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Lessons Learned: A Seaplane Pilot’s Wilderness Fishing Flight Gets Weathered In

A Lake Amphibian, 25-pound steelhead, and a deluge lead to high drama for a pilot and his friends.

Lake Amphibian illustration by Gabriel Campanario
Illustration by Gabriel Campanario

On a rainy Saturday in June 1977, I flew my Lake flying boat from the Fraser river seaplane ramp, adjacent to Vancouver International Airport (YVR), to a remote steelhead river on the west coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island. The river flows out of Toquart Lake just 250 feet above sea level and a couple of miles inland from the sea. 

A warm front was moving in fast, bringing rain, dropping the ceiling and reducing visibility. I told my fishermen friends, Bob and Mike, that we might not be able to get into the lake, and if we were able to land, we might not be able to fly out at the end of the day if the system didn’t move through by then. “That’s okay,” Bob said, “as long as we will be catching 25-pound steelhead while we wait.” So, I filed a VFR Flight Plan to Toquart Lake specifying an 8 p.m. return to YVR. I knew the heavy rain would make it easy for large steelhead to swim up river to the spawning pools about a mile from the sea.

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