As the floatplane glided to a stop at the dock of British Columbia's Nimmo Bay
resort, I succumbed to the view of a pristine bay surrounded by lush, evergreen
hillsides. Immediately, I was greeted by a smiling young lady who unloaded my
duffle and escorted me along a series of floats to my rustically elegant cabin,
suspended high on pilings above the rocky beach. The first thing I noticed once
inside was the wall mount of a beautiful steelhead—a sea-run rainbow
trout that in life must have weighed about 10 pounds. Yes, I was in the right
Nimmo Bay has a reputation as a most luxurious and exotic fishing lodge—a
bucket-list sort of place for the outdoorsy—and that's what brought me
here. I was fulfilling my fishing fantasy of roaming a virtually untouched
wilderness in pursuit of Pacific salmon and steelhead. It's the stuff of a
die-hard fisherman's dreams.
I plunked myself down on the living room couch to enjoy the view, but instead
picked up a book on the coffee table entitled Finding Nimmo, the story
of how this remote lodge came to be. The title apparently was drawn from an
episode of the popular TV show, Boston Legal, which was filmed here.
The show starred William Shatner as Denny Crane, and it was one of my
favorites, as I definitely identified with Crane's personality. I hadn't,
however, associated it with this resort until reading that book, and then it
came back to me; on the show, in his moments of mental wandering from the legal
rat race, Crane always fantasized about going fishing at Nimmo Bay. In point of
fact, it was the show's writer/producer, David E. Kelley, who was the avid fly
fisherman and frequent visitor to Nimmo Bay, and who wrote the resort into the
show and featured it in one episode.
Frankly, I couldn't put the book down. It traced Craig Murray and his family's
exploits as they went from a life of commercial fishing, lumbering, and raising
their children on a small boat, to seeking and staking out this particularly
pristine, tranquil bay in the midst of the 50,000-square-mile Great Bear
Rainforest. In the process, they built what has become one of the most
luxurious wilderness lodges in British Columbia. The trials, tribulations, and
adventures involved in the undertaking were riveting. Only the call to lunch at
the main lodge tore me away from the book.
My visit was toward the end of the season, in late September, and things were
winding down from a busy summer. The few guests there included an Australian
family of six—grandma and granddad, grown daughter and son-in-law, and
their kids of about eight and ten—a corporate group of four fun-loving
guys enjoying the bonding experience of fishing, and two newlyweds enjoying a
belated honeymoon. In high season, there might be 20 guests occupying the nine
spacious cabins, which are clustered on stilts on an expansive deck along the
shore or tucked in next to a waterfall cascading from the 10,500-foot Mount
Stephen, which provides the backdrop for this idyllic setting as well as fresh
water for the resort.
While fishing is the primary draw of Nimmo Bay, many people—like the
Australian family—come here simply to enjoy the wilderness and myriad
other activities Nimmo offers: hiking, kayaking, whale-watching, birding, and
nature photography. That first afternoon, we all set out for a "cocktail
cruise" on the resort's comfortable boat, searching for bears and other
wildlife. Scenic couldn't begin to describe our voyage up narrow, rocky fjords,
past fog-shrouded mountains, and to the edge of waterfalls plunging down cliffs
hundreds of feet high. The bears were elusive, but we did spot one momma black
bear with cubs and plenty of bald eagles. On other trips, guests reported
seeing Orcas, humpback whales, and dolphins. If you're lucky, you also might
catch sight of wolves, coyotes, fox, and, of course, grizzlies looking for
dinner along the shores of the myriad inlets, islands, and rivers that make up
the vast Great Bear Rainforest.
In a wilderness area as big (it represents one-quarter of all temperate
rainforest terrain in the world) and remote as this, there are no roads. The
only way to get around is by boat or helicopter, and heli-fishing and other
heli-adventures are Nimmo Bay's specialty. So the next day, having suited up in
wading gear from Nimmo's extensively equipped adventures prep room and stashed
our fishing equipment in a pod on the landing skids of our Jet Ranger, Kate and
Alex, the newlyweds, and I met Trevor, our pilot/guide for our stay, on one of
several heli-pads suspended above the tide.
The Heli-Fishing Begins!
It's difficult to fully appreciate the vastness of this area until you get a
bird's-eye view. As we cruised along at about 100 mph, at heights ranging from
near-ground level to some 6,000 feet, the territory below unfolded as a giant
maze of waterways, islands, forested ridges, and bald mountains. The sky-scapes
were spectacular. The only signs of civilization were an occasional logging
camp and its waterfront landing area. The further we traveled from the main
causeway of Broughton Sound, the less civilization we saw. By the second
morning of our stay, a snowy mantle covered the tops of the higher mountains
and there was just ridge after ridge of snow-topped green mountains as far as
the eye could see.
Flying from one fishing spot to another certainly gives you that "Superman"
feeling, especially while zooming along a river-course at treetop level. Not
catching fish here, or tired of this scenery? Let's try another spot! Trevor
put that thing down on sand and gravel bars at the edge of salmon rivers you
might think impossible to land on. When we got hungry, Trevor would pick a
gorgeous spot with promising fishing prospects and, while we were fishing,
would set up a formal lunch table with tablecloth, gourmet snacks, salads, and
sandwiches, and wine and beer. Now that's fishing in style!
We saw, or saw evidence of, a fair bit of wildlife on these trips-so many bald
eagles they became ho-hum, if that's possible, plus osprey, ravens, and the
ever-present bears, luckily at a respectable distance. Lunch one day was on the
beach at a beautiful stream-fed lake nestled between towering mountains. As I
strolled the banks, I noted we weren't the only ones who thought this was a
great dining spot. I'd swear there had been a bear party there the night
before—hundreds of tracks marked the sand at water's edge, and I'm pretty
sure some wolf tracks were mixed in.
I should mention that, in addition to ferrying you around the wilderness and
giving you fishing tips, your pilot is also your "bear proofer." Whenever we
were fishing the riverbanks, Trevor carried a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun in a
scabbard on his back, and Clayton, the pilot/guide for the four business
buddies, toted a massive Israeli-made 44-magnum semi-auto pistol in a shoulder
holster. That said, I'm told that in all the years Nimmo has been showing
guests around the wilderness, only one bear was hungry enough not to be scared
off at the sound of a gunshot into the air.
The fishing, which is what I came for, proved to be a trickier proposition than
I'd imagined. At our very first stop, I had a fish on, on my third cast . . . a
promising start . . . and lost it about 10 seconds later. After that I got the
occasional tap but at the end of day, I had nothing to show for my sore
fly-casting arm. On the other hand, Kate was reeling them in one after
another—pink and Coho up to about 15 pounds. And Alex wasn't doing too
badly, either. The women and "first-timers" always seem to have the luck! In
defense of my own fishing prowess, they—and the group of four, who also
had a lot of success-were spin-casting, while I was being a purist, sticking to
fly casting. The rivers were somewhat swollen from recent rains and running a
bit fast. Even with a sinking fly line, I couldn't seem to get down into the
holes where the fish were hiding or resting for their next rush up the river to
I must admit, I was awed at the spectacle of the salmon spawning. My visit was
toward the end of the pink-salmon run and about in the middle of the coho
salmon run. The shallows of the rivers were teaming with "zombie
fish"--"humpies" as latter stage spawning pink salmon are called for the humped
backs and hooked snouts they develop, were everywhere, lazily swimming in vague
circles just a few wiggles away from death. You could actually catch them with
your hands but not on flies and, besides, who would want to catch a dying fish?
Not surprisingly, the banks of the rivers were littered with their carcasses.
No wonder the bears, as well as every other predator in the wilderness were
having a field day! But the game fish were hiding elusively down deep.
Honestly, the second day didn't go much differently from a fishing perspective.
Everyone else was hauling them in except me. I was beginning to feel jinxed. It
almost made me want to go "to the dark side" and convert to spin fishing. In
spite of frustration with my lack of success, helicoptering around such a
beautiful wilderness and the camaraderie of fellow fishermen, plus luxurious
lunches in gorgeous settings washed down by excellent wines, helped make the
However, what really helped was returning to the cozy luxury of Nimmo lodge and
the anticipation of a good dinner. Francisco, a Chilean who served for many
years in Canada's special forces and does a bit of everything around the
resort, was always there to greet us as our helicopters landed, with an iced
tub of beer in hand. He learned quickly that my preference on these occasions
was for Irish whisky and not beer, and an icy tumbler of the golden anesthesia,
delivered to the hot tub, definitely took the sting off any frustrations with
my lack of fishing success.
The Day Winds Down
That time between an active day of adventures and everyone gathering for dinner
had its own special allure. We guests would convene at what has to be the most
spectacular hot-tub venue I have ever experienced—two deep,
old-fashioned, wood-slatted tubs on a wooden deck at the foot of a gorgeous
woodland waterfall. With good company, friendly banter, and the alcoholic
beverage of choice in hand, what more could you want? If you were really
enthusiastic, which several of us were, you could replicate the Japanese onsen
experience by alternating soaks in the hot tub with plunges into the icy waters
at the foot of the waterfall. Fantastic!
Cocktails were accompanied by a generous and creative selection of hors
d'oeuvres, and served either in the lodge or around the fire pit on the
floating dock. Frazer Murray, son of the resort's founder, and his lovely wife
Becky now run the resort and often gathered with the group at cocktail time to
review the day's activities and help with plans for the next. Hayley, who was
smart, welcoming, somewhat self-effacing, and always stylishly dressed, was the
"hostess with the mostess" both at dinner and breakfast. She was a genuine
pleasure to be around. I could go on and on about the staff's thoughtful
attention to guests' needs and requests—but suffice it to say, this is
both a personable, family-run endeavor and a very polished and professional
As for dinner, if you were feeling "private" as the Australian family seemed to
be, you could have dinner as your own group. The rest of us, however, dined in
the round, family-style. Meals were set, four courses served with appropriate
wines, and the chef, Sandi, outdid herself. I feel soups are a key indicator of
an establishment's quality of dining, and the first night's delicious creamy
scallop soup set the tone for the rest of our dining. Of course, there was
grilled salmon and delicious oysters, but perhaps the most showy dinner entree
was a heaping bowl full of fresh, steamed Dungeness crab that we all lit into.
After dinner, we might sit around the lodge chewing the fat, retire to the pool
room for some friendly competition, or, if the weather was clear, sit around
the fire pit and admire the unpolluted starry sky. On one particularly
boisterous night, we all did shots of Patron tequila, chilled by its journey
down a "luge" course that Francisco carved from a 50-pound block of
10,000-year-old glacier ice collected by the fun-loving foursome on their
helicopter adventure that day.
On my third and last day, some decisions needed to be made. The helicopter
wasn't an option, but Fraser, who was as frustrated as I was that I'd been
skunked on the fishing front, offered to take me deep-sea fishing for halibut.
Or, he volunteered, I might take a small aluminum skiff and try my luck fly
fishing for salmon and possibly sea-run cutthroat at Big Nimmo Bay, just a
ten-minute boat ride away. I opted to try the salmon fishing. So, with
Francisco as my companion and a cooler full of beer and lunch makings, I
chugged off in the tiny skiff. We came up dry at the first couple of spots, one
at the mouth of a river that fed into the bay. But the couple dozen bald
eagles, which presumably were there to fish, too, were an encouraging sign and
kept us entertained. Then we moved across the bay to the mouth of a smaller
stream, and salmon were jumping all over! For the next hour, I had a hard time
keeping them off my line. I stopped counting at a dozen, ranging up to 15
pounds, and was teased by hook-ups on even more. Plus, I did it the
old-fashioned way, on a fly. The curse was broken!
I found it ironic that after two days of chasing fishing opportunities all over
the Great Bear Rainforest, covering hundreds of miles by helicopter, success
was waiting for me right around the bend from Nimmo Bay Resort. It must have
been the lucky Nimmo Bay hat I got and wore for the first time that day.
I don't think I can summarize the Nimmo Bay experience much better than David
Kelley, Boston Legal's creator, who said, "I fell in love with Nimmo
Bay on first sight. It is a place of serene beauty, family and friendship." Or
to quote William Shatner, "[Nimmo Bay is] luxury in the wilds, and it's wildly
luxurious . . . and yet its footprint in the ecology is very small . . . the
best of all possible worlds." I know I left a happy camper, with one more
bucket-list fantasy fulfilled.
NIMMO BAY KNOW HOW
Seasons: The resort is open from May into October. On the
fishing front, the early part of the season focuses on steelhead and trout.
Salmon fishing picks up in July and runs into October, with different species
showing up at different times. Bear, Orca, and humpback whale-watching are best
from July through September. Other activities and adventures-kayaking, hiking,
photography, rock climbing, and more—are available pretty much through
the entire open season.
Getting There: A sojourn at Nimmo Bay combines well with a few
days in either Vancouver or Seattle, or both. It's relatively easy and cost
effective to do an open-jaw flight from most parts of North America, flying
into Seattle, for instance (what I did), and back out through Vancouver. This
is probably the better direction as, only during the height of the summer
season is there floatplane service by Kenmore Air (kenmoreair.com) from Seattle
to Port Hardy at the north end of Vancouver Island. That's the takeoff point
for Nimmo Bay. There is good express bus service (quickcoach.com) between
downtown Seattle and Vancouver or its airport. Pacific Coastal Airlines
provides relatively frequent service from Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
to Port Hardy. Nimmo Bay will make arrangements for getting you from/to Port
Hardy by either helicopter or floatplane.
What to wear: Life here is casual. Jeans are acceptable for
most activities, though you may want to dress up a bit for cocktails and
dinner. This is a rainforest, so light, action-oriented rain gear is advised.
Weather can be quite changeable, so bring layers, including fleece. Don't
forget the bathing suit for swims in summer and soaking in the hot tub at other
times. During the summer, a pair of shorts might come in handy.
What to bring: The resort provides all the active gear you'll
need. The dedicated fisherman will want to bring his/her own rods/reels and
perhaps a selection of favorite flies, although local favorites are provided by
the resort. If you are dedicated to wildlife viewing and attached to your own
binoculars, you may want to bring them along, although again, they are
Dining and dietary considerations: The resort serves excellent
meals but with a set menu or at least limited choices. If you have dietary
restrictions, you'll probably want to make that known well in advance so the
chef can accommodate them.