The sports fishing industry in British Columbia in Canada is worth $700 million a year, with no expense is spared to make guests' stays comfortable and, of course, to ensure that they come back. On my tour of five different lodges for Nitedine.com magazine, I found a common theme, but differing approaches taken by each of them. These ranged from the extreme casual style (which I favor) to the far more structured, corporate style that appeals to many of our readers.
The season generally lasts from early May until October and is very loosely split into three periods. April through June provides the big Chinook salmon and glorious fishing opportunities; July and August are popular for family adventures with fishing, hiking, kayaking etc.; and September/October is the time to see the salmon runs with the emergence of the foraging grizzly bears and the changing of the season. We went in September and were fortunate to be fishing in rivers of all shapes and sizes, all fully stocked with salmon, returning to spawning grounds and the end of their natural lives. This is the time when the bears and other creatures come down to the rivers to stock their bellies in preparation for the long winter hibernation. It is also a long winter of waiting for the fisherman as they eagerly anticipate the spring when hordes of Chinook make their way down from the big fish rivers like the Skeena, Bella Coola and Nass.
So responding to the demand from anglers, tourists and adventure seekers, many lodges and hotels have sprung up, but the following five are among the country's top ten, some having prices to match. Celebrities such as Kevin Costner, Richard Branson, Anthony Hopkins and many more are regulars each season, as are politicians such as George Bush senior and former vice-president Dan Quayle. The common theme we discovered was the helpful and knowledgeable young staff who work the resorts in the summer, be they guide, fishing expert, boat driver, helicopter pilot, chef, waitress or kitchen assistant. In fact, Quayle was staying at King Pacific Lodge with us, but more about that later.
Another common theme about these lodges is the overall quality of the food, prepared by some of the hottest chefs in British Columbia. Since the guests are pretty much isolated from the rest of civilization, the food has to be of a sufficient quality to satisfy the most demanding of them. Local produce is paramount to complement the skills of the chefs who sometimes have to work in cramped conditions, using seasonal staff. British Columbia wines have also come a long way in the last ten years, mainly due to the fact that the local vineyards have been invaded by Australians and New Zealanders, who have brought their experience and expertise to Canada. This skill is reflected now in the excellent quality and variety to be found, rendering the region one of the fastest growing wine areas in the world today.
We recommend you stay at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel as a base for visiting these lodges. With some of these flights on small planes leaving only once a day, and in some cases early in the morning, the hotel's easy access to the airport is invaluable. If you need to keep extra luggage at the hotel then they will store it for you, because a lot of the small aircraft and float have quite severe luggage restrictions. Call the local carrier before setting off to find out about these restrictions The Fairmont's restaurant, 900 West, is of above average quality especially in it's selection of soups and is open until 11.00 p.m. After a recent $65 million, seven years restoration project, the Fairmont is again an excellent choice. A limousine to the city is available for about $40 Canadian, whisking you there in no time at all to enjoy one of the most interesting cities in the world.
200-1676 Duranleau Street, Granville Island, Vancouver V6H 3S4
April Point Resort - Campbell River, British Columbia
Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts - Tofino, British Columbia
Nimmo Bay - Port McNeill, British Columbia
King Pacific Lodge - Princess Royal Island, British Columbia
Mike Hepworth, October 2002