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escape on the edge of vancouver island is a shangri-la for fishing enthusiasts, foodies & anyone who wants into the wild in luxury

Randy Killoran

by barb sligl

May/June 2012 Just For Canadian dentists

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T

he water is cold and the current is strong. It swirls around my legs and tugs at the rubber overalls I’m wearing. I mean waders…It’s my first time wearing the fly fishing gear, and I feel rugged and ready for anything. Donning the waders puts you in a certain frame of mind.

enough but not too much) and circle before releasing forward. Thunk. I lose the fly on the back swing. And more than a few times…on a log, branch or some other obstacle that seems to always get in my way but never my guide’s. That’s because my guide is Randy Killoran, who has catch records with the Tyee (the legendary longtime

Fly-fishing lures.

helicopter or fourwheeler into the deep wilds of Vancouver Island. And reveals some of his past clients—like George Bush Sr. It turns out that Vancouver Island is a mecca for world-class sport fishing. And Killoran has taken out some rather illustrious fishing fanatics. Whether CEOs from Silicon Valley or past presidents (Bush

Century-old Strathcona Park is on one end and the Pacific on the other. You’re really away from it all. Tucked away amidst this wilderness is The Lodge at Gold River. The town of Gold River is a bit of a working-class way-station for the fishing and logging sets hauling saltwater catches and logs in Muchalat Inlet, but the lodge is

Just one example of the impressive taxidermy at The Lodge at Gold River.

Über fly-fishing guide Randy Killoran.

The main lodge’s great room.

Apropos custom-made front-door handle.

One that makes you think you’re one with the river. Kind of. It’s exhilarating to wade in amongst the smooth river rocks and brace myself against the rushing water. The hard part is casting. I let the line out just enough, arc back with my arm (bent

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First Nations’ art.

Vancouver Island fishing club) that put him in the big leagues. Here, however, he keeps it small and simple for a neophyte like me. Patient and relaxed, he replaces the fly time after time after time. He tells stories of his other fishing adventures via

Just For Canadian dentists May/June 2012

Sr. is quite the accomplished fly fisherman, by the way), these clients come for the stellar sports fishing and stay for the isolated getaway. Here, in the centre of the island, there’s not much more than trees and more trees (and plenty of logging trucks).

serious luxury. Think log-cabin luxe with antler chandeliers, impressive taxidermy and First Nations art (so much of it that a Bill Reid piece is stashed away in a closet). A cougar skin near the entryway is Silex the resident dog’s trophy; she pinned the

big cat under the porch just outside… Arriving here, I’m greeted by the big, bounding Silex (named after a fishing fly, of course) and siblings Winston and Sage. The three black labs— possibly the happiest dogs ever—are a good sign of the welcome I have in store. Host Kent O’Neill, a longtime Vancouver Island resident, has a passion and pride for this region that’s infectious. It’s all about keeping things local, from the BC wine list to the farm-tofork menu. Dinner that night includes Pacific halibut with spotted prawns and patty-pan squash from a local farmer. Even the sorbet is made from fresh, local berries. As is the organic blueberry jam the next morning. The locavore cuisine served here, prepared by Red Seal-trained Chef Terry MacDonald, is unexpectedly high-end—from a deconstructed salad of golden and rose tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella (from nearby Comox Valley water buffalo, of course) to the halibut-and-spottedprawn main course. Post-meal in the main lodge there’s shuffleboard and billiards and even a drum set to bang on. And the bar and O’Neill are at the ready. But satisfyingly sated, there’s nothing to do but hole up in my cabin-chic room—complete with wood-burning fireplace. I sit on the back porch, listening to the gurgling river just below. The mind and body can’t help but unwind. As O’Neill puts it, this is “a great place to live in terms of personal

this page: b. Sligl; opposite page: The lodge at Gold River

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cast). A former NFL coach (with four Superbowl rings) is a regular here, as are Vancouver Canucks management and certain celebs. Because when you’re here, you’re cut-off—in a very good way (and there’s always wifi if you must stay connected). And, while happily cut-off from the outside world, you can do pretty much whatever you

fishing on his days off, and when Killoran isn’t tying flies for guests he’s tramping through the bush to find the next best fishing hole. Back on the Elk River, where I’m still trying to mimic the smooth swing Killoran tosses off without a thought, the fish are biting—in rapid fire. The elusive catch is thrilling to pursue. And addictive.

Coho salmon catch on a fishing day with The Lodge at Gold River.

On top of the world (via a heli ride) post fishing and picnicking in BC’s spectacular scenery.

They arrive, more often than not, via heli. There’s a helicopter pad on the property (first created for the group of California investors who own this slice of paradise), right next to the man-made trout pond (where newbies like me can practice their

Heli hiking group.

Log-cabin luxe at the main lodge.

want. O’Neill will make it happen. Whether that’s heli hiking and a spa treatment or deep-sea fishing and clay shooting. The real prize here, though, remains the fishing. The entire staff lives and breathes it, as well as the typical guest. Chef MacDonald goes

There certainly is something about learning the language of the river, finding those pauses and pools and landing a fly in just the right spot. Not something you can figure out in one session. The hook is in. I need to come back.

if you go

mental health.” And if he ever takes the beauty that surrounds him for granted, he’s reminded of it through the wideeyed wonder of guests. If the rest of us can’t live there, the next best thing is to visit. Again and again. Those who’ve already discovered this place keep coming back for the secluded pampering and worldclass fishing.

the lodge at gold river Everything you need is taken care of, from the helicopter, should you want it, to the best-of-BC selection of wines with an island-sourced multi-course menu. thelodgeatgoldriver.ca more Find out about Vancouver Island’s central region, including the century-old Strathcona Park, at hellobc.com and env.gov.bc.ca/ bcparks/explore/parkpgs/strath/.

May/June 2012 Just For Canadian dentists

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Gold River, BC  

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