What happens in Haida Gwaii doesn’t stay in Haida Gwaii. Bringing home a fine specimen that fell for your line is expected, as is the requisite exaggeration of your catch’s proportions. If, that is, as a guest of the all-inclusive Clubhouse, it’s a good-looking salmon you’re after.
The largest and most luxurious of the West Coast Fishing Club’s trinity of coastal British Columbia properties, the Clubhouse is perched above the waters of Parry Passage on Langara Island, 50 kilometres south of Alaska’s panhandle, and puttering distance from an undersea conference of Pacific salmon and halibut. The property’s manager, Terry Cowan, calls it “an alternative to Vegas,” and it takes about the same amount of time from Vancouver—two and a half hours in the air—to arrive here as it does to reach Sin City. But save for a well-stocked bar and some betting among fishing companions, the similarities end there.
One last parcel of civilization is left behind upon boarding a helicopter in Masset, but modern comforts are ever near. After a brief soar over inlets and an inland sea of trees, the chopper touches down metres from the lodge, and guests are ushered along the deck past four ocean-facing, crimson-coloured Adirondack chairs. Inside, the first of the resort’s 35,000 square feet to be enjoyed by no more than 41 of your fellow anglers is the solarium dining room. Meals are the bookends and bookmarks; it’s breakfast, fish, lunch, fish, snack, fish, dinner. Following a quick brunch and orientation, all parties (businessmen on company retreats, buddies, and the occasional couple) suit up in red Helly Hansen survival suits and walk down to the dock to meet a guide on a Boston Whaler loaded with all the rods and gadgets to spin sport fishermen out of the most bumbling of landlubbers.
These are how the days are spent: reeling in chinook and coho, or waiting for a bite, either from a salmon or the “candy boat” that periodically visits toting chocolate bars as well as bottles of pinot blanc and scallop skewers. Any fish that’s caught is brought back to the dock, triumphantly weighed, and then processed and packaged on site. This is no meat market, though; the West Coast Fishing Club encourages catch and release, particularly with tyees (chinooks over 30 pounds), to ensure stocks stay strong in both quantity and quality. Guests who throw back are acknowledged nightly.
The fact that corporate groups flock here is no surprise. The West Coast Fishing Club was the brainchild of Toronto-based business partners Brian Legge and Richard Grange; they’d routinely bring clients, co-workers, and friends out to British Columbia for fishing trips, but they longed for a destination plusher than the rugged outposts they’d experienced. They operated their boats from two existing lodges during the 1980s, and in 1991 the Clubhouse was completed.
Returning to the lodge in the evening, you see that the West Coast Fishing Club is just as fastidious about creature comforts as it is about creature catching. The decor is in the rich, rustic vein one expects from a fishing resort rooted in the West Coast wilds; wood, leather, stone, and warm tones abound. Two lounges, one downstairs with a fireplace and one upstairs, provide evening entertainment, with pool tables and open bars. The twin Owner’s Suites, Henslung Cove and Grange Point, offer the plushest refuge with oversized soaker tubs and a shared deck. There are two outdoor hot tubs, and for further relaxation, there is the small but effective Lacy Island Spa with its sauna, steam room, and massage treatments.
A spa session isn’t the only angling alternative. The resort arranges cultural excursions to Kiusta, an ancient uninhabited Haida village, where the remnants of cedar houses and memorial poles remain under the cover of rainforest and protection of Haida Gwaii watchmen—members of this generation’s Haida, who also act as tour guides with oral histories to share. Culinary adventures are also on the menu, with chef David Hawksworth of Hawksworth Restaurant, along with a changing roster of chef friends, annually hosting a five-day food event of hands-on cooking classes, wine tastings, and meals prepared by the masters.
First-rate feasting isn’t a one-week-a-year activity, however; three-course dinners are de rigueur here, and guests shouldn’t be surprised to find an artfully laid plate of seared halibut with crab and brioche pudding. With co-owner Grange supplying his West Coast Fishing Club properties with herbs, vegetables, chicken, and eggs from his own South Beach Gardens Farm in Masset, the locally sourced ingredients extend beyond seafood.
Sea, food, all done a finer way—viva la Clubhouse.