The Horsefly River Salmon Festival was another resounding success last weekend in Horsefly.
This turned out to be a multi-faceted affair, with three things going on at the same time, and people scattered from one end of the salmon trail to the other and points in between.
All day Friday starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 7:30 p.m. Steve Hocquard and Ernie Gruhs were laying down and power washing clean a seven-foot wide by 120-foot long conveyor belt donated by Gibraltar Mines at McLeese Lake and transported to the Horsefly River by Geoff Patenaude.
This is just up from the Horsefly Bridge and makes it possible for a person in a wheelchair to actually fly fish at a very good fishing spot on the river.
I know because I caught trout there 60 years ago, and it is still a good spot.
Just keep in mind that you need to purchase a classified waters licence in addition to your regular fishing license.
The belting is kind of rough because it is laid down on undisturbed gravel, so it would be advisable to have a companion with you if you are disabled. I thank everyone concerned on behalf of disabled fishers. This would include the Cariboo Regional District, Steve Hocquard, Ernie Gruhs, Geoff Patenaude, Gary Clarke, and the Horsefly River Roundtable.
I fully intend to check it out on my first opportunity.
Friday night’s square dance was a sparsely attended affair, probably due to the inclement weather and the fact it usually took place on Saturday night. However, the music was excellent and made up for the lack of people.
Despite nine to 10 C weather and rain, Saturday was a very well attended festival with more than 300 people estimated to have attended.
The Northern Shuswap Tribal Council Fisheries had a booth managed by Andrew Meshue, Sarah Hood, and Kevin Tenale, and free packages of dried fish were handed out for the uninitiated like me to try. I found that between chewing and letting it soak in my mouth, eventually I could break it down and eat it.
Although I was not overwhelmed, I could see how back in the day this would be an invaluable way to preserve excellent protein for both man and beast.
When I arrived home, both dogs and our cat were all over me looking for that wonderful scent they smelled. This would probably not be the best thing to take along on a grizzly hunt.
Cody Williams had a booth where he was kept busy serving bannock from the time he opened until he closed both Saturday and Sunday. There was always a line up.
Brandi Ranger had a coffee wagon, which was another invaluable service in the cold weather. Judy Hillaby and Roy Argue from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans did dissections and explanations for the public on Saturday. Argue also helped with the Gyotaku preparation. Ranger and Maureen LeBourdais were the Gyotaku teachers, and some absolutely fantastic paintings were produced over the two days. Maureen Chappell had some unique kids’ art she was teaching and again some remarkable art was produced.
Lorne Sherlock was there from the Fish Lake Alliance passing out information for those who were interested. Lisa Bland had a booth for the Haida Gwaii and was passing out herring roe on kelp, which I found to be excellent (a little like oyster flavour).
I used to fry it in a little soya sauce when I fished herring, and it is another excellent food source.
Last but certainly not least, Sue Hemphill was there for both days with some fantastic invertebrates from the rivers and creeks in the area.
Cad flies, stone flies, Mayflies, river worms, all in different stages of development were in her small tank. Sue is a knowledgeable teacher, and her area was another kid’s favourite, and if you are a fly tier this was the place to learn what you want to duplicate.
Sunday dawned and it was at least five degrees warmer than Saturday, with some sunny periods. It was a much nicer day than the previous one. With only the absence of Roy Argue, the same volunteers who participated on Saturday were all there for another day of volunteerism and education.
The crowds seemed somewhat more sparse than the previous day, but when I went along the salmon trail looking for the Horsefly Seniors and Wellness Society’s’ Salmon Egg Race, I ran into many folk simply exploring the different mini paradises along the trail, so the trail is serving its purpose in providing education opportunities for young and old alike.
A crowd of at least 50 souls indicated I had found the salmon egg race location, and not a moment too soon.
Clarence Hooker and his sister-in-law Darlene Hooker were about to dump the Styrofoam eggs into the channel; 700 eggs went in the water and people immediately began to search out their numbers, which were difficult to distinguish at best.
The static from being stored together held them together in clumps despite the corn starch which was liberally sprinkled into the garbage bags where they had been kept.
Immediately the chase along the channel began until finally we came to the barrier and the egg catchers situated downstream. Young volunteers Tyler Phillip, Debra Beckstead, and Billy Alcock under the tutelage of SAWS member Bob Johnson were in the water with nets to gather up the eggs as they came all too quickly downstream. Once the first three eggs to arrive were ascertained, organized mayhem ensued as most of the eggs arrived within the first two minutes or so. No eggs escaped to freedom and Quesnel Lake was spared from the danger of Styrofoam salmon hatching in the near future.
The main organizers of the egg race, Clarence Hooker, Jim Johnston and Bob Johnson, are to be congratulated for a job well done. Meanwhile, back along the salmon walk, Lou and Jack Biggs were busy cooking hamburgers and hot dogs for the hungry egg racers.
The SAWS organization is to be congratulated on an excellent community event, and hopefully this will become an annual event for the salmon festival.
Back at the festival site by the bridge, things were going on much the same as on Saturday, with new faces learning exciting new bits of knowledge to be stored away for the future decisions that will come up in their lives.
Despite the lack of salmon, the festival serves a very real purpose in the telling of the sockeye salmon history and bringing awareness to young and old alike of our fragile ecosystem and the impact we as humans have on it.
All in all the festival was a resounding success. Next year we have hopes for a pow wow, and it will be the dominant year, so we may even have some sockeye present. There is some talk of cutting back to only one day, and having the festival a week or so later when the fish start moving in.
Stay tuned for next Labour Day.