On hook and line, fighting these sometimes monster
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Native Rainbows And Wilderness At Crazy Bear Lake LodgeBy Jack Berryman,
Remote and wild, yet comfortable and urban, aptly describes the unique fishing adventure, deep in the Cariboo-Chilcotin Forest Region near the southeast corner of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park.
Accessed by float plane only via AvNorth Aviation from Nimpo Lake, Crazy Bear Lake and a chain of five other smaller lakes are nestled among the snowcapped mountains at the edge of BC's rugged coastal range.At 4,200 feet above sea level, Crazy Bear Lake stays cold throughout the summer and provides excellent rainbow trout fishing.
Secret Lake, the furthest in the chain, is 800 feet higher and bordered by snow for almost nine months a year. Crazy Bear Lake Lodge was built in 1981 by the current owners and operators, Frank and Paulina Naumann.
Three log cabins for guests are joined by the owner's cabin, the cook's cabin, and a main dining lodge on a wooded hillside at the east end of Crazy Bear Lake. Each cabin is well equipped with a refrigerator, sink, beds and bedding, tables, sofas and chairs. Propane lamps and oil add to the charm. Large wood porches with views of the lake adorn each cabin. The cabins are nicely spaced along the hillside for added privacy and showers with hot water adjoin each of the cabins. Much to my surprise, a beautiful sandy beach is available for swimming, racket sports or just lounging.
The Naumanns are very friendly and helpful, yet low-keyed. Crazy Bear is their summer home and they take great pride in sharing it with guests. They are on site all of the time and provide just enough personal attention to make you feel special but not bothered. Frank and Paulina eat all of their meals with the guests and socialize during your visit. On occasion, if you ask, they will accompany you fishing or go off with you for a boat ride or a hike.
Especially entertaining are their "true life adventures" accumulated while summering in this wilderness. Told around the dinner table or campfire, these stories bring you face to face with bears, caribou, loons, fires, float planes, and the other realities of life in this rugged land.
The daily pace at Crazy Bear is leisurely. You can rise early if you wish, but you don't need to worry about anyone beating you to your favorite fishing spot. In fact, you will usually have a lake or connecting stream all to yourself and will seldom, if ever, see anyone except the other lodge guests. Breakfast is at 8:00am and dinner is at 7:00pm. Lunches are prepared after breakfast to take with you fishing or to take back to your cabin. Lorna Gerein, the resident chef, served ham, steak, lamb, and prime rib for dinners during my visit. Wine and delicious desserts were also available for dinners. Breakfast is a bountiful feast, and usually included eggs, pancakes, trout and cereal. Plenty of coffee was always ready too.
My friend Steve and I were introduced to some of the choice fishing spots our first day by Ray and Tim Strand of Seattle. They were concluding their four-day trip the day we arrived and had the places and proper fly patterns "down to a science." While their stories of 100-fish-days seemed hard to believe, we were ready to see for ourselves. Within minutes of anchoring in Shetler lake at the spot the Strands had suggested, Steve and I had become believers.
We were anchored in 10 to 15 feet of water and began casting our five weight rods with sink tip lines. I was using a red leech pattern on a size 8 hook tied to a nine-foot leader, and Steve chose a black nymph with black rubber legs (like a Girdle Bug), also a size eight. On his first cast, after allowing the line to sink, Steve's slow retrieve was halted by a ferocious strike. Instantly, Steve was playing his first wild rainbow.
With this first fish, we were immediately aware of the power of these natives. Shortly, we measured and released a bountiful 16 inch rainbow. As Steve proceeded to hook seven fish in seven consecutive casts, we named his hot fly "Mr. Rubber Legs," and used it with similar success throughout the trip. Being the gentleman that he is, Steve dug in his fly box and gave me his other "Mr. Rubber Legs" pattern. By lunch, we had caught and released around 50 rainbows in the 13-to-17-inch range.
During our stay, we sampled the fishing in 5 other lakes in the six-lake chain. Invariably, the best spots were next to drop-offs, at points of land, and where streams entered. The water was so clear that you could see bottom in 15-to-20 feet of water and it was not unusual to see fish following your fly to the boat. We were very successful with a Hare's Ear Nymph, a Bead Head Gold-Ribbed Hare's Ear Nimpo, and several different colors of Wooly Buggers.
There were few noticeable hatches, so we emphasized sunken flies rather than dry flies. We also had excellent fishing in the river connecting Hidden Lake and Shetler Lake. The rainbows were stacked under a fallen tree in one of the pools and would dart out to grab our drifting flies on almost every cast.Another day we hiked into No Name Lake. It, as well as the other lakes, has float tubes, fins, boats and motors available. We decided to both fish out of the same boat and after some brief exploration, found a group of large and aggressive rainbows in front of a small stream flowing into the lake. Once again, we caught 30 or more beautiful native rainbows up to 17 inches. It was also at this lake that Cliff and Helen Jones, other Crazy Bear guests, photographed a bear along the shoreline. They were joined by Joe and Pat Lahfdany, who also caught many fine rainbows in several lakes on spinning gear. Cliff and Joe had another fine day fishing near the outlet of Crazy Bear Lake.
One of the highlights of the trip was the hike and overnight stay at the teepee on Secret Lake. Frank, Steve and I loaded backpacks one morning and set out for the farthest lake in the chain. To get there, we crossed three lakes and hiked through some fairly rugged country. It is a three-to four-hour trip, depending on your stamina, and I must admit we stopped a few times to rest. Frank had been working on the trails over the years and most were well marked. We saw two moose and bear signs on the way in and arrived at the teepee with a deep hunger. Frank picked wild mushrooms near camp as Steve and I prepared to catch dinner. After Frank joined us, we had several "triple-headers" and enough fish to eat. Our dinner that night around the campfire consisted of rainbow trout, wild mushrooms and bannock (a bread much like pizza dough).
The traditional Indian teepee is permanently located near the outlet of Secret Lake and is equipped with sleeping bags and cooking utensils. Float tubes and fins are also stored here, but we had great fishing just casting from shore. It began to rain and got colder, so we built a fire inside the teepee. Much to our amazement, we were never bothered with smoke. Due to the tent's construction, the smoke was pulled out of the top like a fine working chimney. We awoke the next morning to new snow on the surrounding mountains and made camp coffee on the open fire. It was a truly memorable experience.
The fishing on Secret Lake was very gratifying. You could see fish cruising the shallows and sight cast to them. We also fish near a beaver dam and caught a fish on almost every cast. At another location, we waded out to the edge of a deep drop-off and were rewarded with several large and aggressive fish. Since this lake gets very little fishing pressure because of its remoteness, we caught fish every place we tried. In addition, being the highest lake in the chain, Secret is surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains and several glaciers.
Some of the largest trout were in The Pond, a small lake fed by the outflow of Crazy Bear Lake. A beautiful waterfall on the connecting stream provides a nice hiking destination since it is close to the cabins. The first two fish Steve hooked at The Pond were so big that they broke off his fly. Shortly thereafter however, he landed gorgeous broad-backed 17 inch rainbow, the heaviest of the trip. After a photograph, Steve released the big rainbow back into the lake.
The Naumanns are very conservation minded and stress the use of single barbless hooks. A sheet posted in every cabin says, "Limit your kill...don't kill your limit." Frank also provides each fisher with a small homemade hook remover so you don't need to handle the fish for release. Anglers are allowed to keep six fish, which Frank will smoke for your departure. He fly's in alder from Bella Coola for his fish smoking and this delightful aroma fills the air around the cabins for at least one day during your stay.
Normal capacity at Crazy Bear Lake is six to seven guests and the maximum is 12. You can fly on a daily scheduled from Vancouver to Anahim Lake (about 250 miles) and then be shuttled to the float plane base at Nimpo Lake, or you can drive to Nimpo Lake.
From the greater Seattle Metropolitan area, via Hope and Williams Lake on routes 97 and 20, Nimpo Lake is a 580 mile drive. Stores, gas, restaurants, and overnight accommodations are available on Nimpo Lake. If you are looking for world-class rainbow trout fishing in an absolutely breathtaking environment, schedule a trip to Crazy Bear Lake Lodge.
You can enjoy prime fishing during the day and sip your evening cocktail on the porch of your own log cabin as you gazed at snowcapped peaks. At night, fall asleep listening to the cries of the six loons that live on Crazy Bear Lake and the splashes of rising rainbows at the doorstep. All of this and more is available in this scenic paradise.
Jack Berryman, a well known sports writer from Washington State
To contact Crazy Bear Lodge, visit their website at www.crazybearlodge.com