The First Nations people had fished for Tyee for unknown ages prior to the coming of Europeans. They used several methods including spears and hand lines, from dugout canoes, as well as traps. They were adept at catching fish as well as being truly conservationist in practice. The first white men who fished here expressed great admiration for their skill.
The first account of angling for Tyee appeared in The Field, published in London, October 1896. This was submitted by Sir Richard Musgrave who described the excellent fishing he had off the mouth of the Campbell River in September of that year. He used a dugout canoe paddled by a Native guide from Cape Mudge. He and his partner, W. H. Gordon, took nineteen Tyee in one week as well as several Coho and trout. His largest fish, taken September 20th, weighed 70 pounds. A model of this fish, made by a Mr. Fannin of the museum at Victoria, was subsequently displayed at Wards in Piccadilly and acclaimed as the largest salmon ever taken on rod and line.
The next year, 1897, Musgrave returned with a party of six. This party stayed less than two weeks and the largest fish [67.5 lbs] was taken on September 3rd.
A further report in The Field, January, 1901, again describes the excellent fishing and pays a very warm tribute to the hospitality and skill of the Native guides. One angler, in eight days of fishing, landed 24 salmon with an average weight of 37 pounds. The smallest was 25 pounds and the largest was 50 pounds. The fishing took place in September because this particular party did not leave Victoria for the fishing grounds until September 3rd.
In October, 1901, one angler describes his nineteen days of fishing under the heading “Two Tons of Salmon with the Rod”. His lightest salmon weighed in at 22 1/2 pounds and the heaviest at 58 pounds. His best day’s fishing was August 17th.
It is evident from several reports in The Field that Tyee fishing was well established by 1903. By this time, the first Willows Hotel was in operation and the management provided boats and guides. Prior to this anglers had to bring food, tents, etc. and camped on the Campbell River.
A detailed and extensive report of the Tyee fishing in Campbell River was given by Sir John Rogers in his book, Sport in Vancouver and Newfoundland. This covered the 1908 season from July 30th to August 26th. He captured 41 Tyee weighing a total of 1738 pounds (the largest was 60 pounds), 15 Spring salmon, 126 Coho, and 37 trout.
In a personal communication to the Tyee Club, Mr. Eric. D. Sismey, of Naramata, B.C., describes the Tyee fishing in 1912. He stated that one might see a half a dozen boatmen rowing an equal number of fishermen and there would be a dozen or twenty Natives hand-lining from dugouts.
Following the 1914-1918 war there was a sharp increase in the number of Tyee fishermen.
In the summer of 1924, a few fishermen gathered in the Willows Hotel in Campbell River and decided to organize a club somewhat along the lines of the famous Tuna Club of Catalina Island. The purpose was to standardize the sport of salmon fishing in B.C. Dr. J.A. Wiborn of California, Melville Haigh, Manager of the Willows Hotel, and A.N. Wolverton of Vancouver, decided to form a club to be called The Tyee Club of British Columbia. Dr. Wiborn acted as Chairman with Mr. Haigh as informal Secretary.
The organizational meeting was held in August, 1925 with five fishermen attending.
Dr. Wiborn was unavoidably absent. Those present were:
- Colonel Henry Humphrey of Hong Kong
- Charles M. Wood, Sr. of Philadelphia
- M.A. Cowan of San Francisco
- Charles M. Wood, Jr. of Philadelphia
- A.N. Wolverton of Vancouver
The idea of automatically nominating the angler catching the largest salmon as President was abandoned as impractical. It was decided to award an annual Championship Button to the fisherman landing the largest salmon. This angler was also to be named “Tyee Man”. Dr. J.A. Wiborn was named as President and A.N. Wolverton was named as Vice President. Subsequently, a set of by-laws, partially based on the by-laws of the Tuna Club of Catalina, was drafted and adopted.
It was decided to award a bronze button for a 30 to 40 pound fish, a silver button for a 40 to 50 pound fish, a gold button for a 50 to 60 pound fish, and a diamond button for a fish over 60 pounds. It was also decided to limit the name “Tyee” to a fish weighing over 30 pounds.
In August, 1926 a meeting of the club was held at Campbell River. The following notables were present: the Governor General of Bermuda; General Sir John Asser; Lord Astor, and his son; Honourable W. W. Astor of London; Major Goldney of Tienstin, China; and Jesse Lasky of Hollywood.
Dr. Wiborn and A.N. Wolverton were re-elected as President and Vice President, respectively. It was decided to publish an annual booklet which would record the results of the year’s fishing and awards given out. An application, for a formal charter under the British Columbia Societies Act, was made. It was granted in 1927. More rigid qualifications were adopted and the enforcement of such regulations has built up and maintained the prestige of the club to its present high standard