Not many people get to helicopter fish for silver salmon, but my friend Jim has taken me a few times to a unique resort tucked back in a sound in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. Nimmo Bay is accessible only by boat, float plane or helicopter.
The fog rises slowly every day from the sounds and bays between Victoria Island and Queen Charlotte Sound to the Southwest and Nimmo Bay. The tide rises and falls as much as 10-12 feet vertically and the elevated cabins at the small resort are on dry land most of the time and nearly surrounded by water at other times. A beautiful waterfall drops some 20 feet from the hillside into a pool in the middle of the small resort which holds a maximum of 15-20 guests.
Every morning around 9:30-10 a.m. the 3 helicopter pads at the resort are buzzing with activity. Anglers and pilots load up to ascend through what remains of the blanket of fog to travel through the snowcapped peaks and glaciers only to descend again on small streams and rivers teaming with migrating silver, chum and pink salmon as well as native rainbow and dolly varden.
The scenery rates as the most beautiful place that I have ever had the privilege of gazing upon. The black bears and the grizzlies are almost as plentiful as the fish.
The pilots have lots of places that they routinely fly to looking for fish but often they just fly 200-300 feet above the streams looking for pods of silvers and then they land the helicopter on a gravel bar or literally in a shallow shoal.
On one occasion I stood in one spot and landed 18 silver salmon in the 8-12 pound range. All of them came on a PJ’s pink 1/16 oz. tournament quality marabou jig that I was stripping on a 1x fluorocarbon leader.
One day the silver salmon fishing was slow and I found a section of the stream that we were fishing that had a decent amount of small to medium size rainbow and dollies feeding on eggs from spawning chum salmon. I convinced one of our group to join me and we walked further and further away from the helicopter and the rest of the group. I was caught up catching and releasing trout on a small pink jig when I heard my friend scream “Bear” and throw down his rod and run as fast as a 58 year old man can run in waders. By the time I spotted the bear, my friend was halfway back to the helicopter. The largest male grizzly that I ever encountered up close was in the middle of the small stream about 40 yards from me swimming leisurely upstream toward me. He stopped to catch and eat a dying chum salmon and I backed slowly out of the water picking up my friend’s rod and then I moved quickly toward the helicopter as well. Our entire party got in the helicopter and we sat and watched the giant male grizzly put on a show just a few yards in front of us as he swam upstream stopping occasionally to eat a dead salmon.
Later that day we were fishing in a tight spot on another stream that was loaded with pinks and a few silvers. I moved down the bank from the rest of the group in a place that I could not wade out very far into the river because it dropped off quickly. It was also covered with overhanging trees, making it impossible to do anything other than roll cast which is no simple task with sink-tip line and a 1/16 oz. jig. I had spotted what I thought was the biggest silver salmon that I had ever seen but I couldn’t quite reach him with my casts. There was one nearby tree that had fallen into the river. I thought that if I could just get on it and scoot and slide down the log into the river and stop on a limb that would hopefully have me sitting on the log down in the water near the top of my waders and in range of the big fish. All I had to risk was my pride, so after saying a quick prayer I went for it.
Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. This time the good Lord smiled on me and my scheme worked. I stopped with 6 inches of clearance left on the top of my waders and I was able to roll cast toward the big fish. To my surprise he took my jig and the battle was on. After 10 minutes and a lot of good fortune and only falling in once, I landed a 33 inch silver salmon that we guestimated at 16 pounds. I went back to the lodge one wet and very happy fisherman.