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This magical A-frame in a rainforest is close to a hot spring

A-frame cabin Photo courtesy of Emily McNally and Bryce Welti

Being lulled to sleep by the light gurgle of the Chilliwack River in a custom A-frame cabin, fishing for sturgeon the size of cows in some of the west coast’s most famous rivers, and soaking your worries away in a natural hot spring—what else could you want in a vacation? British Columbia residents Emily McNally and Bryce Welti have the art of relaxation figured out. Hence the names of their two businesses: River Therapy Retreat and River Therapy Fishing.

What is River Therapy Retreat?

Emily: It actually started with River Therapy Fishing. Bryce has loved fishing all his life. He started leading fishing trips, bridging off of that, we wanted to provide accommodations. We live on the river and in a rainforest, so we built a beautiful cabin on our property. It has been booked pretty solid since we put it online in August.

The cabin is steps away from the river, so you can hear it rushing down as you’re sleeping. It’s such a beautiful environment; the mountains, river, and rain forest. We’re grateful to live where we live and we want to share that with other people.

Accommodation

Emily: It is a 100-square-foot A-frame cabin. On one side of the cabin, we have an eight-by-eight transparent door that opens up to the riverside and allows all the sounds to come inside the cabin.

There are two twin beds and everything that you’d need for a couple of nights. We have a mini-fridge, a deck with a barbecue. The cabin doesn’t have a shower, but we do have a sink, which is RV-style plumbing. There’s a pump that pulls water and it puts it into a greywater bin that needs to be emptied. We have pots and pans, cooking utensils, plates, everything you need for cooking. I do provide some snacks in case guests get hungry because we are a bit of a way out of town.

We have a composting-style outhouse that we’ve built down there. There’s also have a private fire pit area with Edison lights. Inside the cabin, I’ve provided a space heater, which heats the whole cabin in like three minutes, and heated blankets so we’re good to go right through winter. It’s pretty small, but it has a lot for being so small.

Cost to stay

Emily: We’re listed on Airbnb right now for $159 a night. There is a discount on the cabin stay if someone books a fishing trip. You can book on Airbnb or through our website.

What inspired the “River Therapy” name?

Emily: Bryce has been fishing since he was a child, and a lot of fishermen find solitude when they’re on the river. Here you’re surrounded by mountains and the rushing river, so all your senses—whether it’s the sound, the sights, the smells—are activated, and you just kind of zone in. We see it as very therapeutic, so that’s why we decided on the name.

Bryce: River Therapy Fishing started about four years ago. I used to work out of town and only worked half the year, so for my days off, I bought a jet boat because I loved fishing and exploring the river.

Guiding has always been something that I’ve wanted to do, and a driving factor was sturgeon fishing. I’ve traveled the world fishing and fishing sturgeon here is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Anybody I’d ever taken out on the river had nothing but great things to say about it.

What to expect on a guided fishing tour

Bryce: First, we talk about what kind of fish you want to target; where you want to go, and what you want to see because the areas that we fish are so diverse.

We offer a local fishing trip, which is in the heart of Chilliwack and Abbotsford here. Really good fishing, but the scenery is not as spectacular as our canyon trip or wilderness trip. We do charge a little bit more for those trips.

We set a time—usually 8 a.m. because it’s an eight-hour day. We meet at the boat ramp.

Fishing sturgeon is like zero to 100. You’re hanging out and then all of a sudden it’s game on. Lines are flying and people are bouncing around the boat. Anything over seven feet, we’re chasing downriver.

Why can’t you bring sturgeon into the boat?

Bryce: Legally, we’re not allowed to bring a fish in the boat that’s over four feet, so we go ashore and have waders provided for everybody. Average sturgeon are four to six feet, but lately, we’ve been hooking fish all over seven feet.

How long does it take to reel them in?

Bryce: Catching the fish can take anywhere from five minutes to three and a half hours. With sturgeons, it could be a thousand-pound fish.

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♬ Send It – Steve Aoki & Will Sparks

Once we catch it, we get the boat to shore. I hop off and go in the water and coach you on how to get that fish safely upside down. When the fish is upside down, they are usually pretty docile. This gives us an opportunity to measure the fish and get a photo. Then we roll the fish back over and let it go.

How many sturgeon do you normally catch?

Some days we catch one fish, some days we catch 20 to 30.

Do you offer any other activities?

Emily: We do a local sturgeon fishing trip and then a wilderness trip out in the Fraser Canyon, which is part of the Fraser River. The river narrows quite a bit and you’re surrounded by mountains. It’s stunning.

The Pitt River hot spring is an adventure tour. The hot spring is only accessible by boat or helicopter. So, we take you on a jet boat across the lake and partway up the river. Then we park the boat at a beachy area on the side of the river, and you’ll bike 17 kilometers. Then you take a five-minute hike through the forest rappel down a section of the mountain using ropes. The hot spring is right on the side of the river. It’s this naturally occurring, bright blue water. Getting there takes about an hour and a half to two hours.

What does the future look like for River Therapy Retreat?

Bryce: We just finished excavating the other half of our property and we’re leaning towards building another A-frame cabin with a shower and a few more luxurious amenities. Hopefully, by next summer we’ll have another cabin that’s even bigger and can sleep up to four people.

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