Sunday, 7 May 2017

Saanich Inlet Angling with Jack Seedhouse

My father who passed away when I was quite young loved fishing Saanich Inlet and Saturday was when he would journey to Brentwood Bay. Dad had three regular fishing partners although I only recall the names of two: there was Bill Webb, a house painter and Canon Jull the Anglican Minister at Saint Marks Church. Upon arriving in Brentwood at Creed’s Landing their choice of rental boat whenever available was the Faye. This was a sixteen-foot clinker built vessel named after one of the Hugh Creed’s daughters. The boat was powered by an air-cooled engine probably a Briggs and Stratton and back then these boats were called putt putts. They took a lot longer to get from Point A to Point B than the craft seen on the water today.

Hugh Creed was also a guide using his launch the Tern for charter purposes. I well remember my early days fishing the Inlet with my father and his friends as I was allowed to run a hand line over the stern of the Faye which as a general rule produced not much more than great expectations.  On one day, however, I was thrilled out of my mind catching a steelhead kelt on a Gibbs double spinner. This was perhaps some seventy-five years ago.

The VSIAA, Victoria Saanich Inlet Anglers Association, attracted a significant membership and the goal of many was to catch a button fish that being a Chinook salmon tipping the scales at 20 pounds or better. My first was a bronze button, twenty-six pounds landed at McKenzie Bay on a fifty-fifty #6 Wonder Spoon. McKenzie Bay and surrounding area was a consistent producer of quality salmon fishing. Anglers would often commence trolling at Whitaker’s Point travelling in a westerly direction past the Boulder through Mac Bay and perhaps down as far as Elbow Point known to many as the White Lady. By venturing further, fishing at the Goldstream end of the Inlet offered the productive areas of Chesterfield Rock and Misery Bay.

Stacey’s Boat House was in this area near the mouth of Goldstream and later this boat house became Halls. There has and continues to be a significant escapement of salmon into the Goldstream with chum being the predominant species. Continuing along the westerly shoreline below the highway over the Malahat, it is in this area where the war time movie Commandos Strike at Dawn was filmed starring the late Paul Munie. Further along the shoreline was the location of the Stone House a favourite and at times productive area. Prior to reaching McCurdy Point the Deep Hole was a favourite of early day anglers as a number of trophy size chinooks were landed here. So with respect to the foregoing this journey commencing at Whitakers Point all the way around to McCurdy Point was within the confines of Squally Reach.

Generally speaking Saanich Inlet has a been a deep water score as depths exceed two hundred metres. It is I believe the only glaciated fjord on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Heavy duty rods equipped with roller guides, Peetz reels loaded with wire line and planers designed for fishing very deep were widely used by anglers. Terminal gear consisted mainly of plugs and spoons as these lures predated the emergence and popularity of bait the likes of herring strip and minnows. Rhys Davis, Jim Gilbert and Tom Moss all provided tackle that was both popular and indeed productive.
For Rhys, the Strip Teaser was synonymous with his name whereas Tomic Plugs were the creation of Tom Moss. And as for the multi-talented Jim Gilbert he was a long-time Saanich Inlet guide and at times ran as many as four charter trips a day. Jimmy was a personal friend of mine and I enjoyed many a good time fishing the Inlet with Jim in his charter boat the Kaleeta. Sadly all three individuals have passed away.

Jim Gilbert as a young lad, with Mr. Fish, his trophy-winning fishing buddy, Solarium Derby, 1947:

I have many fond memories of fishing Saanich Inlet. During the decade of the forties a great whale made the Inlet its home for some very considerable period of time. It could often be seen in and around the water adjacent to Senanus Island. I also recall the row boat derbies held during World War 11 at the time of gas rationing. What would happen was somebody like Hugh Creed would pick a destination and tow a number of contestants in their row boats out there and leave them to fish away for the allotted time, after which they were towed back to Brentwood Bay. Derbies were popular events in the Inlet. There was the Solarium Derby – Jimmy Gilbert was the junior champ back in 1947 winning with a 15 lb 4 oz chinook caught on a Martin Plug. A little later on Ladder Derbies were held annually in which I participated a number of times but never made it to the top of the ladder. 

One final story which took place some considerable time ago: I was cleaning a salmon at Gilbert’s Boat House at a time during the run-up to a federal election. While eviscerating the fish, what should pop out but a piece of paper with the inscription “VOTE PEARKES.” Now at the time General Pearkes was running for re-election. Jim and I chuckled about this many a time afterwards but concluded that Harry Gilbert, Jim’s father, may have been responsible and planted the note in the salmon’s gullet! 

And here is a photo of Jimmy Gilbert’s father, Harry, on the right, with a very respectable daily catch of bluebacks, as coho grilse, often from the Cowichan River, were known:

Now a Bit About Jack Seedhouse:

I grew up at 3456 Saanich Road, phone # Empire 8497. Back then, if you were to drive up Oak Street to the T type intersection and chose to continue straight ahead rather then turning left or right you would have collided with our house. Then, our home was situated on five acres of land which now happens to be the location of the Uptown Shopping Centre. I attended Tolmie School still standing on Boleskine Road, Mount View High School on Carey Road and then onto Victoria College where you could complete first and second years as there was not a university here on the Island until a number of years later.

Jack and his share of those Nahmint Chinook, 1957:

Finally, one of those row boats, with Cedric Jones (the one in the hat) and his best friend, 1935:  

[As before, I have left the text as is, and made changes only for clarity.]

Sunday, 16 April 2017

VSIAA Prize Winners and Ernie Fedoruk

More good stuff from the ample, overflowing treasure trove of Jack James’ ‘files’ (this is a word that means his entire basement and back yard garage of fishing related stuff, including a collection of old licence plates that is truly out of this world) on Saanich Inlet fishing in the ‘good ole’ days’.

Two things this week:

Prize Winners

This image is a bit smudgy as it came to me as a photocopy of an almost sepia-like piece of newsprint, presumably the Times Colonist, that endured for decades (‘60s, maybe?) and then was photocopied to give to me. I took a digital image and did a little ‘improving’, to find the text is more readable in the image than original. Zoom the image to find out who is who.

Here are a few: The person standing far left is Jim Gilbert, probably the most famous of our historical fishing confederacy. Think of politicians we now hold in esteem like John A. MacDonald or the other guy… ah yes, George Washington. They were nation builders, sure, but not as important as sport fishers.

Jack James is sitting on lower right with the trophy and box of buck-tails and hootchies. The fellow sitting on the left is Kjell Pedersen, who won the Jim Gilbert trophy for biggest fish on a drift fishing lure, in the Stamp River, at 44 pounds. You will note that Ken Turnbull won the grand hidden weight prize of a CP trip to Amsterdam with his wife Margaret, for, get this, a 7.5 pound coho. Where do we sign up to win? On the far right is Bruce Colegrave of Scot Plastics who was one of the top fishers when I cut my teeth in the Inlet in the mid-seventies.

Ernie Fedoruk

After Alec Merriman, Ernie wrote the fishing column for the TC, then Rob Waters, then me for a decade. The column below, probably from the 1970s, tells the story of how we got UV and ‘glow’ in the lures we fish with today. I have transcribed it verbatim, including the US spellings.

Stamp Collector Sheds Light on Lures

The fishing fraternity would be very callous if it did not send Joan James a dozen roses…or at least a card of thanks.

She brought light into the lives of anglers because, being a stamp collector, she introduced the awareness of ultra violet radiation to her lure-distributing husband.

As a result, the anglers and hubby’s business all have improved on success.

Jack James and partner Ted Packford own Radiant Lures, a Victoria cottage industry that now dominates sales of plastic bait – the ones commonly called hootchies and squires – to those who pursue West Coast salmon, steelhead and trout, not to mention halibut and other groundfish.

Benefits also have spilled off to others, including rivals in the tackle industry.

Radiant’s almost-bizarre named lures like Army Truck, Devil’s Tail, Zapper, Clover Leaf, Peanut Butter, Polar Mist, Mint Tulip and Fuddle Duddle may not mean a thing to the non-fishing population. But all are well known, understood and very popular with all who fish British Columbia’s waters.

The ‘glow’ baits have increased catching success.

Teamed with rolling flashers such as the Hot Spot or Oki on a 36-inch leader, hootchies are designed to imitate squid, while the squirts resemble needlefish (or sandlance) – both relished by salmon.

Lures that react to UV rays now dominate Radiant’s stock. Interestingly, the search for titles honors the Packford and James families as well as Jack’s former firefighting profession (Firebrand and Fire Chief).

He declined to identify the Red Dragon’s origin but Jack admitted he has yet to name a lure after his wife.

“It will have to be special,” he suggested, “because she is the one who twigged the industry onto the significance of UV rays.”

While others used colors that reacted to UV rays, James is convinced “no one in the industry related its (UV) impact to fish-catching success…as far as I know.”

Only within the past decade were sports anglers able to catch sockeye, thanks to small pink squirts. Before then, that salmon species almost totally ignored sport-fishing offerings.

The choicest of the salmon species was considered by most as a fish that could only be taken by nets.
Then commercial trollers and the sporties started to hook sockeye. The success of tiny pink lures spread.

About six years ago, Jack, working in his basement, wondered about why the pink color worked so well on sockeye.

“Maybe it reacts to ultra violet,” suggested his wife, and then she asked: “Do you want me to get my UV light?”

Like all stamp collectors, Joan considers a UV lamp important to her hobby. It helps verify the authenticity of most stamps. 

Stamps from most countries are edged with a color shade that reacts to UV rays. It began in the 1960s when post offices introduced cancelling machines. The UV edging ‘tells’ the machine when the stamp is in its proper place for cancellation.

Joan’s light proved the pink sockeye lure was, indeed, a color that reacted to UV. Jack made another discovery that day. He hauled out an old pearl pink Lucky Louie plug to see if that lure reacted. It did.

James says deer hair, a favorite with those who make flies, also reacts to UV radiation.

Ultra violet radiation, almost surely, is one reason why some lures are hot and some are not.

Here is an image of Radiant Hootchies, including most mentioned above. Zoom in to read the names:

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Victoria-Saanich Inlet Anglers’ Association – 1931 – 1932 Yearbook

Here are some more images from the VSIAA yearbook, 1931/32, the first year they put it out. Jack James, Mr. Radiant Lures, has it on his work desk, taped to present it to the viewer. In a previous article, I featured a story of the exec, landing his own plane and going out fishing, and flying back to Chicago with the evidence of Saanich Inlet’s largesse. Lansdowne Airfield where he landed was on the present site of Lansdown Middle School, in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. The airfield was originally bordered by Lansdowne Road, Richmond, Newton, and Shelbourne. 

The first yearbook issue had more than 36 pages, so it was a chunky little record. Here are some more images from the eight-page spread I photographed. The first image is an advertisement for Plimley & Richie, a tackle shop on View Street downtown.

FYI: Cutty Hunk Line is both a brand name and a type of braided line. Click the link below.

The next image is the official Weigh Lady, with a fish that is almost as big as she is. You will note the prayer at the end, asking God for such a large fish that lying about it isn’t necessary.

Then there is an ad for Harrap’s guiding service. Catch the quaint phone ‘number’: Keating 53M. And, of course, note that going out in a suit and tie got awarded, with, I think, seven salmon;

The next image is for Gilbert’s guiding, with the sporting offer: No Fish – No Pay. And for the princely sum of $1.50 per hour. And men have a better time in, as they used to say for knickerbockers, Plus Fours.

Even if you didn’t wear a suit, and showed up in a cap, sans Plus-Fours, you might still catch, as Roy Thompson did, a 53 ¼ pound chinook. He won the top gold button award for the year, beating out Ralph le Fever (can this be a real name?) from Hollywood, with a mere 40-pounder:

Next image: Creed’s Landing was a marina just down from Gilbert’s, deeper into Brentwood Bay. It was the first place I got salmon smoked, in 1976. It was so good that when we got home, we would, without removing our coats, open the glazed-one-side brown paper, open a box of Stoned Wheat Thins, and stuff ourselves until we couldn’t eat another bite – and that included dinner. I also had smoking done at Gilbert’s, too, where they put the smoker in an outside closet, which smoked away all day and whoever opened the door disappeared into the smoke. I last had it done when lacustrine Harold, with his big floppy-legged German Shepherd, was the resident owner some years later.

And proving that Ralph “Boots” Le Fever was existent in 1932, the man himself and his forty-pounder:

And waxing poetic about Hyas Tyee, Richard L. Pocock, rhymes the Big’ Un of Brentwood Bay, arrrgh Billy (It’s a bit blurry, but I hope you can zoom in and read it).