- Tim Madison
TROUT FISHING IN CANADA 2018
Updated: May 20, 2022
September 17th-September 29th 2018
7 Half Diamond Ranch \ Corbett Lake \ Eliguk Lake
7 HALF DIAMOND RANCH
September 17, 2018
We’ve run away from home again. We have a nice home and there’s no compelling reason to run away from it except to do things like see the world and hunt rainbow trout in the British Columbia interior. We’re acquiring experiences, not stuff. We like to think that way even though the stuff still accumulates despite our efforts to unload it. Never mind. We’re in Canada again. After a Sunday of showers and cool September weather we’re seeing a brilliant sunrise and the promise of a near perfect day for fishing. We are at the 7 Half Diamond guest ranch about 40 miles southeast of Merritt, B.C. We checked in late Friday after a good day of transit from Lopez Island. This is Monday, so we’ve had a chance to get into the groove here. Time to make some notes and post them on the Internet Memory Cloud, that ocean of servers that doesn’t forget things. Facebook is handy that way. We can post the journal and some photos to remind us where we were and when. It mitigates that blurring of memory and mistaken recollections we seem to experience with a small bit of concern. If folks want to read it, that works too.
This place is set up as a guest ranch. The owners, Jim and Heather, used to have a much larger cattle ranch that included this area. They sold about half of it and kept this half. They built three guest facilities, a large cabin that sleeps 8 or so, a small cabin that could take as many as 4 people but it would be tight. Two is comfy for this one. There is also a ‘bunkhouse’ with smaller space and more beds, the chief detail there being a shared bathroom. We’re in the small cabin. The owners built everything here using an essential tool in these parts, their own sawmill. So, there is a good deal of personalized ‘ranch art’ in the design and construction here. And the accommodations are top shelf. Our cabin is equipped with all the conveniences: electric range, refrigerator, freezer, microwave, coffee maker, excellent wood burning fireplace, deck, and a gas grill. And I should mention a stunning view toward the west over a wooded landscape and a large pond full of ducks and red wing blackbirds. Sunsets and moonsets have been stunning. Very little light pollution here, so the stars are like diamonds floating in ink. We imagine that the darkness helps us sleep deeper.
Activities here include fishing and equestrian things. There is quite a bit of structure here devoted to horses. There is a large corral that seems to be set up for training. Attached to it are paddocks for several horses. It seems that folks bring their steeds here for a kind of horse vacation. Sunday, we saw a little of that when a pair of ladies rolled in with a palatial horse trailer at least 30 feet long. It carried three horses and an albino Great Dane as well as living space for the human. Air conditioned, of course. We visited the horses who were very friendly. The Dane is my new friend after a vigorous backscratch. Her breath smelled of horse. Hrm…
Looming above the corral is the Lone Star Saloon. Jim built this replica of a bar because he always wanted to run a saloon. This is done with 19th century Old West in mind, cowboy style all the way. It serves as a meeting hall, banquet hall, party zone for folks who need that kind of space. And it has shuffleboard too.
We fished the lake (Batstone Lake) on Saturday. The boats they have here are first class. Wide base flat boats with seats, double anchors, and electric motors. We got one 3 lb fish to hand. Had two others on the line but they escaped by means of tricky maneuvers. We figure they’ve been caught before and have some experience dealing with fly fishermen.
Sunday was promising intermittent downpours so we decided to make it a day of reading, sleeping, and walking around. We took the path around the lake, enjoying the forest and visiting the cattle. Four of them decided to stalk us about 1/3 of the way. They would follow about 50 feet behind us. When we stopped, they would. When we moved on, they followed. We entertained ourselves by making up reasons for this behavior.
We’re here until Wednesday morning. That day, we move on to the next phase of this adventure: another fishing camp. Imagine that!
September 22, 2018
We have moved on from 7 Half Diamond Ranch. Last Wednesday we moved into cabin #9 here at Corbett Lake Lodge only about 20 minutes from our last sleep. We were here last year for 3 days to check it out. We punched the like button so we here we are again. Very early Monday morning we set forth on the third leg of this saga. Meanwhile we have fish to hunt and flies to tie.
Corbett Lake Lodge has been here for a while. About 35 years ago, a UK chap, Peter McVey ran away from his job as chef for Lord Mayor-London, came to British Columbia and built Corbett Lake Lodge. He began managing the lake for larger fish and succeeded in developing an excellent spot for fly fishing rainbows. He brought his culinary skills with him, of course. The meals he served were world class. He also built bamboo fly rods for the discerning fisher-person. Peter McVey, Renaissance Man! He sold the place a few years ago for a tidy sum. He’s not in charge here any longer but his influence remains. The lake is home to big trout, the boats are tight and properly set up for fly fishing, the staff is all about customer service.
We feel very much at home here. And they still serve suppers but only Friday-Sunday. The quality is still awesome, too. We had a meal here last year. We showed up for our reservation and we were the only diners in the lodge. Great food and private dining! No complaints, eh? We plan another meal on our last night here, Sunday. Just in time, too. Our cooler is about empty and so is our food box. Running out of food is part of the plan. The spot we’re heading to on Monday is a wilderness camp where they do the cooking for us. We’re getting out of Corbett just in time to dodge the North American Loch-Style Fly Fishing Championships.
We began our trout hunting here, at Corbett, Wednesday afternoon. Ever since then we’ve been dodging rain squalls. This is very different than the balmy, sunny, lovely bright days we had here last September. But that’s how it goes out here. It is what it is. Actually we’ve been quite successful getting in fishing time even though we’re only counting a handful of tight lines each day. The fish aren’t being caught in bunches but those we do capture are 19-20″ fish. We release them after giving them a sore mouth and beaming admiration for being just magnificent.
Dodging raindrops has been working well until today. After raining all night and all morning we thought we saw a break in the weather. Out we go in our little boat only to get pelted by a squall that hit almost the moment we put a line in the water. Ten minutes later we were both ready to apply for our next job as sponges. So we packed it in and wrote Saturday off as a washout. Time to tie flies, read books, light a fire in the wood stove, and hang our soaked things over the heat. We’ll get back at it tomorrow. It’s our last day, Sunday, so we expect to catch more fish because that is rule number 4,391,844 of Murphy’s Law.
The next post will likely be made from the wilds of the Chilcotin in west-central BC. Cheers!
September 29, 2018
Leaving Corbett Lake, Merritt B.C. at about 4 am Monday, Sept. 24 toward the third stop of our Canadian Trout Fishing Epic. We hope to make the outpost village of Anahim Lake in about 9 hours. Despite several stops for stretching, loo breaks, and last minute shopping we get there in 8, which is amazing since we are very very careful to observe the speed limits, much to the dismay of the local scofflaws who pass us with what we imagine to be an attitude of contempt that billows out of the tailpipes of the outsized pickups as they roar by. The scenery reveals itself as the sun comes up: lodgepole pine, pocket swamps, golden grassland, ancient forest burns, lush green valleys.
We turn toward the west at Williams Lake and are now into territory neither of us has seen. As the miles roll by the more cowboy it gets until even that fades into mostly hard-times homesteading and First Nation villages. At Nimpo Lake we briefly exit the well used ranchland that had seen its best days in the early 20th century and enter into cottage country for (probably) city slickers. There are nice homes and resorts dotting the edge of Nimpo Lake but this fact is scarcely reflected in the General Store that serves it. The fuel island is only partially in order, maybe only 25% functional. I notice that both diesel pumps are dead as a diesel powered motorhome rolls up next to it destined to be disappointed. Only one of the two gasoline pumps is working. We decide to top up. When we come back through here next Sunday we don’t know if they will be 100% broken, out of gas, or just plain closed because Jesus.
Gas in tank, we’re off up the road a few miles to meet Aron, the owner of Eliguk Lake Lodge in a diner called Donna’s Place in Anahim, as we have been instructed to do by his wife and co-owner Jennifer through the magic of internet messaging service. Connection made, introductions all around, we follow behind on some lengthy dirt paths to park our rig on a nearby cattle ranch belonging to Aron’s cousin. We transfer stuff from our truck to his. This is because the road in to the camp is too brutal for our anemic Toyota Tacoma 4X4 pickup designed to haul Costco supplies and bales of peat moss in white-bread suburbia. We’re going where the V8 power wagons with lift kits go. 2.5 hours of Kidney Punch Trail through the B.C. bush later, we arrive in camp. Along the way we learn about the local wolf packs, grizzly bears, and moose as well as some stories about the local human beings. A grizzly in these parts can run down a deer. A wolf pack can kill a grizzly. People kill everything. More people are injured or murdered by encounters with moose than any other wild beast. Some of my presumptions are evaporated. I’m smarter now.
Eliguk Lake Lodge is way off grid. It is wilderness camp. However, Aron and Jennifer have it running quite impressively well. So well, that even some hot-house plants like us from comfortable Lopez Island find it very pleasant to stay here. Mind you there’s no electricity in the cabin, lights are propane flame, heat is a wood stove, drinking water is a five gallon jug positioned next to the sink, and the loo is an outhouse with a view of the lake. But we expected this level of frontiersman milieu. We are also frequently reminded that we are here in September, after the mosquitoes have drawn their last blood-sucking breath. Being out in the fresh Fall air is dead pleasant without any of the mini flying vampires trying to poison us while draining our bodily fluids. And it is quiet here except for the Loon singing in the morning, Jennifer’s chickens burbling in the dirt, and the breeze whooshing in the tree tops. Dark at night too. Sleep here is different and better, it seems.
The scenery is breathtaking. A 5 kilometer long lake spreads out in front of the camp. A lodgepole pine forest carpets the area around it. Off to the south a snowcapped highland called the Ilgatchas Range seems to float in space above the forest. It is actually the collapsed remains of an ancient volcanic cone. To the southwest is another one bearing the name of Rainbow Range. Again, a snowcapped, collapsed volcano, not actually a range of peaks. In betwixt is another piece of high ground called Anahim Peak. This is the exposed core of an even more ancient volcano, mostly a basalt monolith but also a source of obsidian. The native people made good use of this to make arrow and spear tips. The lake and camp and much of the immediate area was in the immediate influence of these volcanoes which had their hay-day millions of years ago.
All of the rock around here is basalt except for the erratics left by the last ice-age glacier as it melted away. The visual beauty is significant but we don’t have to go very deep to discover how rough and dangerous it is. Just going for a walk in the woods here can be fatal, not because of the moose or the wolves, but because of the dense tracklessness of it. It looks the same in every direction and in every light. Without a certain skill set, a clueless bottomlander could be in a lot of trouble very quickly.
We brought our fishing gear hoping to earn some tight lines. This is Wednesday now and we’ve been at it for a few hours yesterday and today. We’ve hooked less than a handful. This lake could be a mystery we can’t solve. It is unlike any of the places we’ve fished. The bottom is rocky and hard. There are no weed beds in the shoals. The fish seem to rise over the deep parts of the lake, not the shallows. And what they are slurping on the surface seems to be a small brownish midge a copy of which my fly box seems to have, but no. My versions of it produce nada. We have a few days left to figure this out but I’m prepared to write it off to experience. Hrm…
Meanwhile, back in camp Jennifer is showing off her cooking skills. This camp is all-inclusive. Jennifer cooks all the meals. We give full marks for excellent food. She knows her way around a kitchen and could give Martha Stewart lessons in that regard. I wish Anthony Bourdain were still alive. I’d beg him to come here to do one of his shows. We’ve had roast chicken, filet mignon Caesar salad, pasta dinner with focaccia, and Greek style chicken with rice, each with chef created sauces, condiments, and flavorings, many obtained from the wild wilderness landscape, just the kind of thing that makes standard fare outstanding. Then there’s breakfast with eggs gathered that very morning 30 meters away from the kitchen and fresh baked bread for toast. I don’t even care if I can’t catch the fish here. Jennifer’s cooking is worth the trip.
Aron and Jennifer have three dogs, their ‘kids’. Stormy and Forest are descended from Australian Sheep Dog stock. Murphy is a Pomeranian mix who weighs about 4 lbs soaking wet. But in his mind he’s a Grizzly. Stormy is quite the character. He was quick to assess us when we stepped into camp. A few sniffs, a scratch on the ear and we were approved. Forest is ‘Joe Cool’. He’s laid back, calm, and confident. He gives us a wink and a nod before he’s off chasing another squirrel up a tree. Murphy spends his time trying to get into our laps and making sure that the other dogs recognize his obvious superiority. Stormy likes to go fishing. If I go to the dock with a rod in hand, Stormy is there wiggling out of his skin. When a cast goes out he creeps to the edge of the dock, crouching with his head over the edge, staring at the line in hope that it will get tight. Jennifer says that she’ll set up a rod on the dock just for him and he’ll put his paw on it hoping to feel the strike. He’ll do this for hours. I haven’t seen what happens when there’s a fish on because I can’t hook them from the dock. I’d love to see it, though. When Stormy isn’t fishing, he’s showing off his chicken herding skills. We stood watching while he put every chicken back into their fenced enclosure. Quite a fellow.
Aron and Jennifer have big plans for this camp in the next few years. A much better power system using solar panels and high tech battery systems, flush toilets, a large and comfortable central lodge with a modern kitchen, better fishing boats, a sawmill and work shop, a wood fired green house, improved roofing for the cabins, and a parked-out landscape just for starters. And a float plane too. It is so much work it makes my head spin. Luckily Aron is a skilled mechanic and resourceful frontiersman, Jennifer is an accomplished chef, and both of them understand what it takes to operate a business. Even though a taste for off-grid life is pre-requisite that doesn’t mean that modern 21st Century tech isn’t used here. Solar panels power a satellite dish and a modem granting internet connectivity to the outside world. It’s not just for entertainment and news, it’s for safety as well. For instance, it was essential that they were able to stay in touch with the local authorities during the fierce fire season last summer. From the standpoint of guest, we can use our cell phones to make calls over the interwebz if we want to but we don’t want to. We feel that we are kind of voyeurs here, enjoying the best parts of it while admiring the skill and dedication that these two people are applying to it.
We jump to Friday, now. The morning is too breezy to enjoy a boat excursion so we stoke the fire in our abode playing cards, waiting for today’s midday plan to congeal. We’re going to help Aron and Jennifer celebrate their wedding anniversary with a picnic at a nice viewpoint on the lake toward the west. We’re a party of seven trundling through the lodgepole pine bush with all three dogs running ahead. We follow the Grease Trail, aka, The MacKenzie Heritage Trail for a bit before finding the lakeshore picnic table Aron has set up. A fire is lit and Jennifer spreads the food out. We’re doing a weenie roast with beer, chips, and finger veg. Weather is spectacular. After stuffing ourselves and toasting their anniversary, we go west a bit more to admire a swampy meadow, trying not to step in fresh moose poo as we go.
Mushrooms, fungal growth, tiny flowers, moss, wild mint, and dwarf juniper carpet the forest floor. Some of it is edible, some poisonous, some is merely unpleasant to taste. The Great White North features a nearly limitless, unrefined mix of peace and violence, beauty and rot, wonder and horror, life and death. Another swig of Scotch out of the flask and my perspective is back in focus. Back to camp where there’s still a bit of fishing to be had in the hour of decent weather before dinner which shall be Italian Night with pizza, beer, wine, and Dean Martin crooning his greatest hits through the magic of the interwebz. Another version of Happy Anniversary is sung to the tune of The William Tell Overture.
We are here through Saturday, today, rolling out on Sunday morning. We have a strong easterly breeze, sunny skies, and a brisk temp of 8 C (46F). Too windy to fish, so we focus on more cards and prepping our gear to move out tomorrow early. We won’t get back to Lopez Island in one day, however. We’ll take an overnight in Kamloops before the final push to Anacortes. We should be home October 1 on a late afternoon boat. We’ve had a marvelous stay at Eliguk Lake Lodge. Even though we’re getting into the groove of camp life here, I know that in a few days we’ll be wondering which planet we were on that last week in September. The food has been outstanding. I’m not certain what Jennifer is planning for tonight’s meal but if the past five suppers are any measure, we’re heading for another stylish food coma.
That’s all for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed our little adventure. We’ll post again the next time we decide to run away from home.