Langara Island Magic

The atmosphere aboard the Summit Air charter jet was palpable. A mixture of excitement, apprehension, and joy. Imagine an aircraft filled entirely with fisherman, guides and guests alike, all eagerly waiting for their first opportunities to wet a line at one of the pioneer remote fishing lodges on the West coast of Canada. For some this was a return to sacred ground that they had been treading for years, and for others it was their first foray into Valhalla where kings (salmon that is) roamed and silver (coho’s) ran so thick your could walk across their backs. OK, OK…that’s a bit dramatic but honestly a place of legend.

An hour and a half out of Vancouver and after flying up the west coast of British Columbia, the plane banked towards Masset and we began out descent into the clouds. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the airport in Masset but to say I was underwhelmed is an understatement. But an airport it was and it did provide the necessary runway and jumping off point to our next mode of transport to Langara Fishing Lodge. Once done landing and deplaning, we anxiously awaited our turn to be called to the runway apron to board one of the Helijet choppers for the brief 17 minute ride over to the Lodge.

Your ticket to the happiest place on earth? Perhaps!

After watching the first two helicopters depart (they have a capacity of 16 passengers), I heard my name being called by one of the airport crew and they escorted me out to the tarmac to a waiting helicopter. My ride was to be from the co-pilot seat of the freight chopper, which was just fine with me as it gave me a birds eye view of the trip! As the pilot hopped aboard, the chopper spooled up and after some bumping and jostling around on the ground we gently took off and began our trip, ascending no more than 300 feet during the trip due to the low ceiling of overcast skies and fog.

In my mind I had pictured Haida Gwaii to be similar to where I live on Vancouver Island, with lush forests, giant cedars and towering fir trees. But while flying over the land I saw what looked very much like my birth province Newfoundland: short scrappy trees beaten by the wind, intermixed with bog and tundra like terrain. I hadn’t realized jut how far north this place was, so it made sense once I saw the land moving past below me. But we soon left the protection of land and headed out over the ocean water, making our way along the northern coast of Graham Island towards Langara Island where the Lodge is located. As we flew low over the water I could see the fleets of boats from around the area working their way amongst the kelp filled bays, channels and islands in search of their trophies.

All aboard! Hey I don’t mind riding with the freight!

As the helicopter continued to skim over the surface of the sea, the pilot applied power and climbed slightly as we approached Langara Island. As our forward momentum slowed, the pilot dropped us down expertly amongst the trees into the protected waters of Henslung Cove and the small floating helipad of Langara Fishing Lodge. With the pro touch of my pilot, we soon landed and as I waited for the helicopter blades to slow to a stop I was eagerly looking out the window, my heart racing knowing that I was now committed. There was no turning back now!

Best seat in the house.

When the blades finally stopped their movement the doors opened and I hopped out and was immediately greeted by the dock staff and led over to the Guide Shack, located on the main docks. Once there I was quickly introduced to the Head Guide Takeo “Tak” Hiroi who after a quick hello gave me the dime tour of the facility including showing me to my room, the gear drying closet, fish processing area (aka “fish pit”), the fish leader board, and of course the boats.

Head Guide “Tak”, prepping for another set of guests

It was around 12:30PM when our helicopter had touched down I had been told that I needed to be prepared to fish with guests within an hour of arrival. That meant find my boat, get my gear, set up four rods including rigging (for the first time mind you) the mooching style rigs that Langara fishes exclusively, and then quickly figure out where the heck to fish. So I raced to my room to get my reels and my tackle, then down to my assigned boat, a 21 foot aluminum center console with the name “Auklet”.

The focal point of the docks – the Leader Board

Then it was busy time for me getting the rods ready, making sure I had bait and enough tackle to fish for at least 5-6 hours, and prepare myself to meet my very first guests. All the time mind you a constant stream of helicopters were landing and taking off, bringing the 66 guests in from the airport at Masset. Each group that arrived was immediately shuffled off for orientation, room assignment, cruiser suit fittings, and briefing from the Lodge Manager Bill Gibson and Fish Master Johnny “5.0” Marcell on the facility. This cycle of processing guests was something I would witness two additional times, as I was there for the duration of three sets of visitors or “changeovers”.

“Auklet”, never let me down

Ready to fish and sitting in my boat getting the lay of the land, my first two guests arrived and introduced themselves. They were two gents from Saskatchewan and I don’t think I could have asked for a better set of firsts. Over the next few hours we got acquainted and I could tell right away that these two guys would be fun guests. We fished until supper time, and I managed to get them a Chinook salmon on their first excursion out and that broke the ice for all of us in the boat. Having not fished cut plug or mooching style for many years, I had been nervous that I would forget how it all worked but as it turned out it simply wasn’t the case.

As the next few days of fishing went by, my new Saskatchewan friends and I had a great many laughs out on the water, with these two guys being folks that I likely would have wanted to hang with in other situations. They had me in stitches from laugher more than a few times!

4:45AM rolls around fast

Along with them I cut my teeth on some of the fishing spots such as Coho, McPherson, Andrews, No Name, Gunia and Seath Points. Then on to Boulder, Pillar, Egeria, Bruin and Lepas Bays. And offshore at Langara Rocks, Langara Light and spots like the “Dinner Plate” and “Al’s”. We fished for Chinook, Coho and Ling Cod, and searched for some Halibut as well. As their time with me came to and end, I knew that although I had not loaded them up with their limits of all species they had a good time and went home with smiles on their faces.

Pretty sure these boys had fun!
The all important boundary board, showing where you could and could not venture out

Being new as a guide in any area no matter how great a fisherman you are (or aren’t) means that it is very difficult to hit a home run out of the gate. There is no substitute for time in the seat at any one location. You get to know the rhythms of the place: which bay or point produces fish on which ebb or flood tide for example. Or where fish traditionally have been found at certain times of year. What areas to avoid and how to know which combination of wind direction and tide movement create the most hazardous sea conditions. As a fly in guide the only way to get any intel on “what to do and when” means that you have to rely on your fellow guides to assist you and share some of their local knowledge. Without that…well you are basically flying blind. You end up tossing your gear in areas that you’ve studied on the charts and think will produce fish, but with no certainty or local experience to back it up. Anyone who tells you that they don’t ask for help, is lying.

Busy morning off Boulder Bay

One of my apprehensions before going to Langara was not knowing how I would be treated by the other guides, or even the staff. As the “rookie” fly in guide, I fully expected to be left to struggle on my own , having to scratch and plead for local knowledge. I will state right now that I was completely wrong. From the minute I touched down on the helipad I was made to feel welcome. In fact I would go even further to say more than just welcomed, but appreciated and immediately welcomed as part of the team. I’ve never had an experience quite like it to be honest. As I was setting up my lines on the boat for instance, Bill Gibson took the time to come and say hello to me, shake my hand, and say how great it was to finally have me here (after two years of back and forth!). Imagine that now; on the busiest day (changeover day) where all sorts of action and mayhem are transpiring, he took to the time to come see me and welcome me to the Lodge. The same could be said for all the staff I met, and the guides were even more exceptional than I could have hoped for. They were helpful, answered all of my questions, offered tips and advice, and gave more support that I could have even imagined I would get. The sense of brotherhood and camaraderie was instant.

Always bait to prep…at the end of every day

Over the next 10 days I went through two more sets of guests, and my knowledge and my success fishing in the waters around Langara Island grew quickly. I came to enjoy and appreciate the mooching style of fishing, with its simplicity and the one to one connection you get with the fish rather than using down riggers and flashers like I normally do for my charters on Vancouver Island. Not having the drag of the flasher while playing a fish really allows you to go head to head, and get a real sense of appreciation for the power that a big Chinook salmon can have as it peels off line and bends your rod tip into the water. Watching the excitement of the initial nibbles, the rod bouncing and quivering before it finally springs into action as the hook is set and the fight is on is awesome. I still like to watch a down rigger rod pop off the clip and explode into a screamer of a run, but the finesse and the sensitivity of the mooching rig seems far more elegant and way more fun!

Fantastic morning sunrise

As my time at Langara quickly began to run out, I was proud of what I had been able to accomplish in a short time. I’d figured out the Ling Cod and Halibut game, managed to guide a guest to one of the increasingly rare Tyee Chinook over 30 pounds (a 31.5 pound salmon, one of only 4 over 30 pounds for the week) and managed to limit out my last two sets of guests. Considering everything, I was pretty happy with how things worked out. I had come to Langara with apprehension and doubts….wondering if I had perhaps fooled myself that at 53 years old I was still able to keep up with the young guns. But what I found instead

Tyee Salmon
Sea Monster! 34 pound Ling Cod

was that I was amongst my peers. No matter how old, what gender, or level of experience I never once felt like I was an outsider. Perhaps it’s the uniqueness of the Lodge, or the area, or some other sort of voodoo magic that attracts like minded souls like myself to this remote outpost on the Pacific. Surrounded by natural beauty, it’s easy to get lost in the romance that is Haida Gwaii. It’s not for everyone and it’s most certainly a cold and often wet climate with “summer” highs of 14-15 degrees C and more often than not it’s foggy, windy and misty. But there is magic here. A tangible, almost otherworldly feeling that gets deep into your very core and makes you miss it the minute you step off the plane when you return to civilization.

Sitting in the office

On my last day at Langara Fishing Lodge, after fishing the morning with my final set of guests, I waited along with the other staff on the dock taking shelter in the Guide Shack as the steady arrival and departure of helicopters signaled the end of another set of guests and heralded the arrival of the next ones. As the last chopper touched down and we all piled in, we were treated to an “extra special” ride on the way back to Masset by the pilot who swooped low and close to a few of the more spectacular landmarks such as Pillar Rock, as well as over some Killer Whales transiting through the area in search of salmon. In my heart I was both happy to be returning home to my wife and step-sons, but also torn at leaving behind the Lodge and all the new friends I had made. It had been an incredible experience and I am supremely grateful I went and for having the opportunity (thanks Suzzanne and Bill!). Knowing that I would be back there again in August this season made the trip out a little less painful, and I can see now why some of the guides and staff have been coming back year, after year. Much like the moss that carpets the ground and the old mans beard that hangs in the trees, this place grows on you.

As I close out this post, I want to take time to thank ALL of the amazing guides and support staff at Langara Fishing Lodge. Your knowledge, open hospitality and genuineness makes Langara Fishing Lodge the amazing destination that it is. I was genuinely blown away.

Just one of the hard working crew in the fish pit. These folks work hard!
Chuck and Jeff in the Dock Shack
These two jokers – Jeff and Severin, always there to great you with a smile
Change over day – all hands on deck!

I wish I had the time to take photos of all the guides and staff I met, but with only so many hours in the day and sleep to catch, it wasn’t possible. I’ll be going back to Langara soon for more work, so I hope to be able to share more characters in my next post.

Until next time Langara!!

The Longest Wait Ever

It’s a beautiful day in late July 2022, and I’m riding as a walk on passenger on BC Ferry’s Spirit of Vancouver Island. It’s late in the afternoon, just after supper time and I sit on the open deck of the ferry catching the last warm rays of what has been a gorgeous evening sail across the Strait of Georgia to BC’s largest city Vancouver from my home in Victoria on Vancouver Island.

Today marks the culmination of an adventure that has been over two years in the making. Two years of maybe’s and conflicting schedules. Two years of dealing with COVID, travel restrictions, and shuttered seasons. And after two years and now at 53 years of age, I’m wondering what the heck I am doing.

Flat calm crossing and a warm breeze as I make my way from Victoria to Vancouver

You see I am heading off to the most remote island that exists almost 100 nautical miles west of the rugged coast of northern BC. A place so remote that access is only gained via helicopter, float plane or boat. A place where the ghosts of legends swim and countless stories have been written by travelers from all over the world and from every walk of life since the beginning of recorded history. A place that I have heard about for the past twenty years or more and one that I have vowed I must go before it’s too late. A place that has called my very soul since the first time I ever heard about it. That place…is Langara Island. A chunk of isolated land off the northern tip of what was once called the Queen Charlottes, and now known as Haida Gwaii.

But first let me back up a bit and give you the reader the backstory. If you’ve followed my blog at all, you’ll have no doubt read my series called “It’s a Guide’s Life”, where I chronicled my emergence as a professional fishing guide back in 2019. After that first season I was left wanting more, and was hoping to return to the same gig I had in the upcoming 2020 season. But unfortunately due to a number of reasons that wasn’t to be, so I sent applications to a number of lodges “Up North” to try and get guide work somewhere else and expand my horizons.

In the early parts of 2020 I received offers from three lodges in Haida Gwaii very quickly, including the Queen Charlotte Lodge, the West Coast Fishing Club, and finally after some discussion on the phone with the General Manager and after receiving some recommendations from friends, Langara Fishing Lodge. Now to be fair, I should mention that I have some very good family friends who had worked at Langara Fishing Lodge many, many years ago. Their stories of the 40’s, 50’s and occasional 60 pound salmon being caught on a regular basis were inspiring. So my choice of location to work, all be it remote and challenging when managing a family and two kids, was made for me. Langara Fishing Lodge was my employer of choice, in fact it felt more like experiencing a family tradition than going to work. So, I accepted the job, started getting my fishing kit ready, and waited for the season to begin. This was in January, 2020.

This is what 68 pounds of Chinook Salmon looks like! (Photo from Langara Fishing Lodge Flickr Feed, 2018)
Another beauty, also from 2018 (Photo from Langara Fishing Lodge Flickr Feed, 2018)

As the months ticked by and the world erupted into the whirlwind of the global pandemic, suddenly everything was thrown aside and plans were dropped. Out of respect for the rising health crisis and the local First Nations, Langara Fishing Lodge closed its doors for the season. The first time it had ever done so since it’s inception in 1985. My dream…was over. It was the right and the ethical thing to do, but it meant that I was suddenly forced into looking elsewhere for work.

After regrouping, I was able to find employment with a prior employer but it meant going back to the world of Project Management, a field I had been working in for over 10 years in a professional capacity before I jumped into guiding. It was not my plan to go back, but I needed the work and I was extremely grateful to have the job and the steady pay check during a time where many others lost their jobs or lived with anxious uncertainty around their employment.

In 2021 even though the pandemic was still ongoing, the world knew a lot more about the disease and the degree of risk and available protection methods to stem its spread were more understood. So for the 2021 season, Langara Fishing Lodge reopened for a short season, and asked again if I was available to join them. After agonizing over the decision, I knew that I could not abandon the commitment I had made to my then employer, and had to respectfully tell the Lodge that I would not be able to join. In my mind, I thought to myself that I had probably closed that door forever, but again it was the right decision at the time.

I was starting to think I would never step foot on these docks.

As the new year rolled over into 2022, I fired off an email once again to Bill Gibson, the General Manager of Langara Fishing Lodge, asking about the possibility of work in 2022. To my delight Bill responded back, and connected me as well with Suzzanne Lopez, Guest Services Manager, with a note that there was a potential for work including relief work for guides who needed a break during the long season. Suzzanne sent out a list of dates where extra staff were needed, and I quickly replied with my availability for a number of them. Even though I was still working full time in project management, I would take my vacation time and work for the lodge. I was not going to let one more year pass without going. THIS WAS IT.

So fast forward now to my ferry ride. The Lodge hires the charter airline Summit Air to take guests from Vancouver to Masset, and from there to the Lodge via helicopters operated by HeliJet. Since the departure time for the flight to Masset is 6AM, I had to spend the night in Vancouver to make the trip, so I happily invested in the overnight stay to make the airport departure time as planned. I was so excited and nervous about the trip I slept about 2 hours that night, tossing and turning worried I would sleep in and miss my taxi to the airport.

Your charter awaits!

At 6:00 AM, bright eyed and carrying what was a far too heavy backpack and two carry on’s, I arrived at the South terminal of the Vancouver International Airport ready to head out. As I waited for the ticketing desk to open, I looked around at the other folks lining up, trying to pick out who may be fellow guides, and who were guests. I was nervous of course, but I also knew that once I got talking to folks everything would be fine. It’s those first awkward few minutes that are the worst. I waited for who I believed were the guests to check in first, then got myself sorted and my bags checked in. Now all that was left was the flight.

At approximately 6:30 AM, the word came from the Langara agents that the airport at Masset was fogged in and that the flight would be delayed. This is apparently very common, given the climate in Haida Gwaii, especially the more northern regions and the small Masset airport is not equipped for IFR approach. So with an unknown delay in the works, guests and guides alike headed to the one restaurant open and proceeded to have breakfast and gossip excitedly about the upcoming trip. It would be almost 10:00 AM before we boarded the plane.

As I finally climbed the stairs to the plane and took my seat in the rear it felt amazing to finally be making headway to one of the top fishing destinations in the world. And it was during that 4 hours of delay in Vancouver prior to departing that I made my first connections to some of the fly in guides including Ted Cameron, Chris “Scooter” Scoten, and Gord Bagan. Those first connections set the tone for the rest of my introduction and first day as a guide for Langara Fishing Lodge, and immediately put me at ease. There’s much more story to tell…but that will have to wait until my next post.

Cast…Retrieve…Step…Cast. Repeat.

As fishermen and women, we’ve all read the above or maybe had it drilled into us at some clinic by a master Jedi fly caster. It’s the mantra given to all those who seek those shy steelhead or trout to make sure that when casting for fish, be it on the fly or with terminal tackle, you cover as much of the river as possible and don’t stay in one spot. Time spent on the water is precious, and it makes sense to make the best use of it. Don’t waste your time flogging the same stretch of water over and over again because there is no guarantee of success. If you’ve not connected with a fish after the first few passes over a stretch of water, it’s quite likely you won’t.

Take a minute to re-read that first paragraph. Think about it. And then realize, as I did, that it applies not only to fishing but many other aspects of life. Things like your career, your relationships, your families. Goals. Aspirations. Dreams. And yet we keep casting our lines over the same stretches in the river of life, hoping that we will get a different result simply because we are consistent. We think that if maybe we bounce it off the bank here, or drop in just behind that rock there, that the results will somehow magically be different.

The truth is that all of us get into routines. Ruts. We find ourselves walking along those well trodden, ankle deep paths that so many before us have trampled into the moss, like those well worn bear trails we’ve walked alongside our favourite rivers. We trundle along, doing what is expected of us, playing it safe, never colouring outside of the lines for fear that it won’t be accepted for us to do or be anything else. We take jobs that don’t inspire us, stay too long in relationships that aren’t working, maintain unhealthy habits that are easier to continue than change, all the time looking back over our shoulders wondering what we are missing?

I can confess to doing all the above.

I was in a marriage that should have ended sooner than it did, and I’ve worked many jobs I don’t enjoy because I felt it was “what I was supposed to do”. I drank too much and hid from dealing with my anxiety and depression. And I’ve had such an overwhelming feeling of “is this all there is?” for so long I can’t remember when I didn’t.

I’m in a better spot today than I was before. I have a great partner who understands my need to go fishing more than most and how it recharges my soul. I still drink, but in moderation and certainly not to get drunk. My anxiety and depression are a constant battle but one that I own and for the most part I feel I am winning (although somedays, I question that!). But despite all of that I still struggle with finding a way to make a living from the things I am most passionate about. But that last nugget I am working on and hope to share some information in a blog post that I hope (fingers crossed) will be coming soon.

So let me tie all of the above back full circle to what this blog is meant to be for – fishing!

Some time ago, I started to move towards becoming a fly only fisherman. I put away my center-pin and level wind rods, shelved all my lead weight, pink worms, gooey bobs and Jensen eggs, and announced that I was retiring them. I would be 100% fly fishing only and wasn’t going to swing plastic and lead through the river again. I was…reformed.

Hello old friend. Where have you been?

Now I don’t judge. I’m not a fly fishing snob. And I have certainly caught my fair share of fish on terminal gear and proudly so. But there is something more challenging to using fly gear especially in the winter time when you are battling high water and fast currents. It’s very easy to get discouraged when you can’t get your T16 fly line down to those resting steelhead! Cast, after cast, after cast….it can be discouraging. Much like life (are you following along?). You get into that rut, that mindset, that this is what I need to do even when it is clearly not working. Stepping out of that bear track after all might just trip you up!

Flash forward then to December 2021. Present day. COVID nightmare and all (hmm….I just had a thought for a new fly pattern called that….). I’ve made it a habit to go out fishing during my Christmas break from work just about every year, and this year has been no exception even with the unusual Arctic outflow Vancouver Island experienced this week and the snow it brought with it. As I considered what to pack for the day, I thought about the river I would be fishing, the conditions, the cold water, and the chances of catching a fish. I knew that getting a Steelhead to hit a fly would be…tough. Probably impossible. But I also knew that the likelihood of them being in that river, and at this time of year….was high. So I grabbed my box of terminal gear “stuff”, my center-pin and my level wind, and I hit the road.

Taking the road less traveled

If there’s one thing I love it’s a nice Vancouver Island Steelhead river in the winter time. The super clear turquoise waters contrast so brightly with the white covered cobbles on the riverbanks. The footprints of deer, elk, river otters, raccoons, bears, rabbits and squirrels pressed firmly into the fresh snow are such an amazing reminder that the amount of life all around is far more visible in winter than in the summer. I love the soft quietness that engulfs the trails and river banks when the cedar, firs and ferns are blanketed in snow. But most of all I love to soak up the solitude and peacefulness that comes from standing amongst this amazing scene and casting your line.

I’ll admit that my first few casts on the center-pin with a light jig on the end were not pretty, it looked a little rusty to say the least. It took me a few more to recall the muscle memory of casting that kind of rig but it soon came back to me. I spotted a seam of water just down from where the river was spilling in from higher up, a glassy section tight along a rock face and just abreast of the main current. Just the right depth of water and walking speed for a steelhead to be resting in. Whereas my first cast towards my target was just a little too far out from the opposite bank, my second one landed exactly where I wanted it to go. The drift was PERFECT.

Oh boy…this looks like the spot!

As I watched my float meander down the seam, my jig just touching the bottom slightly, it happened right at the end of the drift. The float went under, the tug hit, and I was on! Up and down the pool the fish raced, taking me for a ride more than a few times. It came to the surface, rolling and thrashing to show me it’s bright silver sides with just a touch of pink, before making two more runs down the pool, then back up, causing me to reel franticly to catch up. I knew where I was standing wouldn’t work to land the fish, so I carefully made my way to a slower section of river by the bank and keep working the fish gently in towards me. I tore off my woollen mittens using my teeth so as to keep the reel in check, not wanting to tail the fish with wool hands and risk injuring it. One more big run taking all the line I had recovered followed by more frantic reeling and finally the fish was within 10 feet of me! But with one final solid thrash and splash of water, it spat out my jig and was gone.

I was stoked, in fact I may have even fist pumped the air. I didn’t care that I hadn’t landed the fish or gotten a photo in fact I felt the opposite. I had been given a gift. A fish had come to me and played my game, and in return had left unharmed and untouched by human hands. In my opinion that is more than enough for me to feel satisfied. I fished the rest of the section of river I had planned for the day, and didn’t touch another fish. But I didn’t care. Not one bit. For I had stepped out of the rut and it had paid off handsomely.

As I write this post I am reminded again of the many similarities to life this fishing story has. It prompted me to ponder that sometimes you need to change things up even if only for a day, in order to see what could be. Rediscovering something old might be just what you need to put that motivational spark back into your soul. Or it may help you to decide to stay the course with what ever it is that you have been doing all along. There are times in life when you simply need to cast and retrieve, take a few steps, and cast again. To not give up just because your first attempt failed. To not stay doing something that doesn’t work, but instead take that “step” and cast out again. To maybe look at your toolbox and try something new or dust off something old.

A typical Vancouver Island freestone river. You can almost hear the water moving.

I won’t be giving up fly fishing and returning to terminal tackle. But I will say that I won’t throw any of that stuff away either. There is a time and a place for all types of fishing gear and tactics and to eliminate one doesn’t make sense to me if the conditions call for it. The same can be said for life choices. You do what you need to do and what works for you in the conditions presented. I hope that as I get older I get just a tiny bit wiser with my choices, but I am definitely taking a long hard look at how to make a living doing what I love. And I am working harder to improve myself and my own choices in life to make sure that as my time in this world runs on that I make the very best choices I can.

All I have to say…is that there is more to come. Cast…Step…Repeat.

Before Instagram…There Were These Influencers

A few years ago our household decided to do away with cable television, and just use subscription based services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Crave, DAZN, and Apple TV. Since that time, the only thing I can honestly say that I’ve missed out on might be some of the sporting events, such as Formula 1, Nascar, and some Baseball.

Some of the best television shows that we’ve watched recently were all on these channels, and not on regular TV. With little to no commercials to interrupt us, and the freedom to watch when ever we like without having to set up a DVR or schedule something, why on earth would we go back? This all got me thinking back to when I was a kid growing up in rural Newfoundland, where only “townies” had the luxury of cable TV and we had just three basic TV channels to watch:

NTV (Newfoundland’s CTV), the CBC, and of course PBS.

Now yes, I was jealous of my friends who were busy watching endless cartoons on their cable networks, and later on watching Much Music and MTV, but when I think back to those TV shows that I truly loved as a kid, there are a couple that come to mind and which really sparked my desire to explore the outdoors. Here are a few that I remember, in no particular order:

THE BEACHCOMBERS

What red blooded Canadian kid didn’t watch (and love) this CBC classic series, set in the idyllic vista of Gibsons, British Columbia. The stories of Nick Addonidas, Jesse, Relic, Uncle Jesse, Molly and all the other characters scratching out a living on the west coast of Canada salvaging logs from the beaches were iconic pieces of Canadiana that sparked the imaginations and fantasies of many a school kid. Who wouldn’t want to roam the high seas, dueling with rivals over salvage or saving the life of of someone aboard having an allergic shellfish reaction using a Bic pen for a tracheotomy! Or the time that Jesse was trapped under a log, with the tide come in….or the numerous times Relic would jump his jet boat over something and live up to his reputation as the cranky and scheming nemesis of Nick! Or watching the Persephone cruising home to Gibsons after some epic adventure. This show came on at 8pm on Sundays….right before the Muppet Show. Man, I loved those nights. 20 seasons later and 374 episodes from 1972 to 2004 the door was finally shut to Molly’s Reach and the Beachcombers.

If you visit Gibsons, BC you can go to Molly’s Reach, and see the Persephone herself. I was lucky enough to visit while on a work trip a number of years back, and felt the nostalgia as strong as ever.

NEWFOUNDLAND OUTDOORS

Now this show was one of the first “reality” type shows that I remember watching. It was a fishing and hunting show hosted by Lloyd Colbourne and documented his adventures with his buddy Bryce Walsh. Again a CBC production, that ran from 1979 to 1995 and I absolutely loved this show, as did many Newfoundlanders. In a recent book published by Lloyd in 2019, he talks about the show and the fact that it was in fact so popular in his home province of Newfoundland that some fish processing plants actually let their staff leave work early on the nights it was to be aired so that they didn’t miss an episode.

Lloyd’s show took us moose hunting, grouse hunting, fishing, and who can remember all the adventures. But there was one line that has stuck with me all these years, and in fact today I still get a chuckle. Lloyd and Bryce would be in the middle of some epic adventure, and Lloyd would suddenly say “It was about this time that I suggested to Bryce that this would be a perfect time for a boil up”. Work would stop, the fire or camp stove would be lit, and coffee and snacks would be produced. I love me a good boil up, and I never pass up the opportunity to have one.

DANGER BAY

Ah yes…Danger Bay. Shot in Deep Cove BC on Indian Arm this show was the campy newcomer that tried to replace (in my opinion) the Beachcombers. The show was supposed to chronicle the life and adventures of a marine veterinarian Grant “Doc” Roberts and his children, Nicole and Jonah. The show was positioned as a wholesome family experience and almost always showed video of the Vancouver Aquarium in each show. It was shot was back in the day of course when the Aquarium still had captive Orcas on display which I am pleased to see is now a thing of the past.

The show itself was never a big hit for me, but what I did watch it for was the scenery and the boats. The kids had a small boat with an outboard that they would take out and often get into some sort of trouble, but all I saw was the vehicle to adventure! As a young boy my fascination with boats came very early and to imagine even the possibility of having my very own, with a motor none the less, kept me coming back for more. The show never did get legs under it like the Beachcombers did, and so after 123 episodes (still an accomplishment in today’s world) it finally ended after running from 1985 to 1990, again on the CBC.

LAND AND SEA

I’ve saved the longest running show for last. Land and Sea was a locally produced Canadian documentary show once again on CBC and which ran for an astounding 45 seasons. Heck…that’s longer than Survivor which is currently on it’s 41st!

Land and Sea was a great show because it was focused almost entirely on the Atlantic provinces, with a focus on Newfoundland and Labrador and ran from the 1960’s until the early 1990’s. I learnt a lot about the island I was born and raised on through this show, and perhaps I may have been just a nerdy kid but personally I liked it. It was on Land and Sea where I learned about the tradition of the Mummers, the fishing industry and decline, life in rural out ports, and many other stories and history of life not only in Newfoundland, but all over the Atlantic provinces. According to the official Land and Sea website:

For more than thirty years Land and Sea has brought you stories from people who live off the land and the sea. We cover issues that affect people in rural communities which ultimately affect those in cities as well.

We bring you stories from those who celebrate life living close to nature, who promote and protect their culture and traditional ways of doing things. There are stories of success and sometime failures that portray the unique way Atlantic Canadians deal with the challenges and pleasures of living on the east coast.

The show looks to have been revitalized, and episodes can be found online as recently as 2014. The influence that this who had on me as a kid was that it inspired me to get out and explore the land around me, and it fed my interest in nature and my home province. Being a Newfoundlander is something that never goes away from you as a person, even though I have now lived more years on Vancouver Island than I did growing up in Newfoundland. But I still remember how hard it was to leave, and looking over the rail from the ferry departing Port aux Basques and feeling heartbroken to leave my home province behind.

What is the point of all this you might ask? Why am I talking TV on my blog? The answer is simple really. These are some of the many influences that brought me to where I am today as a person, as a fisherman, a photographer, a nature nut and in some respects why I write on this blog. They fed my love for the outdoors, along with many other inputs and people, and although these shows would likely be met with laughter and mocking comments if I was to show them to my step sons today, they were great shows in their day. I guess my hope is that if someone comes across my little blog that they read one or maybe a few of the posts, and get inspired themselves. That perhaps the imagery and the humour I try to insert into my writing will bring a smile to their face, and some warmth to their heart. And if nothing else, help to distract them from the craziness, fear, and worry that COVID has thrown us into over this past year and a half.

Please enjoy – and I would love to hear from readers what your favourite childhood shows were that influenced your love for the outdoors! And here’s a little gem from me, filmed recently while warming up in the rain, and a tribute to Lloyd and Bryce.

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