|Lee & Danny
Just a short note to say thanks for a truly brilliant fishing experience last week at the Pitt River Lodge. Not only did I achieve my “bucket” list objective of catching a Salmon, but also enjoyed what’s probably the best fly fishing I’ve ever encountered.
Your food & hospitality was wonderful.
You help me introduce fishing to my wife to fishing, at :) years-of-age; she absolutely loves it! J. By day two, Alexey helped with additional pointers and she was casting like a real veteran by day’s end. Despite a fair bit of rain, she was eager to go back out with the “die-hards” and did not miss even one of our excursions during our stay.
The best metric for me? She brought 3 novels to read and never actually cracked the books!
My thanks as well for the spirited game of “CRUD,” Lee’s amazing home-cooked meals and your genuine hospitality.
I promised to e-mail a photo of Peter's steelhead so here it is - I hope! We just got back this morning so we are jet-lagged! Thank you for a brilliant stay.
June 1st 2012
Hello Danny and Lee:
Well Marie and I are back home in Michigan and still savoring the memories of our day on the Pitt river. Thank you Danny and Lee for your hospitality and professional services that made our day an adventure of a lifetime. We both want to come back and spend some time with you folks at the lodge. Danny your skill and knowledge of the river and fishing made it a privilege and pleasure to be guided by you on the river.
All the best and tight lines!
John and Marie
Dear Lee and Danny
Thank you for being such fabulous hosts. We had a wonderful time visiting your special part of the world. Even if the fishing was exceptionally tough the wildlife encounters we're legendary. Seeing a wolf track a deer 100 yds from us is a memory I will carry forever.
We are at the airport about to fly home but I'm hoping I can work another visit to you in August if travel plans allow.
Janek & Lisa 2012
Thank you so much for a fabulous weekend. It was perfect. We really enjoyed meeting you and Dan and had a great time on the river with Jamie. The lodge and the area were everything I hoped they would be. Nic and Cole are still vibrating with excitement. On the boat ride out they both asked at least a dozen times when we will return.
Co-founder, Q Energy Drink
|Just a big thank you again for looking after me so well last week and making me feel so welcome. You and Danny are a great team and you have a little jewel of a set-up there. Would you also thank Jamie for me, he really put himself to a lot of hard work on the river to get me into fish. Good guide.
Hope to see you again nexr year. And if you ever need a winter caretaker for the new lodge, well , I`m sure my wife would let me come !!
best wishes alan
Hi Lee and Danny
I would really like to thank the two of you for a wonderful and very relaxing break. You have a fantastic lodge and I would love to come back one day and see the upper lodge when finished. Please pass on my thanks to Jamey, Stacey and Danny for the guiding. I hope I wasn't too clumsy a fisher! Thanks Lee for your hospitality. I am still looking to find a matching ribs recipe. Thanks to Adriana (hope I spelled it right, apologies if I didn't) for her cinnamon buns. They were awesome. I have also thanked Nick for his help and pointers too.
Once again, thanks for the hospitality. You have a wonderful river to fish and I wish you all the best. Here's to hoping I get to come out and visit again!
The meals were all excellent. Everyone had a great time and all are waiting for me to pick a time next year so they can sign on. Again our expections, which were very high to start with, were exceeded. We'll all be talking about this trip until about next April and then I'll contact you about availability, again in the 1st 10 days of August.
I have to compliment both you and Dan for being such exceptional hosts.Thanks so much.
Safely back in Chicago - flight was boarding as I got through customs, etc. Many thanks for all that you and the crew did to make our trip absolutely unforgettable. Count Jack and I as press agents for you... All the best.
|We are finally back to our home territory, and dramatically missing the delightfully cool weather, and great fishing, of Pitt River Lodge, as well as your great hospitality! Thank you so much for a trip that my two sons - and son-in-law - will remember for the rest of their lives! Please let Stacey Beard know, that, in spite of my two falls into the river, and his oversight and intervention, that he alone was responsible for not only saving me, but that he also rescued my camera from drowning in the fast flowing Pitt River. If I ever have an opportunity to revisit your area and Pitt River, I will, and I will have no hesitation in recommending Pitt River Lodge to anyone. Lastly, and I will reiterate, you are the most attractive and best of hostesses, and please thank Elaine for her all of her help!
July 8th 2011 day trip
Hallo Lee and Danny
Thank you very much again, for staying with you. We had a real good time and enjoyed
All the best, Sven
everything very much.
I am sitting here at work and thinking of comming in fall again :-)
It will be hard to wait until the next time staying with you.
I hope Biz picks up for you and you make good money.
By the way Stacey is an exceptional good guide. You should keep him !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mit freundlichen Grüßen/Kind regards
Attached are a couple of photos from our trip.
I want to say again how very much all of enjoyed our time at your wonderful lodge and on your great river. You truly made us feel at home, and the conversations were delightful.
Gene M. Tucker
Denver, CO 80209
|Dear Lee, Danny and Stacy,
Thanks for an extraordinary two days on the Pitt River!! It was a magnificent wilderness adventure with rafting, fishing and good company. Stacy taught me a lot and I feel I came home a better fly fisherman. Catching several bull trout was just a bonus. Come to Charleston and we will put you on some spot tail bass.
Attached are several pictures. I hope Stacy will pass on a few of his.
Tee and Hopie Parker
Dear Lee and Danny,
I just wanted to thank you again for the fabulous weekend of fishing and camaraderie at your lodge. I have been talking non-stop about the trip since I got back and there cannot be too many people left in this area who have not seen the photos and videos. All of my friends are jealous....
Every aspect of the trip lived up to my expectations, from the beautiful lodge and Lee's wonderful cooking to the friendly atmosphere and professional and courteous guides. Stacey spent alot of time with me trying to get me up to speed on that Spey rod, his instruction was concise and his patience seemingly endless. He has instilled within me a desire to perfect that craft, I hope to return to the Pitt River soon armed with more skill to cover all that water.
I feel like I made some new friends and I will try to get back up there soon, hopefully with some buddies next time. Please give a shout out to Stacey and Jamie for me, I am looking forward to fishing with them again!
I just wanted to say a BIG thank you, for being such a great host last week, I had the most fantastic time .. The lodge was fantastic and i must say your cooking was just first class!! The next time I'm over with Karl we will be back up to stay.
I'm back in London again now wishing i was back in Canada!! I look forward to seeing you and Dan again soon
|Dan / Lee,
Thanks for your kindness and hospitality. The trip was great! The home cooked food was excellent in every way. Each and every second of the trip was exciting, adventurous and yet comforting. It was everything I ever wanted from a Canada trip. You and your staff made sure that I got the most out of the trip. I will tell everyone about it.
Jamie was professional, extremely hardworking and dedicated. He made sure, first and foremost, that I was safe every second. He was very respectful, friendly, well mannered and courteous. Jamie was very knowledgeable and took the time with great patience to teach me all about various fly fishing equipment, guide me on how to tie, cast and fly fish the Pitt River for steelhead. Most importantly, with Jamie's expertise we landed 2 huge steelhead, 1 cutthroat and, as they all say, one very large steelhead snapped the line. That's pretty good for 2 days.
Good morning Lee and Dan,
Fred and I would like to thank you again for our fishing day trip, it was outstanding! The scenery and fishing were fantastic, and well be back next year to stay with you guys.
Here are a few pics that I was supposed to send to you when we returned to Edmonton. We hope you enjoyed your trip to Cuba. The first picture is the largest one we caught, a 15lb'er!
Dan was telling us that your expecting a huge Sockeye run next year, when do you expect your Spring salmon run?
I just wanted to let you know that David had such a fantastic time at Pitt River (I enjoyed the break as well... especially not having to cook! thank you for the delicious meals...). He has poured over the photos and taken great delight in showing our friends his "haul"! The photos taken by both Alex and Kade (as well as myself) are so important to David they are just fabulous!
The fishing was a real highlight of the trip, but we had lots of other highlights as well...
While we would both very much like to come back to Pitt River one day, I don't think a long trip away is going to happen.... but you never know...I know Dave would go back to Pitt River in the blink of an eye...
Thank you once again for a most fabulous holiday. We loved everything about our stay.... oh, we get a lot of laughs from friends with photos of your ex-ambulance truck that takes ppl around! It had such character - I loved it!!
Take care ,
Jane and David Williams
Dear Danny and Lee
Dave and I had a wonderful time at Pitt River Lodge & will have great memories for years to come. I imagine you will see us back at some point in the future.
Heather and Dave Rideout
Hi there a quick hello from Vancouver to say thank you so much we had the most wonderful time with you at the beautiful Pitt river. We are taking home many lovely memories.
I will email soon and will try the recipes for the ribs and buns next week.
Hi Lee and Dan!
I was so surprised to see our sturdgeon pic on your blog! Viva Puerto Rico!!!!
Lee - I still think about your wonderful cooking, and Dan those steaks were melting in my mouth. I returned to my hectic job here, but I am so relaxed... the BC country and way of life are still sticking with me. Many thanks. Please give my regards to Kaid and Adrianne.
Suerte con el invierno, y disfrute tu viaje a Cuba este ano. Lee - mas espanol, por favor!
Greg Quirk, Ph.D.
University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine
Dear Lee and Danny,
Here we are back home after another amazing holiday in British Columbia! The highlight of course was our stay with you. Thank you so much for your warmth and welcome. We loved every minute of it.
We wish you luck with the rest of the season and especially with the new Lodge which looks amazing.
Mair and Mike McGeever
Dear Lee and Dan,
We had a great trip and the longer we are away we realize how special it was. Both of you, the fishing, the food, Nick, the beautiful setting and the scenery, the float trip on that fantastic river, and the very interesting and enjoyable fellow guests made this a trip of a lifetime. Hope we can do it again soon. It was fun to see Maria and Pino Bertoni's picture in the blog and it was fun to see our picture too.
We are spreading the word to our fishing buddies so you may be seeing some other folks from Pennsylvania.
Thanks for everything.
Thank-you so much for a great weekend on the fly up at the lodge! I am going to miss my one or two yearly escapes from the rigors of the season. Always feels like therapy when I come up and visit you guys. You guys have such a special spot up there!
Lee thxs for arranging sleeping/food for the group as usual.
Off to skate in LA. I need to hit the stores to buy some shorts for the winter!
Former NHL Vancouver Canuck now LA Kings
Hi Lee and Dan,
Thanks so much for a wonderful holiday . . . it seemed much too short (that's a sign of a great holiday!) but I had an incredible time. I'm attaching a few photos I thought you might like to have. I'll send them on to Alexei also. He is everything one looks for in a guide . . . an easy going attitude, a patient style of teaching (with gentle corrections to my technique), sensitivity to the client's expectations and a great sense of humor.
I hope all is well with you and that your holiday this year is relaxing .. you certainly made mine delightful.
Dear Lee and Danny and all, Here we are back safely in Wales after the most wonderful holiday in British Columbia. The whole trip was perfect but of course the highlight will always be our stay with you at the lodge. Everything was perfect. Really we could not have wished for anything better. We want to thank you especially for the care you took of us both - both on the river - Kaid and Danny were so kind - and in the Lodge - that little glass of wine when I arrived and then running a bath for me - so lovely! We would love to come again as you can imagine and hope very much to do so. In the meantime we are recommending it to all we know! Love to you all,
Mair and Mike (McGeever)
Lee and Dan
We had a great time! Perfect father/son, cousin/cousin and brother/
brother family get-together. The beautiful weather was appreciated.
The River Cabin gave us the privacy we wanted (drinking and smoking excessively)! Catching a few monster fish was pretty nice too. My words of appreciation when we left were not very specific, so I will try again.
1. When we are at the Lodge, we feel like guests in your home
2. Your food is fabulous
Hope to see you again.
All the best and many thanks.
Hi all @ Pitt River
Welshman now at home. Thank you for the total kindness shown to me.
Love & regards to all
PS Pat the dogs for me
Taff Vaughan Williams
Stayed 12 days!
Dear Lee & Dan,
Just wanted to say thank you for the great time we had at the Lodge. It was everything we had expected and much more. It was a completely new experience and like nothing I had done before. The fishing was amazing and I can now honestly say I've been slapped by a wet fish!
Kaid was an excellent guide and not that bad at foosball either.
The fish were by far the largest I had ever caught and far more energetic than the trout I'm used to fishing. You couldn't have done anything to make our stay more comfortable.
Lee's cooking was great and the rooms were really comfortable. The views from around the lodge were amazing and mum was very envious when she saw them! We had great weather for our two days fishing and it seemed as if we got the driest two days that week although that doesn't make a difference if you fall in!
Thanks again and take care. See you next year.
Simon & Stephen
We have had concerns from Theo that the chickens are not being fed in his absence. Please put our minds at rest by reassuring us that both they, and the rooster are well nourished and alive!!!
He and we had a great time at your lodge, thanks again. I hope your guests continue to have a good time; such special days for us from the outside.
Please bid farewell to both Ripp and Terry for me, it was my tardiness and Theo that delayed my arrival at breakfast on our last day.
Rob and Helen
I cannot tell you what a great day we had yesterday. Felix was absolutely perfect. great guy. Genuinely nice guy. In fact everyone at the lodge was just fantastic. Which is why I'd like to come back. felix had my buddy Miguel (first time fly fishing) casting proficiently within minutes and Miguel landed his first fish within 10 minutes!
Danny and Lee,
I just wanted to express how grateful we are for the amazing experience we had. Our staff was so thrilled to have had an incredible trip like that and we were very excited that it was so enjoyable for ALL of them. The inexperienced fly fishermen/women learned so much and are "hooked" on fly-fishing. Stacy was a patient instructor! All of our guides (Cade, Stacy, Felix) made such a difference in having a positive experience for an inexperienced fly fisher.
Both of you are truly gracious hosts and I would say you treat us like family, but family wouldn't spoil us like you did! Pitt River lodge is one of the best, if not THE best, fishing lodges we have been to. Thank you so much. We do plan on coming again, probably next year!
I do have one request. David has sent out photos to many of our friends for the "whose fish is bigger" vote, but I told him the only judge I would believe is Danny! What do you say Danny, mine is isn't it?
David and Eileen Bryer
Hugh Gardner for The Angling Report,
POB 227, Idledale CO 80453
303-697-5876 or HughGardner@gmail.com
(Suggested editorial note: The
Canadian magazine Sportfishing B.C.
calls it “Spectacular… the best
fishing anywhere,” and the Canadian
newspaper National Post agrees: “A
wall of mountains separates the busy
city from the most remarkable
fishing anywhere.” Is this just
Canadian hyperbole or what?
According to long-time Angling
Report correspondent Hugh Gardner,
who developed the concept of
“stopover angling” for us a decade
ago, it’s so real the mind boggles.
Herewith an Angling Report
exclusive: The first account in the
U.S. fishing press about this unique
and amazing stopover opportunity
much closer to home than Alaska.)
past August I got an unexpected
invitation from a non-fishing buddy
spending the summer with his
Canadian girlfriend at her home in
Vancouver, B.C.: “Come on up here
for a few days and see this fabulous
city,” he wrote. “From what I hear,
the fishing’s pretty good around
didn’t take much convincing. After a
homebound summer I was in desperate
need of a serious trip. I had long
heard Vancouver described as North
America’s finest and most beautiful
city, but had somehow never gotten
there. And how could the fishing not
be “pretty good” around a city built
at the mouth of the mighty Fraser
River, the most productive salmon
fishery on the entire West Coast?
immediately booked a flight and set
about doing Internet research on the
best “stopover angling”
opportunities in the area. Before
long the Pitt River Lodge (PRL)
website jumped out at me with the
almost unbelievable prospect of
wilderness fishing for salmon and
trout within two hours of downtown,
on the upper Pitt River tributary to
the Fraser. In addition to four
species of trout, including sea-run
bulls up to 15 lbs., I would have a
shot at the enormous sockeye run
then peaking, estimated to total
over 100,000 fish. Pitt River
sockeyes are the largest strain by
weight in the world, averaging 8-10
lbs. and as large as 15. From
previous trips to Alaska I knew
that, pound for pound, fresh
sockeyes are among the elite of all
fish for kick-your-ass thrills on a
Pitt River, I learned, is fed by the
giant glaciers of the Coastal Range
you see flying into Vancouver, which
in turn feeds Pitt Sound, said to be
the world’s largest fresh-water
tidal lake. The lower Pitt enters
the Fraser so close to the ocean
that it sometimes flows upstream,
pushed by the tides, raising the
lake as much as five feet daily.
Local strains of sea-run salmon and
trout take the first left turn up
the Fraser, cross the lake, and
enter the rugged canyon of the upper
Pitt to spawn. For all practical
purposes, PRL has exclusive access
to the upper Pitt, some 20 fishable
miles of headwaters flowing out of
three national parks.
wasn’t the only guy interested in
the lodge at this season, but
despite a full house on short
notice, lodge owners Dan Gerak and
Leigh (Lee) MacGregor managed to
work me in. Two days later my
friends drove me out to the dock on
the lower lake for the thrice-weekly
5 p.m. pickup, about an hour from
downtown in moderate traffic. Two
jetboats took our assembly of eight
across the lake in about 45 minutes.
The further we went up this
magnificent fjord, with vaulting
cliffs and glaciated peaks looming
over us, the more obvious it became
why a place so close to the city
could be so remote. Unless a PRL
boat picks you up, there’s no way to
get there but helicopter or float
plane. And unless there’s a PRL
vehicle waiting at the upper dock,
you’d have to hoof it. It’s only a
few miles from the city, but the
wall of mountains in between is so
forbidding there’s not even phone
service, apart from an emergency
satellite link. In the time it takes
for a daily commute, I had gone from
the metro suburbs to the Alaskan
lake’s north dock is a remnant of
the valley’s logging operation, now
mostly a thing of the past, and once
served the village of Alvin, now
abandoned. The scars of logging are
there, but barely noticeable today,
and the old logging roads give
excellent access. “There’s still a
little tension with the loggers,”
lodge owner Gerak said, “but by now
they’ve gotten used to us.” Dan
himself played a major role in
reforming logging practices in the
valley and implementing
catch-and-release regulations to
help bring back the damaged
they are coming back, in spades. No
sooner was I in the door of the
hand-crafted, picturesque lodge than
I was accosted by a group of Danish
guests with digital cameras and
laptops, eager to show me pictures
of the silver-bright 20+-lb.
“Springs,” as Canadians call
Chinooks, they had caught that day.
I didn’t even know there were
Chinooks in the river; they aren’t
mentioned on the website. “The
Springs are still recovering,” Dan
explains, “and we’re not supposed to
target them, so we don’t even
mention them. But fishing for
sockeyes you’re going to get hit by
one now and then. The run is getting
better every year.” They were a
mind-blowing surprise to the excited
Danes, who said these were the
biggest fish they’d ever caught. The
guides said they were trembling like
kids on Christmas.
dinner that evening made me tremble
a bit too, for my waistline. Dan’s
partner Lee served up a family-style
meal of fresh-caught sockeyes (from
the Fraser), yummy chicken curry,
fresh tomato and cucumber salad from
their own veggie garden, fine wine,
and various homemade delights for
dessert. PRL doesn’t bill itself as
gourmet luxury, but the food is
great and overall service
impeccable. You don’t even have to
bring rods or waders…they have
everything you’ll need.
first day was spent walk-wading
around a creek just a short ride
from the lodge, where sockeyes were
stacking up but still fresh, just
starting to darken and pair off.
They were still full of aggression
and hit readily, and following tips
from my young guide Alexei, I soon
learned how to make sure they
were-fair caught and carefully
released. They were monsters, twice
the size of Alaskan sockeyes,
providing non-stop action until your
arms get tired, even more fun after
shifting from an 8- to a 5-weight
rod. The highlight came at days end,
when Alexei took me down to the main
river and a large dike of riprap
built to control flood erosion. The
lower end formed a large, triangular
staging area for new sockeyes coming
up, maybe two days from the ocean.
Sometimes they were there, sometimes
hot and sometimes not. That evening
they were, and I’ve seldom had more
fun, especially when they got
broadside in the current and ripped
Another guest named Nils, a
Norwegian oil engineer, also
desperate for a stopover while
passing through Vancouver, went down
the river with another guide on a
raft that day and caught another
20+-lb. Chinook as well as sockeyes
and bull trout. He had the amazing
experience of landing the big Spring
while being watched by three black
bears and a seal, the latter having
crossed the entire lake to chow on
river spawners. “The whole scene was
so crazy my mind just went blank,”
he said. “I can’t really remember
landing that fish but somehow I
did.” Capped off with Lee’s rib
steaks and Nils’ whiskey, the day
couldn’t have been better.
second day, available raft space was
taken by a wealthy family who flew
in from New York for a day trip
before a cruise to Alaska. The rest
of us trucked well upstream to Blue
Creek, where Dan and Lee are
building another lodge on a
spectacular overlook. Many Springs
were hooked that day, but few
landed. That afternoon, Nils and I
returned to the dike near the lodge
and found the staging area with few
hot sockeyes but many voracious bull
trout up to 4-5 lbs. These silvery,
slinky predators were apparently
residents; the really big boys, the
sea-runs up to 15 lbs, were then out
of reach, spawning in inaccessible
Regrettably I had to leave that
evening, jetboating back across the
lake with Dan and hitching a ride
back to downtown Vancouver with new
friend Nils, whose wife and daughter
were at the dock to meet us. An
hour’s drive brought us back to
downtown Vancouver, and my mind kind
of went blank too, with how surreal
the last 48 hours had been.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing
about this fishery, beyond its close
proximity to a great city, is the
variety of fish that swim there.
There’s something good going on all
the time, starting with steelhead in
the winter (another recovering run
not promoted by PRL), sea-run bulls
and coastal cutthroats during
spring, sockeyes and Chinooks in the
summer, the strongest run of wild
Cohos in lower B.C. from
October-December, along with your
best shot at big rainbows. When
glacial flows are replaced by warm
rains in the fall, the Pitt becomes
much lower and clearer, offering
multiple insect hatches and dry-fly
action all the way through the
winter (PRL closes December-February
to rest and recuperate, but will
sometimes make exceptions for
raises a fair question: Why go to
Alaska when most everything it
offers the angler, and then some, is
right outside North America’s best
city at a fraction of the price?
Rates at PRL range from very
reasonable, by Alaskan standards for
full-boat treatment, to beer-budget
bargains, by any standard, for
self-guided, feed-yourself cabin
rentals, For more information about
this unique venue, go to www.pittriverlodge.com
(e-mail email@example.com) or call
their Vancouver answering service at
1-800-665-6206. Savvy readers should
find some compelling business reason
to visit Vancouver soon – like
during the Pitt’s wild Coho run,
just now coming on – and taking me
back there with you.
Reprinted by permission of The Angling Report - Serving the Sportsman
Who Travels, www.AnglingReport.com
Story By Peter McMullan with Photography by Nick Didlick
Remote yet still accessible, the Pitt River and Danny and Lee Geraks lodge of the same name bring a sense of unique opportunity to the sport fishing scene in British Columbia. There are lodges, rivers and lakes aplenty in this huge province of ours but the large majority, or at least those offering fishing that counts as out-of-the-ordinary in terms of the quality of the experience, are invariably located some distance away from the main population centres.
That, of course, is an essential part of their charm for there is nothing worse than the pressure that comes with over-fishing. Resident stocks suffer in terms of numbers and average size and, anyway, who really wants to fish shoulder to shoulder or even within hailing distance of complete strangers. Its a fact of life in so many places now and, for the most part, we accept it as such with good grace as part of the compromises we must make if we are to continue to fish at all.
To come to the Pitt River Lodge, as I did in late October with Mark Hume, Nick Didlick, Glenn Baglo and Mike Smyth, journalists, writers, photographers, friends and colleagues from this website, was to take a step back in time. One minute we were snarled in Sunday afternoon, Vancouver highway traffic as incessant rain drenched the coast; an hour later we were well on our way by boat up Pitt Lake, eager in the anticipation of a return to an era when all rivers in this part of the world were in their prime, full of fish and located in places where the hand of humans had yet to leave its mark.
True, the rich forest resource of the Upper Pitt River valley has been and, to a degree, still is being exploited. But the logging operation that once supported the long-since-dismantled township of Alvin and its pioneering population of some 250 hardy souls is being scaled back and should be shut down altogether within a few years. Research by Lee tells us that Alvin was named after a Nova Scotian farmer and logger, Alvin Patterson, who was the first settler in the valley in 1901.
As it happens, the very nature of the wild and often braided river valley is such that the visual impact of the logging can be largely ignored. At the same time the network of gravel logging roads provides access, from the estuary upstream for some 43 kilometers almost to the very edge of Garibaldi Park where, for some reason, all fishing ceases.
Here in British Columbia we have every reason to take great pride in our superb parks and one wonders why such a total closure is deemed necessary. Surely a catch-and-release, fly only experience would help to attract discerning fishermen to an area of extraordinary natural beauty? As our resource industries - forestry, mining and fishing continue in decline so tourism becomes an increasingly important source of revenue, and jobs, with fly fishing as a good a way as any to attract visitors from south of the Border and further afield for that matter.
Danny Gerak knows full well the challenges faced by a commercial fisherman but now his boat, the 32-foot Fraser River gill-netter, River Wind, is also an integral part of a Pitt River Lodge transportation system that includes a fine, old yellow school bus and a rugged, red 4 x 4 crew cab. The boat provides the key linkage between the lodge and the pick-up point at Grant Narrows, less than an hours drive from downtown Vancouver, where tidal Pitt Lake runs into the Lower Pitt River on its way to meet the mighty Fraser.
In calm conditions - and it can be really rough at times - the trip up or down the lake takes about an hour and a quarter. Had the rain eased, we would have been able to enjoy to the full our first sight of this wilderness on the very edge of civilization. There are some holiday and weekend homes at the lakes edge but they are dwarfed as steep, forested slopes climb into the clouds. On a fine summers day the boat ride would be an experience in itself; for our crew the warmth of the cabins oil stove was good reason to stay below.
Just as the River Wind carries guests, equipment and supplies on the first leg of the journey so the yellow school bus is used between dock and lodge where, over the years our hosts, Danny and Lee, have created a remarkable home from home. Its one where guests are immediately welcomed as family, where visitors are encouraged to make the most of a still maturing enterprise, one that owes everything to the relaxed and informal way the owners go about their business.
First came the cabins in the early 1990s, two of them relocated from elsewhere in the valley. Then the lodge itself, completed just a year ago, built from locally cut cedar and fir and notable for the noble proportions of its massive, open plan, main floor area. The lodge provides every comfort with full board and lodging for up to eight guests in four double rooms. The four cabins Bugtussel, Rockys Longhouse, Loft Cabin and Boise Bunkhouse stand close at hand each accommodating between four and seven guests who look after themselves while enjoying evening access to the main building.
The silent, dripping forest is all around, ancient, moss-hung trees with stories to tell, with the green-roofed, two-storey lodge standing proudly in the middle of a substantial clearing. For those with the urge to wet an immediate line, a one minute walk brings you to the river.
Not that we were in any great rush to go fishing. After all, four full days lay ahead, dinner was cooking and we knew we would have the river to ourselves for most of the time. Expectations were high, the bar was open and there were flies to be tied by those with prior experience of the Upper Pitt, in particular a fresh quota of Kelseys Hope which spun effortlessly off Didlicks nimble fingers.
A night of continuing rain did nothing to disturb the sleep of the big city quintet. Dannys pre-breakfast check confirmed the river was still on the rise, not surprising in view of the volume of water still pouring down from on high. Nevertheless, there was a spirit of optimism in the air, inevitable when dedicated fly fishermen get set to go about their business.
In passing, Danny mentioned he was having problems with the heater in the crew cab truck he uses to bring visiting fishermen to the river. Soon we knew what it was to ride loggers roads in a mobile damp space, a condition exaggerated on the way back with six sodden, wader-clad bodies generating a level of interior moisture that would have been of fully tropical proportions had the day been any warmer. Liberal use of a wad of toilet paper just about kept the windscreen clear for the undaunted driver while his passengers relaxed, confident that he at least could see where he was going.
So the time passed. On the water for most of the daylight hours, eat and drink, talk fishing, play pool, glance at the latest satellite television war news from Afghanistan, incongruous as it seemed in the circumstances, and then to dreamless sleep. Two wood stoves make for comfortable, cozy living in the lodge with mounted, antlered deer heads perfect for hanging the chest waders, hats and jackets that were always bone dry come morning.
With no other guests on hand, Lee had lots of help in the kitchen with the dinner duties evenly spread between those with culinary talents, mostly Baglo, who had also provisioned the expedition in some style, and those of us who accepted our lot as humble dishwashers with not one breakage to mar the effort.
And how was the fishing? The answer has to be met all expectations and this despite an unexpected dearth of coho at that particular time. There were certainly coho in and just above the canyon pools but not too many takers to the fly. Didlicks fish was an exception to that rule but, perhaps responding to undue pressure, it promptly turned a fine three-piece fly rod into a five-piecer in less time than it takes to spin the yarn.
Over the four days we all caught and released our share, the majority of them delicately pink-spotted bull trout close to five pounds, in greater or lesser numbers depending on a variety of factors, prime among them being location and effort. There would be abundance of trout in one stretch of water and few or none in another but the sense of expectation, of something good about to happen, was ever present. With radiophones to hand, we were quick to hear who was doing well and who was struggling a useful innovation with obvious safety implications when a group is spread out over three or four kilometers of wilderness water.
Keeping count with suitable recognition, and retribution, for the top rod at the conclusion of each day enhanced the occasion, as did the recounting of various mishaps that befell the party. My bear encounter (see the December issue) was an early talking point while Danny made his mark not once but twice with headlong dives into the chilled water unusual behavior for an esteemed guide, one who has known and cherished the Upper Pitt since boyhood. But for a leak in the casing, Didlicks underwater camera would surely have been called into service to capture the moment.
It was my first experience of bull trout, resident fish according to Danny and not to be confused with the sea-run Dolly Varden that appear at certain times of the year, big char that frequently weigh well into double figures. The bulls were just that, bullish, strong and eager takers of a wet fly cast square on a sink tip.
Often the best of the fishing came at the very tail of the run, just where the water breaks with the larger fish eager to turn and make for the rapids as backing followed line in quick order. One such was my best, in prime condition and a full 25 inches despite the loss of any eye at some earlier stage of its life. "Ah", said the wag on the radio, "that has to be one-eyed Oscar. We know him well!"
By mid-week. as the water level dropped and clearing skies revealed fresh snow on high ground all around, talk around the bar turned to dry flies and rainbows. And this, remember, was in the third week of October.
The others had their first surface-feeding rainbows on the Wednesday but they were working a stretch of water well above me and, for whatever reason, met up with rising fish while I saw no surface activity. On the final day it was a very different story. It was mid-afternoon when Baglo and I found ourselves on the opposite side of a perfect, broad stream, an even flow of clear water carrying with it a hatch of at least two species of Mayfly, one large and one small, riding the currents in significant numbers.
Just before the hatch was on in earnest the rainbows started to snatch at the sunk fly. Soon they were taking duns on the surface with a series of eager, splashy rises close to both banks, in mid-stream and towards the tail-out as well. The fishing was totally absorbing with my trout coming strongly to a #10 gray Wulff, five out of five hooked and played with all but one brought to the hand for release.
If ever an artist is looking for the picture perfect river rainbow then he should spend time on the Upper Pitt for these were classic examples of the species, hard-bodied, beautifully marked and in superb condition. Life can never be easy in a river as wild and boisterous as the Upper Pitt so its resident fish, whether they be bulls or rainbows, have to be of the best possible stock if they are to survive and prosper.
Mine were all in the 13-16 inch class while Baglo finally lost one he estimated around 18 inches. Further upstream, where the hatch was on a good hour before our fish started to move, Hume, Didlick, Smyth and Gerak met up with even larger rainbows to emphasize, if any emphasis is needed, just how good the dry fly fishing can be on this wonderful river.
For some years catch and release has been the accepted order for all Upper Pitt River species and so it should be. Its many boulder-strewn pools and shaded back channels, some constant, some changing from season to season, and even from one big flood to the next, offer the active fisherman a wonderful variety of water, deep glides, runs and streams, pockets of all sizes and always the prospect of a solid take and the accompanying sight and sounds of a big fish on the move. The fly fishermen, and those who use gear as well, appreciate the rare quality of the overall fishery and treat it with respect, even reverence. That approach makes for a healthy and stable stock.
The majestic valley setting with its surrounding mountains, rushing tributaries and abundant wildlife is an absolute visual feast. Bear, deer, cougar, bobcat, eagle, hawk and osprey all have their place in the Pitt River ecosystem along with the fish, the trout (rainbows, bulls and cutthroat), the Dolly Varden, the steelhead and the five species of Pacific salmon. We visit, admire, enjoy and take our leave.
(Authors postscript: On behalf of your riverneversleeps.com October guests and friends, thanks so much, Danny and Lee. It couldnt have been any better. And on a more personal note, Lee, your special tatie farts at breakfast provide strong competition for the potato bread so dear to the hearts of we folk with Northern Irish roots.
The Vancouver Province
By Michael Smyth
Matador to the bull trout: Fish fight like they mean it in the Upper Pitt River, just 60 km from Vancouver
The flock of Canada geese circling overhead looked a mile high, but their call was clear and strong, echoing through a misty valley, mixing with the rush of river water.
Fresh black-bear tracks criss-crossed a sandy trail as we followed the river's song. A sudden flash of movement in the corner of my eye: A bald eagle gliding silently along the river's edge.
It was hard to believe I was just 60 kilometres northeast of Vancouver. It felt like the far north.
In a slow-moving pool of turquoise glacier-water, a large fish broke the surface in lazy, splashy rises.
I flicked a small, dry fly into the center of the rings. It floated there a moment, then the water exploded in white fury.
The fish torpedoed straight out of the water, then dove deep, raced across the pool and jumped again. And again.
When I brought him to the beach, I saw the biggest, most beautiful rainbow trout I'd ever caught: Deep blues, silvers and pinks showed how he got his name. Large, jet-black spots gave him a wild, noble look.
"Some people call them 'leopard trout' because of those big spots," said Danny Gerak, a fishing guide who knows every riffle of the river.
"Another fish rising," he said, as I released the big rainbow and prepared to cast again.
I smiled -- because our day had just begun.
Welcome to the Upper Pitt River, perhaps the best fishing river in North America, an overflowing treasure chest of trout and salmon and char.
And it's right in our own backyard. Are we lucky, or what?
The Upper Pitt doesn't get the crowds that other Lower Mainland fishing holes attract. I had the whole river to myself during a recent trip.
The reason? No highways. To get to the Upper Pitt you have to fly in or -- better yet -- take a one-hour boat trip up Pitt Lake.
Danny, owner of the cozy Pitt River Lodge, picked me up in his salmon trawler at Grant Narrows Park in Pitt Meadows.
As we cruised up the lake, he pointed out local landmarks like ancient caves decorated with aboriginal petroglyphs and Red Slough, where you can kayak among feeding seals.
At the dock, we piled into the battered old school bus Danny uses to shuttle fishermen up and down the valley. As we bounced along a gravel logging road, I spotted something dash into the bush.
"Bobcat!" Danny said, pulling the bus over. "There he is."
I looked and looked where he was pointing. Suddenly, melting out of the rainforest like an optical illusion, the big grey face of the bobcat appeared. He seemed to stare at me with wonder equal to my own.
Wildlife viewing. Mountain biking. Hiking. Canyon hot springs. There's plenty of adventure to be had here.
But it was the fishing that really brought me, and Danny had exciting news.
"The river is full of sea-run bull trout right now," he said.
The next morning saw us bush-whacking through dense forest to reach a prime run of river.
With the forest so close around us, it was tough to forget those bear tracks we saw the day before. (Danny carries a big can of bear spray with him, just in case).
"Right in there," he said, pointing to a pretty pool when we reached the river bank.
I cast my line, this time with a heavy sinking fly tied on, and felt an abrupt bump.
"A rock," I thought. But then the line came screaming off my reel, the handle rapping my poor knuckles.
"Big fish, big fish!" Danny yelled. "Steer him away from those rapids or he'll spool you!"
Standing waist deep in the pool, I backed up toward the bank, trying not to slip on the rocky river bottom.
An epic battle later, I landed a silvery, 10-pound bull trout. That's a good name: They fight like they've seen red.
The greatest thing about the Upper Pitt is the variety of fish you can catch there.
The trout, my personal favourite, bite all year long, including wild steelhead in the spring. Time your visit to hit the huge salmon runs, especially sockeye in August and Coho in October.
The fly-fishing is superb, but the fish will attack spoons cast with spinning rods just as eagerly. You can hike and wade 65 kilometres of river or just toss a lure into the water outside your cabin.
To protect this unique fishery for the future, the provincial government has declared the entire Upper Pitt as catch-and-release only.
So make sure you bring your camera. And hang on tight.
(Reprinted with Permission)
The National Post - May
VANCOUVER -- A cold front comes out of nowhere and grips the Coast Range, stopping the spring melt as suddenly as it had begun. The Mamquam and Misty Ice fields lock up, as does the sweeping, cracked face of the Garibaldi Neve.
In the valley far below the Pitt River starts to clear. Within half a day it has gone from the color of milk to as clear as drinking water. And the fish begin to stir.
As the helicopter lifts off a landing pad in Vancouver's harbor, rising up above the Pan Pacific Hotel and the cranes along the waterfront, we look down to see early morning traffic starting to snarl the city's arteries. We leap over the Second Narrows Bridge, fly over the ranks of suburban housing in Burnaby and Port Moody and then climb over the mountains that form a solid wall between Greater Vancouver, and the wilderness.
"Just stunning," says the Prism Helicopters pilot who has looked down on this a thousand times before, but who never gets tired of it. Little wonder. Spread below us are snow capped peaks, and just to the east, the cobalt blue waters of Pitt Lake. At the head of the valley we can see the river emerging from the path it has carved.
The Pitt River runs out of Garibaldi Provincial Park and flanks Golden Ears Park, twisting through a valley that has been logged, but which is otherwise isolated from the urban sprawl that's just a mountain range away.
Steep, granite faced mountains plunge into the lake, making roads into the region impossible. Access can be by boat up the lake, but even that is difficult because the narrow pass acts like a wind tunnel, boiling up the surface with little warning. And once you boat to the head of the lake, you are still a long way from the good fishing water. A helicopter makes short work of all that.
The helicopter drops down to a clearing at Pitt Lake Resort, to pick up guide Danny Gerak, then heads up the valley, following the river. It drops us on a gravel bar - and 45 minutes after lifting off from the helipad, in the downtown core, the first cast goes out.
In the spring, coastal rivers come alive as salmon fry begin to migrate downstream. The tiny fish, still attached to orange yolk sacks, wriggle out of the gravel at night and drift towards the ocean with the current. In some rivers, like the Adams and the Horsefly, which have huge sockeye runs, the fry hatch numbers into the uncountable millions. The Pitt River supports modest runs of sockeye, coho and chinook - but there are still millions of fry that emerge each spring. In the clear water, the young salmon are easy targets, and schools of Dolly Varden, bull trout, rainbows and cutthroat move up into the river from the lake to feed on them.
More than a decade ago the Pitt River was put under catch and release regulations, to protect the salmon stocks, which the department of fisheries has been trying, with some considerable success, to build up. That blanket regulation has protected the trout and char too - resulting in some of the most remarkable fishing to be found anywhere. That it occurs in a river so close to the city you can see the blue haze of automobile exhaust in the air, seems nothing short of miraculous.
In a deep pool, where the water turns green as it undercuts a giant bolder, a tiny fly the color of a salmon fry abruptly halts its swing across the current. The rod bends full, the fish shakes its head, and the three-kilogram leader parts like a thread.
"You gotta go heavier," says Mr. Gerak with a sympathetic nod. He advises a 12 kg leader.
Are we fishing for monsters here?
"Oh, yeah," he says and holds up one arm. The fish he is indicating would stretch from shoulder to palm.
Then he walks away to explore a run upstream. Who, you wonder, is supposed to land this monster?
Another fly sinks into the green pool. Nothing. A dozen casts, a hundred. You might think the river is over billed, except that upstream you can see the other fishermen, their rods bent, as they find a run where the Dolly Varden are holding. They beach half a dozen, release them, and you still have the green pool - all to yourself. Where is that big fish?
Even on wilderness rivers the best pools always seem to be somewhere else. Way downstream looks good. The helicopter moves us once, then flits off into the heavens. From here we will walk out to a truck Mr. Gerak has left at the end of a logging road, for a quick ride to a boat at the head of the lake. We will head out before dark and be back in the city in time to see the street lights come on.
It's a long hike, over the rubble left by spring floods of the past, but it takes us past one beautiful pool after another. Almost all of them yield a Dolly Varden, some up to two or three kgs. Some 50 cm rainbows are taken. But the monsters, the bull trout, an ancient breed of fish that has inhabited this stream since the glaciers retreated, are still in hiding.
In a patch of soft mud we find a black bear print. In the distance a huge eagle spins up on an updraft. Here and there deer emerge from the woods, look bewildered, and then vault away.
Mr. Gerak tells us stories about bears that gather in herds in the fall to feast on spawning salmon, and about cougars, that sometimes creep out of the woods to hunch down in the grass outside his lodge.
One sat there, its tail twitching, watching his mother- in- law working in the garden. When his father went for a gun it got up, tawny brown, and slouched off unconcerned. One day he dropped a hiker off at a trailhead and, coming back later, found a cougar sitting on the guy's pants. Luckily the hiker wasn't in them. He'd changed to shorts before heading up the trail. The cougar loped away when the truck stopped, but you have to wonder what it was thinking.
As the day winds down I come alone to the last run to be fished, looking this way and that for cougars or bears. It's a shallow run, but a cut on the far bank has created a small back eddy, which has formed a seam in the current. The fly swings down and stops, dead solid. The rod bows double, and the fish springs to life, taking the current broad side and running wildly. In a moment the heavy, colored fly line is out, and so is a big stretch of the white backing, which anglers seldom see once they've wound it onto their reels.
The fish demands to be chased. After a fight that lasts long enough to leave wrist and bicep aching, the bull trout comes in. It is silver and green and glowers as it grips the fly in its jaws. A quick measure puts it at 90 cms. A monster.
Soon the glaciers will start to melt again, the river will turn white, and the big fish will vanish like ghosts until the fall.
(Reprinted with Permission)
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