Lately I’ve been thinking, How do I rate so high? That’s because I’ve enjoyed three trips of a lifetime in just a couple months, one on Oregon’s Deschutes River for steelhead; another on Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula for Atlantic salmon; and just recently, from October 4 through 10, flying around in a five-seat Astar helicopter in British Columbia, landing on remote streams to cast flies for coho salmon, sea-run cutthroat trout and dolly varden char. That I also threw for black sea bass and rockfish in the saltwater was icing on the cake.
I got an invite to visit Nimmo Bay Wilderness Adventures last April and after talking to the lodge managers and lookingat their Web site, www.nimmobay.com, I made it one of the two top priority trips for the year.
What was there not to be excited about? The lodge looked super comfortable and beautiful; the streams and the fish looked awesome; and Nimmo Bay rested in an area of the Pacific Northwest coast that I hadn’t visited, in the Brighton Archipelago east of Port Hardy and the north tip of Vancouver Island. This is the land of coastal Indian mythology, spirit bears, grizzly bears, scads of Pacific salmon, and the deep Sitka spruce forests that I frequented in my youth. Returning to the Northwest coast, to explore the tucked away inlets and bays, and to do so by air and sea, was a return to some of the best memories of life, an opportunity to breath in the northern temperate rainforest and the peace I find there.
I found all that I thought I might during the visit, along with super-low water conditions and spooky fish that didn’t like seeing a fly line whipping over their heads. We used stealth, we fished downstream on pods, allowing the fly to reach the fish before the line, but those cohos were jumpy and they often spooked on the first cast. Typically, however, we’d get one or two fish from each pod, fight them proudly, release them gently, and then get in the West Coast Helicopter to fish another pool on the same river, or we’d fly over a ridge to another streamand start the whole process over.
A major bonus to the trip was the presence of sea-run cutthroat. Not many of us appreciate that fish as we should. It’s a great fighter and willing to the fly. They don’t run large, mostly averaging in the 10 to 15 inch range, but we caught some 17-inchers on this trip, plus many smaller, along with a boatload of dolly varden char. I get the feeling that we could have caught some 20-inch or larger sea-runs if we’d just taken the time and fished the fast water on each run, after throwing for cohos.
On the last day of the trip we motored around in the saltwater, from one kelp bed to another, searching for black sea bass and anything else that might bite. When we found the fish we found them big-time and we could have landed a hundred if we’d chosen to.
We fished streamers and small jigs off sinking lines in 25 feet of water. The water was clean and clear and we could see those bass inspecting our flies. We set the hook when those pink flies disappeared, which meant they were in the mouth of a bass. We caught rock cod, too, and tried for red snapper. We brought up a couple red fish, but they cod, not snappers. Still, it was a blast.
After spending a week at Nimmo Bay I can say it is one of fly fishing’s greatest trips, an opportunity to see some of the wildest country in the Northwest and to fish for multiple species on various rivers, all in a day, with no competition, if you choose. Staying at Nimmo Bay offers the brief sensation that all is good in the world, that people are good, that the landscape is all-important, and that humanity might somehow get its act together and follow Nimmo’s lead someday. That may be wishful thinking, but if moments in life dictate our overall mentalities, how can’t time at Nimmo Bay be some of those most important hours of your life? I’ll go back there, maybe in the spring for steelhead, or maybe in the summer to concentrate on the salt, with its sea-run cutthroat, dolly varden, scads of Pacific salmon, and those rockfish, lingcod and halibut. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll head back to Nimmo to do nothing more than work on a book, because time seems to tick slower at Nimmo, a place where the plugged-in world melts away and we can concentrate on the truly important and enjoyable aspects of life.
Take a look at the photos. Enjoy.