Turnbull: Hall of Fame
The Steelheader News
all began during the summer of 1960. Bill moved from Ontario with his family
to Sunnyside Park at Cultus Lake. The ten year old fished Vedder River the
first day he arrived. What followed was the development of one of BCís finest
While observing Bill flyfish the Stillaguamish during later years,
Northwest USAís foremost fly-fishing publisher, Frank Amato reacted to being
outfished by Turnbull with "does he always do that?" Billís fishing partner
replied "he skunks me all the time."
Before leaving Ontario for B.C., Bill visited the local library to research
the area that he knew was to become his new stomping grounds. He had read and
heard a lot about cutthroat and salmon fishing in B.C. Understandably, he was
excited. Originally Bill began his fishing career by plunking a worm in the
pools of a small creek that trickled through his grandfatherís farm enroute to
Lake Ontario. He also fished the lake. There he caught chub, rock fish, bass,
sun fish, cat fish, carp, crappy and the odd trout. But somehow he knew that
the thrill of a lifetime lay on the other side of the Rockies. In
anticipation, his father bought him a fly-rod, a floating line and a fly-reel.
That first summer on the Vedder was memorable. Trout, Dolly Varden and
Whitefish were plentiful. Heíd tie a dew worm and perhaps a split shot to his
fly outfit and search the reaches of Sweltzer Creek down through to Vedder
Crossing. Concocting a bait knot-like rig to fix the worm firmly to his hook,
he could cast the fly line comfortably without losing the slender wiggly
little morsel. Then as with many beginners this fishing affair, guided by the
power of the worm, developed into a lifelong passion for fly-fishing.
Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Abbotsford where Bill bicycled to
local streams and sloughs on weekends angling for whatever stalked the waters.
The Vedder Canal was also within bicycling distance and proved to be a
successful target for many of his excursions. During a trip to Sumas River
Bill recalls catching his first coho. The ten-pounder kicked up quite a fuss
but he was able to land the fish.
Water levels in the Vedder Canal were much lower in earlier years. The
waterway was full of stumps, barren and without anglers. Bill fished these
waters seriously for salmon and steelhead using a fly-rod, a spinning reel and
small spinners. Meppís Anglia #2 was a favourite until he started to develop
his own spoons which in the final analysis fished better on a dead downstream
drift than the Meppís.
1972 was the year that Bill struck a sincere interest in fly fishing
only. He read the old English Chalk stream accounts on casting technique,
fly-tying and various other accounts on rod building and line splicing. He
devoted the period 1972-88 entirely to fly fishing and to learning as much as
possible about the river.
Observations made while swimming and snorkeling the Vedder led to greater
understanding of how fish behave in their somewhat amorphous environment. He
discovered that the technique he developed to catch whitefish, using a
stonefly nymph, also worked in pursuit of salmon and steelhead.
During the summer of í75 Bill began fishing summer-run steelhead on the
Stillaguamish River in Washington State. Washington officials had designated
reaches of the Stilly fly-fishing only. On his first visit to the river he met
an older American chap who was generous enough to share the afternoon and
trade with him. He caught his first summer-run in the Stilly after learning
such techniques as mending and the art of keeping track of your fly/leader in
Casting techniques became apparent from studying an assortment of
sportfishing magazines. Wet fly practice is the most common: cast 45degrees
downstream while mending line upstream as the fly arcs around. Thereís also
the greased line technique: cast approximately 90 degrees out and mend the
line as it arcs around, thus avoiding drag. The dry fly techinque: cast
upstream and mend as the fly floats downriver. And thereís the curious
technique, sometimes referred to as the coho cast, casting slightly upstream
with no mend; while the current drags the fly into a horseshoe pattern feed
line into the loop, then put the brakes on the line Ė the fly travels rather
quickly through the semicircular pattern.
This mending business means simply picking the line up off the current
when it starts to belly while lifting the line with rod and wrist upstream to
avoid drag on the fly.
Apart from studying and developing technique, Bill designs his own fly
lines, shooting heads, and ties original fly patterns. Bill Turnbull is well
known for his fly pattern: Pink Marabou, Early Morning and 1/2 Prac-half of a
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