STEWART, Dave




Author Tags: Fishing

DATE OF BIRTH: July 1, 1919

DATE OF DEATH: November 4, 2005

PLACE OF BIRTH: Revelstoke

EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Railroad telegrapher, dispatcher, commercial fisherman. Media producer: The Last Casts, Stewart Audiovisuals, 1994.
Contributor to British Columbia Game Fish, Western Fish & Game Magazine, 1970
A Cutthroat Collection, Special Interest Publications, 1984.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Exploring British Columbia Waterways, Saltaire Publishing, 1976
Okanagan Backroads Vol. 1, 1973
Okanagan Backroads Vol. 2, 1973

[BCBW 2005] "Fishing"

Remembering Dave Stewart (by Bob Jones)
Obituary (2005)



Dave Stewart, one of British Columbia's best known and most beloved outdoor writers, departed for the Happy Fishing Grounds on 4 November 2004. Born in Revelstoke on 1 July 1919, Dave was raised on a homestead at Craigellachie, overlooking the Thompson River, where his father had a horse logging operation. The first fish he recalls catching was a tiny cutthroat trout from nearby Gorge Creek. He was four years old.

A railway telegrapher and train dispatcher for over 30 years, Dave also did stints as a truck driver, professional musician, commercial fisherman, writer, editor and photographer. With thousands of magazine and newspaper articles to his credit, he was one of the most prolific writers in Canada.

Dave's writing career started in early 1953 with an outdoor column in the Nelson Daily News, then the Revelstoke Review when he was transferred to that town with the railroad. He started writing for outdoor magazines, and editors snapped up his material because he obviously knew what he was writing about. Over the years he also wrote for fiction, general interest and trade magazines, and even sold a story to True Romances "just to see if I could do it."

Dave started writing for Northwest Digest when the late Art Downs was publishing it in Quesnel. This was about the time its name changed from the Cariboo Digest. It later became B.C. Digest, then BC Outdoors, where he was on staff until reaching age 65. He continued freelancing and moved his popular Last Cast column to Island Fisherman in 2002.

Dave and Joyce Albiston were married in 1939, and raised a family of five: sons David, Gary, Wayne and Ian, and daughter Robyn. Joyce succumbed to Alzheimer's disease in the early 1990s. Dave spent his remaining years at Skull Flats, near Savona, with his companion, Elizabeth, who shared his love of writing, fishing, hunting and the outdoors.

A memorial service was held on 13 November 2004, and Dave's ashes were scattered on the banks of his beloved Thompson River. He left specific instructions that they be scattered on the bank and not in the water, as he didn't want to go through Hell's Gate.

He will truly be missed.

[by Bob Jones, Island Fisherman Magazine, March, 2005]


PROFILE OF DAVE STEWART
Article (April 1993)



PROFILE: DAVE STEWART

by Bob Jones

Unlike cowboy singer Hank Snow, outdoor writer Dave Stewart doesn't lay claim to having been everywhere, but he has certainly taken a good stab at it. It is doubtful whether anyone can match his travels on the highways, secondary roads, back roads and goat trails of our province, much of it in pursuit of information for the readers of BC Outdoors.

During the interview for this profile, Dave said, "I've lived all over southern B.C. Mostly the Interior when I was working for the Canadian Pacific Railway -- Revelstoke, Nelson, Sicamous, Salmon Arm, Penticton, Elko." As it turned out, this was only a partial list.

A railway telegrapher and train dispatcher for over 30 years, Dave also did stints as a truck driver, professional musician, commercial fisherman, writer, editor and photographer. In fact, with thousands of articles to his credit, he is probably one of the most prolific writers in Canada.

Born in Revelstoke on July 1st, 1919, Dave was raised on a homestead at Craigellachie, where his father had a horse logging operation. The first fish he recalls catching was a tiny cutthroat from nearby Gorge Creek. "I'd be about four years old. I had Dad's fly rod, and remember quite vividly this little fish bouncing around on the end of my line. I was so excited I fell in the creek -- something I did many, many times in the years to follow."

The Stewart family then moved to a couple of communities that no longer exist: Taft, eight km east of Craigellachie, followed by Albert Canyon, 40 km east of Revelstoke. They finally located in Walhachin, where Dave first met Joyce Albiston at school.

After completing Grade 8, Dave quit school and "rode the rails" to wherever work was available -- east to harvest grain in the Prairies, then west to unload fish packers on the coast. "I drove trucks through the '30s, mostly hauling ranch crops to Vancouver. The Fraser Canyon was quite a thrill in those days, and the trucks were absolutely ridiculous. They had mechanical brakes, which meant you could slow down a bit if it was level, but going downhill you wanted gears, and lots of them."

In addition to working, Dave taught himself Morse code and memorized the contents of the railway rule book. It finally led to his being hired by the CPR in 1938. A year later he married Joyce, and they eventually raised a family of five: sons David, Gary, Wayne and Ian, and daughter Robyn.

After various moves as a telegrapher, Dave went to Revelstoke as a relief dispatcher in 1949. "That lasted a year, then from '50 to '54 I was in Nelson, then went back to Revelstoke until the end of '59. I eventually ended up in Penticton for 15 years.

"I fished everywhere we went -- it was automatic. If I was considering a job, I also looked a what was around for fishing. I fished the Shuswap when it was loaded with fish, but that didn't last long. It was really going downhill by the early '50s."

Dave's writing career started in early 1953. "The Nelson Daily News had an outdoor column that I really liked, but every once in a while there would be some silly blooper that made me wonder what was wrong with the guy writing it. Finally, one column was so bad I couldn't stand it. It described how one of Nelson's more prominent lawyers had been fishing for big Gerrard rainbows above the Marblehead -- where fishing had been closed for God knows how long! When the trout wouldn't bite his fly, he took his big landing net and scooped out two of the biggest ones -- 20 pounds or more. And this was written like he had really accomplished something."

Dave went to the newspaper office to confront the editor, and was shocked to discover the outdoor columnist was a young woman barely out of high school. The editor, pleading ignorance of anything to do with fishing or hunting, suggested that Dave should consider writing the outdoor column. At the time, Dave laughed it off, but after giving it a few days thought, accepted the challenge. "I only wrote a dozen columns at most, then we moved back to Revelstoke. I figured that was the end of it, but Harvard Lundell, the publisher and editor of the Revelstoke Review, looked me up and said, 'I read your stuff in the Nelson Daily News and liked it. Will you give us a column?'

"After writing that column for about six months, I decided to try my hand at a magazine article. At the time I was a great reader of True magazine, so I sat down, wrote a story and mailed it off. They sent me a cheque for three hundred bucks! That's what I made in a month as a train dispatcher. That's when I decided I was in the wrong business."

Dave wrote more articles and they continued to sell. Although untrained as a writer, editors snapped up his output because he obviously knew what he was writing about. He had not been at it too long when an editor requested 100 black and white action photographs to accompany a story about winter steelheading. After trying various sources for photographs, Dave had seen hundreds of nothing but "clutch 'n grin" shots -- anglers standing with a dead steelhead hanging from each hand, usually in front of a tackle shop. He ended up losing that particular sale, but it forced him into buying a camera and learning the basics of action photography.

As time passed, Dave expanded into other magazine markets. There were some interesting challenges and he tried most, including fiction, general interest and trade publications, even one to True Romances "just to see if I could do it."

He started writing off and on for Northwest Digest when Art Downs was publishing it in Quesnel. "It started out as the Cariboo Digest and became Northwest Digest about the time I first sold to it. Then it became B.C. Digest, then BC Outdoors."

In 1967, at the age of 48, Dave was dissatisfied with the railway, so he cashed in his pension and bought a commercial troller. "I started fishing off the west coast of Vancouver Island in 1968 -- Nootka, Nuchatlitz and Esperanza Inlet -- and survived for five years. 'Survived' is the key word. As soon as I'd get home, I'd look for a job with the railway, which was fairly easy to find in those days."

Dave enjoyed commercial fishing and would have stayed with it, but a severe leg injury just before the 1972 commercial opening forced him into three different hospitals for treatments, which kept him off the water for the entire season. Having lost the boat, he went back to work for the railway in Penticton until 1974.

"I wrote quite a bit in 1974 -- for 27 different magazines in all. I got to thinking I might actually be able to make a living at writing, so I tried it through '74 and the handwriting was on the wall. I think I brought in $9,000 and it cost me $4,800 to do it. Obviously, we weren't going to live on that.

"In January of '75, Gary phoned from Africa. He went there as a teacher with CUSO in 1967. He and Brenda were there ten years, working in Uganda, Botswana and Lesotho. We hadn't seen our granddaughters at the time, so Gary urged us to go over and visit them. He even offered to pay our way. I told him I'd think about it and phone back."

The following day, Dave telephoned a tugboat company operating in the north and offered his services as a telegrapher. He was told to report in as quickly as possible. Dave phoned his son and assured him that they would be over as soon as the job was finished.

"I went north and worked on the Athabaska run for a while, then to Hudson Bay. It was a bit strenuous -- I was getting a little old for that kind of nonsense -- but it was interesting and I made a good stake."

An incident from that period still rankles Dave. "We were anchored in Baker Lake a few days. You could look over the side of the tug and see swarms of big cisco, and lake trout of seven or eight pounds. Three commercial fishermen from Newfoundland were there, hired by Federal Fisheries to teach the Inuit how to gill net Arctic char and lake trout. They bought those people nets and 25-foot canoes, then taught them how to use them. I couldn't believe it.
"I wrote to Ottawa and said it was the most short-sighted program ever conceived. To start with, any fish that weren't handled right away ended up as dog food. I wrote that if they had taken the same money and given the Inuit canoes and camping outfits, they could have taken out sport fishermen and made more money from a very few fish than from netting two or three thousand, 90 per cent of which would end up as dog food. I didn't get an answer, which is typical of the stupid bureaucracy."

When his job ended, Dave returned home and made arrangements to leave for Africa. "I had written six fairly involved features for magazines I'd sold to before. Two in the States and four in Canada. The last thing I did before we left was fire them off in the mail. We left for Lesotho, Africa, in November and stayed until February. We toured a fair bit, and caught fish pretty well wherever we went. Mostly tilapia, catfish and tiger fish. The tigers were probably the hardest-fighting fish I've ever caught in my life.

"They weren't big -- the largest might have been three pounds. I remember one time I was fishing from a floating log, with my right arm hooked around the fork of a tree to keep my balance. There were plenty of crocodiles around, so you didn't really want to fall in. I was flipping out a little spoon with my left hand when this tigerfish got on. By the time I got my right arm down to start reeling, the fish was racing on a loose line, then it turned and came straight toward me like a shot. It jumped and went right through the tree fork I'd been hanging onto, and left the hook stuck in the bark. In order to do that, it had to jump at least seven feet straight up.

"Tigerfish are such pretty fish, too, but no good to eat. We kept six from the first bunch we caught, all about two pounds. I filleted and skinned them, then fried them up. They tasted like blotting paper.

"All told, we traveled about 5,000 km, then flew home from Malawi. I expected to find six cheques in mail waiting to be cashed, but all six stories had been rejected. That shook me up because I'd always been so damned lucky -- I'd sold hundreds without a rejection in the bunch."

Dave managed the Penticton Handicapped Workshop for a while, then took a job with the CPR in Ladysmith, on Vancouver Island. That lasted until 1977, when he started working for BC Outdoors as a contract writer, then as the Field Editor. Since retiring at age 65 in 1984, Dave has continued writing and has shown no inclination to quit.

Shortly before Dave's retirement, Joyce started showing signs of what was eventually diagnosed as Alzheimer's disease. Although she was able to accompany him on trips to Mexico, Australia and New Zealand, her condition gradually worsened. They eventually moved to Nanaimo, where their son Gary and his wife, Brenda, could lend assistance with Joyce's care. Then as a result of Dave's asthmatic condition and the stress of caring for Joyce, his health deteriorated to the point where he had to undergo heart surgery in 1988. Joyce was finally placed in extended care in 1989.

Thanks to a pacemaker and a stainless steel valve in his aorta, Dave's health is good and he continues to fish avidly. However, he does admit to being a bit more selective about the time and location. When the urge strikes, he doesn't have far to go, for he now lives in a comfortable home near Savona. From his front porch he can look across the Thompson River to Walhachin, and just a few paces away is a trail leading down down the steep, sandy bank. Dave first made that trail in 1935, when he and his father used to fish the Thompson.

As the interview drew to a close, Dave was asked to name his favourite fish. "It's pretty hard to beat coho, but for freshwater I'd say Thompson River rainbow are very vital, powerful fish. Very hard to beat. I haven't caught a Thompson steelhead for years. There are so few I refuse to bother them. If it was up to me, I'd shut the river right down and leave it for a while.

"I love winter springs, too. Man alive, they are beautiful fish. But I've got arthritis in both hands now, so it's too painful to be out there in that cold weather trying to hang onto a rod.

"I've also had a lot of fun and excitement with largemouth bass over the years. That Creston area has some of the best bass fishing imaginable. The largest I ever weighed out of Duck Lake was 10 pounds, and that was taken on a fly rod. Dolly Varden, bull trout, cutthroat, sturgeon -- I guess I love anything with fins.

"What bothers me most is we've got such a beautiful bloody country here, but we're losing it too rapidly to suit me. One of these days people will wake up and realize that we can't keep tearing it down, cutting it up and ripping it apart. It would be nice if we could solve all the problems of Canada, but let's solve B.C.'s problems first."

Trying to chronicle Dave's exploits within the confines of a single magazine article proved impossible; however, readers of "Last Cast" will be pleased to know he is presently working on his autobiography. It might well equal the Encyclopedia Britannica when completed, but I can guarantee it will be interesting, exciting and well-laced with the type of humour that has made Dave Stewart one of British Columbia's most popular writers.