Quest for 20 – Part XVIII – A Suitable Finish

Not long after our last trip (check it out here: Quest for 20 – Part XVII – A Challenging Day), Mike, Marc, another Mike, and I had plans to go to the lower mainland and watch a Vancouver Canucks game (Marc got free tickets). We decided to turn it into a fishing trip, spending a few days on the Vedder river. Mike and Marc have always wanted to try their hand at the Vedder river fishing, so this would be their chance.

But let’s take a step back just before this Vedder trip started. Since everything had blown out on our trip to visit Marc, Kitty and I had gotten back to Nanaimo a day early. All the house cleaning and packing took place on the first day back home – and rivers were dropping out nicely on the second day. Kitty and I decided to head out to a river that I felt I had “figured out”, to see if she could check off #9. We only had an hour and a bit to fish, so we hiked down into the run that I thought for sure would produce at least one chance for her. Kitty’s first cast on a spoon she had a fish chase her right in, but it never did commit.

After that first fish, we decided to toss some subtle things first before going with the pink worm since the water was so clear. After a dozen or so casts with trout beads and the ghost shrimp jig, I was starting to lose hope. Just before leaving, I told Kitty she really should try the 4 inch pink worm. The first few casts proved the pink worm’s effectiveness once again. The fish tried its hardest to go out of the run multiple times, and often went around the two large rocks in the run, but Kitty carefully listened to my coaching from my vantage point, and managed to both hold the fish in the run and pop it off multiple snags at the same time. Eventually, to her relief, the fish slid into the net. She was now within 1 river of her goal of 10 rivers for the year, with river 9 off the list. With this fish, she also completed her first and primary goal of the year – her 5th new system of the season!

kitty 9th
Kitty’s 9th river is a spectacular backdrop setting. A beautiful late season doe in an amazing, hard to access place.

Now back to the Vedder. With four of us fishing, we decided to split into two groups. One group would work up from parking access, and one group would work down. The first spot provided nothing either up nor down. The second access, Mike F. and I decided to work up, while Mike R. and Marc decided to work down.

Mike and I arrive at the first run to see a guy flogging it, so I suggest that we fish the little run just above that I’ve caught fish in sporadically. I had just read an article (from I believe, Bill Herzog) the day earlier about tossing massive fist size balls of roe to wake up fish. It piqued my interest. The first dozen casts, neither Mike or I hit anything. I added another chunk of roe to my still full chunk. I took another half dozen casts at varying depths, still nothing. I decided to add another two chunks of roe on as a Hail Mary (more of as a joke actually). Typically I never spend this much time in a spot, but we were waiting for the gentleman below us to leave, so we took our time. To my surprise, the first cast through with the fist size gob of roe, my float disappeared. Too good to be true, but it was. The fight was on. It was obvious it was a good fish as it took me down and out of the run. The guy below comes walking over as I’m fighting it and says, “I don’t know whether I should congratulate you, or throw you in as I’ve been here for over an hour.” Mike and I get a good laugh out of it as I play tug of war with the buck. It was a long stand off as he held himself in the heavy current. I finally was able to slide him into the shallows. The Quest for 20 was now complete. I had completed it a month earlier than allotted on the 29th of March.

river 20 buck
A big 36 inch coloured up warrior buck rounds out my season’s goals. It felt good to finish it up on my home river – where my steelheading addiction started up nearly 10 years ago now.

It was very suiting that this be my final river. My steelhead addiction started here 10 years ago. I had gone to tamihi rapids with my grandfather and caught one in the first hour in a pocket nearly right where tamihi creek comes in. It was a coloured up wild buck, perhaps 10 pounds. I remember arguing with my grandpa about how to operate the camera, before we both realised it (the old waterproof olympus stylus) was dead. I’ll probably never forget that fish, even though there was never a photograph of it. That fish lead in to another full year of fishing (something like 70 after school skunked trips) before finally landing my second ever Vedder fish – a nice hatchery doe. Soon after that, I was beginning to hit fish regularly and wanting to improve with every trip – steelheading had become an addiction. My grandpa often would pick me up after school and drive me around the river and fish with me. I remember spending countless days on this river – nearly every day it was fish-able – for a good three years before moving to the island for university.

My grandfather passed away this past fall, so it felt good to finally get another fish out of the river that he so often accompanied me on. In a way it was a sort of final closure (although I do still need to get one out of that very first pocket). I’ll forever be thankful that he forced me to go on that cold January day so many years ago after he had asked me “why do you quit fishing as soon as salmon are done,” and I had replied “Because, steelhead are too hard and you don’t catch enough of them in a day.” It’s amazing how much I’ve grown to love that challenge rather than resent it.

Anyway, enough with the sentimental stuff, and back to fishing. We continued to fish that run and Mike missed some sort of fish a good 5 or 6 times before it would no longer come back. At that point I got a call from my buddy that they were heading back to the car, so we did as well. They informed us that they hadn’t touched one, but had seen three caught. We decided to try one last spot for the day, knowing that fish were definitely around and bitey.

We arrive at the run of choice, and Marc’s second cast provides a good float down on roe. I tell him it was 100% a fish, but he doesn’t believe me. After a good while, with nothing to show, he started to work down the run. My buddy Mike puts on a trout bead and goes upriver 20 feet from where Marc had missed that fish. His first cast, only three feet into the drift, his float buries and the fight is on. He babies it, being his first fish ever on his pin, but he does get it in after a lot of razzing from the three of us spectating.

Mike's boot
Mike’s first steelhead of the season (he doesn’t fish much, but he always seems to get “lucky” on the Vedder the odd time he fishes it with me).

We continued down the run, where Marc missed yet another fish in the tail out, and was again reluctant to believe me. We fished down passed it, and on the way back up, he told us all to go ahead to the pockets upriver and that he’d catch up. He ended up losing the fish shortly after we left. The next day on the Vedder after that proved rather unsuccessful. We fished in the pouring rain up until the river blew out a couple of hours after we started – with only a couple good float downs, but no hookups, to show.

With the rains having blown out the Vedder, I knew at least one other river would be good, so we headed there for our final day. Both Marc and Mike were able to check off another new river on their lists. They were both much more comfortable on this flow – it’s much more reminiscent of the island canyon rivers that we so often adventure down.

MARC - mud trout
It’s not too often that this river shows any colour. In fact, it was one of the first times I had fished it high and with colour – indicative of how much rain we had actually received. It did provide for good fishing on aggressive spring running fish though! Marc with his 6th new river of the year.
MIKE - little winter doe
Mike with a little winter doe as waterfalls cascaded down the canyon surrounding us. A great final day showing friends around on a river I know well.

After that trip, it was back to the island, where I could hopefully help Kitty check off her final river of the year on her Quest for 10. If completed, I could indeed say that this was a successful and productive season — one to remember. In fact, even without everything completed, it already had been one of my best ever, one of our best ever.

2 thoughts on “Quest for 20 – Part XVIII – A Suitable Finish

    1. I wouldn’t quite classify myself in those terms, but I do feel as if I’m starting to figure this whole steelhead fishing thing out. Thanks for the kind words and for following along throughout!


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