Sunday, 19 March 2017

Victoria Saanich-Inlet Anglers Association

I went over to talk with Jack James, Mr. Radiant Lures himself, the other day, and left with a sack-full of images, lures, photocopies, and etc., detailing Saanich Inlet sport fishing over the decades. This included images of an original copy of the VSIAA’s club booklet, this one from 1931-1932. The booklet would have been a minimum of 36 pages, so a pretty impressive publication and record of Saanich Inlet.

These days I am viewing a zoomed digital image on my iMac 27 inch, high RAM computer with Bluetooth and WIFI, for making digital movies with Premiere Pro, the Hollywood level editing software, and transcribing the information to Word on my day-to-day PC Acer computer, with an iPad on the side to show people things and send WIFI images anywhere on the globe. All digital images taken with my 18.1 Megabite, SLR Canon Camera.

In those days, high-tech was the VSIAA paper booklet. See image: 

In 1931 – 1932, the honorary president was The Hon. J.W. Fordham Johnson, Lieut-Governor of BC. The rest of the executive included: President: EL Tait; First Vice-President: George L. Warren; Second Vice-President: JA Danes, along with the most important guys, the: Investigations and Tackle Committee: WJ Halliday, Len V Holyoak, WB Christoper, KB Wilson, Dr. Hugh Clarke and T Dickenson. The Secretary-Treasurer was Harold Palmer, from the Chamber of Commerce, Victoria. 

Here is one story from the magazine:


“That may not sound absolutely correct, but having aroused your curiosity, I might as well continue, and tell of the airplane flight taken by several of our Saanich Salmon last year. The story runs as follows:– 

“Out of a clear sky swooped a modern up-to-the-minute airplane, and landed at Lansdowne Airfield. The pilot was Mr. Harold Crary (Director of Advertising and News Service of the United Airlines), who had business to transact in Victoria. 

“It appears that the visitor had heard of the wonderful fishing that the Inlet offers, and expressed a desire to try his luck. So after the business for which he came was completed, arrangements were made by Mr. George I. Warren, our publicity commissioner, for a fishing trip the following morning. 

“The party consisted of Hugh Creed (the well-known boatman), Mr Crary, and the genial George I., who acted as host. They got away to an early start at 6 a.m. and fortune favoured them, for by 7 a.m. they had caught the day’s limit of ten salmon.

“The visitor was highly elated with the success of the morning’s fishing, but expressed his surprise at the lack of advertising we gave to this wonderful stretch of water. He said that he woud surely have some story to tell his friends on his arrival in Chicago, which was his destination, but doubted whether or not they would believe him. 

So one of the party suggested that he take the evidence along with him, and sure enough eight of the fish were suitably packed and stowed away on board the aircraft in time for the departure at 11 a.m. the same morning.

“The aircraft, pilot and fish arrived in Chicago in almost record time, and the salmon were served at a repast in honor of Mr. Crary.”

Please note that I have transcribed the text as is, and have not made any changes. I am sure interested to know what kind of plane Crary had in 1932, what kind of speed was attained and what kind of hopscotching had to be made, to get back to Chicago - many airports not existing in those days. My dad, for instance, flew his WWI Tiger Moth from Bracebridge Ontario to Victoria some years past and it was a week-long perilous journey and epic tale.

And is Lansdowne Airfield the current location of the Victoria airport? Or on Lansdowne Dr. in Victoria:

And hold onto your shorts, the largest fish of 1931/32, taken June 12, weighed 53.5 pounds, caught by Roy Thompson, of Victoria. I would bet this was one of the, then, much larger stock of what we call Columbians these days that migrate up to the Merritt area to spawn. And to think that today we are in Zone 1 of the Summer 4-2 and 5-2 dwindled stocks from the same area. It is sad that DFO – in Ottawa – hasn’t done its job.

I have lots of info from Jack for many more posts on the history of Saanich Inlet angling. All the rest of you out there with stories, memories and images – and you know who you are – do send them along so we can get this down on the Cloud forevermore (unless Donald Trump thinks it’s a fake news Cloud and scrubs it from the universe). Please send your stuff to: If you have stories of any of the people on the VSIAA Council, send them along, too.

Here is one more image from the VSIAA magazine. It is self explanatory. Zoooom it if you can't read the text:

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Saanich Inlet - Fishing With Bill

Your recent articles bring back fond memories of Saanich Inlet. I was born to Victoria parents in 1941 that had a tie to a Major Sinclair. As I recall it, my grandfather and father would visit him and I would tag along. At the Major’s house, a youngster was left to his own devices, as the adults discussed and conversed with the Major who was both deaf and blind due to injures from both the BOER WAR and WW1. It was fascinating to watch them touch the Major’s hand and fingers creating an alphabet that spelled out the questions. Often the Major would complete the question mid sentence and the answers came quickly. This was fascinating for awhile, but the stronger pull was to tour the Major’s house which was filled with artifacts from both wars and beyond. There were lances, swords, muskets, armour, art work in huge numbers and was a fascinating place to visit as a youngster.

It also turned out that the Major owned 17 acres off West Saanich Rd. close to Willis Point and across from Bamberton. The property had a house at the road site, but a long interesting dirt road wound it’s way down to the beach where there was a log cabin and boat house. If the weather was dry, there was no issue getting the car down and back up from the log cabin, but if the ground was wet, getting back up was an adventure. Terrain was steep and the roadway had a couple of bumps that made passengers get out of the car and push the car thru the humps.

The fishing experiences came from a row boat housed in the boat house. Davits at high tide dropped the boat into the water and beach moorage allowed us to push the boat into the Inlet. Initial fishing trips necessitated the cutting of branches from trees that were wedged between the gunwale and floor of the row boat that were used to attach hand lines with Willow Leaf lake trolls and worms as bait. Fishing was so good that we used 2oz. and 4 oz. sinkers and no net to harvest more than enough fish to feed my dad’s family of 6 brothers and sisters plus my 3 brothers.

The row boat put on a lot of miles. Many times we crossed the inlet and rowed most mornings along the shore line north to Coles Bay and back. A morning’s catch often exceeded a dozen grilse which we cooked on an open fire grate built on top of a rock collection. Breakfast was always exciting as Dad or an Uncle would prepare pancake mix and the fry pan on the grate was used to flip the half cooked pancake up into the air with a “sometimes” successful entry back into the pan to cook the other side. Unfortunately, life changed for us when the Major passed on in the early 50’s, and the property was sold, but the family was committed to stay on the Inlet somewhere and eventually found their own property on Madrona Drive near Deep Cove which we still use to this day.

Dad is now 100+ and fortunately has a great memory. Hopefully I’ve described life for us on the Inlet. I will close with, NO, the row boat is long dead, although it did accompany us to the Madrona site, but families grew, earning capacity grew, which allowed us to move to an assortment of boats. An inboard Briggs and Stratton was in Pokey and a ski boat, sailboat, became part of the scene as Dad and two of his brothers where the owners of the property and still are today. Thanks for allowing me to share my share my family’s life on the Inlet with you.


Bill Gower

Biography for Bill Gower

Bill’s career has been, and still is, in the sport fishing industry. Please note that in this and other posts on this site, I make minimal editing: for length, spelling and where grammar changes aid reader understanding. I leave the flavour of the original author:

Born in Victoria in 1941. Schools: Kingston St., South Park in James Bay and on to Vic Central and Vic High graduating in 1959. Worked retail in Victoria and Van thru 1964. Started as a rep in the golf/ski/clothing industry back in 1964 working for an agency that represented Campbell Golf out of Ontario. Interesting that they made Arnold Palmer and Gary Player products under license and had famous Canadian Moe Norman under contract. SOOOO many stories. Winter was Hart, Kneissel Skis and ass’t accessories and clothing was S.E. Woods, famous for commercial wool wear, parkas, and sleeping bags. A lot of the bags were made for extreme cold and mining purchased a lot of them to explore the Yukon and N.W.T., leaving them behind due to weight factors when returning south.

S.E. Woods did regional production out of a place near V.G.H. using a chap by the name of IRV DAVIES. This name is important, as Irv and I left the agency at the same time, with Irv developing a product called a floater coat which ended up as a brand called Mustang. My change was not so dramatic although a bit historical in that Daiwa Canada came into existence in 1967 with Don Ellis as president. Don also had an agency that marketed Algonquin Fishing Tackle, Algonquin Marine Accessories and Grew Boats. I was fortunate to take this over due to Don’s conflicts and sold these products from 1967-1978.

Daiwa made a bid to purchase Algonquin because they spooled and sold Stren Line out of their Canadian operations based in Toronto. This left me out in the cold and fortunately I was given a lead to contact Normark Canada. They hired me and I contacted Plano Molding for representation and found out that Normark was affiliated with Blue Fox. Looking for more companies to work with, Gibbs under George Whatly, hired me for the prairies and Washington and Oregon, and Scott Plastics hired me for the prairies. Both of these companies made changes 3 years later and I was fortunate to replace Gibbs with Lucky Strike Bait Works out of Peterborough.

Other manufacturers came and went, (the lot of being a rep salesman) but my relationship with the fishing industry is now 50 years old as Normark (now Rapala) and Lucky Strike is still represented by us. Us, is now Steve Gower, Kyle Bryan and myself, with Steve joining me in the early 90’s and Kyle is now in his 3rd year. We cover from Thunder Bay to Victoria with Steve based in Calgary and Kyle working out of our local office. A lot of people ask me about retiring, and my answer is why? As long as I am contributing and healthy, it is too much to ask as business relationships have become personal, and the stories and characters of the road would be missed.

I was part of the original directors of S.F.I. [Sport Fishing Institute] when it was established in B.C. and was a director with the Canadian Professional Sales Association for a number of years. Former President of the Sunshine Hills Tennis Club with personal interest in golf, tennis, and of course fishing. Re fishing, have visited most of the coastal fishing places from Victoria to Langara, but world travel opportunities have found me at Lake Ocochobee in Florida along with Ft. Lauderdale area fisheries, Mexico, Finland, Australia (with the Sydney Opera House in the background), Tasmania to name others. Within Canada, I think the only provinces missing are the extreme north. Not sure what’s next, but one thing for sure is that an annual trip to Pt. Renfrew is a constant.

Married with wife Jo-Ann, son Steve, daughters Christy, Lindsay and Jill and 5 blessed grandchildren.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Saanich Inlet Fishing in the Fifties – Peter McMullan

Peter McMullan, who sent in last week’s story about fishing Saanich Inlet in the fifties, sent along a PDF of his hand-written fishing diary from 1953 – 1954. Below you will see two images, one of the left-hand page of the diary – a book about 12 inches wide and five deep, so the two half pages you see, are actually one page – and the right-hand side of the same page. Then two more images, comprising the next page. (The PDF is longer, and I can send it along to anyone who wants to look it over).

So, with the two pages, you can look back and forth, and find out what he was fishing with, including weight, lure, flasher, line out, area fished, time of day and fish caught. The tackle is useful for remembering what worked and what was the best thing to try the next time on the water. I note the half and half Tom Mack, (which today, in the ultra-thin Coho Killer line is called a Gold Nugget). An example of the written text reproduced as typed text is:

June 23,1954, trolling, herring strip, Sea King silver flasher,  6.15 p.m., 250', 2 lbs lead, ripples, from boat and outboard, self and Roses, Brentwood, First Bay, spring salmon, 9 lbs 6 ozs. 

This fish was big enough to be 15th on the leader board, the largest more than 30 pounds – I believe from the entire Victoria area.


The interesting text at the top of this second page summarizes his year fishing. You will note several UK fish species, as well as fish you cannot catch in saltwater. While I could not read all of them, here are most: Total 95 fish, Pike 25, Perch 2, Tench 7, Atlantic Salmon 1, Coho 8, Jacks 1, Steelhead 1, Grilse 27 Pollock 4, Rudd 4, and so on.

Here is an image of his book of fishing memories, Casting Back, some 60 years of fishing:                              

You can pick it up on Amazon, or from Rocky Mountain Press, in Alberta. The introduction is from Mark Hume, columnist for the Globe and Mail, as well as book author, himself. The book is reviewed on BC Book Look:

And Peter’s comment about the book and fishing:

“I really do appreciate your interest in Casting Back and will have the reworked PDF version - no missing pages - of the old diary to you later today. I find it pretty amazing to be able to look back all those years to when I was a green-as-grass teenaged Victoria College student, fresh from Belfast and four years at an English boarding school and now suddenly able to go fishing from a row boat on Saanich Inlet and actually catch salmon. Mike Rose, who I met at college and with whom I played rugby that season ('54-'55), and I fished together from Brentwood, together with Bill Ballantyne and others, and also on the Cowichan for steelhead. I also went out few times with his parents. Without the diary to remind me of those distant times I am afraid all that part of my life would by now be a very faded picture. I suppose it's inevitable but, at 81, there is only so much room for memories of long ago fishing adventures.”

Yes, the past is fading memories, of a time that no longer exists, but comprises an important part of our lives and who we are, oh, and the fishing, too.

One comment about the fishing. In those days, and certainly, John Rose did it for years, herring strip was cut from one flank of the herring, then the herring was turned over and the other strip cut off the opposite side. I always used ‘store bought’, not trusting that I could cut a herring properly.

My own faded memories suggest in my learning years we used a large, glow-green, strip Teaser head from Rhys Davis, and that the large rather than the Super Strip holder (which rotated in the opposite direction) – made for strip from the other side of the herring, worked far better in Saanich Inlet. Once the strip was flush with the inside of the front of the holder, the tooth pick was inserted through from one side to the other, and snapped off flush on both sides – the trick was to use toothpicks that were not left open to the humidity on the boat, and thus bent rather than snapped off.

Then the most important part was imparting the spiral that worked the best, a little quicker than one per second, and with the tail end following the head through the spiral. I spent a lot of time looking at the rig spin in the water beside the boat – Saanich Inlet was usually calm enough that you didn’t have to be adjusting boat course all the time, running between the captain’s chair and the strip in the water – and adjusting the ‘wing’ on the holder, bending out or in to change rotation speed. Memory tells me I used one single trailing hook, and a Siwash one, because in those days we could use barbed hooks, and a Siwash has the longest, sharpest point for penetrating fish, though I could be wrong. After all, we use a treble leading hook, for inserting into anchovy, and a single trailer beyond the tail in our wire-rigged holders today.

And to end with, an image of, perhaps, Gilbert’s, dock in the ‘50s. Sometimes Peter slept over night on their dock and fished in the morning.