6 Things You May Not Know about the Tyee Club

By: Erika Anderson from the Museum at Campbell River 

In late-summer at dawn and dusk, the waters off Tyee Spit become all the more picturesque as the sleek Tyee boats row silently on the water.  Evenings are my favourite, when you can grab a picnic and bring it to “the Spit” and sit on a piece of driftwood, watching the silhouettes of the fishermen and rowers against the sunset.  Established in 1924, the Tyee Club is an internationally-recognized organization, with membership restricted to those that land a Tyee salmon – a Spring salmon weighing over 30 pounds, following a strict set of rules.  

https://www.instagram.com/p/BJ8HkBmgdve/?taken-by=markiexo

Here are six interesting things about the history of this prestigious club that you may not know:

  1. For the most part, the rules have stayed constant since the beginnings of the Club.  No motors, maximum 25 pound test line, artificial lure and a single hook. Today the hooks must be barbless.  The fisherman must land the fish unassisted. Other official rules include no shooting of Tyee, no harpoons & no help from seals in the dispatching of salmon.
  2. The yearbook for the Tyee Club for 1927-1928 describes their guides “No finer type of guide for fishing exists in any place in the world than we have in the Tyee Club.  They are big, square, outdoor, grown-up boys, and they take as much pleasure in their part of the game as we do ourselves.” Over the years the description in the yearbook changed, and by the ‘50s the guides were no longer described as big, square, grown-up boys: but the part about enjoying their jobs never changed.
CRM 11052 Courtesy of Museum at Campbell River, Guide Herbert Pidcock transports one of his guests from one Tyee boat to another
CRM 11052 Courtesy of Museum at Campbell River, Guide Herbert Pidcock transports one of his guests from one Tyee boat to another

3. The Painter (Tyee) Boat was developed in Campbell River by Ned Painter.   He set up his boat-building shop on Tyee Spit in 1923. Painter would build 40 to 60 boats per year to rent to visiting fishermen, or to sell.  In 1974 Dr. Richard (Dick) Murphy, and Ned Painter’s son Joe, made a mold of Murphy’s wooden Painter boat. Most of the boats you see on the water today are fiberglass copies made from this mold.

CRM 20282-22 Courtesy of Museum at Campbell River Painter boats lined up on Tyee Spit
CRM 20282-22 Courtesy of Museum at Campbell River Painter boats lined up on Tyee Spit

4. The Tyee Club made international news in 1931 when the King & Queen of Siam, and their entourage, came to Campbell River.  The King fished every possible evening and early morning, with the Queen also making several attempts however, despite catching many salmon, the elusive tyee evaded them.  The King’s cousin, 15-year old Prince Chiraskati, however had better luck. The Prince landed a 35-lb tyee, making him the only member of the Royal Party to join the Tyee Club.

CRM 11000 Courtesy Museum at Campbell River – Herbert Pidcock fishing with the King of Siam
CRM 11000 Courtesy Museum at Campbell River – Herbert Pidcock fishing with the King of Siam

5. Many have tried to buy their way into the Tyee Club over the years, or even bend the rules, and all have failed.  The lifetime membership into this exclusive Club must be earned. A newspaper headline in the Campbell River Courier in 1964 read “Small Girl – Big Fish” and had a photograph of eight year old Patricia Hughes with the 73.5lb fish she caught in Frenchman’s Pool.  Patricia was not admitted to the Club that day, as her father had to help her reel in the record-setting Tyee. According to the rules, the fisherman, or woman, must bring the fish in unassisted.

Photo from Courier Islander
Photo from Courier Islander

6. The guides have always been, and will always be, the key to a successful day of fishing.  Some days the fish didn’t bite, but the mutual respect and friendship that developed between fisherman and guide could ensure a good day on the water regardless.  “If the guide has a few good stories there was never a bad day on the water”, explains Tyee fisherman and guide of 35 years, Norm Lee.