Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Steelhead Exploration and Epic Trout Fishing

The trout fishing available in the Skeena's many rivers, streams, creeks and even road side ditches and sloughs are often overshadowed by their larger migratory cousins, Steelhead and Salmon.  In reality, if these same trout fishing opporunities existed closer to a metropolitan area, they would certainly be much more popular.

On a recent weekend, Dustin, Sky and myself had planned a scouting trip for Steelhead on a few remote coastal rivers to see if the fish were in early.  Though the rivers were too low to hold Steelhead in any numbers, we did find two sloughs which provided for some of our most memorable trout fishing to date...

Fishing the dark water - a prime lie for Spring Steelhead in coastal rivers.

A favourite coastal river with characteristically strong, thick Steelhead, but too little water on this day.

The eulachon (pronounced "oo-li-kun") run in full swing concentrates eagles, sea gulls, and other sea birds by the river's edge each year as they gorge on millions of eulachon migrating upstream.  Also called candle fish, these small, silvery fish are high in oil content, and have been prized by natives in northwestern BC for hundreds of years.

An old tree stump comprises the foreground of this interesting landscape.

Nicholas Dean guide Sky Richard searching for trout on top of a beaver house in a large, deep river.

One of many nice cutthroat trout landed in one of two small back channel sloughs.

Coastal Cutthroat trout are beautiful fish who fight surprisingly well on light fly rods.

Even Cayleigh likes trout fishing!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Early Spring Steelhead Fishing on the Skeena System

Early Spring on the rivers of northwest BC - from March 15 to April 15 - is a time when the landscape emerges from its deep Winter sleep and both water levels and temperatures finally begin to rise. As a result, fresh, Spring-run Steelhead begin to trickle in with more frequency than they did over the previous months and become more active in their lies. For the Steelhead angler, this is a great time to be on the river, chasing away Winter blues and welcoming the start of warmer months, all the while waiting for that inevitable pull...

Spring Steelhead come in a variety of sizes and colours.  While most fish are in the 8 to 15 lb range, there are fish substantially larger than this caught on a regular basis, in the 18 - 22 lb range.  Looking for a fish in the mid 20s is not an unrealistic proposition on the Skeena and its many tributaries.  Here, Jeff Bright holds onto a mint-bright 18 lb hen Steelhead caught in late March - certainly one of his most memorable fish landed to date.  Jeff Bright photo

Lance Boen, a long time repeat guest and Spring Steelhead veteran, landed this solid 15 lb Steelhead in late March 2009 on a favourite Skeena River tributary. With low water conditions, the fish were holding in the deepest, slowest moving runs, which makes for an agonizingly long, but highly effective swing. Jeff Bright photo. 

Despite warming air and water temperatures, the rivers are still quite cool, and fishing large flies 3 to 6 inches long is one of the best tactics to motivate Steelhead from leaving the comfort of their lie and inducing a grab.  Flies in black, pink, purple, orange, chartreuse, or some combination show up well in a variety of water conditions and will serve you well.  A spey rod is an ideal tool for fishing large flies and heavy sink tips when targeting the large fish typically encountered during the early Spring.

In the middle of a long, deep pool, Martin Walker found this massive Steelhead, estimated in the 23-24 lb range.  The Steelhead took one of Martin's elegantly tied black and chartreuse flies.  Besides being a world class fly angler, Martin is also a rod-builder extraordinaire, crafting brilliantly designed cork handles on his rods.   

Legendary angler Lani Waller and Nicholas Dean Lodge head guide Dustin Kovacvich discuss fly selection prior to stepping into the run on a cool Spring day.  Jeff Bright photo 

They don't get much more chrome than this...

On his first day of fishing while guided by veteran Nicholas Dean guide, Greg Buck, Taft Ring landed this impressive 23 lb buck Steelhead on a local Skeena tributary.  Not a bad way to start the trip off...

A large fly fished on a slow swing through the heart of a deep tailout proved effective on this 18 lb Steelhead for Martin Walker.  Fishing large flies broadside to the current helps show the full profile of the fly and in our experience, induces a take much more consistently than a fly presented on a traditional grease line cast.

Interested in joining us for a Spring Steelhead trip?  Take advantage of our last minute 10% discount and inquire today on how you can search for the Steelhead of your dreams on the Skeena.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Steelhead - Last Minute Discount!

 The author with a bright Spring Steelhead landed on the Kalum River in late March

Over the past few years, our Spring Steelhead program has grown to become one of our most popular fisheries. Large, wild Steelhead, ideal, consistent water conditions and the opportunity to fish a variety of rivers make this season a very productive one. Starting in mid March, we focus on the Kalum River, Lower Copper and Skeena Rivers, and in April through mid May, also turn our attention to the Kitimat, and several remote coastal rivers as part of our "Adventure Steelhead" program.  Hard fighting, aggressive Spring Chinook are also available starting mid April, and are prime targets for the well swung fly or spoon. 

We still have a few spaces available in select weeks, and are offering a 10% discount off the 2010 rates. If you'd like to join us during our prime Spring Steelhead fishing, contact me directly by phone at (250) 635-5295 or by email at chadblack@nicholasdean.com. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Skeena River Fishing Tip: How to Tie with Lady Amherst Feathers

When I first started tying big, west coast Steelhead flies, I was intrigued by several qualities of the Lady Amherst feather. First, its fibres were heavily mottled and helped create long, tentacle-like plumes that are common on many Steelhead flies and, second, it had good movement when swung on a tight line. However, it was also a material that I found exceedingly difficult to work with. I didn’t (and still don’t) like splitting the stems of feathers, and tying the fibres around a hook just didn’t create the hackle-like effect that I was going for. Moreover, the fibres tended to collapse and stick together. That all changed when I bought a deluxe dubbing loop twister and saw a video on youtube. By using the dubbing loop twister and one of Marc Petitjean’s material clips (in his Magic Tool set), I’ve been able to create Steelhead flies with flowing Amherst hackles that are both functionally and aesthetically appealing.

Getting ready to add the Amherst hackle

Step 1: Create a dubbing loop with your thread. To tighten the loop, be sure to wrap the thread around the loop 2-3 times.

Adding the dubbing loop

Step 2: Wet your fingers and isolate the fibres you’d like to use. Stroke the fibres from the base of the stem to the fibre tips, this will help isolate the fibres from one another.

Step 3: Place the large Magic Tool material clip on the fibres and cut the fibres at the stem. The Amherst butts should extend approximately a ¼” from the tip of the clip.

Adding Amerherst fibres to the dubbing loop

Step 4: Attach the deluxe dubbing twister in the loop, and add the Amherst fibres. Try to keep the length of fibres extending past the outside of the loop to a minimum.

Step 5: While holding the material clip with your left hand, spin the dubbing loop twister several rotations. Release the material clip off the fibres, and the Amherst should spin around the loop, forming a hackle. Spin the dubbing twister again, further locking the fibres in place.

 The Amherst hackle formed

Step 6: As you wrap the Amherst hackle, continue to stroke the fibres backwards, so they lie towards the back of the fly.

Step 7: Tie off the dubbing loop, and trim excess Amherst butts.

The finished fly with two Amherst hackles - ready to fish for Steelhead!