Fly Fishing on Vancouver Island

by Cormack Gates, Education Chair, Mid Island Castaways


In the spring of 1996 several fly fishing enthusiasts who happened to be shopping at The Village Angler fly shop in Qualicum Beach started a conversation about founding a fly fishing club. The first name considered by organizers was Parksville Qualicum Fly Fishers. A steering committee was formed consisting of founding members Ian Beveridge, Tim Tullis, James Craig, John Pehowich and Dave Harris. They became the charter members who co-signed the club’s application for incorporation as a society. The first general meeting of the club was in June 1996. A subsequent meeting in July was attended by 27 people. Ian Beveridge served as Secretary for the first three years. In a general meeting of the club in September 1996 chaired by Ian, the club formally adopted its current name ‘Mid Island Castaways’ and selected Brigadier General Noel Money’s Fly #2 as the club’s logo.

Noel Earnest Money (1867-1941) was an historic Vancouver Island fly fisher. He was born in Canada then educated in England. Money served in the British Army during the Second Boer War and at the beginning of the First World War. Upon retirement he returned to Canada becoming a hotel owner (now the Crown Mansion) and golf course owner in Qualicum Beach. In February 1914, Money and his family arrived at Qualicum Beach where he became the managing director of the Merchants Trust and Trading Company Limited and the Qualicum Water Company Limited. The Stamp River was his favourite steelheading haunt where he fished with a spey rod and classic Atlantic salmon fly patterns. A picture of him hangs in the current fly shop in Qualicum Beach – ‘A Blaze in the Northern Fly’ located on Beach Road.

Readers may be interested is watching an amazing archival video of General Money fishing in the Stamp River in the early 1920s:

Current Activities of the Castaways

Mid Island Castaways Fly Fishing Club has thrived since its founding in 1996. It is the largest fly fishing club on Vancouver Island and in British Columbia, drawing members from as far away as Duncan and Courtenay. At the close of 2022 there were 125 members. The three interlinked pillars of the club’s mission are recreation, education and conservation. Castaways members volunteer in conservation activities of other organizations such as the Nile Creek Enhancement Society, Stream Keepers, the French Creek salmon hatchery, and the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society. The education program offers courses, workshops and clinics on fly casting for both single and double hand techniques, fly tying, and an annual two-day two-evening fly fishing fundamentals course for beginners. Special seminars and workshops focus on methods for specific waters, for example still water fishing and beach fishing. The club has a valuable library of books and DVDs available for loaning to members. Club fishouts are held between March and October.

Education and Fly Fisher Development in 2023

The Education Committee of Mid Island Castaways is off to a good start in 2023. Late in 2022 we developed and implemented a Fly Casting Skills Development Program modelled after a Fly Fishers International (FFI) program. We have worked on getting as many instructors as possible through four levels of casting competency: foundation, basic, intermediate and advanced. So far we have four instructors who have achieved Level IV, equivalent to FFI’s Gold. They are now able to evaluate club members’ casting skills at all levels. The skill sets represented in this series informs our teaching program. Unstable inclement weather has limited the number of casting clinics for club members this winter. The Club plans to hold two more single hand and three double hand (spey) casting clinics before the end of April. We anticipate offering a spey casting clinic by an FFI Master Casting Instructor in September.

Currently (February and March 2023) the Castaways Club is holding 5-session fly-tying courses on Sunday afternoons for beginners and intermediate fly tyers. Fly-of-the-month sessions are offered on Wednesday evenings of the week following monthly general meetings. One does not need to tie flys to attend. These are informative sessions about fly fishing in general while offering instruction on crafting seasonally relevant fly patterns.

On April 15 we have a master-class tight-line-nymphing instructor teed up to deliver a 5-hour workshop. Also known as contact-nymphing, Euro-nymphing, Czech-nymphing, and French-nymphing, it has developed as an effective technique used by competition fly fishers. The course involves two on-the-water sessions and a classroom session. Application forms will be available at the Qualicum Beach fly shop on about March 10.

In May we will offer a two-day, two-evening comprehensive course called ‘Introduction to Fly Fishing on Vancouver Island’. The course is for beginners and fly fishers who are new to the area. Class size is limited to twenty-two seats. Course modules include: fly fishing equipment; fishing knots; fly casting; Vancouver Island fish and where to find them; what fish eat and flies to catch them; staying safe while fly fishing; and ethics, etiquette and regulations. Students participate in an evening field trip to a local river where they learn about stream ecology, seine for aquatic invertebrates, and the anatomy of a trout stream. A supplemental fly casting clinic is offered on the second evening session. The Club provides fully equipped 5 or 6 wt fly rods for casting lessons. In 2018 the Castaways published a manual for the course. An updated new edition is nearly complete and will be available to members before the introductory course. Applications for the course will be available at the Qualicum Beach Fly shop by the first of April.

In June we are planning to offer a course on fishing for pink salmon. This workshop will address beach and river fishing, equipment needs, techniques, and where and when to go fishing. Pink salmon begin to return about mid July and instructors want teaching commitments completed so they are free to go fishing for the summer. The club is hoping to offer a workshop on fly fishing for sea-run cutthroat trout in November.

Finally, a Fly Fishing Watercraft Show is scheduled for the general meeting on March 21. Meetings are held at the Qualicum Beach Community Hall, located at the corner of Memorial Drive and Veterans Way. Start time is 7:00 PM, doors open at 6:30. Guests are welcome. Come and check us out.

Announcements of all events are made by email to members of the club. The membership application form and fee instructions can be found at: