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The ultimate Whistler fish story

Father's Day Fishing celebration casts historical activity into the future



It isn't one of the big three today in Whistler but back in 1914 it was the big one. Fishing was the tourist draw when Alex and Myrtle Philip opened Rainbow Lodge and set Whistler on its tourism path.

While the big draws now are skiing and snowboarding, mountain bike riding and golf, Whistler's original recreational pursuit is still big business. At least 14 guides are currently offering their services to visitors searching for a fishing adventure in or near Whistler.

And every Father's Day Whistler is reminded of its fishing roots as Dads and kids take to the waters of Alta Lake for the annual fishing celebration.

Back in 1914 anglers looking for a great new fishing adventure gave Whistler its start as a destination resort.

This fish story begins on the deck of the Rainbow Lodge on the quiet shore of Summit Lake, or Alta Lake, as we know it now.

In the legendary angling days of the early 1900s a resident named J. Bailiff was monitoring the fish stocks in Whistler. He wrote an article entitled "History of Alta Lake" on June 1, 1956 and in it he describes the local topography, climate, trails, wildlife and more.

On the topic of fish in the local lakes in the early 1900s Bailiff wrote: "The lakes were all full of Cutthroat trout when the white man came and I've seen the lake rippling all over in the evening with the fish feeding on the insects that were dropping from the trees. One a pound in weight was a good size one then, although I've seen Char or Dolly Varden run up to five and six pounds. You could catch all you wanted in a few minutes and I've seen them grab a bare hook. I've seen a man catch fifty in an hour and take them home and smoke them."

Eric Crowe, a Whistler resident who came here to live in 1981 with a collection of Ontario fish stories, is passionate about the history of fish. He is known locally as the fish detective.

Crowe fishes less now than he did when he first came to live in Whistler but he still loves the story of fishing in the valley and Bailiff's musings are of great interest to him.

By sifting through historical documents, reviewing fishing literature, conversing with scholars, reading research papers and just plain taking an interest in fish ecology, Crowe has educated himself about the fish species in the lakes of Whistler.

When Alex and Myrtle Philip and Texan John Millar, the trapper who introduced Alex to Summit Lake, fished the local lakes in the early 1900s Crowe believes they were mainly catching Cutthroat.