“You are so motivated to make sure the trip goes smoothly, because you know that the organs of these two kids are now going to save the lives of more than just a handful of other kids.”
An Angler's Dream
Find a wild and unspoiled corner of the world's largest ocean, where thousands of distinct populations of salmon pass by as if on parade from May through September, and you have discovered an angler's idea of perfection. That's what four intrepid Canadians did in the summer of 1985, when they towed a rehabilitated 120-foot paddle-wheeler to a remote, misty island off the British Columbia coast and anchored in a protected cove. From there they set out in slight 14-foot fiberglass boats powered by small 15-horsepower engines to explore the waters surrounding Langara Island.
Langara is the northernmost island in the Queen Charlotte archipelago just south of Alaska. It is perched on the edge of the continental shelf. Within sight of land, the ocean floor drops to more than 1,200 feet deep. This strategic location and topography create nature's perfect cocktail shaker for mixing cold currents swirling southward from the Gulf of Alaska with warmer, upwelling tides flooding in from offshore.
The resulting nutrient-rich, kelp-forest shallows surrounding Langara teem with phytoplankton, which sustain vast concentrations of krill, shrimp, herring and needlefish-marine protein relished by feeding chinook and coho salmon. Also joining in on the feast are packs of speedy orca or killer whales, majestic humpback whales, acrobatic dolphins, soaring and diving bald eagles, basking sea lions and cliff-nesting peregrine falcons living in one of the largest rookeries in North America.
The old paddle-wheeler is long gone. Anglers at Langara Lodge now stay in three superb cedar lodges: Chinook Lodge (up to 22 guests), Eagle Lodge (up to 12) and Raven Cottage (up to six). Each features an enormous stone fireplace and is nestled in the ancient fragrant forest overlooking spectacular Cloak Bay and, beyond, the rolling Pacific. The rooms are what I would call rustic luxurious.
The service is pleasant and first-rate. Meals feature plenty of excellent yet unpretentious seafood and grilled-meat dishes with full open bar. And after an exciting and typically wet day on the water, you can relax your tired muscles in a hot tub right outside your room.
No need to bring anything but sunglasses, sunscreen and warm clothing. The lodge provides all guests with a Mustang survival suit and rubber boots, plus fishing tackle. Fishing is from 24-foot custom boats by Ironwood, a local builder. Powered by twin Yamaha 100-horsepower outboards, they are swift and stable. Guides are experienced and knowledgeable.
Of course, as with all angling adventures, it helps to bring some luck. During my visit to Langara, a young woman from Toronto who had never before fished for salmon caught the largest of the week: a massive, chrome-coated, 40-pound chinook-five minutes from the dock on her last morning of fishing.