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A brand new story from SPORTING CLASSIC MAGAZINE
about every kind of fabulous fishing at Moose Lake Lodge, click here

To read a Fabulous Story from SPORTING CLASSIC MAGAZINE
about an adventure fishing trip on the Dean, click here

To read about the River That Time Forgot in TROUT & SALMON MAGAZINE
about a ludicrous number of salmon, rainbows and cutthroat caught, click here

To read all about Moose Lake Lodge in FLY FISHING NORTH AMERICA
and fishing for Steelhead on the Dean, click here

To read all about Moose Lake Lodge in SPORTING CLASSICS 'In search
of the Legendary Spirit Bear of British Columbia', click here

To read all about Fly Fishing British Columbia's Legendary Dean
River for Steelhead in FLY FISHING THE WEST, click here

To read all about fly fishing the Blackwater River in
BC SPORT FISHING MAGAZINE, click here

To read all about fishing for the extraordinary wild salmon
on the fly in FISH & FLY MAGAZINE, click here

To read a thorough article about the great fishing at Moose Lake
Lodge in the THE INSIDE ANGLER MAGAZINE, click here


Magazine Articles in French * UNE PASSION LA PECHE click here
LA PECHEUR BELGE MAGAZINE Article One click here
LA PECHEUR BELGE MAGAZINE Article Two click here

Moose Lake Lodge, British Columbia

WILD RAINBOW COUNTRY


April, 1996 Issue of Field & Stream Magazine

By Ken Schultz

Nestled away in a remote part of British Columbia, Moose Lake Lodge is surrounded by history and trout.

John and Mary Lou Blackwell are living it for everyone who loves remote places but doesn't have the ability, fortitude, knowledge, or good sense to follow dreams and reside where the air and the woods and the game and the fish are pure, wild, and plentiful.

The Blackwells left Oregon in 1969 to follow their dream, essentially homesteading in the mountainous interior of British Columbia on the shore of a lake that had no name and still isn't shown on many maps. It's a land of glaciers, thick pine forests, mosquitoes, lakes, rivers, moose, grizzlies, wolves, coyotes, and colorful trout. The spot they chose was 45 direct-air miles from the nearest settlement .Getting groceries required a week-long horsepack round-trip.

With their two sons, the Blackwells learned to log the land, build and run a sawmill, construct wilderness roads and airstrips, become pilots, hunt moose and grizzly bear, build houses and cabins from the logs they cut and milled, raise horses and cattle, clear and plant fields for grain, fix their own generators and outboard motors and airplanes and tractors and machinery, and, of course be plumbers, electricians, cooks, medics, and hunting and fighting guides.

When you stand on the deck of the Blackwell's Moose Lake Lodge while the sun sets, casting an alpen-glow on the jackpine mountain and the distant snow-capped peaks, and watch an eagle on its nest, listen to calling loons, view a moose feeding along the shore, or see rainbow trout jumping within casting distance of the dock, you can't help feeling envious. You only get to enjoy this for a few days. They live it.

The fish really do jump out of the water in this area. At Moose Lake rainbow trout have actually freeleaped into boats; once a fisherman was hit in the face with an unhooked leaper! I noticed this airborne tendency first at weedy Anahim Lake as pilot Joe Archer taxied on the water before taking off for the lodge . Even as the floatplane lifted up, there were leaping, splashing trout. "Bugs," said Archer. "There's a lot of weeds for bugs and bugs for trout." As the plane pulled away and took us inland , this scene gave way to rugged land bounded by white-topped mountains.

Moose Lake is near the Coast Mountains, which include the tallest peaks in the province, and on the eastern bush-country fringe of Tweedsmuir Park, the largest provincial park in British Columbia. The surrounding area is full of rugged wilderness terrain, from boggy meadows and glacial rock formations to unending forests and brimful lakes whose shallows bear the crisscrossing tracks of moose.

The area around Moose Lake is just remote enough to have been spared extensive logging, and access roads, and probably not too different from when Alexander Mackenzie first explored it 200 years ago. Having already traveled the great Arctic river that bears his name, Mackenzie struck westward from the Northwest Territories in 1793 searching for an overland route to the Pacific for the fur-trading North West Company. He ultimately found a low pass to the sea near Bella Coola. Today, parts of the Mackenzie Trail are accessible by horseback and floatplane from Moose Lake.

Indeed, you can walk on or near the trail en route to fishing the Blackwater River, one of the finest rainbow trout waters in the province. The Blackwater is a small, swift, brush-lined gem, and the westward section that my wife Sandy and I fished with Mary Lou was one that Mary Lou listed among her favorite places. Ours, too.

While the dry-fly fishing in pools and eddies was great and the wild fish were brilliantly colored, the highlight of the visit was observing a classic scenic involving a bald eagle nest on a pondlike section of the river. The plane taxied within 75 feet of the nest in a dead tree near the shore that contained two eaglets. The parents were perched above the nest on stairstep limbs, undisturbed but watchful.

Almost every place we fished we found eagles either perched or foraging. The birds had easy pickings here, and so did the fishermen.

Not that we caught trout everywhere. We spent one morning at nearby Trophy Lake, but couldn't make it live up to its name. Nevertheless, the lake was gorgeous and the loons there practically swam up to our boat. A mile-long trail through the rich pine forest brought us to a stashed boat on Moose Lake, and once again we were soon landing rainbows.

As wonderful as the trout fishing was at Moose Lake with both fly and ultralight spin tackle, there are richer, varied opportunities throughout the region. The Blackwells are permitted to guide on over 1,500 square miles, and there are many lakes and rivers to visit for rainbows, cutthroats, or Dolly Varden. We stopped for a few hours at a couple of places, fishing with barbless flies and having no trouble connecting with scrappy fish. The trout were so plentiful in one outlet river that Sandy, a novice fly fisher, could get strikes simply by dragging a fly while walking from one spot to another.

There were other attractions near-by as well. An abandoned Indian community at Gotchko Lake along the Mackenzie Trail offered a good excuse to get out of the boat and stretch, and the snow-covered Coast Mountains and 9,000-foot-high Thunder Mountain provided a marvelous distant vista. Up close from the window of a floatplane, you can see glaciers, gorges, ravines, valleys, falls, sheer rock cliffs, and lush mountain bowls.

Landing on a turquoise lake in one of these bowls was a memorable experience in itself. John circled the plane several times between the mountains, riding thermals like an eagle and descending little by little until the bowl became a pool and the pool became a basin and the basin became a lake. Only midday sun could shine into this place, so steep were the mountains.

When the plane taxied to a halt on the shore there was no scramble to get out and fish. A swift-flowing river emptied into the lake. The water was sparkling clear, like a swimming pool with current. It sluiced through gravel and emptied into a greenish blue pool at the inlet. Across the lake the mountains rose steeply all around, furrowed by wide glacial cuts that narrowed up high, where the snow began and blended into the light clouds.

It was the kind of spot where you'd like to be posted in the afterlife, and it was our favorite places. Of course, it didn't hurt that the cut-throats were so abundant and careless that you could stand downstream and watch a companion's fly float by and observe trout after trout dart from cover to pounce on it. Like so many other sites in this picturesque area of British Columbia, it could be enjoyed even if you weren't fishing.

Mornings and evenings were like that too. The weather was excellent in late June and the sunrises and sunsets, which come early and late, were memorable.

One morning I woke before 5 o'clock and went to the dock. A calling loon flew overhead and wisps of fog lifted off the water, swirling around the tethered boats and float-plane. A red sun peeked over the mountains, tinting the high, then clouds as well as the lake's surface. A hen mallard and her young brood cruised the shoreline. Before the dock the waters of Moose Lake rippled with the rings of rising fish.

Behind me another loon called. I found a light spinning rod in one of the boats and instantly caught and released a frisky, squirming squawfish.

In a few minutes Sandy joined me. She took a boat and rowed just out of casting distance of the dock. She instantly hooked a rainbow trout that leapt several feet out of the water. As she released the fish there was screeching from the opposite shore back in the jackpines. It was an angry, howling noise that carried across the still water and echoed off the woods behind us. Sandy rowed over to the dock and with some urgency asked, "What was that?" I didn't know. But it sounded awfully peeved. And it reminded me of something Mary Lou had said earlier. "This is the real wilderness."

STEELHEAD AND SALMON, TOO
The Blackwells not only provide trout fishing within 150 miles of Moose Lake, but they also go to the coast for steelhead and salmon. They are one of only four outfitters who have accommodations and guided fishing at the Dean River, one of B.C.'s renowned steelhead waters. Their newly constructed camp overlooks the tidal Dean Channel and a high-peak waterfall, and they fish on the lower 2 miles of the Dean above its confluence with the channel, accessing most holes by jetboat. The lower river affords first opportunity for strong, silvery fresh-run fish, although it is not an intimate experience since it's accessible to the public and there are numerous campsites. Unlike the upper river, which is fly-fishing only, the lower section is currently open to spin fishermen , though there's talk of change.

The Blackwells often bring anglers here for an overnight trip from Moose Lake, fishing this river for a day (or more if desired) and sampling inland trout waters on the way over and back. We visited the Dean and caught a pair of big Chinook salmon and a small steelhead, but our timing in late June was at the end of the salmon run and just before the steelhead run(steelhead are best in summer and fall when the water is low). This is a side trip you might want to consider for the unforgettably scenic ride even if the fishing opportunity isn't at its best. Be sure to bring your strongest insect repellent here, as this could be the world's horsefly capital.-K.S.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
To reach Moose Lake by commercial travel it's necessary to connect through Vancouver to Anahim Lake, where you transfer to a float-plane for a 30-minute trip to the lodge. The Blackwells have a wheeled-plane landing strip right next to the lodge for private aircraft, but you have to make sure it's clear of horses before you land.

The lodge is rustic and guests stay in wood-stove-heated log cabins that overlook the lake. The food is excellent and plentiful and the staff will help with anything. Moose Lake Lodge is open for fishing from mid-May through mid-October. For information contact MOOSE LAKE LODGE, BOX 3310, ANAHIM LAKE, B.C. VOL 1CO TELEPHONE (250) 742-3535 OR FAX (250) 742-3749

The Blackwells cater to fly fishermen and use barbless single hooks only, releasing virtually all of the fish in the various waters they visit. They also provide trail rides, hiking, wildlife viewing and photography opportunities, and have an excellent hunting operation. Their hunting clients have accounted for the Nos. 1 and 5 Pope and Young grizzly bears and some Pope and Young record moose.-K.S.

Moose Lake Lodge, British Columbia

For reservations and information contact:
Moose Lake Lodge
Box 3310 Anahim Lake, BC V0L 1C0
Phone: (250) 742-3535
Email: mooslk@telus.net
Preferred way to contact our office is by email