TYEE TALES – Rookie Luck – Ted Milbrant

My first year at Painter’s Lodge was in 1966.  I was one of three newly hired guides.  Each of us was given a Gibbs 8 spoon by legendary guide, Mike Rippingale, to use in the tyee pool.  I didn’t really know what a “tyee” was until it was explained to me.

On August 8th, armed with … my new, unproven spoon … a set of markers (certain trees, etc.) for the south corner (courtesy of Danny and Charlie Lynch) … and a couple of tides under my belt holding the rod for Tom McGregor (who told me almost everything he knew about tyee fishing), I set out for the tyee pool with Earl Stoner, my first rowing party, hoping to catch a tyee and have him gain membership into the prestigious Tyee Club of British Columbia.

I thought I’d start fishing two hours into the flood, not three hours as most guides used to do.   Proceeding across the bar in front of Painter’s I noticed Mike Rippingale returning from the pool.  Not a good sign, I thought.  Maybe I’ve missed the best part of the tide.  Mike said that he had been rowing the Chisholm tide (end of ebb/start of flood) through breakfast time and had had no luck.  I motored on.  Just as I passed through the rip running off Painter’s bar I noticed there was no net in my boat!  (I actually didn’t own a tyee net)  I turned the boat around, slid by the float yelling at John Saxer’s son, Ralph, to throw me a net.  (There were always a few hanging on pegs on the float).   He did and Earl and I proceeded to the south corner of the bar.  And low and behold, we had it all to ourselves!   Now to start fishing.

I asked Earl to count out ten pulls of line, which he did.  After attaching a two ounce slip weight I had him count out another ten pulls.  Charlie had told me, “When fishing the south corner, early in the flood, use 10/10 and 2 ounces as a line/weight combination.”   Charlie had also told me that there was always a tyee holding near the south corner, regardless of the stage of the tide, so I started rowing there, doing figure eights through it.  On about the third pass, wham! … the rod tip buried.  Earl struck.  We had something big on!   I knew I had to help keep a tight line on the fish, so I kept rowing away from it.  Earl did a great job on the rod and before too long, a beautiful; chrome tyee was near the boat.

About then, other rowboats began arriving in the pool.  We hadn’t drifted too far away and they were well within shouting distance.  Grabbing the net, I suddenly realized, uh oh, I had a problem.   The net that Ralph had tossed into my boat was a very shallow Coho net.  When he first threw it at me I had been in a bit of a hurry, and thinking (ha, ha!) we probably wouldn’t catch a fish anyway, the size of the net wouldn’t become an issue.  While the fish was doing lazy circles next to the boat I tried to net it … three times head first, three times tail first (really!), to no avail.  Earl yelled,”Shit, the net’s too small!”   I anxiously hollered towards the rowboats for a net.   They totally ignored the rookie.   The tyee, having bounced off the shallow net repeatedly, was now just lying beside the boat.   Finally, in total desperation, I raised the net up directly under it … it hung over both sides, stiff as a board!    I looked up and while shaking the net in total frustration, hollered, “Get in there!”  The fish suddenly went limp as a noodle and collapsed into the net.  Whew!!   Into the boat it came whereupon the spoon promptly fell out of its mouth!  Talk about lucky.

Earl and I shook hands, congratulated each other and proceeded to the club house.   Forty-five and one-quarter pounds!  A great day … my first rowed tyee and Earl a new member, and on his first tide!  Brian Isfeld had once said that if God deems you are going to get a fish on any given day, you will hook that fish, and you will get that fish in the boat, no matter what.  How true is that statement?

This was the only tide that Earl and I rowed together.   He was so happy that he asked if I would I row his wife for the next three days, hoping that she would also catch a Tyee…. and that’s a story for another day.

The Gibbs 8 spoon that Mike Rippingale gave me turned out to be one of the best spoons I ever had.   I lost it in 2012.