Five A.M. on a mid-June morning, and we arrive on
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Tyee Time At MassetBy Dave Vedder,
As I write this, I glance occasionally at the palm of my left hand where two long narrow blisters provide evidence of the phenomenal fishing I just experienced at Naden Lodge. The blister nearest my thumb is perhaps an inch in length and not too bad. That was from a 30-pound spring. The other blister is more like three inches long and deep. It may make a permanent scar. I kinda hope it does, then I will have a permanent reminder of the fishing trip of a lifetime.
The fish that gave me the biggest blister was the the biggest spring I have ever landed. Of course, the two that Bob lost were even bigger, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
My fishing partner, Bob, and I booked a trip with Naden Lodge at Masset. We knew the lodge owners Brian Hillier and Dave Lobb were expert anglers and that between them they had more than 20 years experience in the Charlottes. We were eager to try a new area but we wanted to go where we were sure there would be lots of big springs. Brian and Dave assured us that even though Masset is not well-known as a sport fishing port, the commercial boats have long known that the waters near Masset Harbour often team with big springs. They also assured us that if we couldn't find plenty of big springs near the lodge we could zip across Dixon Entrance to Naden Harbour in a bit more than 40 minutes.
We arrived at Brian and Dave's lodge on a bright, balmy mid-June afternoon. A direct jet flight to Sandspit and a scenic overland drive put us in Masset less than than four hours after we departed Vancouver.
Brian and Dave showed us around their beautiful lodge with all the pride of new fathers. They have every right to be proud. The lodge features open-beam ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on the tiny harbour at Masset. Eagles rested on several beachfront pilings, attracted by halibut carcasses left by earlier guests.
Within minutes of arriving at the lodge Dave whisked us aboard his boat, a 20 foot Bayliner with covered cabin and an open stern for fishing. A 20-minute ride across calm water brought us to Hidden Island, a small underwater seamount revealed only by a large kelp forest near its peak. Dave rigged four rods, stacked two to a downrigger. Two rods were rigged with herring strips affixed to plastic teaser heads. The other two rods he rigged with teardrop shaped spoons - one copper and brass, the other his favorite blue/green.
We decided to take turns fighting any springs we might hook. I won the toss. I didn't have long to wait. Less than five minutes after we got the gear in the water a spring popped a line from the port downrigger. I grabbed the rod to set the hook, but soon saw there was no need for that. The spring was already well hooked. As line screamed off my single action reel, I tried to slow the fish by applying pressure to the rim. My reward was a painful set of knuckles. In my eagerness to slow the fish, I failed to keep my knuckles away from the handles which were spinning in a blur. I yanked the injured hand away from the whirling handles, but only momentarily. It was apparent that I had to do something to slow this fish before he spooled me. Careful to keep my hands away from the reel handles, I again applied pressure to the rim. In less than a second the friction from the blazing reel spool raised the smaller of my now prized blisters. Undaunted, I moved my palm slightly and applied even more pressure, hence my second larger blister.
My determination and willingness to give as good as I got seemed to be having an effect. The enormous spring slowed, then stopped. By now Dave and Bob had cleared the other three lines and Dave was turning the boat to give chase. Just as Dave started toward the fish, it turned and headed toward the boat.
My heart dropped to my boots for a panic-filled second as the line went slack. I reeled frantically to catch up up with the fish. Joy replaced panic as I realized he was still hooked. For another 20 minutes the big spring battled valiantly. Finally, he came along side exhausted. Dave tailed the massive fish and gently laid in on the top of his engine cover. One quick measure of the length - 47 inches, and another of girth - 26 inches and the valiant battler was released. We estimated his weight at a few ounces shy of 40 pounds. We all cheered and did high fives as he swam away with a massive splash from his tail.
The next three hours were the stuff of fishermen's fantasies. We hooked eight more springs ranging from 12 to 30 plus pounds. At day's end I had a severely bruised thumb, several sore knuckles and the two aforementioned blisters. Bob was sporting one torn knuckle and a very sore palm. We couldn't have been happier!
Just before dinner time we experienced our first double header. Bob's fish was estimated at a bit over 20 pounds, mine at a bit under 30. I suggested we quit on a high note and hightail it back for dinner. Dave would have none of that. He said, "Brian's biggest gripe when he was a guide was having to return for dinner when a good bite was on. I can call him and tell him to hold dinner." We didn't argue, it was clear a huge bite was developing.
Dave was stacking the second rod on the port downrigger when the first rod violently yanked down. A big spring attacked a spoon that was less than 10 feet under the surface and still in the prop wash. Bob grabbed the rod and began one of the most amazing battles I have ever witnessed.
Bob's fish made what we had come to view as a normal run - approximately 100 yards. Then, as many others had done, it turned and headed toward the boat, but only for a few seconds. While Bob was frantically trying to regain line, the big spring suddenly turned and charged away from the boat, toward the kelp patch above Hidden Island. At first we weren't too concerned. The kelp patch was more than 300 yards away. But the big fish just wouldn't stop. The more pressure Bob applied the harder the fish fought.
Soon Bob was worried about running out of line. He announced, "There's only a few wraps left on this reel." Dave replied, "That reel holds more than 300 yards of line. We better chase him." Dave fired up the boat and gave chase. This let Bob regain some line, but it didn't change the spring's course. Dave tried to maneuver the boat to get between the fish and the kelp bed, but it was too late. The fish was in the kelp! For several minutes we tried to find a path to let us work the huge fish out of the kelp, but it was no use. Finally, the line went slack.
Dave told us that it was undoubtedly a very big spring. How big? There's no way of knowing. But every year 60 and 70 pound springs are caught in the Charlottes. We think Bob's fish was in that class.
True to Dave's predictions, Brian wasn't upset at having to hold dinner. But it was worth waiting for. Cooking has been a hobby of Brian's for several years. Now with his new lodge, he can showcase some of his favorite dishes. Bob and I agreed that guests at Naden Lodge will be very glad Brian enjoys cooking so much.
That evening as we enjoyed a beer and watched an 11 pm sunset, Dave and Brian told us a bit about themselves and their philosophy. Dave has guided for more than seven years in the Queen Charlottes. He learned salmon fishing at Sooke where he won several salmon derbies. Brian has been a fishing fanatic for as long as he can remember. He has served as a guide and fishmaster at several top B.C. lodges.
When they decided to open a lodge, they had two goals in mind. They wanted to offer world-class fishing, and all the little extra touches that make a trip memorable. After considering the entire B.C. coast, they decided to locate at Masset, where they know the waters and know the fishing is unbeatable. As for going all-out to give their guests the best of everything, they outdid themselves. They keep the size of their lodge down to six guests to ensure personalized service. They also purchased extra long beds, a $7,000 commercial vacuum packer and top flight billiards table.
The next morning Brian joined us as we departed at the crack of 9 a.m. to try for halibut. Dave told us that the high slack tide at noon should provide an awesome spring bite. Until then, we wanted to explore for halibut. We tried two spots that had been reported to hold halibut. We found nothing at either spot. Our hearts just weren't into halibut fishing. We all wanted to get back after the springs. By 11 we were back at Hidden Island.
The next four hours were phenomenal. Take your fondest fishing fantasies and double them to understand the type of fishing we experienced. In four hours we hooked more than 20 springs. Some were huge! Between us we landed a half dozen tyees and near tyees and another dozen 20 to 25 pound fish. After we were both tired and grinning from ear to ear, I graciously allowed Brian to land one. We all laughed at Brian's bad luck when his fish turned out to be "only" 10 pounds. We finally stopped, not because the fish stopped biting, but because we had caught enough. It was without a doubt the best spring fishing I have ever encountered.
The next day a typical Queen Charlottes' southeaster blew in forcing us to stay off the water. We spent an enjoyable day visiting the native village and totems at Old Masset.
We left Masset with sore hands and fond memories.
If the gods be willing, we will return next year when it's once again spring time in Masset.
Copyright © Dave Vedder 1999
Planning a Trip
Prime time at Masset for springs is June through August. Coho show up in strong numbers beginning in the middle of August. Halibut are available year-round as are rockfish and lingcod. Trophy-sized halibut are most common in July and August. Naden Lodge offers three and four day fishing packages that include fully guided fishing, accommodations, gourmet meals, professional fish packaging and round-trip air fare from Vancouver.
Call Dave or Brian at 1-800-TYEE (8933) or visit their web site at http://www.nadenlodge.bc.ca