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PPS Destinations Report 

BABINE RIVER, Silver Hilton Lodge, BC, Canada

Date:        October 2005

 Reported by Dr. Chris Travis, Laguna Hills, CA, USA

Our charter jet landed at Smithers the day before the chopper flies us into the wild interior where no roads have scarred the forest.  We stayed at a very clean bed and breakfast called the Stork's Nest.  Many steelhead fly fishermen stay there because of an early good breakfast, inexpensive cost, and very clean rooms.  So, we were able to exchange knowledge and BS about the fishing on the Bulkley River near town, Skeena, Kispiox, Sustut, and the Babine Rivers, as well.

The next morning came early with the Silver Hilton shuttle van taking us to the chopper pad.  By 9AM we were weaving in and out of valleys and over snow covered passes to the remote Silver Hilton Lodge on the Lower Babine River.  That helicopter ride was worth the trip unto itself.  It takes almost an hour and one sees the most breathtaking scenery on earth.  Sometimes we almost scrape the tallest trees to get under cloud cover.   One year, we saw a grizzly bear make a kill on a full grown moose.  Needless to say red was everywhere on the high meadow near a mountain pass.  Mountain goats are seen sometimes on jagged cliffs seemingly oblivious to the sheer cliffs they dwell on for safety.

Sinewy bands of rivers and creeks shine below with rapids and falls interrupting the flows.  Clear lakes break up the green carpet of pines and white aspen as we finally get to our river.  The helicopter descends over the Babine River as the red roofs of the Silver Hilton Lodge and deluxe cabins come into view where we will stay for the next incredible week.
 
The whole staff is there to greet us on the landing strip.  Our guides, chef, attendants, all are there to welcome us to a week of magic.  We all get hugs and handshakes, reminisce of things gone on over the past year, just catch up on things, as they take our luggage to our cabins and whisk us into the beautiful lodge for a light lunch.

One immediately notices the lodge is decorated with original paintings of times past and present, and old antique rods and reels are placed in cabinets and counters to fondle and stare at.  Stuffed animals adorn the walls and corners while fur rugs grace the floors of the lodge giving it a feeling of warmth and wildness about it.  The furniture is out of old England, antique, elegant, yet useful and comfortable.

After lunch and a look see in the tackle pro shop for any new gadgets, plus the needed license, we don our wading gear and walk with our fly rods down a nice path to the river where there are some world class drifts close at hand..  You need to know, this is a rain forest, and it usually is drizzling or about to, so you always wear your rain coat. 

The first half day is used to get the cast down again after months of not fishing a spey rod, and the guides are also off to check the drifts for the coming week and fish themselves.  So, you are on your own the first afternoon.  I really enjoy that time alone on a drift for a significant time, just to let me feel moving water on my legs and waist, and get used to the feeling of uneven rocks under your wading boots. Anticipation builds thinking about the next day on some of the finest runs in the world over the largest steelhead that migrate into rivers.

That evening, everyone comes to the lodge for cocktails and appetizers talking about anything next to a huge fire place with a raging fire that warms you from the day of fishing.   Dinner is served with guests and guides.  Every meal is an experience one should not miss even if it means a little less fishing.  Both red and white wines are poured per request.  Our chef is trained and the ladies serving the food are gracious and very qualified people who are glad to serve you.  The conversations at the huge dining table are priceless, irreplaceable, among guests and guides.

A full library at the lodge of every fly fishing book you can think of allows one to sit back near the fire after desert and read while listening to music.  Some guests work on new fly lines and fill their reels, while others are tying flies in the pro shop and looking over past logs of catch rates and weights of steelhead.  Photo albums of years past are everywhere giving one a sense of just how large these steelhead beasts get.

We are awakened every morning at 7 by the guides who come into our cabins with fresh coffee in a thermos with cream/sugar on the side.  They start our pot bellied stoves to heat the room and let us know breakfast is in  30 minutes.
After a great meal, we get ready for the day and climb into our sleek jet boats and head out to our perspective areas to fish for the day.  All fishing is done wading with a barbless fly only, catch and release.  Usually it takes about 2 hours or so to fish a drift, but sometimes longer.  We have lunch on the river together four to a boat, two boats.  One is up river and one down river and we switch each day.  Lunch is always hot soup, sandwich, drink, coffee to your specs, snacks, and dessert.  I can never eat all of it.

Afternoon fishing begins and we fish until almost dark.  The guides work 14 hour days and love it.  Mark MacIneeley is our head guide and I really don't think there is a better one alive in all aspects of fishing and companionship.  He absolutely loves his craft and everything about it.  He is a college grad and has a post graduate business degree.  He is a great athlete who ran track in college and lives with his family in Campbell River, Vancouver Island.  He teaches spey casting and ties the best flies you will ever see.  He guides out of Langara Lodge, Queen Charlotte Islands, in the summer.  The guy is magic.

Dave and Jeremy are also great guides and Brian runs the camp and basically fixes everything from reels to generators.  He also handles the pro shop and monies that our booking agent, Lani Waller, does not deal with.
Dave got me into a great 20# hen this year.  It was memorable because I had to run 200 yards down to land the beast.  She was very fresh and big.  Jeremy is very patient and handles Triple Header, the up river camp.  He knows the area up river like no one else.  One year he guided me on a drift where I hooked an landed 4 steelhead in about an hour, all going down into the next drift through rapids, tangles and rocks  No problem.  

The week goes so quickly that we all stare at each other in disbelief the time is over.  The last evening, we have a small party and go over all the week's happenings.  It is always fun.  We have breakfast the day we fly out and leave at about 10AM as the new guests come in.  This year, Lani Waller came in with Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia founder, as we were leaving.  We discussed our environmental causes including saving our steelhead from extinction. 

Flying back to Smithers allowed me to reflect on the beauty of our planet.  We must save it for our children.  We must leave a legacy of ecological responsibility and values, so everyone thinks about what they are doing to the earth before they act.

I have never seen a more beautiful river than the Babine, unspoiled and essentially untouched since the glaciers receded thousands of year's ago.  Bald eagles soar from the tops of huge pines swooping down to grab a fish with  massive talons.  I saw a female moose swim the Babine and shake off after climbing out in the shallows..  A black bear came by one afternoon while I was fishing a drift.  I am glad it was far enough away to not feel threatened.  I think it was looking for salmon, but most are swimming up river at the weir before heading into Babine Lake.  So, it just ambled back into the forest.

Each guide has a waterproof Pentax digital camera to take photos of all the fish., so I will send a few photos along.  We are given a CD at the end of the trip of everyone's fish and some scenery to remember the time we had on the Babine.....Magic time.

Chris Travis, PPS member

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