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.


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