Sund’s Lodge on Malcolm Island, British Columbia
Mary L. Peachin
British Columbia is noted for five species of salmon migrating along coastal waters throughout the summer. Bottom fishers favor BC’s numerous flats where they can jig for halibut. But where can you go to fish, a lodge that offers both saltwater and freshwater fly fishing? Not too many places. If you include luxury accommodations, gourmet cuisine, and cheerful, excellent service, it’s doubtful there are any that can compete with Sund’s Lodge.
Cow bells and staff cheering outside your door is the 4:15 morning wake up call. It’s dark outside. After an evening of fine wine and dining, only the urgency to catch a tyee can rustle me out of bed. I’ve fished British Columbia’s coastline for more than a decade and have only come close, a pound or two shy of the fabled 30-pound entry qualification to an exclusive club.
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Storm fronts move quickly between Port McNeil, Vancouver Island and the fishing grounds of Baronete Pass. Sheets of rain are silhouetted between the lush horizons of the Coast Mountains. We are fishing waters located adjacent to Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Bay near the Georgia Straights.
Fishing for Chinook, also known as Spring or King, near Parson’s Island “The Wall” drop off, it was less than five minutes after lowering a sardine-baited hook on a downrigger with, when the line tugged gently. Chinook are unpredictable. Most will make an initial fierce run, a few will jump, and some swim toward you until seeing the boat motivates them to take off. This one waited until he neared the boat. Most of the run were “teeners” or Chinook weighing in the high teens.
Sund’s aluminum boats, powered by a Yamaha 250 plus a trolling engine, are custom made and average twenty three feet. They have a cabin and the luxury of a head. Most of the fishing is done with a Shimano mooching reel on a Laminglas rod.
When fishing the bite is off, and the day at “The Slide” when I limited out (two Chinook a day or a total of four) by 6:30 AM, there were some awesome sights. Minke, orca, and humpback whales ply these waters. Pacific white-sided and Dall’s porpoise sometimes swim in the boat’s bow wake. Murres dive, bald eagles soar, and shore-birds wade in quiet bays.
Successful anglers will frequently fight salmon during the early morning bite then afternoon jig for “chickens.” The smaller halibut, those in the 25-45 pound range make for better eating.
On a day of fishing with guide Geoffrey Duddridge, and Diana and Brian Gage from Camas, Washington, we had some interesting and exciting afternoon action.
After hooking up, the salmon jumped in the air before running endlessly. Coho are more typical jumpers and while they hadn’t seasonally migrated through the area, there were a few around. Geoff knew f
rom the pull that a harbor seal had grabbed my salmon, and he was heading into a bed of bull kelp. Chasing it with the boat, Geoffrey prepared to throw Pepsi cans to scare the seal so he would release his clutch on my salmon. The seal won. Craycroft Point was good to us. In seven years of guiding,
Geoffrey had never had a triple hookup. Brian and I were fishing the outside downriggers, Diana was on the flat line. As they hooked up, my rod also bent. It was bedlam. We each followed our fish exchanging places and moving rods around and over one another to prevent a tangle.
While I was mooching for salmon, my husband David was an hour and a half north wading for elusive sea run cutthroat. The only access to the Ahta River is by boat keeping rushing waters pristine and the fish unwary.
Local anglers sometimes call coastal sea-run cutthroat trout tinsels, harvest, or yellowbellies. Sporty on a light weight fly rod, they enter various spawning rivers to feed on springtime salmon fry or fall salmon eggs. While nomadic, sea run trout spawn and return to the same system.
Armed with bear spray, guide Shaun Vanderberg and David bushwhacked an overgrown, but marked trail along Bond Sound’s Ahta river on the British Columbia mainland. Bear scat along the trail was so fresh “we could smell it”. Shaun and David released a dozen 16 to 18-inch fish along with two sizable rainbows. Shaun ties his own flies and used a Mickey Finn clouser, an attractor minnow patterned fly and a custom-made “bubbler” minnow, similar to a mudler.
While David was cheerfully casting dry flies at jumping cutthroat, I was still on the decade-long search for that magical thirty pound tyee. Sund’s Lodge didn’t disappoint. It was the third and final full day of fishing when I hooked into a big one. He didn’t look like a tyee, but before bleeding it (for better taste), we weighed it. 30 pounds and not an ounce more. There were four witnesses just in case the fish, after being bled, lost some weight and went under thirty pounds. It didn’t.
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Avid anglers will appreciate the amenities provided by this family owned and operated lodge. Located on 40 acres on Malcolm Island, twelve cabins host a maximum of twenty four guests. Anglers can fish the entire three or five day package, explore the coastline in a sea kayak, or bicycle ten miles into the small Finnish town of Sointula. Founded in 1901 as a socialist commune, Sointula’s eight hundred residents are proud of their heritage. The name means “place of harmony.”
Sund’s cedar cabins are built with wood locally harvested. Comfortable beds, covered with down comforters and 600 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, feel great at the end of a 12-hour fishing day. All cabins have a gorgeous view of Blackfish Sound. The Sund family has a herd of groomed alpaca that mow their acre-size lawn overlooking the Sound.
If you have the time, there are two hot tubs, a sauna, bicycles and sea kayaks, a golf practice range, horse shoes, hiking paths, satellite TV and pool table, and wireless internet through the property.
Lunch is different than that found in most fishing camps. Instead of packing your own lunch or waiting for a boat to come out at lunch hour, Sund’s has a “burger boat” that has a gas grill cooking hot dogs and hamburgers.
Another day, the staff greets you on a nearby beach with a glass of wine and a first course of freshly caught Dungeness crab. But first, there is a lesson on preparing the live crab. The Chef has a table-clothed table with pull pork sandwiches, salad, and his scrumptious home made lemon squares for desserts.
Fine wine and spirits are included in your stay. They can be enjoy while dining on Chef Paul Shand’s, formerly of renowned Sooke Harbour House, gourmet five course cuisine. He is not your typical fishing lodge chef. Servers and bartenders Sheena, Amber, and Jamie are so friendly, hugs are forthcoming when you say goodbye.
None of this would be possible without the personal leadership and friendliness of Scott Sund. He bought the lodge from his father, Dave, about eight years ago. Along with his wife Heather and three young children, their goal is to make you feel as though you were part of the family. And they do a mighty good job!