Swimming With The Salmon – Episode 432

This was a highly anticipated episode for Angelo and Pete.

About a year ago, a gentleman named Jamie Turko from Destiny River Adventures contacted Fish’n Canada to see if we would be interested in filming a Salmon show in Campbell River, British Columbia. He guaranteed us this would be different from anything we had shot in the past. Our interest was definitely piqued; we were all ears.

Once Jamie explained to us the “adventure” aspect of what Destiny does, we were immediately sold.

Campbell River BC, the Salmon Capital of the World.
The boys close up one of many fish fighting sequences during the day.
BC has photographic moments pretty much everywhere.


Jamie and his crew take outdoor adventurers to an access point up the Campbell River via a bus, then they drop in whitewater rafts, and the clients then load into the rafts to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the upper Campbell. So far it sounds nice and all but, honestly, a person can pretty much find a river rafting trip wherever there’s fast water. The difference with Destiny River is once you are finished with the “oohs” and “aahs”, the next step is to jump into the river wearing a wetsuit, lifejacket, snorkel and mask, and go swimming with literally tens of thousands of Salmon!

Ang and Pete have done their share of scuba diving, snorkelling, and whitewater rafting, so in order to impress them, one needs to provide something truly out of the ordinary. In this case, they were more than impressed. The reality is any person that has the opportunity to swim just out of arms reach from wild, gorgeous, river-run Salmon, can’t help but be impressed.

“It’s something you have to experience in order to really get the picture,” says Ang. “Fortunately for the Fish’n Canada TV audience, we have some pretty amazing underwater footage in this episode that should open some eyes and at least give people an idea of what’s happening under the surface of the Campbell.”

Angelo Viola holds a gorgeous Campbell River Pink Salmon.
A classic scene on the upper Campbell River.


Of course, our boys didn’t just go out west for a rafting/snorkelling tour. With that many fish in the river, next was fish’n time!

The upper section of the Campbell, where Pete and Ang snorkelled, is a fly fishing only area. For Angelo, it was a pretty simple task since he’s done his fair share of fly fishing, especially during his youth. For Pete, however: not so much. This would be his first time ever with a fly rod and reel. (By the way, he didn’t tell anyone this fact until after he landed his first fish.)

Pete on his very first attempt Fly Fishing.


“I’ve seen guys fly fish all my life so I knew the basics of what to do,” said Pete. “I started with short roll casts and eventually moved on to regular fly casting. Luckily, since I’ve been fishing all my life it was a pretty easy learning curve. My biggest concern was which side I needed the reel on!”

You might think that with thousands upon thousands of Pink Salmon in the system, it would be as easy as cast, strip, and set the hook. Not so! The boys lost loads of pinks before finally starting to bank them. Once they found the right area with aggressively feeding fish, though, it was game on!

The main key to getting the fish to bite was using a fly that was the perfect weight. Colour seemed to matter as well, but weight was the most important factor. They used small flies with weighted bead heads and then added weighted wrapping around the body of the fly to keep it close to bottom.

“These pinks wouldn’t move too much to snatch up our presentations,” says Ang. “So we literally drifted them right into the fish’s wheelhouse.”


An added attraction for those fishing the Campbell for pinks is the occasional Black Bear encounter. At any given moment, bears could, and probably will come wandering along the river banks in search of an easy meal of fatty Salmon. As long as anglers let the bears know that they are present well in advance of a close encounter, the animals will, for the most part, ignore humans and keep scrounging for an easy Salmon breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner.

This was a common sight for Ang and Pete during their Campbell River adventure.
Cleaning of the digits after pawing & clawing a shallow Pink.


By the day’s end, the boys had more than enough Pink Salmon for a show. But there was one more thing that Ang and Pete wanted to try before leaving the area, and that was to become members of the Tyee Club, an honour that not many have received.

By the way, a Tyee is a Chinook Salmon 30 pounds or larger. There is a section of the river designated for anglers to try and become a member of this exclusive club by catching one of these monsters.

The Tyee fishing here is pretty strictly controlled. After signing up for the day’s attempt, fishing is done quietly in small, classic row boats. No motors are allowed in the Tyee pool. The rower will slip the boat into the currents and eddies of the pool, keeping a basic plug or spoon beating in the current. The angler must stay focused on the action of the lure, as it is felt in the hand as much as being seen by the beating of the rod tip.

With the slightest change in the beat, the hook must be set fast and hard. The battle with a Pacific Chinook Salmon is on—anything can happen!

If the fish is boated and weighs 30 pounds or more, the catch is recorded and the angler becomes a member of the Tyee Club!

Did our boys make the club? Watch the show to find out!