While British Columbia is battling its worst wildfire season on record—more than 3,000 square miles of forest, brush, and grassland burned since April 1—anglers on the Dean River, and the businesses catering to them, have been scrambling with logistics, following flight cancellations and road closures into and out of the province's Central Coast region.

“It’s been an interesting summer at the Dean,” photographer and former lodge owner Adam Tavender said in an email from his cabin on the lower river. On one hand, road closures have forced some camping anglers to cancel trips. On the other, excess smoke has forced lodges to deal with their own set of problems.

BC Fire smokePacific Coastal Airlines is the only commercial operator with scheduled flights in the area, and both Anahim Lake and Bella Coola have recently seen days where no flights landed due to poor vis. “With curbed flights to and from Vancouver, this has been a big challenge to tourism in general, and lodges in particular,” Tavender said.

On June 19 a washout closed Hwy 20 for almost two weeks, the only route into Bella Coola. Then on Aug. 10 an evacuation order was issued for the Anahim/Nimpo area, closing the road again. As of today, the closure is still in effect.

“All these closures have stopped or stalled delivery of groceries, mail, and other supplies. Dean River camping anglers now on the river may have a hard time driving home from Bella Coola after their trip,” Tavender said. “Steelhead lodges will continue to have visibility problems for their charters and scheduled flights, plus now Bella Coola grocery store shelves will again become bare.”

The closest blaze to the Dean is the 4,300-hectare Precipice fire, located in the headwaters of the Bella Coola River. Fires burning east of Anahim Lake are also contributing to the haze. Fortunately, steelhead numbers have been in the fair to good range. And this week’s forecast is for rain at the Dean, which should help clear some of the smoke out of steelhead paradise.