Babine Norlakes Steelhead Camp Trip Report – George White:
“I was able to arrive a day early and meet up with my spey fishing sensei Michael, for a bonus round/ warm up on the Bulkley River, where our gang was set to assemble later that evening for supper and beverages before departing the following morning for the Babine Norlakes on the Babine River. I knew it would be nice to get a practice day in, but didn’t realize exactly how beneficial this would be going into the trip. Outside of one other week long trip to the Bulkley, with sensei, my spey fishing experience was nonexistent. To get a full day in on the front end of our Babine trip was incredibly helpful, and a huge reminder that a little bit of practice goes along way when one is going on a destination fishing trip. We had lovely weather and even whacked a few fish!
The gang materialized around 7pm at the Storks Nest Inn, in the fishing and logging hamlet of Smithers B.C. My good friends Patito and Sandflea hunted me down and we met the rest of the crew next door for dinner and a little stoke building session before hitting the hay early and preparing for a 6:30 am pickup from Billy to head to his steelhead valhalla on the banks of the Babine.
Morning came fast, and the gang was ready to roll. We drove for about two hours on a gravel logging road to the boat ramp right where Babine Lake turns to river. We met our guides, Aaron, Kevin, and Cam, hopped in the jet boats, and headed a handful of miles downstream to the lodge. Upon arrival, we met Billy’s wife Carrie, as well as Stephanie and Jennifer our wonderful cooks and hostesses for the week. We quickly checked into our super nice little cabins, grabbed a hot breakfast, packed ourselves a lunch, and headed out for our first round of play. My friend John Scott and I were ready in no time, and hopped in the first boat that would have us. Lucky for us we spent day one on the lower beat with Norlakes guide Cam. From what I recall, John and I both had a nice buck to hand in the first spots Cam had us fish that day, stoke was all time!
From this point on, the week was a blur! We had snowy days, sunny days. Days with solid action, and days with very little. It was totally mixed, and what kept it exciting was the size of the fish and the fact that you never knew when things were about to get hot! The river corridor was absolutely gorgeous with gigantic conifers and cottonwoods lining the banks. The fishing program was rock solid as well.
We’d depart the lodge at first light every morning, after a great meal, and head to our section for the day. Norlakes twenty miles or so of river is divided into an upper, middle, and lower beat. The guides would drop us one at a time into the ripest swings the river had to offer. After a few minutes of excellent instruction as to where the fish were, how to catch them, etc, the guide would continue on, at which point you’d be in total solitude mentally preparing for battle with a steelhead that very well may be the largest you’ll ever shake hands with. It was epic.
Day 3: I will never forget this day. I was with Cam and a boat full of new friends. It was Cam’s birthday, and the steel were nibbling. At one point Cam rolled up and I asked if he’d mind showing me how to fish the particular run I’d been swinging for the past couple of hours. My friend Dan and I had already caught a couple of fish, I’d broken a really nice rod, it had been a well rounded morning. Not three swings after Cam had shown me the way, I found my very own Moby Dick. It was so special to have him there to share the experience, and on his birthday nonetheless! We scooped up the buck, had a gentleman’s photo session, and released the creature back to the depths! The fish kept coming and by the end of day three, my trip was made. It was time for me to relax and observe the rest of the gang as they roped steel for the remainder of the trip.
Day 5: Sandflea, John, and I had the opportunity to head down to satellite camp for an overnight excursion at the very bottom end of the lower section, with Kevin as our guide. We had an absolute blast! My luck started to run a little dry just in time for John and Sandflea to really let ‘em have it. The only signs of life we saw for those two days were each other, critters, and gorgeous B.C. steel. Camp was a cabin with a wood stove and bunk beds. We roasted giant ribeye’s over a bonfire and told lies until we were fresh out.
We arrived back to the lodge for a night of Halloween festivities, it was a real Canadian shindig! Our last morning in camp included our final few hours of fishing, and then it was time to pack up and begin the long journey home.
All in all, fishing with Babine Norlakes was hands down one of the smoothest, most enjoyable, and welcoming fishing adventures I’ve had the pleasure of attending. Billy and Carrie run a truly top notch operation. Aaron, Cam, and Kevin could not have worked any harder for us over the course of the week. They were incredibly knowledgeable, wildly entertaining, and all around great guys. Stephanie and Jennifer had the lodge and cabins totally dialed in, and pumped out interesting and flavorful food for every single meal of the trip. I would go back in a heartbeat, as from what I can tell the Babine may be the finest steelhead fishery left on the planet, with the crew at Norlakes being one of the most friendly and solid I’ve ever witnessed. Till next time, over and out.”