I’m back in Red Lake feeling rejuvenated (despite the boil water advisory and thick forest fire smoke that I came home to) after one epic vacation.
It all started in Vancouver where Charlie and I met up with our two best friends and my dad to soak up the city life before getting off the grid for fishing on Langara Island.
We biked around Stanley Park, drove to Whistler to get our mountain fix, hiked a grueling peak in Squamish, visited breweries whenever we saw them, and ate every kind of seafood imaginable. We also had two random celebrity sightings: Liberal Party of Canada leader Justin Trudeau (I was the only one in our all-American bunch who knew who he was) and Kevin Dillon AKA Drama from Entourage. I was too nervous to approach Justin Trudeau, but got up some liquid courage to pose with Drama at a restaurant. He seemed happy about it.
To get to Langara Island, we left Vancouver in a puddle jumper to reach the small island village of Masset. The next leg of the journey was in a helicopter that took us to a landing dock on the water by the lodge. Flying low in the helicopter gave us the best view of the tree-covered islands, sliced through by rivers that the salmon swim up for spawning.
Langara Island is part of the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia, right off the coast of Alaska, in Haida Gawii territory.
The next four days were spent out on the water fighting Chinook and Coho salmon and reeling up some of the ugliest fish in the sea, halibut. From 6:30 in the morning until 5:30 in the evening we trolled in the boats with guides who spend four months every summer on the island with only one week off. They are truly some of the most interesting people I've ever met.
I love the feeling you get when you spot the tip of your rod twitching ever so slightly and you know that 30 feet below a 20-pound salmon is nibbling at your bait. You pick the rod out of the holder, eyes glued to the tip, feet in a stance that will keep you safe against the rocking of the waves. A hard nibble comes at last and you yank the rod to the sky, setting the hook, and begin to reel like crazy.
When the tension is too strong, you take your hand off the reel and let the fish run so you won't snap the line. The line shoots out, whistling, as this massive fish takes off in the water. Reel, reel, reel; let it run. Sometimes the fish jumps out of the water, wriggling in hopes of freeing itself from the hook. If you’re lucky (and good enough), the fish tires out, and you’ve got yourself enough filets to last for a good while back home.
Out on the water we saw humpback whales, seals, and sea lions (who occasionally stole our fish). Gigantic pine trees made it seem like the islands around us were much closer than they were, until you saw the speck of a bald eagle land in one of their branches. We honored the landscape with beer bongs out of bulb kelp we pulled on board. Salty and delicious.
We shared a cabin with Charlie’s parents and other friends, who we all would quickly come to know better over delicious food and glasses of wine at lunch and dinner. It almost felt like camp for grown-ups.
It’s never easy saying goodbye to friends and family after an experience like that. But in a couple of months our delicious salmon and halibut will come to us, fileted and vacuum sealed, ready to get us through another year—and remind us of those days floating around the Pacific.