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Nothing like catching a fish to make a man feel like a boy again

September 29, 2015

You have to like getting up early to go fishing. I mean, they start serving breakfast at 4.30 am. But I made sure I was on the dock at 6 am, keen to try the new Kingfisher boats at the Canadian Princess Resort at Ucluelet.
Step aboard, said Keith, our skipper.
Not with that banana, said my buddy, cringing from the fruit I had brought from my room.
Huh? You don’t like bananas?
They are bad luck at sea, I was told.
Don’t worry, said Keith. He had two bananas.
So we sailed, bananas and all. And we fished for four hours, just south of Tofino and Long Beach, amid the rugged splendor of the Broken Islands group on the west coast of Vancouver Island. IMGP1677
Around us, other boats were catching fish. We drank coffee and enjoyed the cozy, heated cabin of the Kingfisher. Keith and I also eat our bananas.
Then, zing…a line exploded off the downrigger and my buddy had his rod up like a pro. Minutes later, a beautiful Chinook salmon of about 10 lbs was on the deck.
Zing … the other rod quivered in its holder, and my buddy’s wife hauled in an even bigger Chinook.
It got even better after that. I limited out (two salmon) and landed a halibut of 33 lbs, catch of the day and worth, if you’re counting, $490 at a fish shop. The others also got more salmon, and a 28 lb halibut — all of this on barbless hooks. Which makes a morning’s fishing here a good investment if your luck’s in. Rates start at $159 for a ride on Canadian Princess’s two deep-sea Delta boats, which can take about a dozen anglers.
A step up are the resort’s Boston Whalers, superb boats for two rods and a guide.
Top of the range are the new Kingfishers, with powered downriggers and all the best technology to outwit fish. The real brain though, is Keith, who has been guiding around this wild coast for 35 years. Twice we shifted position, easy to do with twin 200 hp Yamahas behind us, and each time we caught fish. When the tides were not right we relaxed and enjoyed this exhilarating location.
The previous day we had a spin on one of the Delta boats, lingering off Effingham Island and an eagles’ nest high in a tree. Was this the same nest seen by Capt Cook and recorded in his log more than 200 years ago? Quite possibly, for eagle nests are used generation after generation.
We could hear the eagles’ surprisingly weak-sounding calls, more like chicken chat, then one broken cover and came to check us out. Deckhand Ken whistled to the magnificent bird, then held up a rock-cod we had landed during a spell of bottom fishing. As the eagle closed in, Ken threw the rock-cod into the sea.
Eagles are not just deadly, they are smart. This one made several circuits to make sure the coast was clear, before dropping his talons and making a fast approach to scoop up the fish just a few meters from out boat. Wow, said everyone, then we heard on the radio there were orcas and grey whales off Long Beach.
What next, said a delighted boy who thought it was all about fishing.
A few beers, that’s what, and back in Ucluelet’s well-protected harbor we tied up beside the Canadian Princess vessel and found a cozy pub and restaurant, the latter serving excellent calamari. There can also be much talk about lures, hoochies, flashers and glow strips, and at one point I almost pleaded for a discussion on Vancouver house prices.
Only staff sleep on the heritage vessel these days, with clients now blessed with a handsome shoreside resort.
Others who did not were the crews of yachts in the VanIsle 360 round-the-island race, who spent two nights here before their run down to Victoria. They lit up the harbor with a riot of flags, and brought a piper to give them a blow.
Next time I will stay longer in Ucluelet, make the sunset walk to the lighthouse, and stop eating bananas. The flight to nearby Tofino airport was also an enjoyably scenic and convenient way to go. One thing that won’t leave me is the memory of men, and women, catching fish, and their excitement, even if they have done it hundreds of times before.
As I said to the shoreside guy who asked about our day as we docked at the Canadian Princess, catching a fish makes a man feel like a boy again.
— Canadian Princess Fishing Lodge & Marine Adventures is owned by the Oak Bay Marine Group, whose other properties include Painter’s Lodge near Campbell River and April Point Resort & Spa on Quadra Island. For more information call 1-800-663-7090 or go to http://www.obmg.com.

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