TV personality and angler Don Freschi was born and raised in Trail, British Columbia, and has fished waterways around the world. His favourite? The Columbia River of course. By Will Johnson.
According to Don Freschi, nothing beats the Columbia River.
The veteran sport fisherman has been throwing lines into the choicest waterways all over the world for decades, hosting his show “Sport Fishing on the Fly,” but if you ask him where the best place to fish in the Kootenays is, he won’t even hesitate. “The whole Columbia River is a world-class fishery,” he said. “And the only way to approach the Columbia is on a boat. There are some who work from shore, but in my opinion the best way is by boat — I’ve got a 20-foot Kingfisher and the ideal is me, out there by myself.”
The Trail, British Columbia, native has been working the local streams and creeks since the early 1990s, teaming up with other anglers such as Grant Fines, Brian Chan, Dwyane D’Andrea and his brother Dale. And for a significant part of that time, his favourite hobby has been broadcast to the masses on channels such as Shaw Cable and CHEK TV.
“It all started when I promised to show my good buddy Grant Fines how to fly fish if he showed me how to work a camera and edit film clips. We then decided to film our fishing adventures and edit some shows together for fun,” he said. “Shaw Cable liked the shows we compiled, aired them locally, and the rest is history.”
Freschi’s show has been on the air for over 20 years now and he’s featured waters all over the world but he keeps coming back to the Columbia, which has gone through upheaval in the past century. Fourteen major dams now block the path of the steelhead and chinook salmon that used to return to these waters and spawn, a primary food source for the First Nations bands who lived along its shores.
Despite all the development on and in the mighty river, there’s still plenty to catch and Don’s kept busy. But the fact is, even when he’s working, it doesn’t feel like work. Though he has three different businesses and churns out regular content for his YouTube channel and website, as soon as he gets on the water things feel serene. It’s his job to be in routine relationship with something much more powerful than him, the river, and it’s while working on its surface he feels most calm. “It’s my time to wind down. My mind goes blank,” he said.
Freschi’s job has gotten a little easier since the ’90s, when he had to lug around burdensome camera equipment and use a helicopter to get certain shots. These days, with social media, iPhones and drones, the filming process has gotten a lot simpler — even while nuances of the business side of things keep him busy trying to stay with the times. “Back in the ’90s it was easy to get sponsors because TV was it, but now with social media the whole dynamic has changed radically,” he said. “It is much harder to sign sponsors now because of all the advertising options available.”
To get advertisers, he needs viewers. But to get viewers, first he has to land the fish. His most memorable catch was, of course, on the Columbia. “One spring I landed one of the largest rainbow trout of my life. It was a whopping 14 pounds and fought just like a steelhead. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Freschi draws the line at ice fishing, however. It’s simply too cold. That’s why he spends time catching fish in more southern climes during the winter months. (He was in Hawaii for this interview.)
Looking back, he’s got nothing but gratitude for all the experiences he’s had since embarking on his first fishing trips with his brother at the age of six. He’s fished in Cuba, Belize, Nicaragua, all over North America and in many European countries. “It’s just been a lifetime of amazing memories, starting with my brother dragging me down all these little creeks,” he said. ” I should’ve drowned 100 times. But here I am.”