Brian Chan: Fly Rod and Reel’s 2016 Angler of the Year

2016 Angler of the Year: Brian Chan. Like Penn and Teller, who demonstrate how magic works without tarnishing its luster, Chan shares innovative stillwater methods that make the entire experience more rewarding, turning his secrets into our success. Degree in hand, he returned to Kamloops and worked as a fisheries biologist for 29 years. In those days 70 percent of license sales went back into fisheries-related projects. Brian has had a major influence on the stillwater scene and continues to influence nearly anyone who fishes stillwaters. What separates Brian from many so-called experts is that he fishes a lot, and his patterns and techniques are born on the water.” While Chan is humble about his contributions, there is little doubt his influence fuels the Society’s efforts and has led to growth in British Columbia’s fishing ranks, especially on its interior lakes. It’s really rewarding to hear from anglers about their successes and to think I might have contributed to that in a small way.” The changing seasons frame Brian Chan’s year. But British Columbia’s interior lakes keep him busiest, and from ice-off to freeze-up he often can be found on the waters around Kamloops, perhaps guiding, perhaps fun-fishing with family or friends. When we arrived at a predetermined lake, Chan was already on the water fishing. That’s Chan’s magic: making a stranger feel like a friend and turning a child into the best angler around.
Brian Chan Fishing
Brian Chan gets as much satisfaction from others landing fish as he would if he brought a nice British Columbia rainbow to his own hand.
Photographs by Geoff Moore

Lakes puzzle me. Sure, I can troll randomly and find a fish or two, but to get a lake dialed and turn it into a consistent producer? That’s magic I don’t possess.

Enter Brian Chan, British Columbia’s soft-spoken and affable stillwater magician. Like Penn and Teller, who demonstrate how magic works without tarnishing its luster, Chan shares innovative stillwater methods that make the entire experience more rewarding, turning his secrets into our success.

And now, at 63, he has performed this act for five decades.

Chan understood early on what he wanted in life, a path his father charted by introducing Chan to the outdoors, taking him salmon fishing on the salt water outside of Vancouver. By the time Chan was in fourth grade, his parents also had a solid idea of what their son might become. In fact, that year Chan told his parents exactly what he wanted to be: “I wrote a little paragraph saying that I wanted to be an ichthyologist,” Chan said. “My mom still has that paragraph.”

Chan’s interest in stillwaters began soon after when his father took him and one of his friends to a Vancouver-area lake. Chan’s father sat in the car and read a newspaper while the boys fished in the rain.

Brian Chan in Boat
Chan trolls back to the launch after a great day on one of southern British Columbia’s fertile inland lakes—a lake, in fact, that Chan created through acquiring water rights and then flooding. Today this lake entertains with rainbows that range from two to seven pounds.

“That’s when I caught my very first trout,” Chan said of the tired old brood-stock hatchery rainbow he landed that day, youthful enthusiasm still evident in his voice. “Dew worm under a red-and-white plastic float. I can still see that float go down. That’s probably why I love indicator fishing so much.”

That was a memorable experience, but it wasn’t until Chan took a trip to British Columbia’s interior-lakes region that he realized the lifelong path. “Some family friends took me to fish Heffley Lake, near Kamloops, when I was about 10,” he said. “We caught rainbow trout, and I remember they were just beautiful. Right then I knew that’s where I wanted to live.” It would take years but, with eyes firmly fixed on those rainbows, eventually Chan would get there.

After graduating from high school, Chan enrolled in the British Columbia Institute of Technology and completed its Wildlife Technology program. After graduation he explored BC’s central coast while working for Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Still, the interior-lake country pulled at his core.

“I was living in Bella Coola,” Chan said, “but I wanted to live in Kamloops so I could fish those lakes.” To get there he hired on as a fisheries technician in Kamloops. Eventually he took leave from those duties and earned a bachelor’s degree in freshwater ecology from Simon Fraser University. Degree in hand, he returned to Kamloops and worked as a fisheries biologist for 29 years.

During that time he met legendary interior-lakes angler Jack Shaw, who quickly became his mentor, which makes it no surprise that Chan’s name is deeply associated with fishing British Columbia lakes with chironomids.

He never wants the limelight, and he’s very humble. But he’s the heart and soul of BC lake fishing . . . . He always has time to talk to people and answer their questions. —Mike Mitchell

“I learned a lot from Jack,” Chan said. “He really taught me the value of chironomids to the fly fisher. Back then chironomid fishing was Type II…

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