Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: west coast steelhead/salmon, BC/Alberta trout
In late September Tyler and I hook the trailer to the F350 and point the nose north. It’s a four hour trip, and each year the conversation is virtually identical: fish tales, a bit of complaining, some discussion of the foibles of others and of course our own immutable perfection; of rods, reels, the latest in lines, and did you remember the vermouth? On arrival, it takes us about an hour to set up camp, then the season begins. Originally we thought we were there for the fish, but as years went by and the fish became less frequent, we began to understand that we were doing this for more than the fish. True, the fish are what drew us, but it was the fishing—and everything surrounding it—that kept us coming back.
But this piece isn’t about me, or Tyler, trailers or Fords; it’s about a new book called Babine , a book that underscores the fact that what’s often so great about steelhead are the places we go and the people we hang with while we’re there. Babine is the product of two minds—Pierce Clegg and Peter McMullan—men in love with a great river and those people who make experiences there special. Sure it is about steelhead, remote places, grizzly bears and casting on moving water, but if you took that all out of the book you’d still have some entertaining reading. Part history and part memoir, Babine recounts the story of the Babine Norlakes Lodge, those who developed it and the fishing that it features. With appearances by some of the lodges’ most colourful guests, Babine winds its way through the story of the development and realization of a great river and its fishing. Like the river itself, the book features soft easy glides of heartfelt prose and poetry along with Dave Hall’s stunning watercolors. It’s easy to sit back in a comfortable chair and float along enjoying tales of great steelhead and the inevitable cast of characters that frequent fishing lodges. But here and there you’ll encounter some heavy waters—every story of humans in the wilderness has its share of tragedy, and the Babine has not been spared. Thankfully, these moments are few, but they serve to remind us that life is short, and the time we have to fish even shorter.
If you like fish porn there’s plenty to be had between the covers of Babine. The river is home to some of the largest steelhead around, and there’s more than a few of these beauties on display. But there’re lots of “regular” fish too—trout as well—giving a sense of balance to the entire presentation. Hall’s paintings round out the visual feast, making Babine that rare blend of coffee table book and great reading. You can easily spend an hour flipping through the pages just looking at pictures, or sit back and drop in anywhere for some entertaining prose.
Babine is an amazingly honest book. Clegg stoically details the business and personal challenges he faced once he took over the lodge in the mid ‘80s, and the occasional tale of guests past and present feature moments that might make you wince.
I’ve only met Clegg once—at a Calgary fishing show of all places—and he impressed me as someone who truly loved the river. Certainly he is a businessman, but in Babine you never get the sense that he’s writing to promote his lodge. Indeed, in a splendid tip of the hat to the river, he even includes writings from the Silver Hilton, one of his main competitors on the Babine, and in this there is the spirit of respect and a strong sense that “we’re all in this together.”
Over the last number of years Clegg has been very involved in Skeena steelhead and salmon conservation issues on the Skeena, and he has pledged his royalties to the Babine Watershed Monitoring Trust. So he ain’t makin’ a nickel off his book, which is quite noble, given that a book of this quality should sell very well. Putting your money where your mouth is. I like that.