
with the United States. No boat can land without their permission, and
the United States post-office is built below high-water mark. There is
wireless communication with the mainland, and a boat arrives every day.
There is a very good hotel, and the climate is most equable, neither
cold in winter nor hot in summer, being quite free from the sudden
changes so prevalent in other parts of California. Early in April I
noted the thermometer to be 64° at mid-day and 63° at midnight.

I found Catalina to be the pleasantest winter resort in California, much
quieter than the others, while there is always some fishing, even though
the tuna do not arrive till summer. Unfortunately, the tourists and the
tuna arrive about the same time, the latter usually appearing in June
and the former coming in July and August. Arrangements are made by which
the little town of Avalon is turned into a "tent city," in which some
ten thousand people are accommodated in tents. This naturally makes the
island for two months a very different place from what it is for the
rest of the year. Several steamers arrive and depart daily loaded with

The fisherman who intends to try for tuna will have to put up with
inconveniences of this kind, but if he arrives early he can employ
himself while he is waiting for the tuna to arrive, by trying for
yellow-tail, albicore, bonito, and barracouta. The first three are all
species of mackerel. The last named can often be caught in large
quantities, but gives little sport. All are got by trolling a small

The yellow-tail is well spoken of by the tuna fishermen as being for its
size even stronger than the tuna. It is fished for with a lighter rod
and 12-ply line. I shall give a description of tuna tackle later; the
tackle used for yellow-tail resembles it in general character, but is
much lighter. The fish is a handsome mackerel of a dull silvery colour,
tinged with yellow, which becomes more marked towards the tail. I saw
several landed of about 25lb., but did not get one myself. The largest
on record is 56lb.; from 40lb. to 50lb. is not an uncommon weight.

The albicore is another mackerel, blue above, and silver below, with a
curious long pectoral fin on each side, about a foot in length. The fish
are found in shoals and can be got in large numbers when the angler can
find one of the shoals. I believe it is usual to attract the shoal by
throwing small herring astern, and when this is done a fish can be
hooked at almost every throw. Those I saw landed were about 25lb.

The bonito is like a large horse mackerel, and is fished for in the same
manner as the albicore.

There are many other fish that can be got by fishing deep with a bait,
notably the black sea-bass, which is caught up to 400lb. There is little
sport to be got out of it, except what is afforded by hauling in a fish
of such immense weight. All these fish are good to eat.

In my experience, better sport with all these fish can be obtained at
Coronado beach than at Catalina Island, but tuna cannot be caught there,
though they are known to frequent the Coronado Islands. These islands
are too much exposed for the use of the small tuna launches. There are
about 7,000 wild goats on the island, and leave can be got from the
Bannings to shoot them, but it is not a very high form of big game
shooting. They are the descendants of some tame goats which were turned
out by the Spaniards for the benefit of shipwrecked sailors, though it
is not known exactly how the sailors were going to catch them. However,
some amusement might be got in this way till the tuna arrive. There is
also a nine-hole golf course.

The launches used for this fishing are very light, built for two or
three men, and fitted with gasoline engines. The best are pointed at bow
and stern, so as to go equally well in either direction. There are a few
private ones, and some of the public ones are retained by fishermen so
as to be ready when the tuna may appear. It might be well for any
fisherman to see that a launch is available if the fish should suddenly
arrive. Though the tarpon and tarpon fishing are fairly well known, very
little seems to be known in England about the tuna, and though I cannot
speak from personal experience, it would seem that the sport afforded by
the tuna is certainly equal to, if it does not far surpass, that given
by the tarpon, in the size, strength, and fighting qualities of the
fish. All the information here given was collected during a visit to
Catalina, during which period the tuna, unfortunately, did not put in an

Tuna fishing is of only very recent date, for though the fish was caught
by bait on strong hand-lines by local fishermen, it was only in 1896
that the first tuna was caught on a rod and line, and since that time
the numbers caught have not been very many. But little seems to have
appeared in the English sporting papers and magazines about the tuna.
And it would appear to me that anyone who reads the accounts given here
will be obliged to admit that this fish must afford the greatest and
most exciting sport that can be enjoyed by the bait fisherman. It is a
most formidable antagonist and one whose capture may be looked on with
just pride.

Even the number of those who have landed a tuna is very small; and very
few Englishmen are members of the Tuna Club. The tuna fishing at
Catalina is carried on under the auspices of the Tuna Club, an American
institution which has an excellent object, namely, to protect the tuna
and to see that as far as possible its capture is effected in a
sportsmanlike way. For anyone can, of course, capture a tuna with a wire
rope, and haul him in by main force; but to capture a tuna under the
rules of the Tuna Club is a different matter.

According to these rules, the rod must be not less than six feet nine
inches long, and must not weigh more than sixteen ounces; the line must
be not more than twenty-four strands cuttyhunk; and the fisherman must
land his fish with unbroken rod and tackle, and without any aid, except
that of his boatman as gaffer; and the said fish must weigh 100lb. or
over. On achieving this feat in the prescribed manner the angler is
eligible as a member of the Tuna Club, and his fish is entered in the

Englishmen might naturally object to any arbitrary rules as to the way
in which they conduct their sport, but the Tuna Club makes no arbitrary
claim. Any one may fish how or where he pleases, and need not aspire to
membership unless he wishes to. The aim and object of the club is simply
to set up a standard, and, by a kind of moral influence, inculcate
sportsmanlike methods in the capture of the fish, in circumstances,
where, by the nature of the case, no forcible means of protecting the
fish are available. With such an object no real sportsman should

The tuna is an immense mackerel, and its general build and shape show
capacity for great speed and strength. The largest caught in the annals
of the Tuna Club is 251lb., but far larger fish have been hooked and
lost. Fish over 1000lb. have been captured by other means, while it is
probable that the weight may in some cases run up to nearly 2000lb. The
tuna is gregarious and visits Catalina from June to September in large
shoals, when the flying fish, which seem to be its favourite food, also
appear. In the winter it probably goes south along the coast of Mexico.
A shoal is sometimes seen quite early in February or March, but as a
rule they do not appear till the middle of May at the earliest, and,
even when they do appear at this time, they do not stay long.

The rod and tackle are very important. The American tuna rod is an
excellent piece of workmanship. It is made in two pieces, the tip and
the butt. The tip, according to the rules of the Tuna Club, must not be
less than 6ft. long, and fits into the butt just above the reel. It is
made of split cane, but with no steel centre, and is very strong and
stiff, bending a little only to the very strongest pull. The butt is
built very stoutly, and there is no regulation as to its length, but it
is usually about a foot and a-half long, and in fishing is allowed to
rest in a hole under the fisherman's seat, so that the rod is controlled
with the left hand alone, leaving the right free. The advantage of such
a stiff rod lies in the fact that a very strong strain can be put on the
fish. It could easily be tested, and I should imagine that a strain of
ten pounds could be maintained, increased to considerably more in the
case of a tired fish. With a salmon rod a strain of about three pounds
is the utmost that can be maintained. The cost of such a rod is some £3,
or $15, and it can be bought in New York, or in Catalina Island, or Los

The reel is also very important, and also costs 15 dollars, for it must
hold 1000 yards of line. The winder is of the winch form with two
handles, for tuna fishermen maintain that they must have this form to
enable them to reel in with sufficient force, thus getting some command
over the line. The cylindrical knob of our salmon reel is universally
condemned. To the reel is attached a strong piece of leather which can
be pressed down by the thumb on the line so as to act as a brake, and is
very simple and efficient.

The line is a peculiarly American production, known as cuttyhunk line,
made of flax, immensely strong, very light and cheap. I know of no line
so suited to its purpose, or which, as I have said before, forms such
excellent backing to a trout or salmon line. The regulations of the Club
provide that the line must not be more than 24-ply, which is about equal
in thickness to a not very strong salmon trolling line; 9-ply is about
the size of a trout line. The 24-ply line practically cannot be broken
by the strongest man, and stands a dead strain of considerable amount.
It is also remarkably cheap. A tuna line of 1000 yards costs 5 dollars,
and since they are often broken, this quality is a very excellent one.
The lightness of the line and its thickness are both, too, very good
qualities when several hundred yards are out, and cutting the water at
great speed. The line is prepared and kept in good preservation by being
rubbed with common yellow beeswax, and by being dried after use.

The tuna rods, reels, and lines, which I saw at Catalina, seemed
exceedingly well adapted for their purpose, and were most efficient
without being expensive. It was earnestly impressed on me to be sure to
obtain the best tackle, and to have a spare rod and reel and several
lines in the boat. Great care should be taken of the tackle, and also to
see that everything is in good order, as the fish is a most formidable
antagonist, and the slightest hitch or weakness will end in an immediate

To the end of the line is attached a large hook with a herring as bait.
Formerly the flying fish was considered to be the only bait which the
tuna would take, and they were not always easy to get, but it has lately
been found that the herring is as good.

At first the fishing was carried on from a launch trailing a row-boat
behind, which the fisherman entered as soon as a tuna was hooked. In
this way the fish was more easily followed, but the boat being often
unable to move quickly enough, was at the mercy of the tuna, and was
practically towed in all directions. Nowadays, a vast improvement has
taken place by the introduction of small, smart-looking gasoline
launches, the best being pointed fore and aft, moving quickly in either
direction, so that the fish is followed rapidly, or run away from when
it suddenly turns and rushes towards the boat. The boatmen are smart
fellows, and are mostly registered on the books of the Tuna Club. £2 a
day is the charge for a day's fishing, including launch and tackle.

The tuna may arrive at the beginning of June in large shoals, pursuing
the flying fish, though the date of their arrival is uncertain; but
about this time, or even earlier, the tuna fishermen appear at Avalon
and await the appearance of the fish. One of the attractions of this
sport is the fact that it is done on sight, so to speak; there is no
dreary trolling aimlessly about, half asleep under a hot sun. No one
goes tuna fishing unless the fish are seen, because it is absolutely
useless; failing a sight of them a small gathering of men collects in
Avalon who lounge about the hotel and beach. The true tuna man does not
as a rule care much for any lesser sport, but awaits the coming of the
fish he is after.

A watchman is kept on the cliffs by the Tuna Club, who signals their
arrival. Owing probably to their habit of pursuing the flying fish, the
tuna make themselves visible at a considerable distance by their
constant leaps in the air. It is owing to this fact that they are
locally known as the "leaping tuna." The shoals are often very large,
probably numbering several thousand fish. The signal of their arrival
often causes a scene of considerable excitement in Avalon; the cry of
"tuna" is taken up by the boatmen from the watchman on the cliffs, and
there is a wild rush in small boats for the launches at anchor in the
bay. Sometimes before tackle is in readiness and launches got under way,
the tuna shoal sweeps right into the little bay of Avalon, chasing the
flying fish in every direction. It can easily be imagined that such a
sight is calculated to fire the blood of the most phlegmatic of
fishermen, and, the Western American being by no means a stolid
individual, the effect must be somewhat startling.

As soon as possible the launches put out and commence trolling across
the shoal and wherever the tuna show themselves. It is by no means,
however, certain that the fish are in a taking mood, though in such
circumstances it is probable that some fish will strike, but it is by no
means uncommon to troll thus across and across a shoal of the fish
without a single strike being made. On the other hand, sometimes they
will take most freely. It must not be supposed that hundreds, or even
dozens, of launches thus put off after the tuna; it is more likely that
half-a-dozen or ten would be about the number. If the shoals stay near
Catalina, there will soon be a few more as the news becomes known on the

The tuna takes much as a salmon takes a minnow, and goes off with a
tremendous rush, which sometimes continues until there is little of the
1000 yards of line left on the reel. It is impossible to touch the reel
except at the risk of cutting the fingers. The fisherman sits facing the
stern of the launch, with the butt of his rod fixed in a hole under his
seat. If little line is left, the fisherman may put on the leather brake
hard down, and try to enable the fish to break his line; or else wait
until the end comes, and chance a damaged reel or rod. Unless he has a
spare rod or reel in the boat, the former course is the best. It is
thought that this course of events, which is by no means rare, is caused
by the hooking of a very large fish.

If a fish of about 100lb. is hooked, his usual tactics are either a
series of lightning rushes, which must be followed by the steersman,
who must be as quick to go astern as to go forward, or else the fish
goes off at tremendous speed a few feet below the surface. The tuna
never jumps like the tarpon when hooked, he either rushes along below
the surface or goes deep. There are 2000 fathoms of water round Avalon.
His mouth is not hard like the tarpon, and the hook therefore goes well
in; he apparently knows that he cannot shake it out by leaping in the
air. Sometimes the hook tears out, but most fish are lost by breakage.
It is perhaps more by the skill of the steersman and the quickness of
the launch than by the merit of the fisherman that the capture is
effected. When beaten, the fish is gaffed.

Many tall stories are told in Avalon of adventures with tuna, though
many of them probably happened when the fish was pursued in a rowing
boat. In the launches now in use the fisherman has a better chance. The
small boats were towed by the fish at their will. It is reported that on
one occasion a boat was towed over to the mainland during the night, and
was off Avalon again in the morning. Mr. F.V. Ryder, the Secretary of
the Tuna Club, informed me that he went off with provisions to a launch
that had been engaged for seven hours with a tuna, and found the boatman
in charge of the rod, owing to the complete exhaustion of the
fisherman. He returned again seven hours afterwards, and found the
boatman still struggling with the fish, which was nearly beaten. At the
boatman's request, he gaffed the fish, which went off with the gaff and
was lost, owing to the hook tearing away. The fish was the largest he
had ever seen hooked, appearing to be probably 400lb. or 500lb. Mr.
Ryder informed me that he had landed six tuna in one day, and also in
one day had lost no fewer than five lines, and had broken a rod and a
reel. He stated that he believed only ten per cent. of the fish hooked
were ever landed, and that he would not back himself to land more than
25 per cent. of fish hooked. At the same time he pointed out that many
who come to Avalon are by no means skilled fishermen.

The number of fish landed in a season from June to September is by no
means large; the best year produced 125, one year 75, another only 50,
and last season (1905) but 12 were landed and not one over 100lb.

There are several other islands off the coast of California which are
known to be visited by the tuna, but the waters round them are too much
exposed to the Pacific swell for the use of the small launches which are
necessary for tuna fishing, and therefore the waters round Catalina are
the only place at present known where this sport can be followed.

It is not known where the tuna go in the winter, but it is quite
possible they might be found along the coast of Lower California, a
province of Mexico which stretches south from the lower boundary of
California, separated from the mainland by the Gulf of California. It is
an almost uninhabited country and it struck me that the tuna might well
be discovered among the numerous islands and sheltered waters which one
finds along its coasts in the winter months, especially as the climate
is much warmer. The tuna do not stay permanently round Avalon even
during the summer; sometimes they may stay for weeks, at others only a
few days. This is probably entirely dependant on the movements of the
flying fish.

An American who had caught both tarpon and tuna informed me that he
considered the latter fish to afford far the best sport. Catalina Island
can be reached from New York in about four days, a ticket should be
taken to Los Angeles by the Southern Pacific Railway: from which place
there is daily communication. I should strongly advise the fisherman to
buy his tuna tackle in New York, certainly not in England; English
tackle makers are as yet completely ignorant concerning tuna fishing.
This advice does not apply to tarpon. I might mention that Mr. Ryder
spoke strongly to this effect.

It is quite worth mentioning that the season for tarpon in Florida is
much earlier than the tuna season, so that any one wishing to try for
tuna might first fish for tarpon in April, May, or June, and cross the
continent at the end of the latter month to Catalina Island, which could
be reached from New Orleans in four days.

This chapter is not intended as a full or accurate description of tuna
fishing, but merely to bring the sport before the notice of English
fishermen to whom it may hitherto have been almost unknown. It is quite
impossible to write a good account of fishing when one has only seen the
fishing grounds and not actually engaged in the sport itself. But it may
be that others may be encouraged from what I have said to try their
luck, and that these short hints on the tackle and locality will be

There have been some reports that the tuna have ceased to come to
Catalina, being driven away by the naphtha launches, owing to their
noise and the oil spread over the water by them. The chief foundation
for this seems to be the fact that only twelve tuna were landed in 1905
and no big ones in 1906. It is much more probable that the
non-appearance of flying fish or herring was the real cause. A bad
season or two may occur in any kind of fishing. The water round Catalina
is practically part of the Pacific Ocean and could not be fouled by a
few small launches. Nor could their presence affect the immense shoals
of flying fish and herring. It is well-known locally that the latter
fish do not appear until the temperature of the water has risen several
degrees above that of winter, and it is much more likely that some
climatic reason has affected the yearly migration. The tuna will no
doubt appear again as usual at Catalina.



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