Catalogue and Conquer – Part XVI – Last Chance

We decided day two of our trip up to Marc’s area would be on a river that all of us really like. I’ll never forget the first day Marc and I had gone there. We walked in to find a system absolutely ravaged by logging. The lower end was disgusting, and after walking up for a good 40 minutes and not seeing any fish, nor any really good water, we had turned around and given up.

Later that same year, we had finished fishing another river in the same general area and decided to give this one another quick try (despite saying we’d never go back). It ended up being a fantastic day with 6 hookups and quite a few fish seen. What we found was that we simply hadn’t continued on high enough up to the canyon that was just another 20 minutes up from where we stopped. Once in the canyon, the river had a number of great looking runs. After that one successful mission, this place has provided some truly incredible and memorable days. Perhaps the most memorable was this day from 2017, and this fish: Quest for 20 – A challenging Day.

Kitty big doe chrome
A stunning specimen that provided one of the most memorable fights that I’ll likely ever see in my life. A truly fantastic day.

Today the water was pretty low. We haven’t had rain in a while, but we hoped that the fish had mostly moved in by now and spread out. Typically it’s a really late spring return, so there was a chance today we’d be slightly ahead of the run. Today was our only chance to go check it out though, as I’d be heading back to the mainland in a couple of days.

It ended up being low just as we thought, and we experienced spooky fish (which we’ve never seen here before). We fished a huge portion of the river, something close to 14 km of water (did I mention long spring days being awesome), and only had chances at 3 fish. Two of those chances consisted of hard float downs that never came back, and one was a fish I was day dreaming on that swam around with my float for a good 5 seconds before I finally decided to hook it – only to have it pop off 5 seconds later as soon as it came top-water.

The next day we tried to put our heads together to come up with a plan. We eventually settled on a river that Kitty and I had first checked out two years ago now. We had only done it briefly, but it was around this time of the season and we had seen two really fresh fish. Today we decided to start way up and walk down to where we had seen the fish last year.

This particular river is one that we will definitely be doing more in the future. It’s a great little system. The rocks are brilliant – tons of different vibrant colours with cool structures. I actually can’t remember seeing anything like it on another island river. Regrettably I did’t take any photos of the substrate itself, but I’ll grab some next season upon our inevitable return. I did however take some photos of the really cool scenery that surrounded us for most of our six hour day canyon hopping:

focus on float 2
Kitty intently watching her float in a sweet little run with water pouring into the canyon. She was trying out her brand new rod and reel this day too – I’m sure it’ll be a setup that’s seen in a lot of future photos (it’s a pretty one)
Kitty Mark canyon
A little break half way through the canyon to take in the scenery and have a snack.

After fishing a good three quarters of the available 5 km of river down, we were starting to get discouraged. We hadn’t seen a fish yet, despite numerous runs that looked perfect. One thing that we were grateful for though was that we were able to continue down without being cut off. There were a number of sections that were just barely do-able, either by wade or somewhat sketchy rock climbs. We had picked an ideal water height that worked well for both fishing height and for hiking height. Definitely something to write down in the journal for future considerations.

Eventually we were just three runs up from the run where Kitty and I had found steelhead the previous time we poked in here. This run that was three up looks fantastic – a large creek dumps in here and it’s got great depth and cover. Kitty’s first cast finally produces the first float down of the day, but she misses it clean. Surprisingly, it doesn’t come back for another 5 casts. Eventually though, we get to see that it’s a large rainbow trout around 20 inches in length that Kitty brings to hand on a worm.

The next run down looks incredible as well. The large creek now contributes almost double the amount of water that was present in the small canyon above. It’s a wide run with great depth and structure as well. As Kitty takes her first cast, I swear I can see one. Just as I’m about to say something, her worm comes into view and I see the shape I thought was a fish before start moving (a good sign I was right about it being a fish). Soon she’s hooked up with a little bullet. She ended up fighting it like a champ, and got to check off her 10th river of the year, and yet another new one.

Kitty canyon closeup
Kitty’s 10th river of the year, and her first on her new rod setup. Even more impressive, it’s her 6th brand new river of the year. It takes a lot of commitment and dedication to constantly explore new rivers that you’re not comfortable on (rather than doing the ones we know well). It’s cool and satisfying to find new rivers each season, and it gives us many more opportunities heading forward each year.

After that fish we head to the bottom run and Marc sees 5 fish sitting way back in the tail out where we had seen them the year previous. Unfortunately, the water back here is incredibly slow and doesn’t give a good drift. As expected, the fish were fairly skittish in the extremely low and slow conditions for this run. I ended up having one check out the ghost shrimp jig, but we didn’t have anything give us a solid commitment. Looks like this river will have to be one that I try to conquer on another year.

As we walk back to the car, we reflect on yet another successful day, and already start chatting about what kind of plans we could make for next year. Unfortunately this would be my last day out fishing on the island – it was time to head back to the mainland for work.

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