The hovering backflip probably wasn’t necessary.
The helicopter approach to Nimmo Bay Resort was already spectacular on its own—there really isn’t anywhere else on earth as supernaturally dizzying as the wilds of British Columbia. But my pilot couldn’t resist. We hover briefly over the spruce-enveloped bay. Our engine begins to roar. The pilot grins mischievously and then jerks the joystick hard toward his lap. “This can’t be good,” I say.
The helicopter lifts, then tilts back, back, back… The trees spin sideways. The bay slips out from under us. The sky comes rushing forward. Clouds. Blue. An eagle… The trees begin righting themselves.
We were upside down for only a split second before completing the loop-d-loop. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to weightlessness, and though I want to retain my composure, I can’t wipe the silly grin off my face. We feather toward the lake, landing softly on one of the resort’s three over-water helipads.
“Welcome to Nimmo Bay.”
Helicopter is the best way of reaching this remote eco resort. Sea planes work too but are useless once you’re here. Boats take forever. There are no roads, no cars, few reminders of urban life. The destination is an enchanted inlet snuggled between the Canadian Rockies and McKenzie Sound on British Columbia’s central coast, about one-third the way from Vancouver to Alaska.
Old-growth redwoods loom majestically over the resort’s red-roofed chalets, most of which sit on stilts over the emerald water. A few yards from the resort’s back door, a waterfall rages down a near-vertical mountain face. That waterfall—runoff from a nearby glacier—powers the resort and provides drinking water. The restaurant and kitchen float on pontoons, as does a two-story staff lodge.
In the old television show Boston Legal, nut-job-attorney Denny Crane (William Shatner’s Emmy-Award-winning character) commented that he needed to win his case against a big drug company because he wanted to buy a fishing lodge. “There is this fishing lodge in British Columbia called Nimmo Bay,” Crane said. “Best fishing in the world. Very expensive. Costs lots of money. I want to buy it.” Crane lost that case.
The irony is that Nimmo’s owner, Craig Murray, not only looks—but also speaks and gestures—uncannily like William Shatner. It is as if Denny Crane already owns Nimmo Bay. Twins separated at birth.
Aside from utter isolation, the biggest draw is just as Crane described it. Thirty thousand square miles of pristine wilderness surround the resort, from sea level to 13,000 feet, all of it accessed at your very whim by helicopter. And the rivers teem with fish: cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, char, 30-pound steelheads, coho, chum and Chinook salmon swimming upriver to spawn.
“This looks like a good spot,” my pilot says, pointing to a bend in the river as we swirl into a clearing that looks significantly narrower the span of our helicopter’s propeller. Trees begin to shimmy and then lean out of our way. We float down to the pebbly riverbank, barely clearing the foliage. After a few minutes wading into knee-deep water, casting white flies into the river, we decide it’s not such a great spot after all. We pile back into the chopper and lift up through the trees.
“Ah,” says the pilot, recognizing a better spot. “Here we go. I’ve caught some really big steelhead here before.” I gape out the window. There’s nowhere to land. Surely I’m not looking in the right direction, but we’re heading there anyway—down, down, down. The river is drawing dangerously close, I think, bracing myself for the crash. And then we touch down gently, smack in the middle of the water.
“Perfect. The fish don’t mind the helicopter,” the pilot explains, “as long as we don’t cast our shadow over them. It’s the shadows that scare them, not the noise.”
As I cast my first fly, I’m thinking to myself that the pilot is clearly full of shit but then all of the sudden—“Whoa, I just hooked SHAMU!”
With only nine chalets, the resort accommodates a maximum of 18 guests, although the owners often limit the occupancy to 12 to keep things as simple and relaxing as possible. Accommodations aren’t particularly fancy. Don’t expect Pratesi linens, or the morning newspaper delivered to your door. The look is decidedly more Sears than Ralph Lauren. This is, after all, primarily a fishing lodge. But the beds are extremely comfortable. The scenery is transcendental. The food is delicious, and the wine glasses are Riedel. A masseuse is always on hand. And a steamy hot tub beckons at the base of that waterfall.
Getting there: Private jets fly directly across the border to quaint Port Hardy on Vancouver Island without any customs hassles. Alternatively, commercial puddle-jumpers fly between Port Hardy and Vancouver International Airport. The resort’s helicopters retrieve you at Port Hardy for the 20-minute flight to Nimmo Bay. A variety of three-, four- and seven-day packages are available: fishing, river rafting, mountain or glacier hiking. Prices start around $4,395 per person, per day, with helicopter service, meals and sporting gear. Tel. 800-837-4354; or visit www.nimmobay.com.