Because chinook stocks linger in Rivers Inlet and feed prodigiously for weeks on end, they are among the strongest, most porcine chinook salmon to be found anywhere.
Northeast of Vancouver Island is an area that's become one of the most dominant salmon fisheries in the world. Three major spawning streams intersect at the famed Rivers Inlet (280 miles north of Vancouver Island), which spans 38 miles and is seven miles wide at its mouth. This inlet, a cradle for massive salmon migrating toward their natural streams, hosts an amazingly rich fishery. Waters teem with some of the largest silvers and king salmon in the world. In fact, more 50- to 80-pound trophy kings are caught here each year than at any other area in BC, earning the nickname "home of the giant tyee" (tyee are kings over 30 pounds). Hundred-plus-pound, spawning tyee are seen in the Wannock River, which feeds into Rivers Inlet.
When Phil Dawson and Mick Heath (hosts of Legacy Lodge) invited me and my friend Steve Williams to come fishing for giant kings in August, it was a dream come true. For starters, Legacy Lodge has nine private, cozy guestrooms and four beautiful suites surrounded by some of the most majestic scenery I've ever seen. Views from your room and balcony are about as nice as they get. And from the moment you arrive, Mick and Johanna, along with the Legacy staff, are there to greet you, assist with your bags, and show you to your rooms. From the moment you step off the floatplane that chauffeurs you to the lodge, the first-class designation is abundantly clear.
Shortly after our arrival Mick invited the guests down to the main dining room for a meet-and-greet and to go over some safety tips. First thing I noticed was how many families there were, and I was particularly impressed with how young so many of the anglers were. I only wish my dad had taken me there when I was growing up. After all, places like this are where legacies are born.
Next, we all gathered in the main dining room for an exquisite prime rib dinner. Each night guests are served a three-course meal that parallels any five star restaurant, along with a very nice bottle of wine. Utilizing his world-class culinary skills, Legacy executive chef Courtney Burnham creates a new menu each night that highlights local delicacies, from fresh seafood appetizers, like scallops and Dungeness crab, to entrées consisting of local halibut and salmon. Classically trained in the art of fine dining, he also specializes in traditional Pacific Northwest cuisine.
Our first day of fishing started out with an iconic view of the foggy, mistcovered forest canopy – a typical weather effect for late August and one that is simply gorgeous. It is like stepping into an Ansel Adams photograph (except these pictures are not in black in white).
Standing dockside, everyone was buzzing with excitement, anticipating the onset of gray light. That's when Mick gives the "A-okay" for everyone to jump into their boats and head out to the fishing grounds. Legacy provides the best boats I've seen, powered by some of the quietest engines I've had the pleasure of not hearing: more than a dozen 15-foot, custom-designed center console Scout boats equipped with four-stroke smokeless 60-horsepower Yamaha outboard engines.
While Steve and I were getting ready to jump into our boat, Mick asked if we'd like the grand tour. So we said, "Of course," and Mick came with us. He's fished the Pacific Northwest for more than 20 years and knows these grounds better than I know my own backyard. Steve and I were excited to hear about his experiences and the Rivers Inlet. As he took the wheel and headed us out to the fishing grounds, I can't tell you what a breathtaking 15-minute ride it was from the lodge to our first stop. Nature put on a good show, from bald eagles to humpback whales and unbelievable shoreline views blanketed with new and old growth from fallen logs, mossy boulders, and huge pines. We were literally in awe.