Left to Right: Martin and Dave with Barbara’s Tyee.
My wife Barbara and I had made some trips from San Diego to Campbell River on the east side of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, to fish for king (Chinook) salmon. We’d stayed at different lodges there and hired their guides, but we didn’t have much luck.
Dave Fyfe was a very well-known fishing guide around Campbell River. He had appeared on TV shows in the U.S. and Canada, guiding celebrities fishing for salmon and steelhead trout around Vancouver Island. I tried to contact him without success until I ran into an acquaintance of his while overseeing a Seattle subsidiary of my homebased San Diego company. This person was able to arrange a half-day with Dave for us on a Friday afternoon.
Barbara and I traveled to Campbell River early that week. The “leader boards” at the various lodges were not encouraging. The largest salmon caught that week through Friday morning was only 9 pounds.
We met Dave, who arrived next to a pier in an open aluminum skiff with a small outboard motor, and he supplied us with salt-water fly rods with single-action fly reels spooled with low-test monofilament. He took us out about a hundred yards, baited our barbless hooks with frozen herring, and clipped our lines (without flashers) to downriggers.
Just as Dave began trolling, Barbara’s rod tip popped up, as a fish jerked the line from the clip, and Barbara pulled the rod out of its holder and began reeling. The fight was on. Barbara’s patience is a fishing virtue, and she kept the light line as taught as possible while Dave chased the fish for some 5 miles around Campbell River. After about 45 minutes the fish began to tire, and Barbara began to make head-way in reeling it in. But all of the sudden it started down like a freight train, and her reel screamed. Dave said a sea lion must have grabbed her fish and that no one he’d heard of had ever retrieved their fish after that. But Barbara continued to hold on tight to her now about 700-pound load.
“We met Dave, who arrived next to a pier in an open aluminum skiff with a small outboard motor, and he supplied us with salt- water fly rods with single- action fly reels spooled with low-test monofilament.”
In a little while, Dave said Barbara’s fish might be too large for the monster to eat underwater and that he might surface to eat it. And, indeed, Barbara’s line began to slacken, and she reeled it in like crazy. Dave yelled to someone in a nearby boat telling him to roar past us when he called. The sea lion surfaced, the other boat roared by, and Dave threw a club and other things at the monster.
The sea lion dropped the fish, and Barbara reeled it in. The monster chased it, but Dave was able to grab it at the last minute. It was a large king salmon and had only small tooth prints on its side.
When we returned to shore Dave weighed the fish, and it was 33 pounds. A king salmon weighing 30 pounds or more is called a “Tyee” and is pretty special. The local paper ran a story about our adventure the following day.
Shortly after this episode Dave Fyfe opened a lodge on the west (Pacific) side of Vancouver Island, and Barbara and I went there for 21 years straight. Every single year we caught our limit of king salmon. And every single year Barbara caught one larger than any of mine.
But I did manage to out-weird her. One day I had a salmon on that made a long, fast run. The guide said I must have a big one on. But, way down the pike, my line suddenly went slack. I reeled it in to find some strange sort of small fish cleanly hooked. We gave it to the game warden for inspection, but he had no idea what it was. In any event, it was clear I’d hooked the salmon’s lunch, not the salmon.
Nootka Wilderness Lodge is now owned and operated by Brian and Kelly Gage.