Dan Schiller as a young boy at Eliguk Lake Lodge where he learned to fish. (Schiller family photo collection)

Dan Schiller as a young boy at Eliguk Lake Lodge where he learned to fish. (Schiller family photo collection)

OUR HOMETOWN: Dan Schiller experienced a wilderness childhood at his family’s fishing lodge

In 1984 his father Maurice (Moe) Schiller found a piece of property to lease on Eliguk Lake

By the time he was 12-years-old Dan Schiller was a fly fishing guide in the Chilcotin wilderness for Eliguk Lake Lodge.

His dad Moe (Maurice) Schiller had owned Blue Ridge Ranch near Lillooet and a sheet metal shop in Victoria, was skilled in all the trades and had a pilot’s licence.

In 1980 Moe moved the family to Nimpo Lake where he partnered with Floyd Vaughan and ran Dean River Air Services until 1984. Through flying, Moe spied property on Eliguk Lake he could lease from the government and decided to build a fishing lodge.

“It was a traditional area for the Ulkatcho First Nation summer camps,” Dan said. “There was always lots of fish there – the lake was naturally stocked with rainbow trout.”

Moe bought an Alaskan mill to make his own boards and started out by building one cabin.

He built another one each year, hiring local First Nations to help him.

A fireplace in the main lodge was made with rocks and sand the Schillers sourced from nearby lakes.

Jeanette Schiller shared the cooking with her husband, cleaned the cabins and did the bookkeeping.

“It was basically a two-man show with dad and mom plus one yard guy and me,” Dan recalled, noting his dad actually hated fishing but loved the people.

Ninety-five per cent of their clients were from the U.S.

They included retired Boeing engineers who worked on the B-17 and B-29 bombers used in the Second World War, lots of lawyers, a retired Seattle Times journalist, owner of the San Jose Sharks and movie stars.

Dan has stacks of photo albums from the lodge, some of them sent to the family from clients who made an album after their stay.

One the family’s photograph shows dozens of ball caps lining the ceiling inside the main lodge building.

“When guests got off the plane I’d trade hats with them and give them a lodge hat. I had a huge collection,” Dan said. “I brought friends to the lodge, but most of the time I was the only kid there.”

Dan began to fish when he was five and soon learned how to tie flies under the tutelage of Washington Fly Fishing Club member the late Gil Nyerges. John Napoli helped him hone his skills.

The lodge operated from May until the middle of September. During winter the Schillers would fly into the area with a work party to cut ice from the lake for the ice house in preparation of the upcoming season.

Around the middle of January each year, Moe would head down to attend different trade shows in the U.S. Jeanette and Dan would fly down on spring break to join him for the last few shows before they drove back together to Nimpo Lake.

By April, Moe was at the lodge preparing for the next season. Jeanette and Dan would join him once school was out.

Clients flew with Wilderness Airlines to Anahim Lake where a Nimpo-Lake based employee would pick them up in a van, drive them to Nimpo Lake and then Moe would fly them to the lodge, which was about a 40-minute flight.

Dan attended school at Anahim Lake from Kindergarten to Grade 10, catching the bus every day. For Grades 11 and 12 he went to school in Williams Lake and lived in the Columneetza dorm, run by Sandi Middleton and her husband, the late Jim Middleton.

He caught a bus from Nimpo Lake on Sundays to travel into Williams Lake and returned home on Fridays.

After graduation in 1996, he went to BCIT to become a sheet metal worker. Once he finished his apprenticeship he stayed and worked in Vancouver another four years.

Returning to the Chilcotin for two years he worked at a mill in Anahim Lake until 2004 when he was hired as a journeyman at Allied Blower, a sheet metal contracting business with an office in Williams Lake. Today he is project manager and estimator for the company.

“I work in every mill between here and the Alaska border,” he said.

Dan is married to Christine Schiller (Carnes) who grew up in Williams Lake and is a teacher at Lake City Secondary School Columneetza Campus. They have one son Edward who was born in 2010.

The youngest of four children, Dan has a sister Michelle living in Princeton. Their brother Pierre died in 2005 in a logging accident in the bush and Denis died in 2009 from a vehicle accident en route to work in the bush. Moe died in 2008 and Jeaneatte in 2017.

Jeanette stayed in Nimpo Lake after Moe died and sold the lodge in 2016 to Aron and Jennifer Toland from Kelowna.

“They’ve done a really good job there,” Dan said of the Tolands’ efforts.

When the lodge sold, Dan kept a little bit of it for himself and still owns the outpost cabin on Pettry Lake where they would take clients for overnight stays.

“I got to do a lot of things as a child that many don’t get to do. I got to experience a lot of things people dream about doing, fishing on rivers you can only fly to. I wish I was still out there.”

ChilcotinWilliams Lake

 

Dan Schiller learned how to tie fly fishing flies at a young age. (Schiller family photo collection)

Dan Schiller learned how to tie fly fishing flies at a young age. (Schiller family photo collection)

Dan Schiller’s father and mother started Eliguk Lake Lodge in 1984 in the West Chilcotin. (Schiller family photo)

Dan Schiller’s father and mother started Eliguk Lake Lodge in 1984 in the West Chilcotin. (Schiller family photo)

Often guests would send the Schillers a photo album from their visit at Eliguk Lodge. (Schiller family photo collection)

Often guests would send the Schillers a photo album from their visit at Eliguk Lodge. (Schiller family photo collection)

Dan Schiller has many photograph albums from the years he spent growing up at his parents’ Eliguk Lake Lodge in the West Chilcotin. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Dan Schiller has many photograph albums from the years he spent growing up at his parents’ Eliguk Lake Lodge in the West Chilcotin. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

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