Mo Bradley was standing behind the counter at Surplus Herby’s — his counter — tying flies, telling tales and talking tackle.
On the other side of the counter was a lady, leaning forward as she spoke to Bradley, a copy of Trout School: Lessons from a Fly Fishing Master clutched in her hand, freshly signed by the legendary fishing king.
Stacked on the counter beside Bradley and on a shelf behind him were more copies of the green book written by veteran journalist Mark Hume, with copious input from Bradley. Those stacks lose a bit of height each day as the books are scooped up by fans of fishing and devotees of the man who made the famous Kamloops trout even more famous.
In a nutshell, the book offers tips to those who wish to fish the world-renowned Kamloops-area lakes that harbour trout, details the history of the fabled Kamloops trout and adds plenty of facts about and stories involving Bradley. There are also instructions on how to tie flies, accompanied by illustrations from Nana Cook, an artist from Nanoose Bay.
As April became May, Trout School sat at No. 11 on the BC Bestsellers list of the 15 top-selling books in the province, its third week on the prestigious roster. The book has also made the Amazon bestselling list.
“As long as people are getting a good message out of it and I’m helping fishing in B.C., I don’t care,” Bradley said when asked for his thoughts on the tome’s success.
Bradley, 82, is now visually impaired, so wife Evelyn reads him a chapter per night, words that recount the couple’s decision — thanks to a chance encounter with some Field and Stream magazines — to move here from England and the fishing tales that followed.
“I worked in a coal mine, which is not a good job,” Bradley explained. “And I thought, there’s got to be something better than this.”
He also worked nights as a projectionist in an Odeon theatre.
After a shift at the theatre, Bradley ran into a friend, who invited him to share some fish and chips and mushy peas. There, on the floor, was a stack of the Field and Stream magazines. Bradley asked about them. His friend mentioned he and his wife were thinking about moving to Canada.
Would Bradley and his bride care to join them?
“I said OK,” Bradley recounted. He and Evelyn sold their home and set off for Canada in 1965.
In Winnipeg, they stepped off the train in winter, with Bradley wearing a nylon raincoat.
“It froze the damn thing,” he said. “I crinkled when I walked.”
Upon arriving in Kamloops, a sight for sore eyes greeted the Bradleys — a Woolworth’s store downtown. Back in England, there was a Woolworth’s on practically every street corner.
“I thought, well, this has got to be good,” Bradley said.
Securing a job at a body shop (which was located right where Surplus Herby’s stands today) was followed by Bradley opening his own shop on 12th Street in North Kamloops. And all through those career moves were his trips to the lakes of the region.
Among Trout School’s many stories, tips and revelations is a gem on page 71, on which Hume writes about Bradley’s practise of washing his hands in the lake before touching any fishing gear.
“One part per million,” Bradley said, referring to his lesson to Hume after Hume had pumped gas en route to the lake, that fish can smell the slightest hint of foreign substances. “That’s how the sockeye salmon find their way from the Aleutian Islands to the Adams River — one part per million.”
The faintest foreign odour, Bradley said, be it gasoline, nicotine or garlic sausage, can make for a bad day of fishing on the lake.
Where did he learn that?
“Common sense,” Bradley replied.
For those familiar to fishing and those itching to begin casting, appendix A in Trout School reveals detailed instructions on tying 13 primary flies, from bloodworm and chironomid to leech and Doc Spratley.
As Hume writes in the introduction to appendix A: “There are thousands of fly patterns to choose from, but Mo’s are the essential, foundational flies needed for fishing for Kamloops trout, and learning how to tie them will make you a better fisher.”
Another part of Trout School talks about using solunar tables when fishing. Those who follow solunar tables believe the sun and moon can control the behaviour of fish and other wild animals.
It is not, Bradley said, hocus-pocus, noting the Chinese have used the tables for thousands of years when planning the planting of gardens.
While Hume writes in the book that the Kamloops-area lakes may not yield as hearty a fish as decades gone by, Bradley disagrees.
“The lakes today are better than they’ve ever been,” Bradley said, telling a reporter to wait a moment. He shuffled a few steps to his left and grabbed a smartphone, upon which he produced a photo of a woman holding proudly a 16-pound trout she caught her first time ice fishing this past winter.
Bradley revealed the lake in which it was caught, but the location must remain a mystery to the public, a lesson to be learned by others during Trout School.