By Art Sweet
Vancouver Island is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth and is one reason that Dave Fyfe and partner Brian Gage along with their wives Irene and Kelly chose to put their world class floating lodge here, but the primary reason is for the world class Chinook salmon fishing.
As the fishing begins to subside for these great trophies in the Washington and Oregon river basins, it is just starting to heat up in the Nootka Sound area in June, July, and August. This area seems to be a staging ground for fish headed North and South and has proven year after year to be the place to go for Chinook salmon and lots of them on a daily basis.
Dave and Brian are working owners which mean that they are there at the lodge with you the majority of the time to share in your success and make sure that all of your needs are met. After one trip to the lodge, you will make sure that you are back on a regular basis. As an outdoor writer, we get the opportunity to see a good number of lodges and how they are run. With over twenty years in the business, this is one of the best lodges I have ever seen; from the details prior to your trip with the office staff to the flight out of Campbell River all the way through your return. This is a trip worth doing every single year.
Your trips will start from Campbell River, British Columbia which is on the east side of Vancouver Island. Your four day fishing excursion starts with a short thirty minute float plane ride over the mountains and will drop you into the Nootka Sound on the west side of Vancouver Island. Your air taxi will chauffer you to the dock right at the lodge where you will be greeted by the entire staff and meet your guide for the next four days. Rooms are assigned and each of them has a private bath and a view of the entire bay which is second to none. After unpacking your gear, you will be given an orientation on the procedures of the lodge and how to make the most of your stay while you are served a gourmet lunch. Soon after your lunch, it is off to the water to catch the evening tide and get your first shot at a Nootka Wilderness Lodge Tyee.
This operation is all about quality in the trip and not quantity of the people to drive its success. This is obvious when you step onto the twenty-five foot Grady-White boats which are fully equipped with top of the line tackle and only two fishermen get on each boat. These boats could easily handle three or four anglers, but with only two of you and a guide, there is a ton of room to move around and both anglers have a rod in the water at all times. The entire fleet looks like it just rolled off of the show room floor. The tackle is top of the line as well. We opted to use the Islander reel set ups which is an oversized 1 to 1 fly reel made locally just for these situations. It makes fighting these great fish a world class adventure.
The fishing itself can be done just outside the lodge, and many fish were caught within minutes of the lodge and with a fleet of boats checking all the productive spots, the team of professional guides hone into the large pockets of fish and it doesn’t take long to have the entire fleet stretching lines on good numbers of kings daily. It is not uncommon to have twenty fish days during your stay. Numerous boats were able to achieve these numbers daily and you will find yourself releasing more great fish in a day than you have seen on other week long trips in total. The great success for the clients can also be traced back to the fact that Dave and Brian only open the lodge for the peak fishing time every year. This is great from a customer standpoint, but it does provide for some downfall that it has very limited availability every year. So, make sure you book as early as possible to insure yourself a spot. For anyone concerned about the rough seas that the ocean can provide and cause for an unpleasant trip can rest easy. Although some of the fishing grounds are out into the Pacific itself, a good portion is secluded in the protection of the Nootka Sound itself and we found that most of time this was more like fishing on a glass top table than in the ocean.
Just to educate the inexperienced anglers on the ocean fishing for Chinook and prepare them for battle, we should address the target species. The Chinook, Springer, King, or whatever other name you might want to call this mighty warrior; you can always refer to him as fun and exciting. It is similar to hooking the end of your line onto a freight train. It isn’t uncommon to have several hundred yard runs on a good king and about the time you think you have the battle won, it is off for another run. Battles on good fish can last twenty to thirty minutes and the goal is always to catch a Tyee which is a native name for a Chinook which has attained the thirty pound mark. These are true trophies of the species.
At the end of every day, your guide will weight, photograph, and prepare your days catch for transportation back to the processor on the final evening while you share the day’s events with friends and the other guests over cocktails. The dinners at the lodge could adorn the tables of the finest restaurants in the world and gaining weight is a sure possibility during your stay. The rooms are very spacious and I’m pretty sure that the beds are better than what I have at home which provided for a great night sleep every single night.
Your adventure will include this first half day of fishing and three full days of fishing. On the final day of your stay, fishing for a few hours is an option, but most guests opted to take a leisurely morning and enjoy a gourmet breakfast and pack their gear for the early afternoon ride back to Campbell River. Upon arrival back to Campbell River, you will be shuttled to the processor where your catch has been processed according to your request and flash frozen for your trip home.
Our overall experience for this lodge is that it qualifies as the best of the best. We would highly recommend this lodge to anyone interested in a great getaway or just a quiet vacation. You will arrive as a guest and leave as a friend. Dave, Irene, Brian, and Kelly will make sure of that which is why they have a rebooking rate of over 90% there are less available slots every year. For additional information on booking your trip with Nootka Wilderness Lodge log onto www.nootkawildernesslodge.com or call 250-850-1500