K2inCanada's Blog

October 28, 2011

Sep 3-11: The Best Week of Summer – Vancouver Island Trip

Filed under: Animals, Canada, Fishing, Kayak, Travel — K2 in Canada @ 10:49 PM

Took a while to put the report together – probably forgot a million things:

Jeff called it a fishing trip, I called it a relaxing trip. Jeff got up in the dark every day – I slept in. Jeff fished all day – I walked the beaches, went kayaking, read a book or slept more. Oh, I did fish every so often and Jeff went out in the surfski every so often as well. Where we had the opportunity we went out for dinner rather than cook ourselves. And the best of it all – the weather was cooperating the whole time – more or less. We had a lot of fog on the North Island but usually it cleared up by the afternoon at the latest. I just love the coast when it’s foggy even thought that meant putting on a long sleeve shirt. The days we spent mid island were almost too hot.

Many more pictures: https://VancouverIslandTripSep03112011

Cluxewe Resort Beach

We left Saturday morning from Horseshoe Bay after a nice breakfast in town – the best maple sausage in the area! We traveled almost all day to get to the North Island – a beautiful drive for sure with endless sunshine – and arrived at our destination just north of Port McNeil in the afternoon. Cluxewe Resort is a nice little resort run by the local indian band. Nothing special but it was well-kept and quiet AND right on a beautiful gravel beach with apparently bear and wolf frequenting the estuaries and beaches – we never get to see either. We didn’t get a camp right on the beach but a spot featuring a nice grassy area for our tent, room for the surfskis and protected from any potential wind coming off the ocean. The other nice thing about this resort – although quite a bit out-of-town – it has a nice little restaurant. The menu isn’t big or special but the food was really tasty – like home-cooked – we ate there every night and were good friends with the cook by the end of our stay!! Tuesday nights is halibut and fries special night – definitely worth it!!!

Fishing till the sun sets

Jeff spent the first afternoon fishing while I set up camp and explored the beach until the sun set. The only bad thing about our camp spot as we found out at night was that the only light in the whole area was almost right on top of our tent. Nothing a blue tarp over the tent couldn’t fix – thanks to our neighbours who suggested it and provided us with fire starters after they watched us painfully starting a camp fire with newspaper and matches. Firewood was for free – we either collected it off the beach or got it from our neighbours who had a whole truck load of it.

My coho

Day 2 started foggy. Did I already mention that Jeff got up in the dark to start fishing?  Obviously I didn’t and by the time I got to the beach that morning Jeff had already caught a few pinks. And the fog started lifting shortly after. So I threw on my fishing gear as well and tried my luck. Mind you I only saw Jeff catch the bigged bullhead I had ever seen. I wasn’t any luckier to start with and pulled in a couple soles – they were BIG though. Well Jeff did get into another pink before I hooked into my first salmon of the trip. Landed a really nice coho – wild stock though so we could not keep it. In the afternoon we went for a short paddle going south towards Port McNeil where we ran into a pot of dolphins. Pretty neat.

There was an island out there yesterday

Foggy morning

Day 3 started even foggier and it didn’t want to lift either. I did a lot of beach walking that morning where I saw a dead sea otter on the beach – I didn’t expect to see one on this side of the island at all and was wondering if they finally are making a comeback here as well. We saw a couple of sea lions making their way up the beach that morning – well we heard them first since they were hidden by the fog for quite some time. Fishing was slow that day so we decided to drive over to Rupert Inlet  which is part of Quatsino Sound which again opens up into the open Pacific on the west coast of Vancouver Island – one of our favourite areas for kayak touring. We quickly left the fog behind when we left the cost and arrived to a mix of sun and clouds and a steady breeze at Rupert Arm Rec Site on Rupert Inlet. We didn’t make it all the way to the west coast – not only because it would have been an awful long way for a day trip but also because we saw salmon – Coho – jumping all around us. We “happened” to have our rods with us but of course but no waders. After about a 20min paddle Jeff had just about enough of seeing fish jump all over and we stopped at the very next gravel beach.

Fishin Rupert Inlet

We fished for at least a couple of hours – my leg starting to feel numb from standing in the not so warm ocean. Also, we were mostly in the shade and the wind seemed to be picking up a bit. At least it was blowing from behind. But whatever we tried and no matter how many fish jump over our line not a single one was interested in our flies. We must have tried every single fly in Jeff’s fly box no matter which color. NOTHING – and the fish kept jumping around us like crazy. Pretty frustrating so we gave up and headed back to where we parked the car. Instead of following the shore as we did on the way out we just went straight back through the middle of the inlet. Dumb idea! The wind did kick up and it was quite choppy out there and all of it cross beam to the boats. The waves seemed quite chaotic at times for no reason and the wind was so strong that it push my boat sideways making in literally jump off the top of the waves – really weird. Haven’t been that scared in my surfski for a while. Jeff and I quickly got separated – not that we could have helped each other anyways. He was in an even tippier boat than I. Well we made it but it sure took a long time to get back.

We drove back to the Cluxewe were the fog had finally lifted and the ocean was dead calm. Jeff fished some more and I walked the beach, read my book and went for another 1hr long paddle following the coast up north hoping to see a bear. No such luck.

Paddling Rupert inlet while Jeff fished

Day 4 started sunny and I actually tried to get up earlier to fish. Well not as early as Jeff so I missed the sea otter – a live one this time – who swam along the shore as well as all the fish. Darn!!! Fishing was slow after that and the tide wouldn’t be right till the afternoon again so we decided to go back to Rupert Inlet – maybe we could get lucky today. We wanted to find a different launch site which we had seen from the boats the day before – the Camp Henderson day use area . Fish had been jumping right in front of it so we would not need the boats and Jeff could use his waders. Took us a while to find the road in and guess what it was LOCKED. You had to contact someone in Port McNeil for a key. Hell we weren’t going to drive back. So we park the car in front of the gate and carried the fishing gear and my surfski the 500m down the access road to the grassy launch area. A really nice spot with a big shelter – apparently vandalism caused the forestry company who maintained the site to gate it. Too bad really. Jeff fished and I hoped into my surfski. It was sunny and the water was flat! I tried to make it to Varney Bay (Marble River Provincial Park) today but it was quite a long ways and I turned around after almost an hour. It was a beautiful paddle though. Jeff wasn’t any more successful fishing as he was the day before. We learned later that the Rupert Inlet fish are very hard to catch and we weren;t the only ones who got skunked by them. It was time to get back to the Cluxewe for the afternoon tide. We stopped in at Port Hardy – since I had never been there and we needed to stock up on bread – the most expensive bread I ever bought 🙂

Crossing over to Malcolm Island

Looking north up Broughton Straight

Back at the resort, Jeff fished and I hopped into my surfski crossing over to Malcolm Island. There was a big kelp bed on the north end and I was hoping maybe some sea otter would hang out there. So I added another 1-1.5hr paddle onto my early 1.5-2hrs. The length of the lake race was coming up so I wanted to prepare myself for longer distances and multiple paddles a day. And I didn’t want to feel too bad eating the Halibut and Chips Special at the restaurant that night – yummy!!!

Little Kaikash Beach – Johnstone Straight

Jeff & the dolphins – well they just dove out of the picture

On day 5 we headed back south again since Jeff wanted to fish the Little Q at the low morning tides. On the way though we stopped in at Telegraph Cove to go for a paddle in Johnstone Straight and find some whales. The season for that little town was pretty much over but they still wanted to charge us for launching our boat AND parking. A total of over $30 for a couple of hour paddle – no thank you. So we headed back to Alder Bay Resort were we launched from in the past. They also had to charge a launch fee but it was less and we did not have to pay for parking 🙂 Only draw back – the distance to the orca hang out spots was a bit further. It was again a nice sunny day and the water was flat. But the current played with the boats all the time which was a bit nerve racking to start with. Eventually we became more used to it. We paddled up all the way to Little Kaikash Creek (we think – had no charts with us) – 1.5hrs from Alder Bay and still a bit north of Robson Bight. We stopped for a bite to eat and water sitting on the beach in the sun – paradise!! Never got to see an orca though. But we saw quite a few dolphins. A mother and her young one came really close to us and circled around us before they headed on to wherever they were going. So cool!!! We had a great time and I was wishing we had our sea kayaks and all the gear to stay a few days. It would have been the ideal week to do that!!! Instead we jumped back into the car and drove 3 hrs south to the Little Q. The campsite (same we stayed at earlier this year which was packed on the Aug long weekend) was almost deserted and we got a nice site right along the river. We had dinner at Deez’s Bar & Grill – a great place to eat.

Sunrise fishing at the Little Q

Sea lions off Little Q Beach

Day 6 was the day I got up with Jeff. It was still pitch dark out!!! The sky only started to light up in deep reds and oranges when we were walking along the beach just off the Little Q. At low tide there is quite a bit of beach to walk. The sunrise was quite spectacular!! We were going to target Springs  at the Little Q. Jeff had caught one at this spot last year. We were the only people there first but soon enough a couple of others showed up. No luck catching any springs though. We saw some fish moving just outside our casting range. Once the tide started to come in we had to leave – by now the sun was well above the horizon and it was getting really hot. We stopped in at Jeff’s favourite fly shop for a chat and spending some money on leaders and fly tying material before heading over to Nile Creek Beach to fish for Pink and/or Coho. Well Jeff fished. I decided to go back to our tent and pick up my boat. Always wanted to paddle from Nile Creek to Hornby Island. I know that in the winter sea lions hang out on the rocks just south-east of Hornby. We had seen some in front of the little Q just that morning. Friends of ours just came back from a 2 week trip to Hornby and they saw an elephant seal. So off I went, the sea was calm and Hornby looked like an easy paddle ahead of me. Well it was more than 10km one way to get there – actually to get to Flora Islet just off Hornby. So it took over an hour one way. But I felt good and strong and didn’t think the paddle back would be an issue. Ah – but I had forgotten to look for an obvious landmark on the main island to target for my way back. From Hornby the main shoreline looks pretty much the same for a LONG way. I thought I should be able to see the powerlines but not for quite some time. So I was a bit off course heading back adding another 30min to the hour paddle. What actually saved me from an even longer return trip was a pod of dolphins. While I watched them swimming past me I finally found a familiar landmark in the distance and changed course. Puh!! I was ready for a good meal that evening!!! Jeff didn’t have too much luck fishing either – got a few but it was slow.

Animals on the way to Little Q Beach

Day 7 and I left watching the sunrise to Jeff 🙂 He took the car to get to the beach but it wasn’t far to walk either. So after a nice breakfast of fresh blackberries growing in our campsite I walked to the beach. On the way I saw mama deer and her little one playing in someones garden. You could see that mama was annoyed having to wait for its offspring while it was plating with some hanging lanterns in the garden. So I ended up walking between the two of them. The little one was eyeing me suspiciously while mama was just waiting patiently in the bush across the road. I passed them and they re-united 🙂 Further up I saw a few rabbits – black, yellow and grey ones. Most of them completely ignored me walking past. When I got to the beach Jeff was already on his way back to the car as well. No springs again. We decided to break camp and head back up North. Our destination was the Eve River after talking to th fishing store owner at Nile Creek. Apparently the estuaries are full of fish and there is a chance one could see orcas swim by. I was sold immediately. Another 3hr drive to get back up north – still a nice drive :-). It was sunny blue sky all the way except when we got to the Eve turn off. There were some low clouds hanging in the mountains – FOG. But the logging road was in good shape and we were really excited about fishing/seeing the Eve Estuary. So we drove the 15km east of the highway towards the ocean to find the campsite we had been told about. Well it turned out that the campsite was really just a big grassy parking lot near a log sort facility and there were quite a few people – not my dream of a wilderness campsite. The estuary itself didn’t look as exciting as I had envisioned it in my head and it sure didn’t look as fishy as Jeff had envisioned it in his. And you had to walk almost through the log sort area to get to it. Not ideal by any means – now what to do. Well, another customer in the fishing store had mentioned Naka Creek being close to the Eve so we checked the map and it was only another 15km north along another logging road. We decided to check it out.  Naka Creek is just as far away from Robson Bight as Little Kaikash was.

Naka Creek

Orca male

Jeff & I and Bear are watching the whales

The drive there went over a couple of hills before we got to see the ocean again. The fog cleared completely and we were back to sun and blue sky. We found Naka Creek Rec site no problem – and what a nice spot it was. There were a few people camped but the spots were well-kept and there was plenty of room still. Most camp spots came with ocean view and direct beach access. Paradise – I had only seen nice campsite like that from my kayak. I loved it but Jeff was in fishing mode and the first thing he saw was the Seiner right in front of the beach fishing for salmon but he didn’t see any moving close enough to shore. He wanted to go back to the Cluxewe, I wanted to stay to paddle and maybe see orcas. A bit of a tense moment until we decided to stay for one night and head to the Cluxewe the next morning. Jeff was still not a happy camper and we both walked the beach alone. I should have gone for a paddle but the wind kicked up all sudden and I wasn’t comfortable to go on my own. So we both just hung out on the beach for a while – which suits me just fine but not Jeff – he absolutely wanted to be somewhere were he can fish. And if Jeff is in a bad mood I am not really happy either 🙂 So we went to different ends of the beach. All got better when we spotted a whale blow in the distance. A whale slowly making its way down Johnstone Straight. It took quite a while until we could see a fin. And it was not just one but a whole pot with 3-5 animals. They didn’t rub their bellies on our beach but came close enough for us to see them well. I was in heaven!!! And I think Jeff’s mood improved a bit too. He even unpacked his rod and tried to fish after the Seiner had left the bay.

Johnstone Straight Impressions

Almost full moon over Naka Creek

I shouldn’t forget to mention Bear. Not a real bear but Bear was the keepers black dog. We made friends instantly and I finally got to see my Bear :-). The keeper and his wife are actually living at Naka Creek all year-long and had been for 29 years!!! He is very proud and protective of “his” little site – never mind its a BC Rec site and not his – and it was very well maintained. That night I had to cook – tasted bland after all the good food we had been enjoying so far.We had a nice campfire but Jeff went to bed early. I kept watching the fire as well as the almost full moon. The moon threw so much light that I thought, what the heck let’s try taking a picture of it. And it work brilliantly!

Eve River Fish!!

Me too!!

Day 8 and guess what – thick fog again! And it was not warm in the fog. I tried to get up the creek for a bit but the undergrowth was too thick. Lucky – since as soon as I got back onto the beach again a couple of dolphins swam through our little bay. Jeff tried to fish off the beach for a little bit since we did see a few pinks rise but they were mostly out of range. I investigated barnacles while he fished. And then a pair of sea lions swam past us and the salmon stopped splashing around. We had already decided last night to leave today and find a better spot to fish. I was pretty content with that idea since I had seen my Orcas. Jeff wanted to give the Eve one last try and fish the river rather than the estuary. It was still foggy there too but a lot of fish where in the river. And fishing all sudden became a blast again. Okay it was river fishing but if you are catching fish after fish after fish – mostly pinks –  you aren’t as picky any longer. The sun came out as well and warmed everything up.

The sunny Eve River

Elk

Now the Eve really looked as pretty as Jeff’s fishing buddy had said. My fishing was only on for about 1-2hrs – the current had to be right (and my wrist got tired), so I left Jeff to fish and went for a walk up the logging road. Wasn’t a great walk – pretty boring for most of it but the two elk I saw crossing the road. Elk and not deer – those animals are huge! To  bad the road was in the shade and the picture turned out a bit blurry.

Now that we found the fish we weren’t going to leave – but instead of camping next to the Eve in this parking lot for the log sort we went back to Naka Creek for the night. Our spot from the night before was gone but we found a spot for our tent we liked. No campfire though. The keeper tried to tell us this spot was ONLY for overflow camping and that there were other spots open further down. But we didn’t budge. A couple, Pat and Jill, in a truck and camper we met the day before when watching the whales invited us over to join their campfire for the night which was right on the beach – they were also camped in an overflow spot they said. And when they had arrive the whole site was still empty. So Jeff and I weren’t the only “trouble makers”. We had a good evening with those two and exchanges adventure stories. Pat used to be a river guide and when Jill came over from England they went on this crazy trip up north.

On my way to the Eve – in the fog

The dirty car

When the fog lifts one can see the Mainland from the Eve Estuary – the closest it ever gets to the Island

Day 9 – the last day and of course foggy again. Nevertheless my plan was to paddle down to the Eve while Jeff drove the car down so he can start fishing right away. obviously we got up quite early. My paddle was excellent – the water was dead calm except for the cruise ship wake once. It was foggy all the way to the Eve – probably a stretch of 10km and it didn’t take me long to get there – maybe an hour. Some old fart in his motorboat almost ran me over when he came out of the log sort area. It wasn’t foggy enough that he could not have seen me. I actually had to stop paddling to not be run over …. Since the morning was still young, I decided to keep paddling for a little bit – Jeff wouldn’t miss me yet. And what a good decision that was – I heard a blow in the fog and could just make out a single Orca fin in the distance. Shortly after I heard an even louder blow and saw 2 grey whales just before the dove down into the deep. So cool. I heard them again and chased off into the fog a bit to catch another glimpse of the big back fins waving at me. Almost lost sight of the coastline while looking at the whales. Eventually I had to get back – was already out there for over 3 hrs and had probably another 45min or so back to the Eve estuary. When I arrive at the estuary  the fog started to lift a bit and I got to see blue sky for the first time. Finding the right entrance into the Eve River through was trickier than I thought and I ended up walking my boat for a bit than paddle a bit and walk again before doing the long walk back to where the car was parked. Did I mention yet that the car was covered in dirt? While driving in all that fog the dust stuck to it like nothing else. It was thick. I joined up with Jeff who was fishing away but it wasn’t as good as the day before. I don’t think I even fished that day but just walked around a bit and took picture. We had to leave soon anyways if we wanted to catch the 5pm.

The drive down was uneventful – it was sunny all the way and temperature were much higher than right on the mostly foggy northern coast. I really liked it up north though. Of course, the 5pm ferry was already full – it was a Sunday after all – but we managed to squeeze onto the next one at 7pm. So we had dinner near the ferry terminal in Nanaimo – the last meal on the island.

What an awesome trip – next year we gotta go kayak camping again though.

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