If you haven’t read part one yet, you’re going to want to start here.
On with the story!
The true Dean River “experience” encompasses a great deal more than world class steelhead fly fishing. The very tangible pulse and breath of this entire “Land of the Lost meets Glacial Rain Forest” landscape is seen, felt, and heard from everywhere and from everything. This is a place where the rain forest grows, both high and low, from and onto the shoulders of sheer solid rock. These same rock peaks, and the forest they nurture and protect, frame and tower over the entire river valley in multiple hues and textures of pale, grey slate and lush, thick green. They are immense in size, shape, and density and randomly define the horizon in every direction and seem to only reluctantly let portions of the sky itself into the valley below.
The nearby glacier and snowfields are mostly unseen from the banks of the river but the sight and sound of moving water is everywhere. While fishing the “Cottonwood” run on a lightly rainy morning, I stole a glance over my shoulder and up behind me and counted no fewer than 7 waterfalls cascading from heights of well over a thousand feet pouring themselves into the dense forest behind us. Ok, try this; close your eyes for a minute and imagine catching the hottest and most beautiful steelhead in the world in a place like Yosemite, Yellowstone, or Glacier National Parks, with only you and a small contingency of fly anglers having virtually the whole park to yourselves. Crowds here are not a problem; accidental tourists not included or allowed. Wait, it gets better…
Upon arriving at the airfield and left completely awestruck once again by the helicopter ride over the forest, mountains, and glaciers from Bella Coola and into the Dean River Delta via West Coast Helicopters, we unload and after a very short truck ride through the dense forest, we arrive at the BC West Lodge. After leaving the activities of the forest fires from the record setting heat wave of late July in the Bella Coola Valley behind us, the BC West Lodge, its guest cabins, and the surrounding grounds were both serene and welcoming, with the faintest sound of moving water somewhere not too distant beyond our lodge retreat.
We meet the staff that will be hosting us this week and are told lunch will be ready shortly and we begin to unload and distribute our gear. The four guest cabins sleep two with plenty of room for gear, clothes, firewood, and at least three bottles of scotch. I have the distinct feeling that the tongue and groove wood walls and floors found throughout the lodge complex probably came from the immediate forest that surrounds us, giving each cabin the warmth and feel of the fertility of the rainforest.
The shower and drying cabin is close by with thick cotton towels and plenty of room to hang wet jackets and waders. I was told that the food here was going to blow me away, but I wasn’t prepared for how good it really is. If you like multi-course meals of say, lamb shanks, risotto, and other gourmet fare, you’ll feel right at home here as well as your clothes tightening as the week progresses. Immediately after lunch today, we’re told, fishing will commence. No sooner are the chairs pushed away from the table than we begin to scramble to our cabins and begin “unpacking” like a group of small tornadoes blowing through a trailer park. In record time we’re ready. The BC West program here is totally unique and offers something that no other operation on the river does. Each guest at BC West will spend three days on the lower river (below the canyon) and three days fishing the water just above the canyon…
…To Be Continued.