Sir John Godfrey Rogers

Sport in Vancouver and Newfoundland

Published by Good Press, 2019
EAN 4064066154684

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The following pages are simply a transcription of my rough diary of two autumn holidays in Vancouver Island and Newfoundland in search of sport—should they prove of any use to those who may follow in my steps, I shall feel amply rewarded.

J. G. R.


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From the day I read in the Field Sir Richard Musgrave's article, "A seventy-pound salmon with rod and line," and located the river as the Campbell River, I determined that should the opportunity arise, I, too, would try my luck in those waters.

Subsequent articles in the Field, which appeared from time to time, only increased my desire, and the summer of 1908 found me in a position to start on the trip to which I had so long looked forward.

Living in Egypt, the land of eternal glare and sunshine, I counted the days till I could rest my eyes on the ever-green forests of Vancouver Island.

My intention was to arrive in Vancouver about the end of July, spend the month of August, when the great tyee salmon run, at the Campbell River, and pass September, when the shooting season begins, in hunting for wapiti in the primeval forests which clothe the north of Vancouver Island.

I also hoped, should time permit, to have a try for a Rocky Mountain goat, and possibly a bear on the Mainland.

I sailed from Southampton on July 10, on the Deutschland, the magnificent steamer of the Hamburg-American Line, and never did I travel in greater luxury.

The voyage across the Atlantic is always dull and monotonous; it was therefore with great relief that, having passed Sandy Hook in the early morning, I found myself approaching New York on the 16th.

Here I was to have a new experience.

I am, I hope, a modest man, and never dreamt that I was worthy of becoming the prey of the American interviewer.

The fact of being a Pasha in Egypt, a rank which I attained when serving in the Egyptian Army, was my undoing.

A kind German friend who had used his good offices on my behalf with the Board of the Hamburg-American Line, gave the show away, for I found myself on the printed passenger list figuring as Sir John Rogers Pasha.

To the American interviewer, a Pasha was, I presume, a novelty, and the opportunity of torturing one not to be forgone, for as soon as we came alongside the quay at Hoboken, a pleasant and well-spoken individual came up to me and, raising his hat, remarked, "The Pasha I believe. Welcome to America." I then realized what I was in for.

Had I been a witness in the box, I could not have undergone a more merciless cross-examination. It was almost on a par with a declaration I had to make for the Immigration Authorities—giving my age, where I was born, who were my father and mother, when did they die, what was the colour of my hair and eyes, and lastly, had I ever been in prison, and if so, for what offence?

I really think New York might spare its visitors this ordeal.

Wriggle as I could, my interviewer was determined to obtain copy, and though I insisted that the title of "Pasha" had been entered on the passenger list by mistake, and that it was one not intended for exportation, he was not to be satisfied.

Giving as few details as possible as to how I had obtained my exalted title, I eventually shook off my persecutor. No sooner had I moved a few steps away, than if possible a more plausible person expressed the great pleasure it gave him to welcome me to New York, and endeavoured to impress on me that it was a duty I owed to myself and to the American nation, not only to explain what a "Pasha" was and how I became a Pasha, but also to allow my photograph to be taken, which he guaranteed would appear the following day in his paper—naturally the leading journal of New York.

On my point-blank refusal to accord any more interviewers an audience or to be immortalized in his paper, he sadly expressed his astonishment that I should refuse the celebrity he wished to confer on me.

Had not Mr. Kingdon Gould allowed himself to be photographed?—then why not I?

Other interviewers gave me up as a bad job, but just before landing I was leaning over the side of the steamer when some one shouted, "I have got you!" and I saw that one of my persecutors had taken a snapshot, which I am glad to say must have been a failure, for I did not appear in the New York papers the next day.

I acknowledge that one of my interviewers to whom I had refused any information heaped coals of fire on my head, by rendering me valuable assistance in getting my luggage through the Customs.

I had often heard of the difficulties of the New York Customs, but I must say I never met with greater civility, and there was no delay in passing all my baggage, fishing-rods, guns, rifles, no duty being charged.

New York possessed few attractions for me, and the call of the Campbell River was strong—so July 17th found me starting for Montreal, where I arrived the same night and put up at the excellent Windsor Hotel.

Only a top sleeping berth on the Trans-Continental Express was available for the following night, and, as I desired a section—that is two berths, upper and lower—I had to wait till the evening of Sunday, the 19th, before I could start for Vancouver.

Leaving Montreal at 10.15 p.m., I arrived at Vancouver about noon on the 24th, having travelled straight through.

The Canadian Pacific Railway is probably the most extensively advertised line in the world. I cannot say it complied with modern requirements as regards convenience and comfort.

Every one knows the much-vaunted Pullman Car system of America—men and women in the same carriage, the only privacy being offered by drawing the curtains across the berths which are arranged in two long rows on either side of the car.

If you have a section of two berths, which is essential to comfort, you can stand upright in the lower berth to dress and undress, and put away your clothes where you can.

If you have only a single berth, you have to dress and undress as best you can, sitting in your berth.

On my first trip to Canada, I was only going as far as Mattawa, one night in the train, so contented myself with a single lower berth.

The upper berth was occupied by a very stout lady, who in descending in the morning, gave me an exhibition of understandings as unexpected by me as it was unintentional on her part.

The real advantage of a section, in taking the long Trans-Continental journey, is that when the berths are put up in the day-time, one has a nice compartment to oneself; that is, if the black porter does not condescend sometimes to occupy one of the seats, and only to move, on being politely requested to do so.

The sporting pamphlets of the Canadian Pacific Railway make a sportsman's mouth water. Here we have the paradise of the fisherman—there the Mecca of the sportsman.

It was certainly then disappointing, to say the least of it, to find in the Restaurant Car, that though passing through the paradise of the fisherman, two days out from Montreal, we were eating stale mackerel, and on the return journey when the sporting season was in full swing and duck and prairie hens were being brought in abundance to the car for sale—they were only purchased by the black porters for re-sale at Montreal at a handsome profit. None of them appeared at our table.

The food was indifferent and dear. Everything was "à la carte," and to dine moderately cost 1½ to 2 dollars, while a tiny glass of whisky, served in a specially constructed bottle of infinitesimal proportions, was charged at an exorbitant price.

Food in the car, without wine, beer or spirits, may be put down at 5 to 6 dollars a day, and I would recommend any one making the trip to stow away a bottle of good whisky in his suit-case, from which to fill his own flask for meals.

Travelling for six days and five nights continuously, one would have thought that some simple bathing arrangements would have been provided. A douche even would have been welcome. The lavatory and smoking-room were one and the same—five to six persons could find sitting accommodation, and four basins had to meet the washing requirements of the entire car.

I do not wish to be over critical, but I am glad to say I have met many Canadians who agree with me that the arrangements for the comfort of the passengers on the Canadian Pacific Railway are capable of improvement.

Very different, I was told, was the comfort to be found on the American Trans-Continental Line from Seattle via Chicago to New York. The train is provided with a bathroom, library and a barber's shop, while an American friend who recommended me to return by the American Express, assured me that the food left nothing to be desired.

When competition arises between the two Trans-Continental lines in Canada, the second of which is now being constructed, some improvements may be hoped for.

The scenery of the Rocky Mountains has so often been described, that I will not inflict my impressions at any length on my readers. It is certainly fine, but no part of it can in my opinion compare with that of the line from Lucerne to Milan via the St. Gothard, and what a difference in the engineering of the line and the speed of the trains. Accidents by derailing of ballast trains seemed fairly common. We saw one on our way across, and two engines which had toppled over the embankment marked the site of at least one other.

As regards the Rockies, it must be admitted that the effect of their real height is taken away by the gradual rise in level as one crosses the plains.

Calgary, where the mountains are first approached, stands at 3,428 feet above sea-level.

All things come to an end, and the morning of July 24th found us steaming into the city of Vancouver, glad that the weary journey was at last over.

The town of Vancouver is beautifully situated on the Mainland overlooking the Straits of Georgia.

I am glad, after my criticisms of the Canadian Pacific Railway, to testify to the comfort and moderate charges of the Canadian Pacific Railway Hotel at Vancouver.

A charming bedroom with bathroom attached cost only 5 dollars, all meals included. Excellent beer, locally brewed, was cheap, and a bottle of Californian Chianti, quite a drinkable wine, cost only a dollar, so there was nothing to complain of.

My waiter happened to be an Irishman, and he took quite a personal interest in my comfort, whispering into my ear in the most confidential manner the dishes of the day that he recommended as the best.

On a day's acquaintance, claiming me as a countryman, he confided to me his story. His father had been manager of a bank in Ireland, and he was sent abroad to settle in Canada.

Starting on a farm, and, according to his own story, doing well, a fire destroyed his house and farm implements. Drifting through various stages, he arrived at his present position, with which he seemed quite content. He was married, and lived outside the hotel. Fishing was his passion, and every spare moment was devoted to it.

He was really a most entertaining companion, with a keen sense of humour, and he made the meal-time pass very pleasantly, for he never ceased chatting.

A run by steamer to Seattle to see some friends, gave me a glimpse of Victoria and the exquisite scenery of the trip from Vancouver to Seattle.

At Vancouver I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mr. Bryan Williams, the Provincial Game Warden of British Columbia, with whom I had been already in correspondence, and to whom I was indebted for much valuable assistance and advice.

A true sportsman, his heart is in his job, and if he only be given a free hand and adequate funds, the preservation of game in British Columbia will be in safe hands.

The licence, 100 dollars, is not a heavy one, but I think it might with justice be graduated, fixing one sum, say 50 dollars, for Vancouver Island, where only wapiti, an occasional bear and deer are found, and imposing the higher licence for the Mainland, to include moose, mountain sheep, goat, caribou and grizzly bear.

One would have thought that in the city of Vancouver, the centre of a great angling country, every requirement of the fisherman would have been found. The contrary was the case.

Fortunately I had brought my own fishing-tackle, for in the best sporting shop in the town I could not obtain a suitable spare fishing-line.

Rods, reels, lines, flies and baits were inferior in workmanship as compared to what one is accustomed at home.

I therefore strongly recommend any fisherman to bring all his tackle from home. In the case of rods, reels and lines, New York may have better, as I shall show when I come to discuss the question of tackle later on.

From the manager of the Bank of Montreal, to whom I had a letter of introduction, I met with great courtesy financially as well as socially, and I became free of the excellent Vancouver Club, so charmingly situated, and only regretted that my short stay prevented my availing myself more of its hospitality.


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The morning of July 29th found me on board the Queen City, the small but most comfortable steamer of the Canadian Pacific Railway running north to the Campbell River and beyond.

The Captain was a delightful companion, patriotic to a degree, and regretting what he considered the neglect shown by the Old Country to the Dominion of Canada, when American and Canadian interests were at issue.

The steamer was well found and well managed, while the Captain's skill in approaching our various stopping-places, often dangerous coves with no lights, at any time of the night and in any weather, was to me a continual source of admiration. I travelled with him three times, and never wish for a more charming host or a Captain that inspired more confidence as a navigator.

We arrived at the Campbell River Pier at the unearthly hour of 1 a.m. The proprietor, however, was on the pier waiting with lanterns to show us the way up to the Willows Hotel, where I was to spend a happy month.

The Willows Hotel, beautifully situated on the Valdez Straits within a few yards of the sea, is all that a sportsman could desire. Clean, well-furnished bedrooms, a bathroom and quite a decent table, all for the moderate sum of 2 dollars a day.

The proprietor did not quite realize the fact that the majority of the guests came for the fishing, and not for the food.

The lady who directed the establishment seemed to think the latter the more important.

The breakfast bell rang at 6 a.m., and breakfast was served from 6 to 8 a.m. Lunch or dinner from 12 to 2 p.m., and supper from 6 to 8 p.m.

Woe betide the guest who broke the rules of the house as regards the hours, for he was expected to lose his meal.

In those glorious autumn evenings when it was light up to 10 o'clock, the manageress forgot that a keen fisherman might stay out till 9 or even 10, if the fish were taking.

Dinner he could not expect, but a cold supper, if ordered beforehand, might have been laid out in the dining-room. Nor could attendance be looked for; servants were few and overworked, and it was but natural they should like to go to bed at 10 o'clock, or be free to wander in the woods or along the foreshore with the special young man of the moment.

By making love to the manageress and the Chinese cook, I generally succeeded in finding something to eat if I was late, but I often had to forage for myself in the kitchen, and on one occasion came back to find a plate of very indifferent sandwiches laid out for supper.

Morning tea in one's bedroom was prohibited. I should therefore advise any one addicted to the habit of early morning tea, to provide himself with a "Thermos" bottle, and fill it overnight—besides which, if very enthusiastic, a start might sometimes be made at 4 a.m., when a cup of hot tea and a biscuit make all the difference to one's feelings of comfort.

The hotel was a strange mixture of civilization and discomfort.

We had written menus of which I give a specimen below, but I had to grease my own boots and wash my own clothes, until I found an Indian squaw in the adjoining village who for an exorbitant charge relieved me of my washing, though I greased my boots till the end of my stay.


Menu. Dinner.

Purée of Split Pea.

Baked Salmon (Spanish).
Boiled Cod. Lobster Sauce.

Beef Hot Pot.
Pig's Head à la Printanière.
Macaroni au Gratin.

Boiled Ox Tongue. Kipper Sauce.
Boiled Ham.

Roast Beef. Horse-radish.
Roast Pork. Apple Sauce.
Roast Mutton. Jelly.

Sliced Beets.
Fish Salad.

Boiled Mashed Potatoes.
Green Peas.

Snow Pudding. Peach Pie.
Apple Pie. Stewed Rhubarb.

The drawback to the hotel was the logging camp in the neighbourhood.

The bar of the hotel was about fifty yards from the hotel itself, in a separate building, and on Saturday night many of the loggers came dropping in to waste the earnings of the week. Drunkenness on these occasions was far too common, and till the small hours of the morning the sound of revelry from the bar was not conducive to a good night's rest.

Some of the characters who frequented the bar were weird in the extreme, and when fairly "full"—as the local expression was—the hotel was not inviolate to them. One who particularly interested me might have been taken out of one of Fenimore Cooper's novels. My acquaintance with him was made on the hotel verandah. With a friendly feeling born of much whisky, he placed his arm on my shoulder, and assured me that although if he had his rights he would be a Lord, he did not disdain the acquaintanceship of a commoner like myself; in fact, that he had seldom seen a man to whom he had taken such a fancy, or with whom he would more willingly tramp the woods, if I would only give him the pleasure of my company in his trapper's hut some few miles inland. His suggestion that our friendship should be cemented by an adjournment to the bar did not meet with the ready acceptance he expected, which evidently disappointed him, for he could not grasp the fact that any one living could refuse a drink.

Poor "Lord B.," as he was called, was only his own enemy. As I always addressed him "My Lord," which he took quite seriously, we became quite pals.

A trapper and prospector by profession, he had a fair education, and when sober was a shrewd man of the local world, which confined itself to prospecting for minerals and cruising timber claims.

Persistently drunk for two or three days at a time, he would suddenly sober down, put a pack on his back which few men could carry, and disappear into the woods to his lonely log cabin, only to return in a few days ready for a fresh spree. At least, this was his life while I stayed at the hotel, for in one month he appeared three times.

No doubt during the winter, when occupied with his traps, he could neither afford the time nor the money for an hotel visit.

He was wizened in appearance and lightly built, but as hard as nails. Dishevelled to look at when on the spree, as soon as it was all over he became a different character, appearing in neat, clean clothes, and full of reminiscences of backwoods life. He was always a subject of interest to me, and, poor fellow, like many others on the west coast, only his own enemy.

Another frequenter of the bar had been on the Variety stage in London, and his step-dancing when fairly primed with whisky was something to see and remember.

We were a pleasant party at the hotel. Some came only for the fishing, some en route for Alaska or elsewhere on the Mainland for the coming shooting season, others returning from sporting expeditions in far lands.

We had J. G. Millais, the well-known naturalist and author of the most charming book ever written on Newfoundland, bound for Alaska in search of record moose and caribou.

Colonel Atherton, who, starting from India, had recently crossed Central Asia and obtained some splendid trophies, the photographs of which made us all envious.

F. Grey Griswold from New York, of tarpon fame, come to try his luck with the tyee salmon, and good luck it was, which such a good sportsman deserved.

Mr. Daggett, an enthusiastic angler from Salt Lake City, who took plaster casts of his fish, and was apparently an old habitué of the hotel.

Powell and a young undergraduate friend Stern, also bound for Alaska, just starting on the glorious life of sport, with little experience—that was to come—but who with the tyee salmon were as good as any of us, and whose keenness spoke well for the future.

It was curious that in such a small community three of us, the Colonel, Millais and I, had fished in Iceland, and many interesting chats we had about the sport in that fascinating island.

As the sun went down, the boats began to come in, and all interest was concentrated on the beach, where the fish were brought to be weighed on the very inaccurate steelyard set up on a shaky tripod by the hotel proprietor.

Any one reading Sir Richard Musgrave's article in the Field, would be led to believe that the fishing was in the Campbell River itself.

Whatever it may have been in his time, the river is now practically useless from the fisherman's point of view. This is due to the logging camp in the vicinity, for the river for about a mile from its mouth is practically blocked with great rafts of enormous logs. The logs are discharged into the river with a roar and a crash, enough to frighten every fish out of the water; the rafts when formed are towed down to Vancouver.

The river no doubt was a fine one till the logging business was established, and it is possible that late in the autumn fish may run up to spawn—but during the entire month of August, I personally never saw a salmon of any kind in the river itself.

Flowing out of the Campbell lake a few miles away, its course is very rapid, and it falls into the sea about one and a half miles north of the hotel.

The falls, impassable for fish, can be visited in a long day's walk from the hotel. The distance is not great, but the impenetrable character of the Vancouver forest makes the walk a very fatiguing one. It is most regrettable that no track has been cleared along the banks, to enable the water to be fished and to give access to the falls, which I am told are very beautiful.

I endeavoured to reach them by the river, but spent most of the day up to my waist in water, hauling my boat through the rapids, and then only got half-way and saw no fish.

Below the falls, there is a fine deep pool in which Mr. Layard, who described his trip in the Field, states he saw the great tyee salmon "in droves." He does not say at what time of the year he visited the falls or whether the logging camp then existed. It must have been late in the season, for he describes the swarms of duck and wild geese, the seals that were a perfect plague, the sea-lions that were seen several times, and the bear, panther (cougar), deer and willow grouse in the immediate vicinity of the hotel.

I can only give my personal experiences during the month of August.

Forgetting that the shooting season did not begin till September 1st, I took with me 300 cartridges and never fired a shot, nor did I see anything to shoot at. A few duck were occasionally seen flying down the Straits between Vancouver and Valdez Island, but the seals, sea-lions and other game described by Mr. Layard were conspicuous by their absence in the month of August. No doubt later on, in September and October, different conditions may prevail, but August is the month par excellence for the fisherman and he may leave his gun behind.

The tide runs up the river for about 800 yards from the mouth, where there was some water free from logs and rafts. Some good sport with the cut-throat trout was to be had, more especially at spring tides.

My best catch was fourteen weighing 16½ lb.

The water was intensely clear; careful wading, long casting and very fine tackle were necessary to obtain any sport.

The cut-throat trout appeared to me to resemble the sea trout in its habits, hanging about the mouth of the river and running up with the tide, many falling back on the turn of the tide, but a certain number running up and remaining in the upper reaches.

The largest I killed, 5 lb., was immediately in front of the hotel, in the sea itself, one and a half miles from the river, and he took a spoon intended for a tyee salmon.