Babine Bob - From the Last Resort to the Silver Hilton Steelhead Lodge

Posted by Nick Amato on



Our beginning started with luck, and that combined with hard work and some financial hardships, including the near loss of our first endeavor, almost ended it all. Larry and Ellen Stanley, my partners, and I had graduated from Cottage Grove High School in Oregon. Larry and I were average students, but Ellen was much more intelligent. This still stood to be true, regardless of the fact that she came with us on our seemingly mad journey to pioneer a fishing lodge, somewhere in the wilds of British Columbia.

The idea of us owning a fishing lodge dated back to the 50s when Larry and I were juniors in high school. After reading about a lake in an article entitled "The River of Crimson Trout" in Field & Stream, authored by a writer who had been staying at Norlakes Lodge on Babine Lake, our course in life was decided. It almost sounded too good: all five species of Pacific salmon, plus steelhead, which we knew almost nothing about, and what was described as "the fines't rainbow fishing in North America", all in the Babine River. Was it truly that good? Up until then, we had considered making somewhere in Alaska our home base because Larry and I were beginning to think that the fishing in Oregon was starting to peter out and we wanted to go north.

It was back in our sophomore year when Larry and I originally planned to start a fishing lodge somewhere in Oregon. But, as it turned out, since Larry and I had both begun our grade ten year by joining the Navy Reserve, which required us to attend one meeting a week with a two-week training period once a year, our plans had to be put on hold.

Larry ended up quitting the Reserve to join the Navy after graduation, but I continued on with them for three more years. I finally decided it was time to disclose to the 'powers that be' in head office that I had suffered a severe skull fracture at the age of seven and had only skin and hair (no bone) covering a small area on my head. In grade school, my parents forced me to wear a stainless­ steel plate to protect my holey head supported by bands to keep it attached. Deep down I always knew the military would find out sooner or later. I was given an honorable discharge.



During those years I worked a variety of odd jobs: I logged, had a position at the fire department, did freight trucking, worked at sawmills, gas stations, and found myself in plenty of other dead-end, nondescript positions. You name it, I did it. One particular job lasted only a week. I was a volunteer fireman, living at the fire department, and had just gotten a job as a delivery man. The town had recently put in parking meters and the city hired a woman who was not well liked because she handed out tickets with no mercy whatsoever. One day I was parked in an alley with a big truck ready to deliver a package when she nailed me. I made the mistake of calling her an "old cow". She obviously phoned my employer because he called me on the carpet that same day and told me for the sake of public relations they couldn't afford to have confrontations with city employees. I got fired, but of course, I never was a smart alec!

I was living in Cottage Grove, Oregon and had just moved to Eugene to sell cars. Car dealerships like to publish your picture in the newspapers to publicize the fact that you were now working for them, in hopes that some of your friends would come to the dealership. The caption under my picture read: Bob invites "both" his friends in Cottage Grove and Eugene to stop in for a cup. I can't tell you how many phone calls I got asking if they were one of my two friends.



A few years later, unbeknownst to me at the time, I actually had another foreshadowing of the direction of my future. I was dating a girl from Madras, Oregon who was a champion target shooter. Her name was Ginger Snapp (honestly), and she happened to be a real 'snapp shot'. Ginger had a hope chest with no room for any of the usual items as it was full of trophies. One day, out of the blue, she asked me, "Have you thought about British Columbia for your lodge?" That moment, though it passed by almost unnoticed, was the proverbial crossroad that would lead us from one triumph to the next-eventually landing us at the Silver Hilton Steelhead Lodge, some twenty-two years later. However, a lot of water flowed downstream before that time.

I had taken a sports equipment course at the Technical Institute in Klamath Falls, Oregon, thinking it would be advantageous for me, as it included fly tying, rod building, archery, reel repair and more. I opened a sporting goods store in Cottage Grove, Oregon, called The Fly and Rod Shop. Unfortunately, after two years of hard work and spending most of my profits calling my girlfriend long distance in California, I was forced to declare bankruptcy in the amount of $3000. The real reason for my closing the doors? A surplus store for outdoor gear opened in Eugene-only thirteen miles from Cottage Grove-and was retailing hunting and fishing gear for forty percent less than my normal selling price.



By this time, Larry, after volunteering for two years in the Navy, was back home apprenticing in the sheet metal trade. Now that my hole-in-the-wall sporting goods store had gone belly-up, it was finally our time. We met and decided to follow our dream to go north and thanks to Field & Stream Magazine and Ginger's suggestion, we ended up at Babine Lake in British Columbia. 



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