They weren’t supposed to even be in Codville Lagoon. Anywhere near it, actually.
But a small group of friends connected by a life lived beyond land ended up pivoting some adventure plans and going where the wind—and word of an amazing spot to anchor for a few days of rest and relaxation—and had a once in a lifetime experience.
The initial plan was a trip to Alaska, back in 2018. While the original plan for Gavin Johnstone and his dad was to meet up with the rest of the crew on Calvert Island, a few twists of events landed them in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest instead.
While they had only heard about the bay and seen some nondescript photos, they congregated in Codville Lagoon - not far from Bella Bella, BC. Finding a great spot to anchor, they settled in.
Two of the crew—John and Loren—decided to go fishing, determined to catch a salmon. Disappointing results at first, just as they were deciding to head in, and while John was reeling in a line they thought was stuck on something, they realized there was a fish at the end of it.
While it didn’t put up much of a fight on its trip to the surface, it began to lash out once it saw its fate unfolding.
And then - the reel falls off.
Jumping to action, both John and Loren were doing whatever they could to keep the fish on the line and bring it on board; one holding the rod and one holding the line, trying desperately to get the reel back together.
Somehow, they managed to wrestle it on board - and came back to the anchored crew with proud, beaming smiles.
That unexpected fish was a 32lb. Chinook Salmon...and it ended up feeding 9 people for 4 days straight.
As they were talking through the plan for how they’d use the prize catch, John decided he wanted to try smoking the fish; he had seen a handmade smoker before they left for this trip, and the near miracle of catching the 30-pounder inspired the idea of jimmying one up, beachside.
Keeping one filet, they took every other ounce of fish; refrigerating and freezing it for the days to follow. Next would be an attempt to cold smoke salmon.
That night John disappeared to the shore. Walking back and forth with logs and a hatchet, picking up scraps he found while scouring the shoreline. Bit by bit, he slowly started to erect a structure on a rocky outcrop on the bay they were anchored.
He split beachwood logs and made shingles. He randomly had a handful of nails on his boat. And piece by piece a triangular column was formed, with a grid he could put the salmon on at the top.
Brining the fish overnight, John eagerly popped the fish in his creation the following morning - and sat back to await the result. 6-8 hours later - it emerged…and it was good.
How to cook freshly caugh oysters when kayaking
The DIY-ing didn’t stop there; John became determined to make homemade bagels to go with the freshly produced lox. The short of the long story: they worked. And the bagels + lox that resulted are some that will be near impossible to recreate in this lifetime.
The cherry on an already sweet cake, this random, unexpected addition to an already not-so-planned experience made the trip even more magical.
Catching a fish they almost shouldn’t.
Creating a smoker and cold smoking salmon with no idea how it was going to turn out.
And having a story, and a memory, that doesn’t get old - and will be one for the books for those lucky 9 people, floating beyond land, living completely in—and for—the moment.
Bagel + Lox
- Cream Cheese
Add capers, a little bit of fresh lemon or thinly sliced red onion if you happen to have them aboard/in your fridge.