Tag Archives: Fishing

The Philips’ Fly Fishing Tackle

Although contemporary fly fishing gear is full of high-tech advancements like graphite rods and synthetic fly materials, the sport also has a strong traditionalist bent. For many anglers, the romance of bamboo rods, hand-tied flies, and other vintage tackle has almost as much allure as the fish themselves.

Fly fishing at Myrtle and Alex Philip’s renowned Rainbow Lodge was the Whistler Valley’s first tourist attraction, so the Museum naturally has a lot of fishing gear in our archives, not to mention hundreds of photographs.

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To better understand these artifacts we recently had Brian Niska and Scott Baker-McGarva from Whistler Fly Fishing give us their take on some of the fly-fishing gear in the Philip collection. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that both Brian and Scott are true historians of the sport, providing tons of  insight into our collection drawing from their impressive knowledge of the evolution of fishing tackle design.

2 of the Philips fishing rods, and Myrtle’s beatiful leather carrying case. The case still contains a travel tag dating to the Fall of 1961, likely the last time she used it.

We have several old cane and bamboo rods, some for fly fishing, some for casting and trolling.

The handle of one of the Philip’s fly rods.

They mostly demonstrate design features from the 1920s and 30s, the heyday of Rainbow Lodge, but the most obvious feature is the amount of use they have all seen. They appear to have been re-varnished multiple times and have many replaced eyes. This makes sense considering that the Philips and their guests were out on the water almost every summer day (and some winter days as well) for decades on end.

Considering most rods had to be shipped from the U.K. or the eastern U.S., the rods were irreplaceable workhorses whose lives needed such prolongment.

The tag on Myrtle’s leather fishing rod travel case.

Alex Philip’s fishing hat

Here we have Alex Philip’s stylish felt fishing hat, a Fedora made by Adam Hats of New York with a special water-repellency treatment for rainy day fishing.  Note how the crown is full of an array of traditional wet flies suited to trout fishing in small lakes like Alta.

Brass P.D. Malloch fly fishing reel.

Made by P.D. Malloch of Perth, Scotland, Scott thinks this particular reel could predate World War One because it is made of brass, and most reels were made of alloys after the war. It resembles some of the reels we see in early photos of Alex Philip, and could potentially be one of the earliest fishing reels used at Rainbow Lodge. We contacted the manufacturer for more information but unfortunately their records were destroyed in a fire in 1986.

Other interesting odds and ends include the large reel in the top right of this photo, an Ocean City brand fortescue-style reel. Scott described it as a “multiplying salmon reel” best suited for larger fish than we typically find around Whistler. The Philips were dedicated anglers that took annual trips every autumn to Canim and Mahood lakes, northeast of 100 Mile House in  the Cariboo region. This reel, which was appears to date from the 1930s or 40s, was likely used on these trips.

Mucillin and Lineflote (in the small red and yellow tins, both still half full) were grease-like substances used to give silk lines and/or flies buoyancy. Although synthetic lines are much more common now, Mucillin is  actually still sold today in packaging nearly identical to our examples from the 1930s.

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Although the lakes don’t provide our valley’s main draw anymore, there is still great fishing to be had. When I was bringing some of our artifacts  over to the museum from our off-site storage I actually encountered several people who were on their way to the lake, rod in hand. They were naturally curious about my odd-looking gear, and I’m certain Alex and Myrtle Philip would be equally excited to see their life’s passion alive and well in the Whistler Valley, more than a century after there fateful first casts in Alta Lake.

Whistler Backroads is putting on their 12th annual Fishing Derby this Sunday, June 17th at Lakeside Park. All are welcome, registration is free, and they even have some complimentary gear to use on a first-come, first-serve basis. Happy fishing!

Frontier Fish

When  Vancouver-based mountaineers first began exploring around and beyond Mount Garibaldi in the early 1900s, they encountered vast mountainscapes that soon became the focal point of their clubs’ activities. Beyond the allure of the regions countless mountaineering challenges, these early visitors were equally enthralled with the overwhelming beauty of what they took to be a pristine wilderness.

In some regards the Garibaldi landscape was too pure. For example, despite providing some quality habitat, Garibaldi Lake was completely devoid of fish. Garibaldi Lake was formed relatively recently (geologically speaking) when a massive lava flow from Mount Garibaldi slammed into a glacier and was frozen in its tracks, leaving behind what is now known simply as The Barrier.

This vertical wall blocked off an ancient valley that subsequently filled with water to form Garibaldi Lake. Since the lake’s outlet flows underground through The Barrier to become Rubble Creek (named after the frequent landslides falling from the Barrier’s unstable volcanic rock), no fish population was ever able to colonize Garibaldi’s glacial-fed waters.

And so, despite the celebrated “purity” of Garibaldi’s pristine alpine expanses, its earliest proponents foresaw the district’s potential as a tourism destination and hoped to develop the landscape in that manner. From the beginning they set about building trails and identifying the best  sites to hold summer camps (Paul Ridge, Black Tusk Meadows, Singing Pass, etc). A few years later when these mountaineers began advocating for the creation for a provincial park to preserve the Garibaldi wilderness (mainly from logging and other industrial activities), plans for the development of alpine hotels and a road through the park were key elements of their campaigning.

While the Great Depression and Provincial-Federal government squabbling prevented these more ambitious developments from coming to pass (thankfully, most would argue today), other more modest environmental modifications were pursued.

In 1928, for example, 2 years after Garibaldi Provincial Park was established, 5,000 Kamloops Trout eggs from the federal hatchery at Pemberton were planted in a promising tributary stream of  Garibaldi Lake (Mimulus Creek), and an additional 12,500 were placed there again the next year.

“Kamloops Trout” were a popular game-stocking fish because of its size and strong fight that was believed at the time to be a distinct species. It is now considered a sub-species of Rainbow whose excessive size was probably caused at least as much by environmental factors as it was genetics. The widespread stocking of the Kamloops Trout throughout BC has, according to some fish researchers, led to a substantial decrease in the genetic diversity of the province’s rainbow trout population.

According to the BC Ministry of Environment’s fish stocking database, there has been no further stocking at Garibaldi Lake since 1929. And none further was needed.

When some recreational anglers reported the successful catch of 3 mature trout in 1933, 4 years after the last stocking, the Vancouver Province was ready to deem Garibaldi Lake the second successful stocking of a barren lake in British Columbia. (Does anyone know the first? We don’t.)

Even by 1930, the fish seem to have flourished. In that year the Vancouver Province (a zealous booster of Garibaldi Park throughout this period), joked that the fish should be renamed “Pontoon Trout” since they resembled the pontoons of a  float-plane which had ushered one of their journalists to the lake to write a feature article.

Scientifically, the Garibaldi experiment was a resounding success. The trout population continues to thrive in Garibaldi without further support through stocking.

Garibaldi continues to offer decent, if not outstanding fishing, but angling has never become one of the park’s major attractions. However, a friend of mine did catch what he claims was the “skinniest trout ever”: 17 inches long but “thin as a broom-handle.” A product of the marginal alpine environment, isolated genetic population, or simply an aberration? (Any icthyologists in the house?) In any case, freak fish or not, for enduring and thriving amongst Garibaldi’s once-barren waters, these trout deserve recognition as some of our region’s hardiest and most successful pioneers.

Fishing on Garibaldi Lake, opposite The Table. Circa 1960s. Photo by Cliff Fenner.

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Earlier this summer Pique Newsmagazine published an interesting feature on the history of fish and fishing in the Whistler region entitled “The Ultimate Whistler Fish Story”. Check it here .