On the beach:spring into summer/part two

April to August

Transition is probably the most apt word I would use to describe the time period from the beginning of the spring to the wind down of the summer. Each year spring seems to be a little different here but April on the BC coast is most often hallmarked by unsettled and windy conditions on the beaches and often high and cold water conditions in the rivers. Conversely August often provides the most stable weather of the year, and by the end of the summer most rivers are near their nadir, warm, slimy and devoid of many salmonids. The truth is throughout this time period and it’s┬ádisparity of climate extremes, where anxiety increases, spouses suffer, cats and dogs sit at home neglected, and the only “housework” that gets done is the cleaning of fly lines, there are truly too many choices for a sea run cutthroat addict.

The big spring tides turn tidal choke points into rivers

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April(stingy bastard month)

I have often struggled to find and catch sea runs in April, whether in salt or fresh water and this year has proven to be no different. Success with fry patterns in the rivers has always been very sporadic for me, and you’re probably as likely to catch a steelhead kelt as a cutthroat in some systems. and due to the spawning times of many runs falling in April/May it is really system dependent. I got my ass handed to me fishing the lower stretch of a small productive mid island stream by my friend who was fishing spinners in higher water as he was getting down to where the fish sat, and I was fishing farther up in the water column with small fry patterns. With colder, higher water the fish weren’t as willing to move, and chase. In spite of the large spring tides, and their usual translation to good fishing the beaches were also very slow, with only occasional signs of fish and no signs of feeding on south island beaches that I frequent. I did however manage one fish on a waker at the beach right at the end of April.

May(spring gone and done sprung)

 

Once the hotter weather and more friendly conditions arrived (way earlier in May this year) the fishing really picked up, more fish flushed out of the spawning areas and hit the lower rivers and estuaries feeding ravenously. warm water=active fish=hatches and fry=fun.This period while weather dependent can be the best sea run cutthroat fishing of the year. Lower rivers and the estuaries of creeks have produced well this year, and I was able to raise some fish on wakers in May. While I don’t find a large quantity of fish this time of year the fish you find tend to be hungry and aggressive. I had some very good days this year on the slower beaches, not for numbers but for quality fish, and a number of fish stripping in small gurglers.

June(pretending to be july this year)

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This month can be beguiling, if only because it can be Juneuary, really unsettled and windy or it can be Junely, hot and calm like this year. This makes beach fishing dependent on weather patterns usually(not that I’m averse to casting cross wind over my opposite shoulder to avoid hitting myself with a clouser, or just ducking). It was a treat to be able to fish more this time of year due to seemingly less windy days in my usual spots. Summer steelhead in the top secret west (or is it east?) coast rivers also beckoned for a time, once again without success, nothing new there, but the places they are found are second to none. Swinging flies on a nice day in june is a wonderful way to spend a day (even if you break your switch rod for the second time in as many trips)

July(damn you green salad)

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Usually July brings the onset of stable weather, and on vancouver island marks the beginning of the beach fly fishing season for most people. It also marks the end of most river fishing as the rivers usually drop significantly and warm. The other thing that happens is that massive amounts of seaweed start washing up and drifting along the slower beaches I favour.

 

I spend most of my time chasing sea runs in salt water this time of year where they will be found in their regular feeding lies, or just about anywhere on the east and some of the west coast. As the summer salmon beach fishing season starts the popular beaches will start to get busy. Having said that there is a crazy amount of good beach water out there, and it’s really not hard to get away from people and still find fish. Some beaches become seemingly devoid of fish and others seem to swell with numbers this time of year. I spent this year chasing fish in new areas where tidal flow created rips, and did quite well, with a number of trips yielding double digits. Conversely I did quite poorly on the slower beaches, where massive amounts of seaweed drifting made it nigh impossible to strip in 30 ft of line without fouling.

August(sometimes the beaches reward you with golden death trout, and sometimes you get maggot filled seal carcasses)

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This marks the beginning of my favorite time of year, the rivers are low, nobody is on them, the light begins to change, the salmon beaches are busy, calm evenings abound, and a number of sea run cutthroat will begin to stage near or ascend their rivers. On some systems a “vanguard” (to quote Les Johnson) of cutthroat will enter the river before the early salmon, and the lower river water conditions are very ideal for chasing sea run cutthroat with a lighter fly rod. They will also often hold their nicest colouration around this time of year, that golden hue that I try so hard to capture with my poor photography skills. I spent very little time chasing them in the rivers every chance available this month due to this thing called life, trying to edumacate as many cutthroat as possible of the risks of biting fast moving silvery olive things. The regular beaches were good though, as during this time of year these fish hold as predictably as is possible for the nomad known as the sea run cutthroat.

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The Summer Steelhead

Summer steelhead…I have hesitated to post about these fish, as there are lots of sensitive runs on the island but without negativity, agenda or highlighting any specific systems here’s to a fascinating fish, worth seeing and protecting. They are kind of like big sea run cutthroat in many ways, and therefore awesome. Practice self restraint in their pursuit and I doubt you will find the negativity that plagues so many fisheries.

fall steelheading speaks for itself

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almost a summer run

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These fish are vulnerable to poaching and need protection, This pool had a huge 3 treble/pencil lead/80 lb test combo lying in the shallows of this pool, there was regular poaching with roe, and dead fish on the bottom, hence why I have hesitated to post about these fish.

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Observe, not snag and kill

(Below) A switch rod is highly recommended for these fish, and allows you to go and cast in some crazy places, and sometimes, just sometimes you are rewarded.

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(below) Such a nice pool to break a rod at

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The scenery alone is worth it every day, and that’s good because you will probably spend far more time looking at scenery than catching fish.

Elusive denizen of secret river “X”

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Typical small river summer canyon water

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If you only knew how many miles I hiked, drove, fell, stumbled and fell for these pictures, you might question the sanity of all steelheaders, unless you already know me then you probably already question my sanity.