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Grizzlies, Gales, and
Giant Salmon by Pat Ardley

Greg Van Belle Nautical News

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Pat “Don’t-Mess-with-Me” Ardley ran a remote fishing lodge for 27 years alongside her late husband George “Hurricane” Ardley. After he passed away, she took on the tough task of continuing to operate the lodge solo. Grizzlies, Gales, and Giant Salmon recounts her various adventures before and during her lodge years, from being a lighthouse keeper to scaring off said grizzlies.

When I was 13, my dad took me on a fishing trip to Rivers Inlet in British Columbia. I am certain that the fog of time has altered my memory of the experience—no doubt I complained and was cold and didn’t like getting up early to get in a small aluminum boat to go fishing—but today I keep it as one of the favorite experiences of my childhood. I wasn’t even interested in salmon fishing back then and didn’t understand how lucky I was to get to go on such a trip. But with salmon runs drying up and the future of recreational fishing in question, I look back on that trip with nothing but fond memories.

It is because of those memories that I was so happy to see Pat Ardley’s Grizzlies, Gales, and Giant Salmon: Life at a Rivers Inlet Fishing Lodge hit my desk. I couldn’t wait to read about a place that lived in a fuzzy corner of my memory.

Ardley’s book is stuffed full of memories, recalled with such detail that they are surely lifted from her own journals. We are regaled with stories of her life as a lighthouse keeper in remote British Columbia, where waiting for the rare visitor was often the main pastime. She moves on quickly to how she and her husband, George Ardley, came to work at and eventually take over the operations of a fishing lodge in Rivers Inlet.

Each individual memory in the book is an interesting snippet of an incredibly unique life, and I enjoyed reading each of them. It would dishonest of me to say that this book is particularly well-written, however. If you are looking for a literary page turner with nuance and metaphor, this is not your book. It is presented linearly and without pretense. The level of detail she manages to fit on the page is astounding, but the story is somewhat lost because of it.

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I don’t often review books that I can’t heap praise upon, but I realize that is a short-sighted point of view. This book is intensely enjoyable for anyone who has cruised the Inside Passage or even flipped through their guide books and dreamed of dropping a hook in a place like Rivers Inlet. It is perfect for anyone who has been to Rivers Inlet as well. I read it while cruising the Gulf Islands with friends, and my copy of the book got passed around from boat to boat. Everyone liked the book and had their own favorite story to recall when we rafted up the next night. That is the sign of a good book, even if the book isn’t “great.”

Grizzlies, Gales, and Giant Salmon is a good read. It inspired me to book a trip for my son and myself for next summer to fish for some giant salmon of our own. This isn’t a challenging book, but it sure did make for a nice evening’s reading while swinging on the hook. It is a very nice addition to the bookshelf onboard.

Greg Van Belle

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Greg Van Belle grew up sailing, cruising, and fishing Puget Sound. He lives in Seattle and teaches writing at Edmonds Community College. You can follow him on Twitter @gregvanbelle.

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