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Canada  2004 

Photo: Johnny Jensen



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"Why heeello there... Ain't yoo just the god darn purdiest liddle thang in dungarees this side o' Chilliwack, boy?"

Beautiful views and Bald Eagles swooping overhead. The Fraser and Harrison Rivers have the lot.

A year has passed and we're back again. A slightly different line-up, with a few additions to the team, but with everyone looking forward to the trip with at least as much enthusiasm as in 2003, because this time some of us knew just what was waiting for us! And those that hadn't experienced British Columbia before had already been told about it in great detail by those who had!

My mate Steve had come along this year, along with Lars-Goran & Daniel from Sweden, and Svend and Claus from Denmark, and of course Johnny, Morten, Thorke and myself from the previous trip- nearly a 747 full on our own it seemed. So after all meeting up at Heathrow we set off on the long British Airways flight over the Atlantic.

Several hours later the taxi pulled up outside the familiar motel in Mission, and after booking in and getting a bite to eat everyone finally crashed out in bed- completely exhausted from the marathon journey. But of course, with the jet-lag being as it is out there (8 hours behind the UK), we were awake at 4am and getting ready to go and fish. Somehow the tiredness had evaporated within a few hours kip (well for everyone except Daniel!), and in what seemed like a lifetime, the Canadian guys started to turn up with their monster trucks and boats ready to drag us down to the Fraser again to get our arms pulled off- with any luck. Unfortunately our guide Dan had gone AWOL in the preceding 12 months, and Oly was at work doing a proper job, but John had arranged everything perfectly and Chris had joined him as before- along with his friend Owen, and Wade had joined the band using Oly's boat, because he had blown $15,000 worth of engine out of his own the week before. Yeeouch!

Steve and me cuddle a lump as Owen slips his boat into shot.

Just another dirty day down the river.

As you'd probably expect, the fishing was every bit as good as we'd hoped for, and for me personally, it was all the better for being a year when the Pink Salmon aren't running up the river. As much as I'm pleased to have witnessed and experienced the 'Pink Run' (as opposed to the 'Brown Run', which is something I never wanted to experience in the first place...), the problem is that with so many fish in the river, many of the fish hooked are snagged rather than hooked fairly (by our British angling standards anyway), and to me that spoiled it a little. Although to be honest, the Canadian guys seemed a whole deal more un-bothered about it all than I did. This year though, with the predominant species running at the time being the Chum Salmon, mixed in with some Coho and Springs, almost every fish without exception was teased into taking a lure or jig fair and square. Ok- when I say 'teased' into taking it, I really mean they just grab it as they swim by, generally speaking. But its still much better- as far as I'm concerned anyway.

During our days out fishing, we had some great sport catching innumerable hard-fighting Chum on either marabou jigs in bright lurid day-glo pink, purple or red, or on Croc spoons dragged quickly through the fast current. Some of the guys were also lucky enough to cross swords with some phenomenal Spring Salmon- with Thorke, Johnny and Svend all catching some leviathans of over 40lbs, while Steve and I failed to get a take from them on our lures- save for one which Steve had a tremendous scrap with... thanks possibly to being hooked in the tail! Truly fishing to make you pull your hair out, because all around the boat were huge (and I mean HUGE) Springs leaping from the surface. It was worth noting that all the Springs were very dark in colour, and a long way down their life cycle, and that all the fish that were caught took plugs with rattles in them rather than spoons (which we were using...!), and it seems that was the necessary trigger to make a 'non-feeding' fish strike at a lure out of aggression rather than hunger.

And as far as the Sturgeon go, I think everyone in the party caught plenty of fish and some huge fish, with Lars-Goran & Thorke landing the two biggest of the trip at around 7 and a half feet long each! Steve caught the first (and second) big ones brought to our boat after we saw two big ones leap from the water in the vicinity of the same bend on the river as we motored downstream. We dropped the anchor, put out some baits, and 15 minutes later Steve was having a work out, after catching hold of the rod next to him as it threatened to be pulled over the side!

We quickly found out on the trip that although the mesh roe-balls we had used before definitely caught fish, the use of big 'splats' of roe wound around the hook and bound into place with bait elastic clearly outfished the 'balls'. I would think this is partly due to the extra scent wafting down from the bait, but also because the loose eggs breaking away in the current also serve to get a burley trail going too- which would be further enhanced every time a strike is made shaking the bait free from the hooks. Now chumming the river is not allowed out there in BC... so I guess you could say that we were employing tactics of, erm, 'aggressive bait-changing'. Whatever you might call it, it certainly works.

Steve's first biggie of the trip after we dropped in at a spot where we saw two large Sturgeon crashing.

Chris's boat silhouette as the sun streams through the clouds over the Harrison River.

And landing yet another salmon taken on the marabou jigs. Photo: Johnny Jensen

But another thing that also works is the dreaded 'stinkbait'. Steve and I had noticed a dead Spring Salmon corpse floating down the river in a bad state of decomposition, but little did we know that Wade would go and drag the thing out further downstream, ready to use as bait.

That evening saw Wade in his back yard at home (not in the kitchen, that's for sure), with an industrial dust mask on and Vick's Vapour-rub stuffed up his nose, stripping the flesh from the carcass into an airtight tub... and still gagging at the almighty stench. The thing is, when you're out on the boat, as much as he asks you to stand back when the tub gets opened, and as much as you just know its going to smell like hell, you just can't help taking just a tiny little whiff- just to see... I didn't realise the human gagging reaction was so quick and so involuntary! Absolutely bloody awful. The thing is, the stuff must be like an all you can eat buffet for the Sturgeon, because they love it, and on one day in particular, the Stinkbait even outfished the fresh roe by a mile for Claus & Morten. But the advantages must be that the creation of a smell trail down the river is certainly no problem with a flap of that draped over your hook, and I suppose it must be convenient too, because you sure as hell don't have to worry about refrigerating your bait for maximum freshness!

Other than the stinkbait though, the whole trip and experience was full to the brim with positives. 

Like the last day, when me and my lucky gonk friend Morten got to fish together. I've probably mentioned before in the 'Canada 2003' bit that we really had some fun, especially with our Canadian guiding buddy Chris who also seemed to be very much on a similar wavelength on a lot of stuff. So we made a point of telling everyone that on the Friday, the three of us had a day set aside to fish together.

So it came to pass that on the final day of our trip, the three of us were to hit the water together and have a "full-on" day messing about on the Fraser.

Lars Goran gets worked over by yet another Chum Salmon.

Look at the teeth on this Chum caught by Lars-Goran. Like it's been eating grenades.

Stinkbait. And yes, it does smell as bad as it looks. No- actually it's worse.

Now all the blokes there take the mick out of Chris for being really anal about his boat. He doesn't like any dirt on any of his fishing tackle, upholstery, deck... nothing. He wipes every speck of filth off it as it appears, every item has a specific place, and when you're playing a big fish out, he's handing out instructions left right and centre (in the nicest possible way)... 'Bring the fish this side...', 'Keep your rod up!'... 'Mind the engine hood!'... 'Andy- dude, I love you like a brother, but hit my boat with that lead again and you're going overboard...' etc etc etc. So, on our day out my little Danish gonk buddy and I decided to play him up a little bit- just for fun.

As I was walking down to the boat ramp in the morning, I found a huge earthworm slinking down the edge of the path; 'Hmmm... could come in handy...', I thought, and slipped it into my pocket. We stowed all the stuff aboard, and Chris went to park his truck and trailer. So while he was away, I curled the worm up on his seat and folded down the back of it so he couldn't see it. He jumps onto the boat, and me and Morten are sitting back in the boat looking over the engine...

AP and a male Chum in the sunlight on the Harrison.

Johnny delighted with a huge Spring Salmon from the Harrison. A real monster.

Photo: Johnny Jensen

Chris and his 'stolen' Sturgeon- as guided by yours truly! Piece of cake this guiding lark.

'You guys ready to go?'
'Yes Uncle Chris'...

And then suddenly this huge worm shot between our heads and landed with a 'plop' in the drink.
'You currants!'... And that set the pattern for the rest of the day.

First stop we get to, Chris decides to tie a new hook and bait on one of his rods, and he's at the back of the boat on his knees and he's passed the reel end of the rod up towards the front of the boat between us.
'Fancy a sandwich Morten?'
'That would be nice'.

So I pass him his sandwich, and he takes a slice of tomato out of it and slaps it all over Chris's reel. Meanwhile, seeing what Mort was up to, a huge dollop of tuna-mayo was slapped out of mine and rubbed all over his rod handle.He passes the rod forward, still looking out the back of the boat at his rod tip, not at his reel... and then sticks his hand straight in the mess...
'Uuurrrghh naaaah! You currants!'... And of course the juveniles aboard fell about giggling.

A few fish and an hour or so passed, and Mort was fannying about while he played another fish in, and 'politely' asked Chris if he would hold his hand through the process, cos he needed 'guiding'. Then he sneaks his hand over as Chris is stood next to him, and takes hold... Ahhh, what a lovely picture- such a warm and cuddly shot of Chris holding Mort's hand... something which always goes down well in the macho world of the Canadian Outdoorsman.
'That'll be on the internet by next Wednesday then...' I says.
'Aww you currants!' says Chris, again.

The day followed much the same path- the crack was great, the sarcasm and ribbing merciless, and in the end it just got to the point where I was just laughing at Morten crying with laughing. But the thing is, while all this was going on we were catching bloody truck-loads of big Sturgeon. We finished the day with 25 of the big, ugly things boated and released in total, and 10 of them being over 5ft 5" long. Awesome dude.

The Canadian guides are just soooo friendly, helpful and supportive. Especially Chris- seen here 'bonding' with Morten. A truly touching and beautiful moment...

Morten gazes lovingly into the eye of his prize. 

"But Master Frodo, these 'ere Sturgeons can be the most awful 'andful..."

The best was saved for nearly last though, because near the end of the day, Mort had 'action on rod 3' (or 'Anal on 3' as it's now christened after our 2003 trip). Talking of which, Chris says he's had several problems in the last 12 months where he's had paying customers on his boat and he's pointing at a rod: 'We got anal on 1' and they turn round and stare at him like he's some kind of freak. Anyway, I digress. I had some slight Anal on 2 also, but then as we're waiting for the bites to develop, we start to get a bit of Anal on 1. 'Anal on 1' says Chris, but we just ignored him and concentrated on our rods. So he picked it up. Suddenly, Morten strikes and he has a big fish on:
'Good work Mort!' I said.

Then suddenly, Chris strikes and he's in. 'Here Andy- grab this one'.
'Naa, you have it- I'm just enjoying teasing this little spot of anal on 2 mate'.
'Andy- just grab the rod!'
'Naa- you have it. Just enjoy yourself. Dude.'

So he starts fighting the fish. And then my 'teasing' develops into the big-bite... and I did the Mark Of Zorro thing and missed it completely!! So Chris tries again:

A very pale, almost white, White Sturgeon of 6 feet 4 inches (if I remember rightly). Good work Chris.

Another 'Backwoods' moment. Owen continues the fish-licking tradition first introduced to us by Dan the year before. Call the cops...

'Sure you don't want this rod- it's a nice sized fish?'
'Nope- I'm fine watching you two enjoying yourself'. And then I kind of had an idea...

So I picked up a pair of Chris' guiding gloves, put them on, and then stood between the two of them as they did battle, in the same way Chris does. And then started...
'Morten- bring your fish this side please if you can. Keep it out of the other lines please. No- Morten, I said this side...', pointing towards the opposite bank like I was directing a plane into landing.
'Chris, can you keep your rod high please. That's it, niiiiiice and high...', just gently pushing Chris' rod upwards with the palm of my hand. 'That's good... that's good, buddy. You're gettin' the hang o' this...'.
'Morten- mind the engine hood for Christ's sake...', as his fish tried to circumnavigate the stern of the boat.
'Chris, can I check that drag a minute- it looks a little tight...Ok thanks- we're good with that...'
'Can you just move to the right please Chris. Gimme some room to work here. Thank you buddy...'

Not everything in BC pulls your arms off. Wade and a Bullhead that grabbed the jig. I couldn't even feel it on the line and just kept wondering why I kept missing a bite over and over! Cheeky little sucker.

I then grabbed the fish, and then struggled to drag it inboard because it probably weighed around 100lbs, finally slipping the barbless hook out as it lay on the deck...

'You wanna picture with this one then buddy....?' I asked, pointing down at the fish curled up on the deck.

And Morten and I burst out into another fit of laughter.

'You currants...' said Chris. 'Its like being on a boat with a pair of f***ing chimps...!'. He did have a picture with it though!

The perfect end to a perfect day came when right at the death Morten and myself managed to scrape together a double-header-hook-up just as we were packing in- and both fish were over 5 and a half feet again! It could only happen in British Columbia. This is one of the few day's fishing I've had where I've actually finished the day with aching arms and a sore groin ('no butt-pads allowed- they're for wusses' was one of the in-boat rules for the day). A day that will stay with me for a long, long time, I guess. Thanks a million, Chris & Morten.

That was a truly special day on the river, because every single one of us caught, and between the four boats 68 Sturgeon were caught and released. Not your average day on the water!

The final evening we had terrific, huge meal, with everyone present and correct/incorrect, and then a very drunken late night follow up by Chris, Owen, Steve and myself at local nite-spot 'Roosters', which finally culminated in a 4am collapse into bed for yours truly, with Owen, Chris & Steve also littered around the motel room in various stages of disrepair!

Steve and I were lucky to have a few extra days to kill after the other guys had left for home, which they were to do the following day. So later that morning, after our goodbyes were said, and e-mail addresses and numbers all swapped, Owen gave us a lift into Vancouver, where we planned to have a three days walking and sightseeing. After a driven tour of the Downtown and Stanley Park areas of the city, and bit of local advice from Owen on places to go, we were soon dropped off and booked into our hotel, and my it was nice to actually be in bed in the morning and not have to be up before dawn for once. So after a leisurely lay in and breakfast, we decided to make our way over to Vancouver Aquarium.

Thorke and his massive Chinook. Remember- he's 6 foot 8 tall... The smoker just ain't big enough.

Steve and Wade with a snagged Chinook.


Sturgeon with the starfish in a saltwater tank at Vancouver Aquarium.


Chinatown, Vancouver, and live Snakeheads all priced up and ready to go. I hope to make acquaintance with some of these in the wild in Thailand & Malaysia in 2005... with any luck.


Views of the lovely Capilano river just outside Vancouver.



This place is excellent, with thousands of species of marine life to be observed, and they have displays of all sorts of things, including Arapaima from the Amazon (which are awe inspiring... hmmm, now there's an idea for a trip...) to a huge saltwater tank inhabited by everything from starfish to Sturgeon.

Now that reminds me of a couple of interesting tales about the Sturgeon which I heard. Obviously they are equally happy in salt or freshwater, but to be honest, I think if you left one on your back lawn and just went out and hosed it down every day or two it would be fine. Apparently, many years ago, the Fraser valley was flooded really badly, and water stood across the fields in any place where it was flat and low enough for some period of time. It took as much as two months for the waters to recede and the land to be firm enough to work again with the plough. But yet when the farmers went back to the fields and started their furrows, they were turning up Sturgeon which were still alive... after two months wallowing in the 'paddy-fields'!

Similarly, we were also told that in years gone by, the indigenous Indian tribes would occasionally catch a big Sturgeon in their nets. Now obviously a 300 pound Sturgeon is going to take some eating, so they would rope the unfortunate thing to a tree at the side of the river or lake, and then just cut slabs of meat from it as they needed it, while the fish would remain alive in the water's edge for days or even weeks. Pretty distasteful to us in this day and age, but in the harsh reality of life back then, the best way of keeping the fish fresh in the times long before the appliance of science.

We also spent some time just walking for miles around the city. For the most part, the areas we passed through and took in were very cosmopolitan and clean, although there were one or two districts that had you holding onto the bag straps a little tighter than the others. But I think one of the most interesting bits (well, apart from the restaurants and bars at night time), was having a wander through Chinatown. The market stalls there smelled everything from terrific to terrible in a space of five metres, as the smell of garlic, spices and lemon grass mingled and fused with the rancid stench of dried squid and fish which looked like they had been stuck at the back of your radiator for a couple of months.

Best of all though, being into the fishing thing, was having a browse around one of the Chinese fish markets there. There was a kind of 'Pick-n-mix' crab counter, where the customers could just select as many live Blue Crabs as needed, put them in a bag, weigh them, pay the rate and take them home as a meal... or even a pet- or hey, maybe even both. Also in the shop was a compendium of tanks and trays containing live prawns, lobsters, huge Dungeness Crabs, Hagfish, Snakeheads, Catfish, Abalone, Cichlids ('I want...... that one!'), Flounder... and the array on the ice counters was even more eclectic, and included the carcass of a large Halibut ready for dissection, and some huge giant squid. Maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but we found it a really interesting place to have a nose about.

All too soon it was our final day, and as if to prove what a wonderful city Vancouver is, the sun shone down from a blue, cloudless sky as we took a taxi for a short 20 minute drive up to the north of the city to visit the Capilano River valley. 

It really is amazing speaking as someone from the UK, to actually be right in the heart of downtown Vancouver... and then 20 minutes later to be standing looking down a truly beautiful river gorge. The Capilano River looked absolutely stunning, with clear, fast flowing water, and thick, verdant pine forest clinging precariously from the rocky faces of the gorge. We followed the river's course for a few kilometres upstream, and watched some anglers catching Coho Salmon from one of the pools. Even while we were watching, a Chinese guy came down, stood on a rock, had a couple of casts, then hooked a really big fish. We went closer to watch as he played it out, and eventually he lifted out a 20lb plus Spring Salmon, stuck it in two plastic carrier bags... and then scurried off home with dinner for 38 draped over his shoulder without even making another cast!

Eventually we wound up with aching feet at the Cleveland Dam, where the Capilano River is stopped in its tracks to form the imaginatively named Capilano Lake. And as we stood and looked off the dam wall, in one direction the horizon was spiked with the snow dusted tips of far distant hills, symmetrically reflected in the mirror-like surface of the lake; while below us a torrent of water cascaded into the abyss of the valley, sending it's smoke to hang like morning mist in the surrounding forest canopy. A prettier or more spectacular spot we couldn't have found to finish the last day of our trip.

I'm absolutely certain this won't be the final visit to this lovely part of the world...

You can contact Chris for info on his guiding services here...

Go on... you know it makes sense.

"Look into the eye, don't look around the eye..." Standoff with an Arapaima in the aquarium.

Chinatown, Vancouver, at the pick-n-mix crab counter... Sign: "Please use the tongs provided".

Sea Otters. All together now.... ahhhh.

Capilano Lake from the Cleveland Dam.

And the other side of Cleveland Dam as it empties into the Capilanoooooooooohhhhh....

And goodbye Vancouver. Until next time.

Would you trust this to drive a boat? Not in that state anyway.

FOOTNOTE!!!      Two incredible things happened after the end of our fishing jaunt!

The first was that someone stepped on Chris' boat with dog-shit on their shoe and got it all over the upholstery!! I hear the guy got away with it and survived, although his feet are now facing in completely different directions and Chris' roe balls have taken on a whole new texture.

The other was that a week after the end of the trip, I received some pictures of perhaps the most incredible fish I've seen- certainly from freshwater... and caught by a customer on Wade's boat... 10 feet 3 inches of British Columbian Hogfish...

Click below to see the "Pig Of The Fraser"!

Pig Of The Fraser.jpg (91900 bytes)


Photo courtesy of Chris Fox & Wade Gienow


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