Round Vancouver Island part 5: Tatchu Peninsula and catching our first salmon

The town of Kyuquot is a collection of wood buildings DSC07265perched around the sea, docks jutting out into the mist. A dirt path weaving though front yards of houses is the main thoroughfare on one side of the cove. Small aluminium boats zigzag back and forth across the bay. The entrance to the cove is a narrow maze of buoys between rocks through which the coastal freighter the Uchuck delivers supplies every other week. A doctor makes regular visits, DSC07487one of the docks has a shack at the end with a red cross symbol painted on it. There is a store and a cafe. We ate blackberry pie at the cafe. The gardens of the small cedar plank houses are full of rhododendrons, hydrangeas, sword ferns and huckleberries. This is the garden of my childhood on the sunshine coast. I picked thimbleberries as walked along the path through the front yards, along the shore and through a grove of ancient sitka spruce. Fishermen at the cafe had caught several big Chinook and a halibut. We went down the dock to talk to them and get some advice. They enthusiastically gave us their tips and even donated to our cause a pack of bait herring and a special type of hook that holds them.

IMG_3773Fog had settled in thick. You could taste it wet in the air. It obscured even the nearby shore. It was disorientating – i couldn’t get a bearing of where the heck we were in my mind, even though i could see our position on the GPS. We were anchored in a small cove near Rugged point on the Tatchu Peninsula. Since we couldn’t see much from the boat, we rowed the dinghy ashore to go for a walk though the trees on land, so we could look at something other than fog. When we pulled dinghy up on shore we found the soft grey sand of the DSC07326beach criss-crossed by large padded prints. Wolves had walked this way recently. We found an entrance to a trail and followed it through the forest, wide scaly trunks rising silver out of the head-high green leafy undergrowth. The trail lead to a series of long sandy beaches each one fading off into obscurity ahead. The sand of the beaches undulated in wave patterns and small dunes. Paw prints of a wolf pack wound ahead into the mist.

I hadn’t had a wash in so long I decided I needed to have a bath in a creek, even though the sun was not shining and the water cold. I found a section of a creek just above the estuary that was just deep enough to lay down and submerge myself in so I IMG_3819could wash my hair. Wolf, mouse and heron tracks patterned the sand around the creek. I was just one of many animals to use that creek. The rest of the crew played a game of soccer on the sand.

IMG_3784Later that afternoon, Harry set up the down rigger on the dinghy so we could take it out trawling for salmon off the point. I piloted our inflatable craft slowly down the channel between rocky islets and the peninsula while Harry manned the downrigger, and Jonty and Bas held the rods. We putted along, slowly and meditatively through the fog. To trawl for salmon you must move very slowly, mimicking the movement of a herring with your lure or bait. You must also get to the right depth that salmon prefer, which is where the downrigger comes in, being a weight attached to a cable that pulls the line to your desired depth as you trawl along. If IMG_3794you hook a fish, your line pops out of a clip holding it to the downrigger cable and you are free to reel it in. It sounds simple enough, but getting everything just right in just the way that a salmon found it interesting enough to bite had eluded us again and again and again. We had watched many other sport fishing boats reel in big shining silver fish while we looked on in envy. We had actually received several pity fish as gifts from some of these successful fishermen. This time we were determined. There was either no one else out there that day, or we couldn’t see them for the fog.

IMG_3869After about an hour of slowly motoring along, we decided to try a different spot, further along. Once we were there we dropped our lines in along side a kelp bed off the rocks. There seemed to be a lot of life there – sea lions, otters, birds, small fish jumping. It felt like a good place to try. After just a few minutes there was a bite! Jonty started fighting it, reeling it slowly in. As it came closer to the surface, we gasped – it was a big beautiful Chinook salmon flailing like all hell. Go slow! Take it easy! Careful! We did 21392667_10213483729862904_1376929406_onot want to lose it as we had lost our last almost successful attempt at salmon fishing. Jonty was able to pull it in close enough for harry to grab it with the gaff, just as the hook slipped out of it’s mouth. A few tense and excited moments later it’s red blood splattered over the floor of the dinghy and our shoes. It was a visceral experience. I felt like a hunter. Once we calmed down, we trawled for a few more minutes and Bas managed to hook a fair sized lingcod. With those two fish we sped back DSC07341to the boat triumphantly through thick and soaking fog. The salmon fed the five of us dinner for four days in the form of sushi rolls, sashimi and baked fillets. The lingcod fed us for another two days in the form of fish and chips.

 


One thought on “Round Vancouver Island part 5: Tatchu Peninsula and catching our first salmon

  1. I love the fog and the wolf tracks on the sand. I wish that I could sample the fresh fish and walk along those fog drenched beaches… the trees and it all.
    What a great sailing adventure…

    Like

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