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Hi Lee,
We got home yesterday evening after spending a few days with friends in Seattle. We enjoyed our stay at PRL very much, and plan to return in 2018.
Thanks and good wishes to you, Danny, Jordan and co.

Norman and Margaret
Sept 2017


Dear Lee,
I cannot express how wonderfully accommodating Pitt River Lodge was in the organizing of this trip for my executives and their clients. Anything I feel I could say would be an understatement. We had last minute cancellations, add ons, and changes and Lee took it all in stride beautifully and was available to address all of my concerns from local car service help to alcohol/liquor inquiries.
Everyone had such an amazing time and continuously praised on how wonderfully pleasant the entire staff at Pitt River Lodge were. They felt the staff were like family to them.
Thank you so much for making this trip seamless and unforgettable! Definitely will recommend to all other colleagues and friends!

Sincerely,
Somie Pak
New York, NY
Sept 2017


Lee and Danny -
Thank you for an amazing trip at the Pitt River Lodge. First, you were very flexible with our ever changing schedule. Once we got their everything was first class; the accommodations, the scenery, the guides (John, Jordan, Judah and Stu - THANKS!) the food, etc. The evening bon-fires we're awesome and the extra bonus of going for and catching 3 Sturgeon on our last night won't be forgotten.
Thanks again for the great experience and will definitely be back for round 2!

Michael Iantosca
New York, NY
Sept 2017


Thank YOU for the hospitality and great fishing memories. I look forward to my return.
I think I got the bug in Josh because he loves fly fishing now more than ever. He comes to Vancouver about twice a year on business and I can see him taking a slight detour now periodically.

Regards,
Ellie Wolfson
Sept 2017


Hi Lee and Danny,
Tthank you so much for a wonderful few days at your lodge, we had a cracking time. The food, the atmosphere and the fishing were all fantastic. A special thanks to John who not only gave us great sport, he also understood how nervous carol was in the boat, so much so that by the end of it she was up for white water rafting! Great guy and guide.

Many thanks,
Carol and Pete


Dear Lee,
Thank you very much for a wonderful time at your lodge. We came home renewed and inspired. Thank you for taking such gracious and good care of us, especially my food needs.

We send our best to you and Danny,
Valerie Young and Bob Lincoln
Sept 2017


Lee -
Thank YOU…and Danny. And the rest of your team. We had such an enjoyable stay. Were so looked after. It felt like home the minute we arrived.
What wonderful memories.

Thank you,
Carol, Karla and Richard Kilgore
Louisiana
Aug 2017


We really loved the trip, and I’m sure we’ll be back, it was great fun.
Thank’s for all your hard work. Please could you thank John for us, we really enjoyed his time with us, he was great fun, a great fishing guide and kept us all safe in the raft.
I can’t believe it was now a week ago since we left.

Regards,
Lee Gallant and friends from the UK
Aug 2017


Hey there Lee,
You have great pictures already but here’s some of my favorites. And…. thank you and your crew for an unforgettable trip! I am not sure yet regarding an October trip. I am hoping that since most probably I will be by myself, I can find accommodations last minute if I can make it!

Arthur Aghadjanians and his kids enjoyed their days on the river..
Aug 2017


Lee,
We had a wonderful time and I certainly enjoyed the fishing. The little glitches just added to the charm of your delightful lodge. We loved meeting everyone and are looking forward to a return visit.
Thanks for all your attention and great food!!

Best Wishes,
John and Mary Kirkland
Aug 2017


Thanks a lot Dan and Lee and the gang.

Bryan Drew and crazy friends have been coming in since early 90’s!


Hi Lee and Danny and hello to all you hard working fishing guides.
Just a big thank you for looking after me and Carol. Hats off to your guides for their knowledge and professionalism and a day in a heli with lots of hard fighting fish which I will never forget.
Enjoy your winter and I sincerely hope to see you again,

Kindest regards,
Ian and Carol
Sept 2016


Lee,
We truly enjoyed your hospitality and your contagious laugh. The food was amazing and I must say, I was a true hero for picking the Pitt River Lodge for Jillian’s first fly fishing adventure. I have attached a picture that we posted yesterday on Instagram.
I hope to return to your wonderful lodge in the near future. Thanks again for making our Father/Daughter trip exceptionally fun.

Best regards,
Jim Frager and daughter Jillian
San Diego, CA


Ohhhh Lee. That was such a great visit for both of us, beyond dreams. Wholly unforgettable, from your kindness and wisdom, to the brilliant fish, stunning waters, landscape, and a guide able to seamlessly adapt to very different levels of experience on the water. As Gita says these “were the best days of my life!”
So… I am sitting at my dining room table my Gita’s older sister talking about logistics hoping you may have room at the lodge tentatively Monday-Tuesday October 10-11? If that doesn’t work, we will keep trying till it does!
Please thank Rachel, Jordan, and Danny from us for all they did!!

Michael Johnson
Narberth, Pennsylvania
July 2016


Hi Lee & Dan,
The last trip was the fourth or fifth for me and each one gets better than the last. The food, fishing were great and Pitt River atmosphere is special. See you next year.
Our VERY first guest in Oct 2000

Phil Embley
Vancouver,
June 2016


Dear Lee and Danny,
Thank you so much for the recent fishing trip and to Jordan for looking after us so well. After a visit in May 2012 after sea-run bull trout, I was rather surprised to find out how different - but still excellent - the fishing was this time, concentrating on sockeye and chinook.
Next time we come to see the kids in Vancouver, I think we will have to time it so that I can have a proper go at the steelhead! I attach a couple of boasting photos for your gallery if you want them - one slightly spoiled as it stars Jordan ( but with my fish! ); do remind him of my advice not to spend all his tip on loose women!

Best,
Peter
Exeter, UK
August 2014


Good morning, I wanted to say thanks for the outstanding Pitt River experience provided by You, Dan and your staff. We have been sharing pictures of our trip since we returned to good ole Kansas. The boys are already discussing our return trip to the Pitt River lodge and Larry has finally accepted the fact that my fish were larger than his..

Thanks again,
Clardy
Kansas
August 2014


Lee
Our gang had a wonderful time at the Pitt.It is such an extraordinary beautiful area and your operation is so welll done,a trip there is a special privilege.
We will be back next year.I note the date for a comparable time frame would be July 10,2015 to july 15,.So mark us down and hope for a healthy year for all of us so we can gather again to chase the Bulls.

Jack
Vancouver
July 2014


Lee,
We look forward to this trip each year Lee. This trip is especially important to my family. It is my dad’s only true getaway respite now. We have actually been to many fishing lodges over the years but we really like to visit your home and lodge.
Why?
We like the family feel about it and we like how you and Danny have carved out the life you have. I personally appreciate how everyone at your lodge treats my dad….like gold.
He wants to participate and not be a bother but it takes careful watch now. As far as we are concerned, the Pitt demonstrates the real BC….logging with all its warts alongside a river system that is constantly changing, along with the weather.
Best wishes for the balance of your season. I hope the reality tv part works out!
Regards,

Ted
Bellvue, WA
July 2014


Honor Roll Report Found! A Wilderness Lodge Near Vancouver

Editor Note: Subscriber Matthew Capofreddi tells us he has found a lodge that is near Vancouver, British Columbia, but still provides a genuine wilderness fishing experience. On one of his two trips to this lodge, thanks to a storm, he had a real adventure along with good fishing, he says. We are putting Matthew Capofreddi on our Subscriber Honor Roll for taking the time to file this report. His Honor Roll fishing cap is already in the mail.

I travel to Canada for work frequently, and I wanted to combine a work trip with a day on the Bow River in Calgary in June 2012, but, unfortunately, the river was usually high at that time. As Vancouver was one of my stops, I did a quick Google search for fly fishing in Vancouver and that is when I first read about Pitt River Lodge. I decided to give the place a try with limited research and, boy, am I glad that I did! The lodge really provides what it advertises, namely, a wilderness adventure close to Vancouver.

My trip started with a one-hour drive to the boat dock at Grant Nar- rows east of Vancouver. There, I was picked up in a jet boat. The ride across Pitt Lake was incredible, with snowcapped mountains on either side and waterfalls spilling down into the lake. Although the boat ride took an hour, it felt like it took a few minutes because of the incredible sights along the way. At the end of the journey, we docked at a rustic logging camp and loaded our gear into a pickup truck for the drive to the lodge.

The lodge provides classic fishing accommodations, with options to stay at either the main lodge or one of the cabins. The latter offer limited services. There is plenty of room in the main lodge to socialize with other guests, including a bar area (you need to bring your own liquor and beer) and pool table. During my first trip to Pitt River Lodge (I have now been there twice), I was one of only three guests. All of us were warmly welcomed and provided with great meals and a very comfortable bed. The next morning I met my guide and we headed out with the other guests in a pickup. After a drive of about five miles, we dropped off the other guests, along with their guide and raft, as they were going to float down the lower section of the river. My guide and I drove on to the end of the road, where, incidentally, the owners are building a new lodge with great views and access to higher sections of the river. We then hiked up the river another couple of miles where we could see glaciers on the mountains further to the north. At that point, we started fishing and hiking our way back down the river. We were hoping that some sea-run bull trout (very similar to a Dolly Varden) had worked their way into the upper sections of the river. Unfortunately, we weren’t very lucky. Although the views were incredible, the fishing was quite slow.

The Pitt River is a classic, glacially fed river with big water and many braids. The fishing and wading are not easy. We fished primarily by swinging large flies through the seams, mostly weighted leech, sculpin and trout pat- terns. Toward the end of the day, after working our way down the river, we did manage to land a few bull trout. They are great fighters, especially in fast water. They reminded me of the bluefish I catch back home in the coastal waters of New England. They were extremely tough fish, even the smaller ones we caught that day in the two-to three- pound range. They left me wondering what it would be like to hook up with some of the larger fish that are widely known to be in the river. Interestingly, in one section of the river, we floated egg patterns through riffs with indica- tors and managed to catch a few decent- sized rainbow trout. It was hard to believe that they were rainbows, as they were mostly white and very similar in coloration to the bulls.

When we returned to the truck after an exhausting hike up and down the river, I was ready to take off my waders and have a nice cocktail. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. We saw storm clouds building and quickly got into the truck to drive back to camp. As we drove down the road, the storm grew worse and began to blow down trees all around us. At that point, we didn’t know if we should stop or drive on. A few kilometers later, the decision was made for us, as our way was com- pletely blocked by a very large tangle of trees across the road. We radioed back to camp to have someone drive in our direction to meet us. After waiting for a half hour or so, we realized that they couldn’t reach us, so we go out of the truck in the middle of the storm and started walking. It was at that point that we saw a bear behind us run off into the woods.

We didn’t get far before we realized that we were in real trouble, as there were many trees across the road, some of them quite large. We had to work our way down the road, around and through the trees for a couple of miles before we finally met up with the others who were trying to cut their way through the mess to rescue us. After this adventure, I was very happy to have a warm shower and nice meal before promptly falling asleep.

The next day, when the full extent of the damage was assessed, we realized that it would be impossible to reach the more productive sections of the river, so we decided to cut the trip short by a day. I was very disappointed, as I was looking forward to fl the river after my long hike. I found out later that it took another week for them to cut the trees and free our truck.

Fast-forward to June of this year when my business schedule provided an opportunity to spend another weekend in Vancouver. My first thought was to get back to Pitt River Lodge. On this trip I was met at the lodge with hugs and reminiscing stories of my grand ad- venture a few years earlier. Again, I was one of three guests in the main lodge, but there were two other anglers in one of the cabins. As before, the next morn- ing, we all headed out in trucks, this time with three rafts. The guides had planned the day to ensure that none of the guests fished the same pools.

We quickly learned that the river was up from the previous day, which resulted in a push of big bulls up the river. We used the raft primarily for transportation and wade-fished. We were quickly into fish, and this time they were the big ones. I managed to land a few in the seven to ten pound range and lost others that might have been bigger. Again, I was amazed at the power of these fish, which shouldn’t be surprising, I guess, given their ability to work all the way upriver from the ocean. The next day, the number of fish hooked and landed was higher, but the size of them was generally smaller (two to four pounds). This appeared to be driven by a drop in the river after a heavy rain overnight. The cold rain, I was told, slowed the glacial melt and offset the impact of the rain itself. We caught all of our fish both days by swinging large flies through the pools and seams. My guide had created many of the patterns we used, and he had named them after sections of the river (Sally Soft Sand, Jimmy John’s Boil, and Blue Lagoon were a few). Although this was his first year at the Pitt River, he was very knowledgeable and comfortable on the water. All in all, I probably landed about five to six large fish on the first day and a dozen on the second day. I will definitely be going back to Pitt Lodge again. The next time I might try to schedule a visit during the salmon or steelhead runs.

—Matthew Capofreddi.

Don Causey Note: Capofreddi gives the cost of his latest trip as $1,700 (Canadian). The complete lineup of available trips, as well as more information about the fishing and the facility, are available on the lodge’s website at: www.pittriverlodge.com.


Hi Lee, Hi Danny,

Just a quick note to thank you for the amazing weekend at your lovely lodge: food and fishing were great. Both Canada and the fishing in the Pitt river went far beyond our expectations! A special thanks to Jamie, an outstanding guide which managed to get a starting angler to catch a number of lovely bulltrouts and to make a dream come true for a more experienced one: catch a salmon – a very nice king salmon!

Regards from Switzerland, Take care,

Francesca & Valentino
Switzerland
August 2013


Hello Lee,

Just thought I'd take the opportunity to thank you for our lovely couple of days at your lodge. It really was the icing on the cake for a fabulous holiday to the Rockies. Pauline and I toughly enjoyed our stay and the photos are fantastic the fishing wasn't bad either! Just wish we could have stayed for longer. Any how thanks again

Regards
Rob and Pauline
United Kindom
August 2013


Hi Danny and Lee,

Matt and I had a great time at the lodge this past weekend and between us managed to land 18 nice bull trout and one steelhead. Great late winter fishing!! Adrian was a fantastic coach for Matt’s first fly fishing adventure and had him casting across Blue Creek within a few hours. He also taught me how to correctly fish for bull trout and steelhead. Adrian never gets excited does he! LOL!! The rafting trip with Danny was a nice way to relax and learn more about the valley between fishing spells, the scenery and river are so beautiful along the way. Nick was also such an interesting guy and had so much information on the area to share with us.

Lee, you have to start supplying more of your wonderful food, I only put on 5 lb. in 3 days!! The lodge and accommodations were first rate and the company was very good.

Thanks and best regards,

Terry Hall, P.Eng.
Vancouver, B.C.
August 2013


Hi Lee & Danny,

Thanks for an amazing couple of days at Pitt River. The rafting with Danny , Sunny & Tanya was amazing. I have attached a couple of photo's for the blog below. I have a couple of fly fishing buddies who are already planning a trip to Pitt River Lodge next year. Thanks again.

Marc Cassidy
Melbourne
Australia
August 2013


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.

Best Regards
Ian Pond
August 2012
United Kingdom

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.

Warm regards,
Martin Smith
October 2012
Seattle


pitt river lodge

Hi Lee,

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.

Best wishes,
Jean Willoughby
Untied Kindom
June 1st 2012


pitt river lodge

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
June 2012
Michigan, USA


pitt river lodge

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.

Keep safe
Janek & Lisa 2012
New Zealand


pitt river lodge

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.

Muchas Gracias,
Allan Beaulieu
Co-founder, Q Energy Drink
Vancouver BC
Oct 2011


pitt river lodge

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
UK
Nov 2011


pitt river lodge

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!

Kind regards

Max Paget
Austrailia
Sept 2011


pitt river lodge

Hi Lee

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.

Kerry Zang
Aug 2011



pitt river lodgeSafely 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.

John Parrott
july 2011


pitt river lodge

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!

Shep Harrison
July 8th 2011 day trip


pitt river lodge

Hallo Lee and Danny

Thank you very much again, for staying with you. We had a real good time and enjoyed
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 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All the best, Sven
Mit freundlichen Grüßen/Kind regards Sven-Olaf Raband-Dula
Germany
July 2011

pitt river lodge

Dear Lee,

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

Gene M. Tucker
Denver, CO 80209
June 2011


pitt river lodge

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.

Many thanks,
Tee and Hopie Parker
Charleston, SC
June 2011


pitt river lodge

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!

Best regards,

Rodney Gravenor
June 2011


pitt river lodge

Hi Lee,

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

Kind regards
Neil Atkinson
Director
Destination Education
LONDON
April 2011


pitt river lodge

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.

Sincerely,

Rob Brennan
Washington, DC


pitt river lodge

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?

Cheers,
Rob Gettings
Edmonton
Nov 2010


Hello Lee,

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
Australia
July 2010


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.

Thanks,
Heather and Dave Rideout
Maine, USA
Oct 2010


Dear Lee
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.

Claudia Haworth
London, UK
Aug 2010


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
Sept 2010


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.

Much love,
Mair and Mike McGeever
UK
Aug 2010


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.
Art Caramella
Pennsylvania
Aug 2010


Lee/Dan

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!

Take Care!
Willie Mitchel
Former NHL Vancouver Canuck now LA Kings
Aug 2010


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.

Affectionately,
Christine Marsh
Massachusetts
Oct 2009


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)
UK
Aug 2009


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.

Woody Spruance
Utah
Aug 2009


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
Uk
Aug 2009
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
Vancouver BC
Aug 2009


Lee,

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.

Brilliant!
Rob and Helen
UK
July 2009


Lee

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!

Tim Huckaby
California
June 2009


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?

Thanks again,
David and Eileen Bryer
Montana USA
Aug 2009


Download a PDF of the Alberta Outdoorsmen article from January 2012

Download a PDF of the Salmon and Steelhead Journal article from August 2010 here.
Vist the CyberAngler for their story from August 2010 here.


Hugh Gardner for The Angling Report, October 2006
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.)

This 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 here too.”

It 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?

I 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 fly rod.

The 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.

I 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 bush.

The 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 fisheries.

And 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.

Lodge 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.

My 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 me off.

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.

My 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 headwaters.

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 organized groups).

Which 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 info@pittriverlodge.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 Gerak’s 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. It’s 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 hour’s 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 lake’s edge but they are dwarfed as steep, forested slopes climb into the clouds. On a fine summer’s day the boat ride would be an experience in itself; for our crew the warmth of the cabin’s 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. It’s 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, Rocky’s 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 Kelsey’s Hope which spun effortlessly off Didlick’s nimble fingers.

A night of continuing rain did nothing to disturb the sleep of the big city quintet. Danny’s 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. Didlick’s 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, Didlick’s 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.


(Author’s postscript: On behalf of your riverneversleeps.com October guests and friends, thanks so much, Danny and Lee. It couldn’t 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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