So great Dad and I got to spend quality time together & we sure caught lots of fish.
Every summer my dad and I went on a fishing trip to a salmon fishing lodge in British Columbia, Canada, and it was the highlight of my year. We actually didn’t go on any other fishing trips at all except this one to Canada every July. Dad was busy and travelled a lot with his businesses, and I was occupied with school and all my activities, so this annual BC salmon fishing trip was a very special time. At first, I didn’t really “get” fishing until I realized one day that these fishing trips that my dad took me on were really not about the actual fishing at all. It was about the adventure and the experience. The expectation and anticipation and finally the preparation over the years for our annual BC salmon fishing trip became like a ritual.
We went to many different British Columbia salmon fishing lodges until we found the place, the best fishing lodge in BC and maybe the best fishing lodge in Canada! We will never know for sure when we found the Rivers Inlet Sportsman’s Club, we returned every summer, year after year. It was incredible fishing. Add in the scenery and wildlife, the food, the service, the equipment, the people and comradery. It was an exceptional place, it became familiar, it became our special fishing paradise!
As part of the pre-trip prep, dad and I would go for a salmon lunch, and then do our annual visit to our local tackle shop. It was always a fun experience with all the gear for every type of fishing in all shapes sizes and colours. To be clear, they provide all the tackle and equipment at the Rivers Inlet Sportsman’s Club that is necessary to be successful catching salmon, halibut and lingcod. It is really just all about maintaining your gear meticulously and then being lucky! However, it is still fun to be the “cool kids” and arrive with a “better” (aka more expensive) version of the more than adequate lodge guest gear that the fishing lodge provides. The pursuit of the best fishing gear, tackle, equipment, and all that culture is another story all together for another time.
Simon showing the oh so crucial technique of operating the downrigger that all must master to be successful.
After a few years of going to the Rivers Inlet Sportsman’s Club, we were drawn to the tackle that the guides and customers who have been going there for over 35 years use. Hooks that are a bit sharper and slight variations in the hoochie colour or spoon shade or shape and of course fluorocarbon leaders. Then there are the flashers with every colour that glows and sparkles that you can imagine. Any trick in the book to catch these giant Rivers Inlet Chinook/King salmon. The lodge stocks mostly two types of flashers that cover the field, the “purple haze disco” flasher and the “old school green” that the commercial guys have been using for 50 years to catch Chinook/King salmon. And who doesn’t love the name of the most effect spoon in Rivers Inlet, the “Party Girl”! Simon Kelly, the Director of Fishing at the lodge will tell you that after 38 years of running his family’s BC salmon fishing lodge, he has seen it all. Maybe there might be slight advantage to this fancy gear, a flasher that glows, a darker green or purple hoochie or flasher, but more it is about the enthusiasm created by being interested and excited about the tackle. According to the guides, these slight gear variations keep them inspired through the season of salmon fishing every day. It helps motivate them to keep their gear in perfect condition at all times for the customers in their but also lead the fishing lodge guests by example and create an infectious culture of excellence with their attention to detail. After all, you are in the land of the legendary 100 lbs. Chinook/King salmon that makes Rivers Inlet a world-famous salmon fishing destination. The unique excitement of salmon fishing in Rivers Inlet is that at any moment a 30 lbs. plus tyee Chinook/King salmon could bite your line and you had better be prepared by being absolutely meticulous with your gear preparation and maintenance.
Learning the operation of the boat is essential but the most important detail is the rod & reel & your knots!
The most important part of the experience on your arrival at the lodge is when you step into your assigned, completely rigged Sportsman’s Club fishing boat that you will use exclusively for your entire trip. At the orientation seminar, you are given an overview of the boat and the fishing. Then it is up to you to figure out how it all works to be successful catching fish on your own, self-guided. You have all the tackle, equipment and training that you need to be successful catching salmon, halibut and lingcod. Or you can book a guide for all or part of your fishing lodge trip. The dock hosts back at the lodge are on the front line. They are your go-to for everything to do with the boats, gear and fuel. And the dock hosts also clean & reprovision your boat after every session and even valet your boat at the end of the pier and then park it back in your assigned spot, it feels like at a 5-Star fishing hotel. And they know all about fishing, as most of the eager young dock hosts are training to become a guide one day. Before your departure with the help of the dock hosts, you double check your boat for fuel and all the safety equipment etc. You also ensure that all your electronics, GPS/sounder, radio and bilge pump are working. However, the MOST IMPORTANT THING is to check your knots. Not a quick visual but they teach you to meticulously run your fingers along the line checking for any burs, knicks or inconsistencies in the 30 lbs. test monofilament line. If you see or feel anything, then you replace that section immediately, it has to be perfect. You are taught to pull the knots as hard as you can because if you get a giant Rivers Inlet “hog” on the line, that is what it is going to do! If your line & knots are bullet proof, and you know how to work the boat, equipment and the single action Canadian style “knuckle buster” reel, then after that, hooking into a giant Rivers Inlet Chinook/King salmon is really just plain old luck! It is like a big salmon fishing lottery out there and you have a ticket! I have seen it with my own eyes often in a boat right next to me at the Wall, people using the same fishing technique and getting the big one right before my eyes!
After the spectacular 90 min flight you land & are greeted by your hosts Simon, Stephanie & the enthusiastic staff.
Back to the trip. The flight from Dallas is an easy 4 hours. The stay overnight in Vancouver before your departure to the fishing lodge, which became a big part of the experience. We landed around Noon and went straight to the nearby airport hotel that caters to fisherman. They were very receptive and even gave us a report from the various lodges. They are the ones actually lifting the fish boxes for the in-transit guests into the freezers, so they know. I remember distinctly from our last trip to the Rivers Inlet Sportsman’s Club, that on arrival in the hotel lobby we got the good news from the bellman who actually remembered us from our last BC salmon fishing trip. Fishing was good to excellent at most of the fishing lodges that the hotel caters to. However, the day we arrived at the hotel, a group had just gotten back from nearby Duncanby Lodge and Legacy Lodge in Rivers Inlet. The boxes from the guests coming back from these Rivers Inlet were much heavier than those of the guests coming back from the other BC fishing lodges. After we checked in, we went for a quick bite at our favorite restaurant right on a pier over the river just upstream from where we catch the seaplane. Then, it was off to a nearby golf course which is our fun new tradition. We are not big golfers. In fact, we rarely keep score. It just became part of our British Columbia salmon fishing lodge trip experience. The next morning you head to the nearby Seair Seaplane Terminal, which is on the Fraser River minutes from our Airport Hotel. You actually take off in a seaplane on the river & land right at the floating BC salmon fishing lodge 90 mins later. The flight is breathtaking from start to finish. You leave the busy metropolis of Vancouver & soon all you see out the plane window is just a scattering of population. You fly along the East side of Vancouver Island & the Salish Sea until everything disappears after Port Hardy at the northern tip of Vancouver Island where the road ends. After that, all you see is endless fiords framed by snow-capped mountains & no signs of any civilization whatsoever. You are truly in the in the middle of a pristine area of the Central BC coast known as the “The Great Bear Rainforest and Inside Passage”.
The float plane trip is a truly exciting & spectacular part of the adventure.
After the 90-minute direct flight you first see the fishing lodge as the pilot buzzes over to check that the approach is clear for the water landing. When you arrive at the floating fishing lodge, they literally tie the plane up at the dock! Immediately you are greeted by the enthusiastic staff, get checked in, have lunch, get trained & you are out on the water fishing early afternoon the same day. It is like a fishing “time machine” to the land of plenty, like the good old days.
Over the years the adventures about our fishing trips to Rivers Inlet Sportsman’s Club, the best fishing lodge in BC and the pictures of the whole journey and experience we collected, gave me priceless, incredible memories. A couple of years back at around twelve years old, my sister started to get really interested in the pictures and stories of our BC salmon fishing lodge trip. She had never really seen any images from the trips except the big salmon hanging on the scale back at the fishing lodge. I started to show her the images of all the other parts of the fishing trip, and she was enthralled and so was my mother who had never really taken an interest in a BC salmon fishing trip. At dinner one night, I fired up my Rivers Inlet album and showed my mother and sister, and I actually narrated the entire story of the journey from start to finish. When they saw the first pictures out of the seaplane window of the endless snow-capped mountains that reach down to the sea, they were already hooked.
My Rivers Inlet fishing lodge album was full of all the things we see at the fishing lodge while catching salmon, halibut & lingcod. Whales, eagles, seabirds, seals, sealions, and various other wildlife. Then there are the sunsets, they can be breathtaking, especially when the night bite is on for the big Chinook/King salmon. What a backdrop for posing with your successful evening tyee salmon catch! And that is the magic of Rivers Inlet. Big fish, big adventure & big memories. So now my mother & sister are hooked, and we are all booked for a trip back to the Rivers Inlet Sportsman’s Club in Summer 2022. There are many destinations to go BC salmon fishing and my dad and I tried a few until we found the best fishing lodge in BC, the best fishing lodge in Canada hands down, the Rivers inlet Sportsman’s Club.
Dan James, Denver CO USA