Thompson 3

Rob Brown continues his tale of steelhead fishing on the Thompson River

We fished hard under clear cold skies in clear cold water for our last three days on the Thompson River. Endless trains slithered up and down the clay coloured canyons. Big horned sheep descended the sage covered hillsides and browsed along the highway. In the bar, at the end of every day, cattle men and truckers outnumbered steelheaders by a bigger and bigger margin as the anglers folded under the pressure exerted by the cold outflow winds and the nagging futility of cast after cast after fruitless cast.

The chill sucked our energy. We crawled into our cold beds exhausted, nodded off to the incessant whistling of the winter wind and slept deeply, Art’s ancient camper pitching like a dory on a sullen sea. Each of the two remaining mornings we awoke with hope, sometimes wrapped up in the form of a fly so far untried, or a spot we hadn’t fished but had given up steelhead to Bob or Art or Bob and Art in seasons past. And, to fuel our tanks, there was also the recollection of our first day on the river, the day when I’d fastened on to a pair of frantic steelhead.

We fished late into the afternoon of our last day without contacting another steelhead. As we drove through the darkening canyon of the Fraser, talking past times and good fishing, it struck me that I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. I felt blessed – blessed and privileged to have tapped into the energy of two Thompson River steelhead.

When I was a boy, Wally Cosman tuned my father’s piano. There were no electronic aids in those days. Wally was of the old school. He had perfect pitch. He tuned by ear. Fussing with the strings until they were almost in tune then pounding on them until they were. He would customarily arrive at nine in the morning tune until noon, then finish the job in the afternoon. On a couple of occasions I was home. On the first of these, I offered him coffee, which he gratefully accepted.

You know Glenn Gould? he asked rhetorically.

I know of him, I said.

Don’t think much of him, said Wally. The symphony had this beautiful Steinway, he said. I tuned it. Got it set up and then Gould came and stuck thumb tacks in the felts. Guy is a kook.

The next time my Dad’s out of tune piano provided Wally and I the opportunity to have coffee together, he told me the Glenn Gould story again in more detail, then he asked me if I liked to fish. I told him I did, but added that my exploits, like my technique were meagre. Wally, it turned out, was an avid steelheader, the first of the breed I was to meet. He pulled out a package of Players plain, offered me one. I fetched an ashtray. We lit up. Wally squinted through the smoke as he recalled one of his many trips to the interior, a trip much longer and more difficult than it would be now. He told me of hooking giant powerful fish in deep canyon pools and it was clear the experience of doing so had made a deep impression on him.

Wally fished a casting reel attached to a glass fibre rod. Like most of his contemporaries, he fished bait, worms or salmon roe, under a cork float. It seemed the only sensible way to hunt steelhead on a river as large and wild as the Thompson. He was part of this province’s steelheading tradition, one that continues to this day.

Wally’s epic battles were one of the things I thought about as Art, Bob, I made our way toward Vancouver. Now I could fully appreciate how that magnificent river and its uniquely powerful steelhead could seep into an angler’s soul and beggar his imagination.

When Wally Cosman floated roe through the Thompson’s glides, everyone thought B.C.’s steelhead streams supported far more steelhead than they actually did. The sport fishing regulations were set in accordance with this imaginary abundance. Steelhead punch cards and daily limits were the order of the day.

As a boy, I recall ogling pictures in the tourist magazine Beautiful B.C. and seeing shots of what looked like the Gold Pan Campsite. In one of the shots a proud fisherman stood beside a picnic table, its top covered with magnificent Thompson River steelhead.

As the Fish and Wildlife Branch of the Ministry of the Environment developed better ways of measuring stock abundance, including swimming rivers and counting fish, a more accurate picture of the provincial steelhead stocks developed. The news wasn’t good. Charged with doing the right thing for fish, the Branch imposed strict limits, gear restrictions, catch and release regulations. Each of these measures was met with howls from sport fishers and business owners with some stake in the sport fishing enterprise, many of whom wrongly saw the solution to the problem in the environmentally catastrophic idea of building hatcheries.

Wiser heads prevailed. Catch and release regulations and bait bans for wild steelhead were implemented throughout the province, but, curiously, not on the Thompson.


Just Posted

Global climate strike makes its stand in Terrace

Approximately 50 people rallied in front of city hall to bring awareness to climate change

Bear shot by police in Stewart neighbourhood, residents say

Gunshots were heard in the dark, alarming and angering neighbours

Skeena Voices | Walking between two parallel roads

Lynn Parker found knowledge a powerful tool for reconciliation

Terrace Community Forests harvests $750k for City of Terrace

Money was given in recognition of National Forest Week

Coast Mountain College opens new health and wellness centre in Terrace

College’s eventual goal is to open up the gym and programming for public use

VIDEO: Grizzly bears fight along northern B.C. highway in rare footage

Cari McGillivray posted the head-turning video, shot near Stewart, B.C., to social media

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for change

Man from Winnipeg who was hiking alone found dead in Banff National Park

RCMP say the man was hiking alone on Mount Temple Thursday

Takaya, B.C.’s intriguing lone wolf, seen eating seal and howling away on Discovery Island

Fun facts about Takaya the wolf, like his a 36-hour tour around Chatham, Discovery Islands

Resident finds loaded shotgun inside a duffle bag in Kelowna alleyway

RCMP seized a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition, clothing and other items

Graffiti, calls and Snapchat: RCMP probe string of threats targeting Kamloops schools

There have been nine different threats made to four different schools in the city

Most Read