Island Trout - The Coastal Cutthroat

Shearwater Resort and Lodge Trout BC Canada

I spent a good portion of my childhood fishing Northeastern suburban creeks and ponds that bordered golf courses, air force bases and landfills.   Not the prettiest places, but they were hidden gems only found by those willing to wade and bushwhack through woods without trails.  Sometimes I surprised myself that I could find trout where nobody else would think to fish.  I’ve written here several times about my endless fascination with the mystery and adventure of fishing.  And for me, that’s the most important ingredient to a proper fishing excursion.  Sure, I don’t mind catching a fish worthy of being called a trophy, but I’ve quickly learned a trophy doesn’t have to be measured in size.

The popularity of “blue-lining” has increased exponentially over the last several years here in the Southeast.  If you don’t know, blue lining is the exploring of small mountain streams for wild fish in hopes of finding that stretch of water that’s never been, or maybe rarely, fished.  This idea is foreign to some folks, to spend countless hours combing over maps, google earth and logging many miles through fairly rough terrain in search of a fish which, if your lucky, may be 8” in length.  But for me, it’s the mystery and adventure that draws me to this idea of blue lining and leaves me reminiscent of the fishing adventures of my youth.  Especially chasing species that are native and have inhabited these waterways long before my ancestors found their way to this continent. 

Recently, an unexpected opportunity presented itself for a trip filled with these types of unexpected surprises within a completely foreign landscape and made for a memorable and unique fishing experience.  By sheer luck (pun intended), I found myself at Shearwater Resort and Lodge located on Denny Island in British Columbia Canada.  The island itself, home to an ex-World War 2 military installation, is about 11 miles at its widest point.  The island is remote, about halfway between Vancouver Island and Alaska along the Canadian coast.  The island is sparsely populated, but has the luxury of a grocery store, restaurant (with a full bar of course), laundromat, lodge and marina, gas and mooring docks for weary travelers and sailors of the pacific coast looking to stretch their legs on dry land.  It’s an oasis in the middle of what’s mostly an unmolested wild environment.

Shearwater’s greatest sport-fishing attraction is salmon fishing along the rocky fjords and bays of the Pacific coast.  And most anglers are there to stock their freezers with fresh pacific salmon of every variety.  But the fishing adventure I found most unique, and which I would bet 99% of the islands guest don’t even acknowledge is fishing the dozens of backwoods waterways and ponds which hold native cutthroat and rainbow trout.  Of course, I didn’t know this when I arrived, and it wasn’t until a local told me such a thing existed.  Because when you come from a state where most of the trout you catch were born in a concrete trough, having trout live on a remote island seemed absurd.  Some research revealed some pretty cool facts about the trout on the island. 

Both species, are “sea run”, which means they live their lives in coastal streams and rivers and spend a portion of their lives in the ocean. The “steelhead” and the “coastal cutthroat” are species I’ve never had the chance to target. So, crossing these off my list of trout caught was exciting.  Most of the trout I caught were small, trapped my barriers like beaver dams and other obstructions making it near impossible for them to return to the sea.  And to my surprise, they were overly abundant in the small lakes, bogs and connecting creeks. 

And as beautiful and unique as the fish themselves were, the scenery rivaled that of anything I’d ever seen.  Shearwater has given Denny Island the moniker; Gateway to the Great Bear Rainforest.  And as the name suggests, there was plenty of rain, impressively feeding lakes and rivers flowing to the open water from a relatively small island.  The islands landscape ranges from tall coastal pines creating dense, dark forests with ferns covering it’s floor, to trees strung with flowing moss surrounding bogs of spongy, colorful mosaics that can swallow up your leg to your knee. Oh, and let’s not forget I said the word bear just before rainforest.  There were plenty of signs of those as well, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was nervous venturing out by myself into territory and land foreign to me with nothing more than a laser jet printed map from the quaint island grocery store.  But, what’s an adventure without a little fear and anxiety?  In my short time around the island, I was lucky to see plenty of examples proving how untamed this area is.  Humpbacks, seals, sea lions, bald eagles and a grizzly bear all made an appearance.  The one thing I didn’t see, once just outside the small fishing village, were other people.  I shared the waterways and trails with no other soul.

When I returned home from this short trip, I began pouring over the endless neighboring islands, mapping creeks and waterways where opportunities for moderately easy access might exist.  This entire area has endless potential for adventure and fishing.  And although it’s the salmon fillets most are after when venturing to this area, uncharted mystery awaits if it’s a unique adventure in fishing you seek.