As the sport of fly-fishing grows in popularity the technology used to get out has progressed as well. Access to small rafts is cheaper and easier than ever allowing people to get out and go for floats. This means covering more water and being able to access sections of the river that might otherwise be inaccessible due to private lands or natural obstructions such as canyons. Jet boats are becoming a more common tool for a day of fishing. Being able to go both up and downstream and covering a lot of water in a short amount of time is very advantageous. With these tools becoming so popular it becomes too difficult to just “walk in” and fish the river. The ability to move freely along big sections of river creates an issue of every run potentially having a fisherman in it. If you knew that you could hike in for an hour and there would be somebody in a raft fishing that piece of water you’d definitely think twice about doing it again. This paired with knowing that fishing out of a boat compared to on foot probably increases your chances at catching fish creates a major shift in mind set away from spending the day fishing on foot. With all that being said there are still a good number of fishermen who love to exclusively hike and fish. Trying to stay in touch with how the sport began. With all the wilderness access in BC we are incredibly fortunate that there are still many wild places left. Many of these areas the only way left to explore is the old school boots on the ground way.
There is something tranquil about hiking up and down a river searching for the next great run. Hiking a few kilometers with your rod in your hand and a small pack with the essentials is all you need. Enjoying the sounds of nature and forming an overall experience you can’t quite get any other way. Using your feet to access secluded areas is a great way to explore North Americas’ fisheries. Many of us started fishing this way. But as the sport has changed we’ve been forced into adapting along with it. Whether this means purchasing a raft or boat and learning how to safely operate it or turning to guides in order to get away from the crowds and increase your chances at catching a fish. There is nothing wrong with these methods and in fact rafting is one of my favorite ways to spend a day. It’s a fantastic way to see wildlife and get away from crowds. You can quickly cover very large portions of river in a short amount of time allowing you to learn the runs quite fast. There are still many streams that are not feasible for boating. With rapids that are too dangerous to run or perhaps no roads close enough to allow shuttling for a float. These factors will force you onto your feet. But how willing are we as fishermen to let go the thought of improved chances in a boat? I think mixing up the ways we get out and enjoy the river is important. The experience isn’t just the actual fishing but the entire adventure along the way.
This past summer I returned to a fishery that I used to frequent back in high school. An awesome little trout stream a few hours from Vancouver. There are a few day access points along the road for a good portion of the river. Besides these trail access points the river is surrounded by very dense and wildlife populated forest. I used to go and be able to find a spot to myself regularly. This year though there were cars in every access parking lot even mid-week which left me one option. Now these trails typically lead to one or two good pools but there are many kilometers between these trails leaving lots of undisturbed water. Spending a couple hours following game trails and bushwhacking through the forest I was able to find about a dozen amazing pieces of water that had zero footprints on the bank. Did the hiking suck at times? Of course it did but the end result was worth it. Besides it being the busiest I had ever seen this river I was still able to get the feeling of true seclusion being somewhere that no one else had accessed yet that season.
With the impact of covid-19 this year there really is no better time to be heading out by foot on your favorite rivers. Staying active and healthy paired with going back to the roots of fly-fishing. A reminder of how many of us began this amazing sport. So get out there with some friends, leave the raft or boat at home, and get back to the basics. Boots on the ground.