Now I’m a sensitive Green kind of guy, but when you’re up this close, I think it’s fair to say that Grizzly Bears look much better stuffed and inside a glass case.
This big fella is part of the welcoming committee at Smithers Airport. It reminds you that you’re a guest here in this part of the world and also that it pays you to keep your eyes and ears open.
Also joining us at the airport was our expeditor Wendy, who was a lot friendlier than this bloke.
All I needed to do was stand next to anyone I saw carrying a fly rod for the expeditor to find us, load our bags and whip us off to the local hotel for dinner.
The next morning saw us at a local lake getting loaded aboard Wendell’s wonderful Turbo Otter, for the 90-minute flight to Spatsizi. While the rest jumped in the back, alongside our groceries for the week, I got to ride in front with Wendell and I felt like the honorary co-pilot. Wendell even let me pull on the heater control for the rear cabin …
But seriously, I was loving all of it: the noise, the whiff of plane fuel, the power of the take-off over water and then the climb, and finally the scenery below and the anticipation. I was a big boy on an adventure!
Brothers are brothers, aren’t they? It would be an exaggeration to say my brother Steve was a gun fly fisherperson. He turned up in all the wrong gear but evidently the right attitude and caught the biggest fish on the first day, a bad-tempered Arctic Char.
I sniffily told him it was all about the quality not the size.
Now this was definitely the prettiest fish caught by yours truly on the first day. An absolutely beautiful rainbow trout, held gently for just long enough for our guide Florian to take this shot and then released from a barbless hook. Like I said, it was all about the quality.
Heading down to the Lodge for another of Chef Jesse’s wonderful breakfasts.
Today we fished the Rognass River adjoining Lake Kitchener and the Rainbow Trout chased flies voraciously, but then turned nasty when the fly didn’t stay eaten.
Well, here we were, with my Big Brother and fellow director Steve, finding time to chat about company marketing and contracting strategies. Our main items of discussion centered on the impact of the new US Administration on inflation in the US and its impact for our CPI. With no local inflation to speak of, we have been using five-year fixed term contracts for our dashboard modelling. The clients love it.
But if the new Administration actually starts to simulate the US economy, we need to start marking our product to the prices in the marketplace. But will Trump really deliver?
Our fellow fly fisherpersons were all from the US and tended to have a bit of skin in this particular game, so it was all research. Aided by Oban on ice at this particular meeting.
My Great Grandfather and Father were botanists. I’m more of a stats man, myself. But these lupins were just plain pretty and worth sharing.
Well, here we were, mid-week, back outside the Lodge for another scheduled board meeting to discuss international inflationary trends and the gig economy.
Man, by this time, I was feeling the vibe. Pass me a cigar.
Our Chef Jesse Phillips was a culinary genius and a perfectionist of the plate. Now this, apparently, was a Caesar Salad. The trip was worth it for the food alone.
I must confess, my idea of roughing it these days, is going without the heated seat on my Japanese Toto bidet toilet. But Firesteel Camp was an experience I’d repeat in a heartbeat … even with the long drop and the animal scratch marks on the dunny door.
This is the camp fire outside our hut, with the river in the background. Why the morning camp fire I hear you ask? See next Instagram shot.
Well, here’s the reason for a morning camp fire at Firesteel Camp. Five degrees! And this was summer! It was colder than the winter mornings we’d left behind in Brisbane.
We mooched around camp until the sun was well and truly up.
Firesteel has squillions of these little three-quarter pounders … and they all think they weigh five pounds and feel obliged to fight like it. It was a grey, windy day, which pushed most of the fish down deep, where we chased them on nymphs, but on a warm, sunny day, you’d be catching and releasing 50 of the little blighters.
These beavers are odd little creatures. They tend to gum up waterways and spawning grounds for the fish with their wood-reinforced dams and lodges so they aren’t the favourite animals for fishing guides. And are they messy! Worse than teenage boys.
I fished near this beaver lodge and had to make sure that I didn’t fall into their access hole, about a metre in diameter.
Now I know fishing isn’t about the numbers of fish you catch in a day and nor is it about the size of the biggest fish … although the size comes close.
But sometimes, after months of fishing on tranquil Aussie high-country trout streams, where you might land a couple of careless, one or two-pound fish on a really good day, well, you just want to feel you haven’t lost your touch.
On days like this, personal comforts come last and numbers do count. It’s a man-hunter thing I guess.
In this case – at the Sheep Creek outflow into Lake Kitchener – our personal comfort level was at an all-time low, with three degrees the top temperature and a chilly 15 knot wind blowing straight in our faces, but Steve and I pulled in and released 40 fine, fat, and ultimately very relieved, Canadian Rainbow Trout.
Towards the end of the day, Steve had broken his rod and the stump had to be pulled from his frozen fingers to make him to stop.
In my case, my waterproof jacket had started to leak icy water down my back and arms and my teeth were chattering so much I couldn’t speak. Did I mention my Hardy Hip Flask was also empty?
There were no arguments then. It was time to go.
Here’s another entree plate from super Chef Jesse. What a guy! I realise now that I only ever took pictures of the entrees, because the main course and deserts just got scoffed down.
On this particular day, our patience was well and truly tested by some very fussy Rainbow Lake trout. At the end of the day, I was calling it No Rainbow Lake. I think I hooked three two pounders, which is pretty good by Australian standards, but well below the bar set by Spatsizi’s bountiful lakes and rivers.
To make matters worse, our very gentlemanly US fly fishing companion for the day Carl, a retired Academic, seemed to have no difficulty pulling in some plump and friendly Canadian Rainbows.
These trout were simply too discerning to be more readily hooked by a couple of big boofy Aussies. Bah. Humbug. And well done Carl.
Today we were off with senior guide Luke and Abbie the wonder dog, to pursue the beautiful Grayling, a salmonoid species I’d never hooked before. However, no one seems to have told Abbie she was definitely coming with us.
Our Heroes of the Kitchen. Jesse and his Assistant Twila. I go all misty eyed just thinking about the food they served us, morning, and night.
We had the tip-off from the boys who had been chasing Grayling the day before: It was Royal Humpies all the way. So, yours truly, in a spirit of down-under sportsmanship, bought every Royal Humpy in the Spatsizi fly shop. Hey! Someone had to have them.
Abbie was pretty keen to come Grayling fishing with us. This was her at breakfast. By this time, she was getting a tad neurotic at the thought of missing out.
Abbie started to tense up as we loaded the boat. Room for me? Room for me?
Yay! This was one very happy pooch, as we set off up the Stikine River to chase Grayling on our last day.
Words fail me here folks. This is a true story. Your humble scribe from down under could not open the bear proof locker, provided for overnight campers to store their food.
Now, that means that the local bears are very smart or your local scribe is very … where was I again?
Here I am with one of 30 Grayling hooked and released on our last day, along with 12 Rainbow Trout and two Arctic Char. These Grayling were just beautiful little fish. And the greatest gutses for a Royal Humpy (Shame Steve didn’t have one). They fought like little Bonefish too.
Looking back on this picture, I may have overdone it with the zinc cream, but it was a hot day. And a great day.
Well, this is it. The fishing is over and we’re waiting for Wendell to take us on the first leg home.
With no fish on the line, I’ve been reduced to photographing Petunias. Still, they were pretty.
Here comes the Turbo. Here comes the Turbo. Woo Hoo! Homeward bound.
Now the caption says it all really. These were the flies which were really hammered by the local piscatorial pirates during our Spatsizi stop over.
The mouse fly was a complete write off and the cork you see here is now blue tacked to my central computer screen as I type. Ah, the memories. Enough to keep me sane for another year. I’m already booked for 2018.
A few facts.
You can find out most of what you need to know about Spatsizi at http://www.spatsizi.com/ Seven days of fly-in, fly out fishing will set you back about $8,000 Australian dollars and the Aussie dollar now (August 2017) has parity with the Canadian dollar. Allow about 10 to 15 percent cash for gratuities at the end of the trip.
Our Air Canada flight flew nonstop Brisbane to Vancouver. We went business class and it was a hoot. Sets you back about $6,000, but the beds were comfortable and the service friendly and practical.
We left mid-morning and arrived 14 hours later about four hours before we took off. Something to do with datelines. There’s a bit of a wait before the afternoon flight to Smithers, which you can fill in however you like. I think we got liquored up in the business lounge.
On the trip home, book the afternoon flight back from Smithers and make sure you pay a bit more to have the option of the later flight if the weather delays your trip in from the Lodge.
The flight back from Vancouver to Brisbane was a real treat. It leaves Vancouver at midnight and gets in about 7.30 am Brisbane time a couple of days later – where did that missing day go? Basically, you knock over a few wallbangers after take-off and hit the sack for about nine hours, before being gently woken up for breakfast, just before you land in Brisbane. Worked for me.
For Travel bookings, I contacted my old mate Emily, from Tripaway at Emily@tripaway.com.au
She did all the bookings and travel advisories and talked to Jacki at Spatsizi to make sure it all went well. There’s no hurry booking flights, but Spatsizi fishing places tend to fill up a year in advance, so get in early there if you want to try it in mid-2018.