Go Heli-Fishing in the Middle of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia

Contributor
Go Heli-Fishing in the Middle of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia

Have you ever been helicopter fishing? No, it doesn’t mean fishing for helicopters. It means having your own private helicopter with a pilot who is as good a fisherman and mountain guide as he is at piloting. Swooping up over 50,000 square feet of pristine rainforest, when his trained eye spots a river filled with jumping salmon, he will head straight down to land on a tiny piece of terrain at a riverbed noisy with the sound of the sparkling, spawning fish. Once there, you can throw in your line and pull them in to your heart’s content.

nimmo bay resortPhoto Courtesy of Nimmo Bay Wilderness Retreat

As far as we know, there are only a few places on earth where you can heli-fish; one such place is in New Zealand. This past summer we had the joy of visiting one of the most beautiful spots in Canada, and which originated the idea of heli-fishing Nimmo Bay Wilderness Retreat hotel, one of the Magnificent Seven Luxury Wilderness Lodges of Canada. And it cannot be reached by road, as there isn’t one.

You can fly in via your own private plane, sail in by way of your yacht, or do it the way we did: by taking the funky 1940’s amphibious Grumman Goose which is included in your guest package. The Goose picks you up at the airport in Port Hardy, flies toward the BC mainland from the top of Vancouver Island, lets down its pontoons over the Broughton Archipelago, and suddenly, with a swish and a splash, becomes a boat as it lands at the Nimmo Bay dock. You are now 200 miles further north than Whistler Mountain.

nimmo bay resortPhoto Credit: Julie Hatfield

Situated in the midst of the Great Bear Rainforest, the property sits at the foothills of the 5,000-foot-high Mount Stephens, a wilderness region larger than Belgium. Here, three cabins rest at the edge of the water and six newer intertidal ones (which each can hold two couples comfortably) built over the bay, comprise your cozy home at Nimmo in the largest tract of intact temperate rainforest left on earth.

nimmo bay resortPhoto Courtesy of Nimmo Bay Wilderness Retreat

Around the property is also a lodge, bakery and a fire pit for gathering at cocktail time (all built on floats so as not to disturb the land), and a hot tub with steps down to the bottom of the waterfall that provides all electricity and drinking water for this environmentally-responsible resort. The only sound, save for the occasional arriving or departing helicopter, is the splash of the waterfall. The fishing is all catch and release, although in the dining room you will have some of the best seafood you’ve ever tasted, including unlimited numbers of fresh Dungeness crab on one night. Inside, decorative touches come mostly from First Nation Artists’ collections such as Tim Motchman who carved Wi’la’mola, the wood Salmon Arch over a tiny bridge near the waterfall.

nimmo bay resortPhoto Courtesy of Nimmo Bay Wilderness Retreat

“We don’t want to get bigger, we just want it to get better,” says owner Fraser Murray who with his wife Becky, who took the reins of Nimmo Bay four years ago from his parents who built the resort.

What could get better than a morning yoga session followed by a massage, a gourmet breakfast (the menu of which changes every day of the week), and a day of helicopter fishing or paddle boarding along the coast to look for bears?  We took a whale watching boat ride with Fraser at the helm and saw orcas, humpbacks, porpoises, sea lions and sea otters. “There’s plenty of life here,” noted Murray, “most of it’s just not human life. We saw a super pod of orcas here the other day; there were 90 of them.”

nimmo bay resortPhoto Courtesy of Nimmo Bay Wilderness Retreat

Lunch aboard the motor skiff included chicken sandwiches with bacon, avocado and cheddar on fresh baked bread, spicy blue cheese sauce for chicken wings, Boursin cheese on house made crackers, watermelon, pecan white chocolate ganouch bars, and of course beer and two kinds of wine and soda.

nimmo bay resortPhoto Courtesy of Nimmo Bay Wilderness Retreat

“I was guiding when I was seven,” noted Murray, who learned the art of hospitality under his parents’ tutelage since he was first able to walk, talk, fillet salmon or clean prawns. In the past four years, since he took over the helm from the elder Murrays, he has “been doing it my way,” he said, making small changes in the Nimmo philosophy which is to provide an exemplary quality of service, to establish a higher level of adventure in and around the angling experience, and to always be responsible to the environment.

Nimmo is part of the BC Sustainable Tourism Collective, which advances environmental practices in the wilderness. One of the changes Murray has made, is that Nimmo now invites a certain number of guests who have come up Johnson Strait from Vancouver and are staying on their yachts to come enjoy cocktails at the fire pit float and dine in the lodge, which is always a culinary treat.

nimmo bay resortPhoto Courtesy of Nimmo Bay Wilderness Retreat

Dinner at Nimmo always begins with cocktails on the float; and our first one included a smoked salmon platter with homemade crackers, goat cheese and any cocktail or wine desired. The float is furnished with Adirondack chairs, each with its own leather-backed fleece blanket in case the evening chill arrives. Around the fire you will meet company CEO’s from around the world, as well as celebrities looking for quiet and avid fishermen who want to experience this unique hideaway, often with their families.

nimmo bay resortPhoto Courtesy of Nimmo Bay Wilderness Retreat

As far as spending a day with Peter Barratt, helicopter pilot/guide/angler extraordinaire, it is a day you will never forget. Beginning with the traditional Nimmo sendoff with the entire staff and other guests waving goodbye from the dock, you will gently lift off the helipad and rise over forested mountains glistening with snow on top, fly across rivers that may have never seen a human being, before being handed your gear (the lodge provides waders and everything else needed for fishing). And if need be, he’ll show you how to release your catch.

nimmo bay resortPhoto Credit: Julie Hatfield

Where does one eat lunch on a heli-fishing day? On a glacier of course, with a folding table that Barratt brings out of the helicopter complete with a tablecloth, wine glasses and another incredible gourmet picnic. The other-worldly mood continues when, as you rise up off the glacier, Barratt sends the music of the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” rocking into your earphones.

nimmo bay resortPhoto Courtesy of Nimmo Bay Wilderness Retreat

Virgin Airlines’ Richard Branson visited Nimmo, as has William Shatner and David Kelly when the latter two came for the filming at Nimmo for two segments of the television show “Boston Legal.”  Kelly brought his wife Michelle Pfeiffer to experience the helicopter fishing and lunch on the glacier. George H.W. Bush visited with Barbara and the grandchildren (although she did not take the helicopter ride) as did Robin Leach, narrator of the television program Lives of the Rich and Famous, which was filmed here in 1990.

nimmo bay resortPhoto Courtesy of Nimmo Bay Wilderness Retreat

As remote as Nimmo is, they do have Wi-Fi here with a cute password that you might expect: Finding Nimmo. It’s definitely worth the search to find Nimmo Bay Wilderness Retreat. All-inclusive rates are at $1,535 per person per day, and a day of heli-fishing is an extra $5,000.

Tags