The winter of 2006/2007 in Skeena Country will be remembered for snow. By late March, the region had accrued a snowpack estimated at 200% of normal. We saw the effects firsthand when we started the trip with a drive from Terrace to the coast, passing heavily dusted mountains along the Skeena's tidal reach.
What had been snow in Terrace was rain on the coast and the small river we planned to fish was running over its banks.
We headed back inland to fish the mainstem Skeena and later that day a faint rainbow appeared. In hindsight, it was a sign of good things to come.
On day two we had our first look at the Kalum and it couldn't have looked better! Here Martin Walker and guide Greg Buck search a slow tailout in a deep pool known to hold big fish.
After making good on one of three chances in the first pool, the host and Martin connected with a pretty 12-pound hen...
and this 15-pound buck in the second pool. A 7-pounder followed in the next run to round out a great day.
Day three's highlight was a bright, hard-fighting hen weighing in the mid-teens.
Mark it down: On Tuesday 3/27 the Steelhead Goddess smiled her most seductive smile. Jeff Reinke caught his personal best, an impressive 18-pound hen (guide Sky Richard removes the fly).
Lance Boen landed three steelhead to 16 pounds, including this shapely henfish.
Don Nelson added a 16-pound fish, tailed here by guide Greg Buck.
The host brought this red-flanked buck and a comparable female to the bank.
And, saving the best for last, Mike Spurlock wrestled a fresh 22-pounder to shore on the main Skeena his third fish of the trip, the best of the day and what would turn out to be top catch during our stay. Congratulations, Mike!
Our week would prove to be the start of a very good spring of steelhead fishing at Nicholas Dean Lodge. In the ensuing weeks a fish taped at 27 pounds was caught -- by a lady guest, her first steelhead on a fly and a behemoth steelhead over 30 pounds was reportedly hooked and lost by a fortunate/unfortunate sport throwing a spoon. A number of steelhead in the low 20's were caught, as well.
As with any late- or early-season trip to northwest British Columbia, the elements can present a challenge. They certainly did on this trip. In spite of this, or perhaps because of this, spring in the Lower Skeena Valley is rapidly becoming a premium fishery for steelhead flyfishers, particularly speyfishing enthusiasts. The spring season and the rivers around Terrace are developing a rabid band of followers from around the globe. Already I'm looking forward to the last week of March in 2008!
If you are interested in joining me, get in touch as soon as you can. I believe the spots will disappear quickly once my dates for next year are announced. I plan to post my slate of trips for 2008 around the end of May or first of June.
Also, check back for my next report. It will feature highlights from a new offering at Nicholas Dean Lodge: Adventure Steelheading. On this program we'll explore remote coastal streams in search of big steelhead.
20 May 2007
Thanks to Lance Boen and Mike Spurlock for contributing photos to this report.
If Tuesday was ours, Wednesday belonged to the weather. Winter pushed spring aside and returned in a big way; heavy wet snow fell for over 36 hours.
But, against a dramatic backdrop, fishing continued to provide enough spark to keep us casting between the giant flakes.
Sky and Lance wear snow hats and pose a Kalum steelhead estimated at 16 pounds.
Don Nelson and head guide Dustin Kovacvich work a steelhead into the shallows of the Skeena under leaden skies.
The rosy gill plates on Don's fish were particularly striking against the slush forming at the big river's edge.
With the sun peeking in and out throughout the day, we fished in a stunning, snow-frosted landscape. Mike Spurlock worked diligently through this broad, flat run on the Kalum and capped the trip with a fine fish not the biggest, but a well-earned prize given the frigid flows.
The frosty background, the bright fish and Mike's smile paint a perfect summary portrait of our early spring 2008 trip.
Thursday's fishing was lost to the storm roads closed, power lines came down, all accessible water was dirty with runoff. It was a better day for tying flies than for fishing.
Thankfully, on Friday, the elements gave us one last chance to make an already unforgettable trip even more so. The morning arrived crisp and the cold overnight air temperatures put the Kalum back into shape, if not a bit chilled. The back channels were topped in a thin layer of ice.