The phrase “fishing camp” evokes a picture of a rustic wooden lodge, a little worn around the edges and smelling of old fish, with a few mounted catches on the wall and a lot of fishing poles lined up in the corner. It’s probably a men-only facility, unless a committed fisherwoman is determined to overlook the lack of amenities in the place and join the guys.
Well, you haven’t seen the “new” idea of a fishing camp until you’ve traveled to Sonora Resort and Spa, one of the most luxurious places in one of the most remote areas of Canada. Sonora was actually even a logging camp before it became a fishing camp before it became a Relaix & Chateaux property extending the fishing activities to eco-adventure and cultural tours, river rafting and sea kayaking tours, tennis, golf, archery, bear watching tours, photography cruises, wine tastings, cooking classes, and of course, the spa with its therapeutic channel of mineral soaking pools.
Is there another fishing camp that has its own flower-filled conservatory for afternoon tea or just relaxing in the greenhouse environment, kept fresh by Sonora’s three full-time gardeners?
Sonora Island is 120 miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia, as the helicopter flies, and that’s the way most guests arrive, as you cannot drive there. You can also take a private boat or a seaplane, depending on where you’re beginning the trip. Either way, you’ll arrive in the midst of a beautiful mature coastal rainforest of cedars and firs in the midst of these Discovery Islands, and the vistas of mountains and waterfalls and wildlife from every giant window in the resort prove that the surroundings have been kept pristine and unspoiled. The salmon fishing is, of course, the best, and the resort’s fleet of 10 Grady White vessels are docked right below the main dining room ready for guided expeditions every day.
The 88 guest rooms are enormous stone and exposed beam cedar structures with floor-to-ceiling windows, each room equipped with binoculars to take in more easily the spectacular view of nature just outside. For executives or large family groups, two 1l,000-square-foot art-filled five-bedroom villas are available with added amenities such as snooker tables and hot tubs in every bedroom. There’s an indoor tennis building, a putting green, and the ability to arrange a quick seaplane- or boat ride to the 18-hole Storey Creek Golf Course, although why this is needed, with the resort’s virtual golf room that allows you to choose from the world’s finest courses and practice with their Callaway clubs, is a good question.
You can take a helicopter glacier tour from the resort, hike the rainforest, and at certain times of the year, look for grizzlies and black bears who come down from their mountain hideaways when the salmon are running. Four trout ponds allow you to practice fly-fishing, and the eco-adventure tour in a rubber boat is as exciting as a roller coaster when your captain-guide races over the whitewater eddies and currents.
Of course you can have your caught fish shipped home from the resort, but Sonora offers a number of other choices, including taxidermy, in which your fish can be made into a mount for the wall, or “Gyotaku,” an ancient Japanese art of fish-printing, practiced by a local artist. The fish is used as a printing surface to create a beautifully detailed likeness, and after the print is taken for your artwork to be processed and sent home, you can still eat the fish at the resort. And, although it can be cooked in any number of ways, you would be wise to allow Chef Terry Pichor to do his gourmet thing with your catch. Pichor’s menu is a joy to any gourmand, with specialties such as Octopus Bolognese, 30-day dry aged and sous-vide heritage beef tenderloin, and Charred Eggplant Ravioli. He will make your 10-pound sockeye salmon into a dish worthy of any Michelin-starred city restaurant if you turn the fish over to him as soon as you catch it.
Of course there’s games room and an exercise room, and even a 12-seat movie theater with a popcorn machine and 100 movies on cd, if you can stay awake after fishing or hiking all day.
Sonora is expensive — between $680 and $4240 per night, but the price seems softer when you’re told that you may telephone anywhere in the world from the phone in your room, free of charge. And everything else, from food to alcohol to snacks, is included in that price. Go to sonoraresort.com or for reservations, 604-233-0400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.