Jan/Feb 2009

Jan/Feb 2009
Jan/Feb 2009
Jan/Feb 2009
Jan/Feb 2009
Jan/Feb 2009

Hippa Island 

by George Cuthbert

20 years have passed since 1988, and my first season working in the remote sport fishing lodge industry. Recently, a fishing friend asked me – ‘If there was one place on the coast to put a lodge – a new place, or an area you’d like to go back to - where would it be?’ This question drew fond memories of fishing many areas off the coast of BC. I thought of the many fishing locations: Calm water and feisty ‘springs’ in Knights inlet, huge Chinook in Rivers Inlet, and the Central Coast, awesome deepwater Salmon fishing off Vancouver Island, and of course the Queen Charlotte Islands – who could forget these.

It was in the “Charlottes” known as Haida Gwaii by its original people, where I was first introduced to this business at a location called Hippa Island and aboard a mother ship style lodge. Looking back on it now, I’m astounded I survived my first season much less maintained an interest in anything to do with the lodge business. The ‘mooching’ fleet with small skiffs, 15hp engines and some bait simply didn’t cut it in these west coast waters – despite the obvious and incredible fishing opportunities; operational challenges were significant. Sport Anglers’ weren’t ready for Hippa.

Located along the northwest part of the islands, Hippa Island is on the edge of Graham Island and within a region known as Duu Guusd by the Haida and their people. Hippa had several ancient village sites on its shores - Gatgainans, Atanas and Sulustins. I’ve met descendants of the Haida who proudly occupied these sites and marvel at how resilient and adaptive they must be to have thrived here until the late 1800’s. The Haida knew something we were missing: Never underestimate Hippa and Duu Guusd. You absolutely have to be prepared.

Hippa Island is partly circled and protected by Graham Island, with half of its contrasting, misty shoreline separated and protected by a ¾ mile wide fishable channel. The island itself appears conical and volcanic rock is visible among spruce and hemlock and attains a height of over 1500 ft. The shoreline is dauntingly beautiful, of similar heights and colors comprised of deep black pinnacles bright green mosses and sharp, mechanical like edges that leave no desire to go ashore. The Clarksdale Victory, a US Cargo Transport ship, met her fate on the south Shores of Hippa in 1947 and can still be seen today.
Like the Haida who know of its riches, wildlife thrives among the shoreline and surrounding depths. The island is home to over 40,000 breeding pairs of Ancient Murrelets as well as Canadian bald eagles and peregrine falcons. No glossy print could do this place justice.

Hippa is prominently perched at what is likely the most abundant salmon migration route anywhere. Commercial trollers, during their time, favored the Hippa Island ‘TAC’ on their charts as it was guaranteed to consistently produce numbers of Chinook - well above average sizes migrating across to the Skeena in Northern BC, along our entire coast and as far south as California. Accounts of ‘Smileys’ tearing apart 80lb leader line and huge halibut ripping apart the gear were expected in a day’s work. Massive kelp beds and protective structure along the shoreline invite schools of baitfish like needlefish and herring to feed in local waters. These migrating and resident populations of Chinook and Coho are brought in by the same.

It’s Hippa Island that I’m lured to also.
For several years now, we’ve been investigating, exploring and test fishing new locations. Starting in 2009, West Coast Resorts will be locating a 36 person fishing and adventure lodge in Nesto Inlet, a mere 10 minutes from Hippa Island. Prepared with a modern fishing lodge, a fleet of larger 18ft, welded aluminum fishing boats and ‘instructors’, safe and convenient Helicopter transportation and a combined 150 years of experience with our management crew, were creating an experience with the ultimate in equipment and logistics – providing fishing access to the truly untouched, untapped and uncrowded Hippa Island.

For more information on a trip of a life time contact:
West Coast Resorts
800 810 8933

Huxley’s Run: 


The beach that morning awoke with the full splendour of autumn. A light southwest wind wrinkled the waves onto the kelp-strewn shore. Out among those waves the coho moved, sometimes clearing the water in shiny leaps, sometimes porpoising secretly as they studied the shallow waters around them.

It was not quite full morning yet, but the darkness had started its retreat. It was not the beach I wanted, nor the fishing. That other beach would wait an hour or two, like it had for the previous two mornings, and then it would be alive. The tide and the dawn would combine to create that mysterious elixir that would bring the coho in, and would make them dance with the joy of their coming death in the leaf-strewn shallows of neighbouring rivers and creeks.

But I fished the first beach anyway. In an hour’s fishing one or two fish showed mild interest in my fly, the others treated me with disdain. Hands cold and wet, my spirit humbled, and with thoughts of the other beach coming on, I reeled in and headed to the car.

I was just packing my rod away when a truck pulled up and a fellow got out. His every move was anxious, his look in my direction uncomfortably long. With quick steps he was at the Jeep. “Hi,” he said.“Morning,” I replied, unlocking my car door.

“Any coho around?”

“A few,” I said. “Not many and not taking.”

 "You quitting?”

“No, just going to another spot.”

“Listen,” he said, taking a step closer. “I’m from Vancouver and I’ve been here for three days, staying in a motel. Every spot I go to there are either a bunch of guys already on the fish or the fish are around but too far out. I’m leaving tonight and I really want to get into a coho or two. I’ve been waiting all year for this trip.”
His question wasn’t asked directly, but even at the risk of giving up a secret spot I felt sorry for him. “You leaving tonight?” I asked.


“Okay, follow my car.”

I went through the side streets, got onto the highway and started heading back toward Campbell River. I could see my newfound friend behind, both hands on the wheel and his bumper not more than 20 feet from mine. About 10 minutes later I took a side road and started creeping through a local neighbourhood toward the beach. I could see his head in my rear-view mirror, swinging from side-to-side in a confused sort of way. I would learn why only minutes later.

A right, left, then another right and we were at the beach. He parked behind me and was out of his car and practically running towards my vehicle.

“This is it,” I said. We walked to the edge of the riprap and peeked over. There, like the two previous mornings, were the coho. They were more numerous than the day before, and even better, not one of them was jumping out of the most basic casting range. To fish a beach like that is an angler’s equivalent of heaven.

I glanced back over my shoulder at my companion and was startled to see his exuberant smile vanish. He looked at that piscatorial cornucopia before us and then looked at me again.

“How long have they been here?” he asked, his voice cracking

“This is the third morning,” I said. “They’ve been taking well, and as you can see they’re all over the place.”
His chin dropped to his chest and he muttered something unintelligible.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

He closed his eyes and sighed. Jabbing his thumb back over his shoulder he said, “See that motel?”

“Yeah?...” Of course I saw it -- it was only about 100 feet away

“That’s where I’ve been staying.”

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