Rediscovered slides image Roderick Haig-Brown in his element – ​​Campbell River Mirror

By Neil Cameron,

Special at the Mirror

In 1954, a 28-year-old man from Eau Claire Wisconsin came to Campbell River to fulfill a desire to fish the river of his dreams.

Van Gorman Egan, like many anglers around the world, had been captivated by the writings of Roderick Haig-Brown. By this time, Haig-Brown had become an international sensation with books like Silver, The Western Angler, A River Never Sleeps, Measure of the Year, and Panther.

Haig-Brown lived on the banks of the Campbell River, calling his home Above Tide and the river his “native river”. He wrote about fishing at the Campbell in Fisherman’s Spring which was published in 1951. The Campbell River was, for fly anglers, one of the Meccas of the sport.

Egan was ecstatic when he started fishing in the river’s famous Sandy Pool just below the Forest Bridge that day in July. How much more ecstatic was he when Haig-Brown himself came up behind him, holding out the fly that Egan had accidentally snapped on the shore?

Star struck, Egan accepted the fly and an invitation to lunch at Haig-Brown. He was no doubt eager to tell his friends in Wisconsin that he had met and had lunch with the Master.

But would they believe it? In fact, was he just dreaming of his good fortune? He needed a little proof and probably shyly asked if he could take Haig-Brown’s picture. Haig-Brown agreed and Egan took a photo of himself standing on the lawn with the Campbell River in the background.

The following year Egan returned to Campbell River, and this time Haig-Brown invited Van to fish with him in the Elk River at the head of Upper Campbell Lake. In fact, fish with the master!

How cool that must have been. During this August day, the two sent their flies in search of trout along the pristine river. At one point, Haig-Brown climbed some rocks in the canyon and looked down at the river. It was a poignant moment, because that year rising water levels from BC Hydro dams would virtually wipe out the lower sections of the Elk and completely flood the Buttle River.

At that moment, as Haig-Brown pondered the impending devastation, a faint click from a 35mm single-lens reflex camera could barely be heard above the sound of the river.

This photo and the other of Haig-Brown from the previous year were taken on color film. Egan arranged them in a carousel of slides titled “First VI Trips – 1954,1955”.

Van Egan moved to Campbell River soon after, buying his own house on the banks of the Campbell River just upstream from Haig-Brown’s. He became a highly regarded teacher at Carihi and wrote several books on fishing, including Tyee: The Story of the Tyee Club of British Columbia, The River Series, and Shadows of the Western Angler, a tribute to Haig-Brown on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Van Egan died in July 2010.

The slides have never been printed and in all respects have never been published before. The Campbell River Museum has probably the most comprehensive collection of Haig-Brown images and executive director Sandra Parrish said, “No, I haven’t seen those photographs of Roderick and I really think they should be added to the archives here. »

Other members of the BC fly fishing fraternity very familiar with the Haig-Brown legacy, including Art Lingren, author of Roderick Haig-Brown’s Fly Patterns and several other fly fishing books the fly, had also never seen the images.

Perhaps the biggest key to their exclusivity is that Haig-Brown’s son Alan and daughter Valerie have never seen them either.

Alan wrote in an email: “I have never seen them before. I think the one with the Campbell River is at the foot of the lawn at Above Tide, as the tree in the background, although now gone, was quite distinctive.

Valerie agreed.

“I’ve never seen them before,” she wrote. “The second is at the bottom of the lawn before there are houses across the river. Thanks for sending them. They’re taking me back.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Campbell River Fishing

Comments are closed.