Now that it’s spring, I comb the coastline in search of the elusive spring run steelhead. One place that peaks my interest is a point where Canada and Alaska are one. Canada is to the right and Tongass to the left. It’s a spiritual place where the aboriginal people fight to keep the land and their traditional practices alive. It’s a place where as a Canadian I found myself truly having a cultural experience. I made a pact with the locals and no names shall be repeated.
Tobacco for sockeye..
While refuelling at a dock I asked a native elder, “so where can I fish for steelhead”. He said, “just go and check the nets if you want steelhead”. I approached the group who were actively gill netting steelhead. I replied, “Holy, there must be crazy runs if you’re netting them”. A man said, “yes…” After I paid for the fuel I asked the elder where can I fly fish for steelhead. He replied awkwardly, pointing upwards he said, “go behind the trees there, toward the river’s mouth”. As we walked along the path another elderly man randomly appeared and asked us if we would like to trade smoked sockeye for some smokes. I couldn’t help him but I felt a true sense of being Canadian, and without smokes we traded fish for money. He was happy as hell. As a final gesture of good faith the man told us where to start fishing. Deal done, we walked into a pristine rainforest. I didn’t eat the fish but I strongly believe in good public relations when one is alone on wild native lands. Leaving most of our gear back at the dock we continued to hike in. Knowing the locals were all smiles I had confidence that our stuff would still be there upon our return. Yes! everything was fine, and the local people were very helpful and unbelievably nice.
With the approval of the elders we stepped into heaven!
Under the canopy of old growth trees I felt humbled by the shear size of the forest. Untouched, pristine, wild and culturally significant. Literally, I felt the spirits in the mist. Almost forgetting to Spey fish my girlfriend and I were deeply taken in by this mystical ecosystem. (I could write a novel on just this one system). Lucky for me the river was large enough to present a swung fly. To make a long story short this river was epic. It was some of the most beautiful Spey water I have ever fished. Living in the rainforest these bright chrome steelhead presented themselves with real attitude. With every hook up I was schooled by fiercely fighting fish. Ideally, I would like to think my fly was the only fly these fish ever saw. This fishing trip was bountiful and the best cultural experience I have ever had. Watching our native people’s fish for steelhead with nets, trading for sockeye, and seeing remote coastal communities made our trip memorable. Viewing their moss covered art work was worth the trip alone.
I finish this letter by saying, even within Canada I still feel like a visitor because although Canada is our home, It is “native land” as well. The cultural coastline of British Columbia is beautiful and super tankers threaten every aspect of who we are as British Columbians. We are currently, (and will be more often in the future) witnessing crimes against nature and crimes against our aboriginal peoples’ rights with every step taken towards the completion of the northern gateway project.