With anticipation running high, the new group loaded in, strung rods and set out casting. After gearing up, John Fischer faced the late day sun hoping to find a relative of his 22-pound steelhead from last year.
John and fishing buddy Greg Mau enjoy a hooked salmon. A few pinks and sockeye were hooked on the first evening.
Camp newcomer Russell Kirchenbaum celebrated his 69th birthday and displayed a perseverance few of us could match. Accordingly, he hooked his share of fish and then some.
Monday dawned glorious. The Skeena was in perfect condition, running with nearly two feet of visibility quite a change from conditions at the beginning of last week. Unfortunately the number of fish moving through the Gate had dropped off and fishing early in the week was spotty, at best.
Greg, the small speck at lower right, fished through the top end of Hell's Gate bar, searching for a resting steelhead on Monday evening. None were found. Even without a fish, the top of the run was a joy to fish with a spey rod; the host found himself returning repeatedly to this section of the camp water.
Russell landed this bright sockeye on a lodge favorite, the Hawaiian Punch, tied by a friend. Not a huge fish but one that completes a satisfying moment for any flyfisher.
Mid-week the weather began to turn and so did fishing. Guest cook Christopher Fisher landed this handsome low-teens coho on a Skeena Pink.
And a fresh slug of sockeye poured upriver, with the occasional aggressive fish taking our small pink or red flies. The host landed this one on a red Terrace Hilton.
Shorty after Bill's encounter, 2006 Camp veteran Bob Harper hooked a good steelhead...but lost it on a long line in the back channel after a lengthy tug of war.
Next, Bob's fishing partner Alex Wagstaff grabbed lightening...and couldn't hold it. Our chances were coming fast and furious, but were too hot to handle.
Christopher and Rick got in on the action simultaneously, but the steelhead rush had passed and both fish were small coho.
Wednesday was a banner day and Bill Lenheim struck silver. He skillfully played and landed this 16-pound buck steelhead...
then moments later hooked a truly big steelhead, one of the Skeena's legendary Giants of August. The fish took in close, churned the river and plowed off downriver toward center stream. Bill followed. Camp attendant Conner and guide Rick looked on as the big fish rolled 30 yards out. Eventually Bill ran out of gravel and the fish ran too far down; the hook pulled free and the fight was over. Disappointing, sure. But exhilarating and unforgettable!
On Thursday, Christopher hit the Skeena salmon grand slam, hooking all five species of Pacific salmon including this large female chum.
About the chum: Fresh in the river, the chum, calico, or dog salmon is a fine gamefish. They'll outsprint a chinook, occasionally catch air, and, most notably, rarely give in without exhausting the angler. Three cheers for the chum!
On Friday, to prove his salmon mastery, he wrestled in this even larger chum. With its impressive girth, the fish had to scale in the mid-20's.
Meanwhile, on a side trip to the Copper, Greg accomplished a feat rare in steelhead flyfishing. Having spotted a feeding fish with Nicholas Dean Lodge guide Jeff Langley, Greg positioned himself below the fish and, borrowing Jeff's 6-weight trout rod, presented a dry fly upstream...
The fish rose and missed the fly once. But came back and took it solidly on the second cast. The fly: Haig-Brown's Steelhead Bee. Congratulations, Greg! Add to your life list "steelhead on an upstream dry."
As the final morning drew to a close, with Chad Black guiding, Alex chimed in with a nice sockeye...
then took a rest on a "rock chair" to reflect on the week that had been: the fish landed, the fish lost, the laughs and the time that passed much too quickly...More likely, just as the host, Alex was thinking ahead to 2008 when hooks will be stronger, knots will be better, luck will be with us and the fish of lifetime won't slip away. Just under twelve months to go...
Thanks to Nicholas Dean Lodge for contributing photos to this report.