Nimmo Bay redefined the term ‘fly fishing’ with their pioneering heli fly-fishing resort in British Columbia, and has since developed into a remote luxury wilderness resort that offers some of the most unique experiences on earth in a pristine and breathtaking environment. It is here that US Presidents touch-down to fish virgin streams, heads of state bring their families to observe wildlife in the great outdoors, and adrenaline charged billionaire entrepreneurs head to for tailored adventure experiences. You can arrive by yacht too… so for the ultimate ‘getaway’ set a course for Nimmo Bay.
Sliding serenely across the mirror calm waters of a secluded British Columbia inlet the occupants of our skiff exchanged quizzical glances: “Did you hear that?” The engine was cut and a silence that only the remotest places possess wrapped around us like a thick cloak. Then it came again, faint at first, but slowly growing in both volume and intensity until the baying and bloodcurdling howls echoed around the ancient amphitheater, a fjord patiently carved from the towering mountains over thousands of years. Zeroing in the source of the extraordinary audio frenzy and gripped by primeval anticipation, the extraordinary soundscape exploded into spectacle when a large rack-laden barrel-chested buck suddenly burst out of the tree line. In two great bounds and without a moment’s hesitation it leapt off the high granite bluff, tucked its forelegs like a hunter jumper, and sailed into the fjord far below. As the mighty splash cleared we were close enough to see its bulging eyes, rolling with terror as it breathlessly paddled for its life.
No longer had the last drops of water spray hit the surface than out of the woods poured a torrent of howling wolves that, upon skidding to a halt along the cliff top and water’s edge, paced the boundary between land and sea snarling and frothing with frustration. We stood in the boat, stunned, taking in the drama as this foiled Alpha pack paced frantically back and forth, their cries and wails of fury eventually fading down slowly into whimpers of exasperation, before the beasts silently melted back into the forest from whence they had come. Once again the cove was instantly tranquil, a blanket of peace once again drawn over just another of the many daily life and death struggles on the pastoral shores of this Canadian wilderness now known as the Great Bear Rainforest.
The delicious juxtaposition of such thrilling encounters and ultimate serenity abound on the northern edge of what is now 50,000 square miles of the planet’s largest unspoiled temperate rain forest and part of the protected Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy. It’s a rare place where wolf packs roam estuaries, swimming five to sometimes ten miles between islands in the search for food. It was here, in one of the wildest and most pristine places on earth, that 40-years ago Craig Murray hiked the remote southern shores and stumbled upon a thundering coastal waterfall pouring from the 5,223’ (1,592m) snowy mantle of Mount Stephens. The crystal clear waters teemed with massive schools of salmon, while the strong scent of grizzly, black bear, and cougar mixed with the sweet aroma of cedar and fir. It was the waterfall that truly captured his imagination however, as it raged clear and powerful over glacial rock and forested moss, snaking all the way down from the high glacier to the ocean’s edge. Gazing around the perfectly protected cove in its majestic surroundings he experienced an epiphany; “if you build it, they will come.”
This summer Murray told us how the vision and blueprint for his wilderness fly-fishing resort took seconds to imagine, but the next four decades to perfect. He explained how he instantly recognized the waterfall was key; it now provides not only glacier-fresh drinking water, but also enough to slake the river fed hot tubs steaming at the base of the falls and an inexhaustible supply of hydro generated power to electrify the resort’s every imaginable comfort. The result is the ultimate off the grid remote wilderness retreat. Rustic yet luxurious, sophisticated while still adhering to outdoor values. The resort is Nimmo Bay.
Clinging without a footprint to the edge of Mackenzie Sound’s primeval forest with it’s 1,000-year-old cedars, 10,000-year-old glaciers and the myth-like Kermode (‘spirit’) bears, this isolated hideaway is the definitive ‘get-away’. The breathtaking terrain occasionally reveals the rich history of Canada’s First Nation peoples, whose lodges and totem emblazoned villages on stumbles across in the misty groves of towering old-growth. It’s here that Nimmo’s gracious welcome seduces guests from around the world: from avid fly-fishing devotees on a pilgrimage to untouched waters, to decompressing rock stars. Their clientele includes US Presidents, Sheiks, and royalty from both crowns and ancient kingdoms, families with kids, superstar athletes, titans of industry and corporate groups basking in company gratitude. Following whispered recommendations from those already in on the secret the clientele is as diverse as it is possible to be… but they all share one thing in common, having visited once, they all come back to Nimmo Bay.
“Nimmo began simply,” explains Murray over coffee as he recalls first transporting in a dilapidate boathouse on a barge from a nearby fishing port. “Guests came by Grumman Goose, mostly fly fishermen who wanted to be in the wild, catch and release. At night we’d build a fire, take out the guitar, usually a bunch of guys, growing stubble, smoking cigars and just talkin’ fish tales as we passed around Canadian whisky under the stars… before getting up early to hit the best fly fishing spots in the world.” Things changed fast since Craig Murray and his wife Deborah, with their baby on the way, had re-settled from Ontario and Newfoundland. They sampled commercial fishing, worked logging camps and eventually launched Nimmo Bay.
Originally, when he’d discovered the cove with the waterfall and salmon, Murray’s idea was to carve a lodge out of this wild pocket of wilderness and use aluminum boats to catch ocean-run salmon. The heli fly-fishing notion arose however when a pilot buddy flew Craig 20-minutes north. Sweeping over the most majestic landscape he had ever seen, the bird was set down in a patch of dry gravel on the edge of a stream of water running as swift and clear as a vodka gimlet. That morning in short order he hooked two steelhead, which waltzed him downstream, bending his rod like he had tagged a submarine. Hooked as assuredly as the quarry on the end of his line, heli-fly fishing became Murray’s obsession. Realizing the chopper didn’t spook the eagles and fish quickly returned to their holes, the resort embraced heli-flights and morphed into a multi venture outpost as other outdoor activities were added to the offerings to create today’s all-encompassing wilderness resort.
“Fly-fishermen brought their families,” explained Deborah Murray, “and while we’d be on our way to a fishing hole we’d invariably spot whales, eagles and bears. The family would keep asking to stop and watch wildlife. Then, the next day, some would request to opt out of fishing and chose to explore the shoreline by kayak or go hiking or caving, maybe picnic on a beach, so we’ve over the years built up a whole roster of activities; from exhilarating to peaceful, from active to relaxing, and for all ages and abilities, there is something for everyone… but each experience is also, well, just simply–unique.”
Located 300-hundred miles north of Vancouver, hundreds of miles from the nearest road, access to Nimmo Bay is limited to float plane, helicopter or your own boat or yacht. Remoteness is a key component of Nimmo’s appeal. Total privacy does not translate to privation however, with the resort offering intoxicating luxuries incongruous to the surrounding wilderness, yet always within its’ rigid policy of sustainability and eco-system management. If you do decide to add Nimmo Bay to your Alaskan passage plan, as an ever increasing number of super and mega-yachts do when exploring the Inside Passage, you can relax as your captain navigates the maze of waterways through the Broughton Archipelago. Upon arrival you’ll be met with the spectacle of this floating resort with its inter-tidal chalets, sympathetically integrated for minimal impact on the surrounding habitat. For Nimmo truly sparkles in isolation. Be aware however, there is a strict ‘no drop-in’ policy, it is reservation only, in order that the privacy of guests is maintained and the small retreat never exceeds its pampered occupancy.
Cruising the Inside Passage is a lesson in humility, no matter the size of your yacht, as the whims of weather and immensity of landscape dwarf all previous scales of reference. Yachts can pilot nearly 23,000 miles of forested inlets and icy currents in the maze of pristine coastline between Seattle and Alaska that features only a handful of towns, roads and airports. The seemingly impenetrable shoreline of thick forest, sheer cliffs and sky high waterfalls requires local knowledge to maneuver the labyrinth of points and bays, a familiarity that the multi-venture Nimmo Bay offers visiting yachts who wish to experience more than the fringe of this coastal wilderness.
Yachts exploring the Inside Passage should reach out to Nimmo Bay this winter or early in the 2017 season if they plan to visit. Yachts 150’ or under might anchor a few yards off the resort in a protected cove, and those larger than 150’ are able to anchor in an adjacent sheltered cove, just a five-minute tender ride ashore. It is all secluded, pristine, with deep green conifers tufting the shoreline and snowcapped peaks in the distance. For those yachts with their own helicopters Nimmo offers a pilots who knows the region like the back of their hand, and offer the service of guiding guests from the yacht to top fishing spots, wildlife observation areas or on customized adrenalin-fueled junkets.
Every request and logistic, from a muddy mountain trek to red carpet private travel for royalty is effortlessly organized by a gracious hostess…
So what can you expect to find there? Well, things quickly changed from Nimmo Bay’s early days of hosting the rough-and-tumble fly-fishermen. Once Murray brought in helicopters to reach those unattainable secret fishing holes Nimmo rapidly earned its reputation as a world-class heli-fly-fishing destination. Heli-pads were constructed and anglers were whisked up one canyon and down another to the most inaccessible and spectacular fishing holes on the planet, places that had barely been seen by humans before and certainly never fished. On their return they joined their families in the riverside hot tubs, worked out in the gym, enjoyed the game/billiards room, rejuvenated in the waterside massage cabin and yoga studio, or retreated back to one of the nine elegant over-the-water chalets; complete with decks, fire-pits, fireplaces and docks. Nimmo also built their own bakery, where experienced bakers create warm fresh breads and pastries to accompany extraordinary epicurean experiences prepared for guests by world-class chefs in the newly constructed dining room.
To ensure guest experiences are commensurate with what one would expect from one of the world’s leading exclusive boutique resorts, a hostess effortlessly coordinates every request and logistical arrangement, from organizing a muddy mountain trek to red carpet private travel for royalty and heads of state. For resort transfers a couple of float plane companies service the region: Kenmore from Seattle and Pacific Coastal from Vancouver can get you nearby on a scheduled flight, or directly to the resort for a premium on a custom itinerary. Most guests fly commercially through Seattle or Vancouver to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, then take the 30-minute helicopter ride across Johnstone Strait to Nimmo Bay.
On the day of our arrival some guests were taking heli-flights for ridgeline hikes from glacier to glacier, while others enjoyed secluded alpine dining on the chef ‘s five-star picnic hampers with Bald Eagles and Blue Herons the only other diners in sight. After 40-years Craig and Deborah Murray still shape the ambiance and spiritual center of this wilderness resort, but they have turned the daily operation of the place over to their son Fraser and his wife Becky. Fraser–who has helped in the running of Nimmo Bay since he was seven years old–has brought the marketing and management into the digital age, while also developing the broader activity base that lures guests from the mellow ‘au natural’ escape to the extreme sports fanatic.
“Fishing is still a passion for many of our guests,” points out Fraser, “but our season runs from May through October and when it is not ideal for Steelhead, Salmon, Char or Dolly Varden, our guests kayak, enjoy whale watching, glacial trekking, go climbing, paddle-board and participate in all manner of activities during their stay.” Fraser’s youthful exuberance has brought an edgier, more athletic extreme-ism to the fore for guests eager to sample the wilderness in new ways. Whether it is wakeboarding with white-sided dolphins in pursuit, ascending glacial peaks, climbing waterfalls, exploring sea lion colonies or scuba diving in some of the world’s most colorful and nutrient rich coastal passages, Nimmo serves as a luxurious platform for adventure like no other coastal outpost.
One guest request ‘for something very different’ inspired a foray into the wild that involved accomplishing the first descent of the wild and untamed Klina Klini River at the base of Mt. Waddington–British Columbia’s highest mountain. Three float planes, loaded with rafts and gear for a party of 25 people, landed in a remote lake 300-miles from any roads. Greeted by cougar and moose, and curious black bears, the group assembled camp–assisted by a reclusive mountain hermit who had been trapping around the lake for 30-years. Along with three world-class whitewater kayakers leading the way, and two escort helicopters assisting the most rugged portages, they rafted for ten-days through some of the most radical Class-V whitewater canyons on the planet, past glaciers and ice fields, and ended up at the head of Knight Inlet. There, they boarded a classic wooden yacht straight out of the Jack London era and steamed back to the lodge where a feast awaited, along with a host of colorful musicians who serenaded guests by the fire. If you can dream it, Nimmo Bay can deliver it.
Nimmo has truly cultivated the boutique wilderness adventure to an art form, customizing trips for guests and visiting yachtsmen alike. Thanks to the diverse micro-climates and geography within a few minutes of the lodge, it is possible to explore one of the most elaborate cave networks in North America after breakfast, fish a virgin spot around lunch, whale watch before dinner and take in the sunset on one of the white sand beaches on the west coast of Vancouver Island. “Our success is a result of our whole family supporting Nimmo Bay through the years,” explains Craig. “Our daughter Georgia has a recording career but also has often hosted and helps in the resort’s marketing, while Clifton our son is a member of the Canadian Tenors, so when he travels on tour he plugs the resort. So music and humor have certainly played an important role in the development of Nimmo Bay’s unique character.”
The whole Murray family are entertainers of sorts who take a friendly but never intrusive interest in their guests. They sing, play guitar, share tales of coastal adventures, guide and gently suggest activities and really listen to all of their guests. Their warm companionship and authentic hospitality ensures guests arrive as clients but leave as friends. The result is a staggering 75 percent return rate among visitors and even some of the most reserved yacht owners hold a warm spot for the Nimmo Bay crew, with many staying in contact year after year.
The same holds true of even the most self-sufficient, sophisticated yachts. Many over 450’+ (135m+) yachts that sweep through the region on their way along the Inside passage visit Nimmo Bay, where owners and guests explore the landscape and step ashore for the diverse offering of food, adventure and wilderness experiences. As Thoreau explained, “In wildness is preservation of the world.” At Nimmo Bay there is a purity of landscape that is unsurpassed by any other cruising destination and enough wilderness for everyone to quench their thirst for adventure, or reconnect with their spiritual side. Nimmo Bay, experienced by yacht, land or air, provides an exhilarating expeditionary voyage to one of the most remote areas on the planet… yet curiously, the Murray’s make it feel jus like home.
From the ultimate in peaceful relaxation to organizing the most thrilling adrenaline soaked adventures… Nimmo Bay offers a unique experience for every visitor.