Few words evoke instant passion in steelhead anglers who have fished—or have dreamed about someday fishing—this storied Canadian river. It’s one thing to wade in for a week. It’s quite another to have waded and lived on its banks in for the entire steelhead season, day after day, night after night, for a quarter of a century. Pierce Clegg did that, as owner of the legendary Babine Norlakes Steelhead Camp. He experienced it all, from frighteningly close encounters with grizzly bears, to battles with impossibly huge wild steelhead, to the entertaining shenanigans of anglers away from home.
These are his stories of Babine, rich and personal. This book is his prayer for the wilderness.
THOMAS R. PERO
From the Foreword
It’s nestled on the upper reaches of the river, a simple old-world fishing camp, set on a flat scattered with spruce and cottonwood trees. A small complex of cabins and mess hall, that by today’s standards is antiquated and stark compared to the upscale glitzy mega lodges on many rivers with hot tubs and fireplaces and all the creature comforts of home. Five small, unremarkable red-and-green-painted cabins are snug with bunk beds for four, heated by wood or oil stoves. There are outhouses—and a mess hall where walls are decorated with photographs, old and new.
Generations of anglers look out from those walls with expressions ranging from crooked, shocked smiles, to relieved triumphs. They’re holding big fish with wide red sides and massive heads. Their hands are not large enough to reach around the base of the tails. They look terrified and spent in their glory.
Welcome to Babine Norlakes.
This camp has been there a long time. It’s purpose now as when it was first built is to provide a brief rest from the rigors of fishing hard all day from the pastels of dawn until the inky skies of darkness. With egos and luxuries dismissed as extra baggage, hardcore anglers come from all over the world to fish these fabled waters, to stay in this old-fashioned camp. They come for the big steelhead, and the pursuit of memories, but they leave with much, much more.
To me, a magical place for a fisherman is one that transcends my normal view of reality by exceeding my imagination. The Babine River is such a place. Located in north-central British Columbia, her life begins at the outlet of Babine Lake. Wild and untamed, she slides her way down through cloaked forests, home to grizzly bears, moose and lynx—a place where eagles watch from above and wolves howl at night, a place where steelhead lie in wait. To the Mother Skeena she races and receives her bounty, a strain of fish that grow fat and strong in the ocean and bring their A game into play after they make their way up the Skeena and into the Babine each fall. For those of you who have fished this fabled river, you know of what I speak. And for those of you who have not fished her yet, the times they are a changin’—you take it from there!