My daughter Nadia reminded me that I took a four day trip to Chilko Lake, BC in the fall of 1976 with her and Ilse. That trip had eluded my memory for some reason – although I must admit that it was one of the best trips I have ever taken over a four day period.
My friend, Fritz Wepper was friends with a group of young Germans who had decided to relocate their families to the interior of British Columbia. They had pooled their resources and purchased Chilko Lake Lodge sometime in the mid seventies. Fritz knew that I worked in the Public Relations profession and thought that it might be a good idea if we all hooked up. They contacted me and arranged for the three of us to fly to Vancouver, BC where one of the owners, who was a pilot, would fly down and pick us up (the lodge had it’s own airstrip).
I had a client at the time who was taping a Canadian television show in Vancouver, so I stopped briefly by the set and returned to the airport where this fellow met us – in a single prop aircraft. I DON’T LIKE single engine aircraft. I have jumped out of most of the things the Army and Air Force use to drop parachutists – and other than a Huey, none of them had one engine. I white knuckled it all the way to Chilko Lake.
When we arrived we were met by a gaggle of Moms, Dads and offspring who warmly welcomed us. We had flown over many magnificent rivers, lakes and mountain ranges on our way to the lodge. They showed us to our quarters which was a grand room in the main lodge and we then settled down for a gourmet meal with many bottles of brew. I was introduced to an elderly gentleman who was born in Prussia who had fished for salmon and trout all over the world. He asked me if I would like to join him that afternoon down river in one of the lodge’s boats which was powered by a 50hp. Mercury engine. I put my gear together and stuffed streamers and bucktails into my vest. I decided to fish my Leonard with a sinking line.
The Chilko River flows out of Chilko Lake. Below the Lodge, it is broad and swift. We anchored our craft behind a small island in the middle of the flow about a quarter mile down from the lodge. I attached a #6 Mickey Finn pattern to my 7 1/2′, 2x leader and began casting into the current, letting the fly swing below me before retrieving. The water was full of coho salmon, heading upriver and into the lake’s tributaries to spawn. My partner fished a big dark streamer on a 9′ Bamboo rod with a Hardy reel attached. As we fished, he related his wartime experiences to me – he had survived both the first and second World Wars. Soon, he was into a fine fish. I reeled in my line and reached for the landing net. Within a half hour, this older (more experienced) fellow caught and released five good fish – all but one were Dolly Vardens, the other was a plump and feisty Rainbow.
As the afternoon progressed, I learned some advanced aspects of streamer fishing from this aged angler. He showed me how to tie a Duncan Loop and how to use a half-hitch around the front of a streamer to change its draw through the water. Finally, at dusk, I started to score and took several nice Rainbows. The largest was 23″ and it came to my Mickey Finn. We returned to the Lodge at nightfall and enjoyed another sumptuous meal. Nadia fell asleep in my lap in front of a roaring fire.
The following morning, we decided to take advantage of the Lodge’s horses and went for an extended ride along the shore of the lake. We returned for lunch where my hosts invited me to go up once again in that damned plane to look for Dahl Sheep which they would, later in the fall -hunt. I somewhat hesitatingly loaded my carcass into the aircraft and spent the next two hours flying around lofty, snow capped peaks with the wing tips inches off the mountainside. I saw the sheep…get me outta’ here!!!
That evening was better. I loaded Ilse and Nadia in the watercraft and headed toward the Chilko Lake outlet. I fished to the banks with both my Leonard and Winston, small Adams and Royal Wulff patterns. A hunter’s moon hung in the sky. The trout, none of which was over 15″ went crazy. In the fading light, which lasts till 10 o’clock in these elevations, Nadia and I caught and released over 50 fish.
The next morning, Nadia and I loaded into the boat early. I took my 11′ fiberglass rod and rigged it with a sinking line to which I added, 6ft. of lead core line and a short 1x leader. I started with a black #2 dace pattern and slowly trolled up and down the river below the small island I had previously fished. Nothing…
I then put on a white muddler minnow #2 and trolled it at a bit faster pace. Suddenly, Nadia ( who was 4 ) jumped out of her seat, screamed and pointed at the rod tip which was bent to the water. I slowed the boat and heaved back on the rod. I thought I had snagged the bottom. On my second pull, a huge form blasted out of the water behind the boat, dropped to the river, sending spray everywhere. Now I got a problem. I put Nadia at the wheel and asked her to hold the front of the boat into the current. That explanation wasn’t understood. The fish is on and I’m envisioning us being swept down current to the next territory. After more that a few terrifying moments I finally got the fish to the stern of the boat and netted it. It was a grand 9lb. Rainbow that had inhaled the fly. This one I kept. I dropped it into the boat, grabbed my pliers and removed the hook. I put the fish into a stowaway compartment on the side of the boat and told Nadia to sit on it. The fish heaved and slammed the top of the compartment until Nadia jumped up and scrambled up to the bow of the boat . “Dad”, she screamed, ” smack that fish on the head and KILL HIM!”. I looked at this blond, flowing mass of hair coming out of an orange life jacket ,with snot and tears running down her face and said, ” OK”. I reached into the box and whacked the fish in the head . It stopped struggling. Nadia wouldn’t step towards the stern of the boat for the remainder of the day.
We left the next day…in that same plane. Nadia hasn’t fished with me, in a boat, since…