DE
TERRACE, BC, CANADA, SEPTEMBER 2013

In the last two years, I have fished many different species of fish in freshwater and saltwater. However, an important freshwater fish is still missing from my album: the STEELHEAD.

The steelhead is a sea-run rainbow trout, which pulls like a salmon in the sea, and in the river comes back to spawn. However, it doesn't do it once in a lifetime like the salmon, but several times. When a steelhead returns in the fresh water, is still eats, and it also doesn’t die after spawning. My guide Stan tells that in the steelhead’s stomach you can find anything from insects to mice, up to small fish, by the time you have it. Steelheads reach considerable sizes: the record is 40.75 lbs. and a length of 45. 25 inches.

The best steelhead rivers are in British Columbia, Canada. Obviously I have to go there. My plan is beforehand to go more northerly to Smithers to fish the known rivers such as Kispiox, Babine or Bulkley. Because I'm far too late with booking, I am unable to find a good lodge or a guide in Smithers. I would like to be flexible as always and do not necessarily restrict myself to a river.

Image: minionflyfishing

Skeena wilderness fishing charters in terrace, BC, sounds like a good solution. After a few phone calls and emails with Stan Daniels, I decide to book there. A stroke of luck! // Stan Doll with his guiding company has for over 40 years been in business. His two sons, Kori and Kelly have learnt fly fishing from their father from a young age. I'm really in the very best hands.

Here is the link to their website: bc-steelhead

I am accommodated in Stan’s house where there are some guest rooms. The food is great, a family atmosphere and I feel contented. The equipment, cars and boats are first class; and for those who want to tie flies: Stan has a binding area with everything you can imagine. Stan’s program also includes smaller steelhead rivers where he is licensed as the only guiding company.

There are many top rivers to be fished in the lower Skeena area, which are not as well known as the rivers in the upper reaches, also not so heavily fished. Steelheads are there all year round. Some rivers have a strong spring run, others spring and summer runs. Each year the Kalum River for example, is where many prize steelheads are caught. It is first on my agenda. // Unfortunately the weather is very unstable in BC.

When I arrive, Stan told me that for three weeks a very unusual hot spell occurred with up to 30 degrees Celsius. // The rivers result in less water, which itself has strongly heated. Not good for fishing! However, on my arrival it is raining very heavy, and remains like this for the next few days.

KALUM KITSUM RIVER

I get up around 6:30am, I can no longer sleep. Stan goes with me to the Kalum River. The water is very murky, I don't like it. I guess the view is maximum 30 cm, conditions which I normally would not fish under. Stan gave me hope, and so I stayed confident. I fish with large, dark patterns in the colours black/blue and black/purple.

We catch dollies and some pinks, but no steelhead bites. The water rises and is getting murkier: in 20 cm deep water I can no longer see my wading shoes. Saddening views, and I suppose that with the heavy rain the water does not recover and the river needs time to clear up again.

Two American steelhead veterans, Bill and Jim, are with Kori at the Copper. They catch three steelheads and lost more. The water there is indeed murky but still fishable. // Stan suggests that we should tomorrow go to Gitnadiox where the water should be clear.

19.9.2013: GITNADIOX AND SKEENA

I get up at 5:30am, after breakfast we drive to Gitnadiox. A great river in the middle of a National Park, Stan is the only guide that has the license to fish in the River. // But also there is flood water, it rains constantly. We try it for two hours, without success. // Then we drive to the Skeena and make 1000 casts. I catch a small silver salmon. Then I get a big king on, which pulls slowly 200 metres of line from me, then the trace is cut off. I think it was hooked on the tail.

Jim, Bill and Kori were again at the lower Copper and hooked four steels and lost three or four. The water there is murky but still fishable. Great, because tomorrow I'm going there with Kori.

20.9.2013: COPPER RIVER

Jim, Bill, Kori and I go to the Copper River. We start very early so that we are the first on the river. Unfortunately, the water is murkier than the day before, but it is still reasonably fishable. // We try, but without success. In the afternoon, the water is still murky and is no longer fishable. I caught a silver and nothing else. Damn it.

I am slowly frustrated and wondering what to do and how I can avoid the weather, because I have a few more days fishing before me. // Smithers would be an option, there it shouldn’t be raining, and the rivers should well be fishable. Three Americans who I met at the Copper and also Bill and Jim were previously at Kispiox and Babine. There were difficult conditions; hardly any steelheads were caught.

Bill is 84 years old and still a real steelheader, he wades through the river like a youngster. Two great guys with whom I had lots of fun. // The weather forecast predicts an improvement in the weather. Today it rains quite lightly only at times. Stan suggests to fish one or two days at the Kasiks. Admittedly there are few steelheads but good silver salmon stock.

21.09.2013: KASIKS RIVER

The Kasiks is located about 40 miles south of Terrace towards the coast. It is a side river of the Skeena River. It has a spring run but in the summer no steelheads; instead it has silver salmon.

Usually the river is navigable only in the spring with the jet boat, but because flood water is now everywhere, even the Kasiks carries much water. This River is never murky and is always clear. It is only about five or six kilometres long, the water rises from springs and waterfalls which flows down on the rock walls. The Kasiks is currently the only river that is clear and fishable. Furthermore it is beautiful, really a natural jewel.

In the morning we are all optimistic, it has not rained in the night. We want to go first to the Kalum and look at the water. Unfortunately: The water is extremely murky. We are disappointed and decide to go to the Kasiks. // There we catch 12 silver salmon, sometimes real trophies. Here, it rains all day. Secondly, we see a black bear.

22.09.2013: KASIKS RIVER

All rivers around Terrace including Copper run flood water and are dirty; so Kori and I go to the Kasiks where I catch many silver salmon.

UPPER COPPER: 4 DAYS HELICOPTER-FISHING

The upper Copper is accessible only by helicopter so the fishing pressure is low. A day with the helicopter costs about 1800 euros. With Peter and Kenneth, two Americans, I share the cost, and we agree to fish the next two days there. // The pilots tell us the upper Copper is almost clear, and days before, two Americans caught a lot there. Finally hope for good water and steelheads!

23.9.2013: UPPER COPPER

The helicopter is sensational. The weather is clear and for the first time blue sky. As we fly over the upper Copper for the first time, we see a wonderful and especially clear river. Promising!

And it actually doesn't take long until I catch my first steelhead. The three of us catch a fabulous 19 steelheads in the day, including several fish between 14 and 17 pounds. It was Peter's day: with 11 steelheads he exceeds us all. I am however extremely satisfied with my five steelheads. Besides, on this day I have learnt some things from Peter.

24.9.2013: UPPER COPPER

The upper Copper has done it to us; we would prefer to repeat the previous day. The day is so beautiful with plenty of sunshine and little rain. // The best: I catch nine steels and lose five more. What a day! // Peter catches three; Kenneth fishes only with dry flies, two hooks, but loses them.

25.9.2013: UPPER COPPER

I fly with guide Kori and his wife alone to the upper Copper. A super day, I hook many fish. Including a steelhead with 95 cm and one with 101 cm!

26.9.2013: UPPER COPPER

My last day. I have to go back to the upper Copper as I want to experience another day. Kalum and Skeena have cleared up again and are fishable, but I am drawn back to the Copper. I don’t want to risk anything and once again invest in the helicopter.

At 10 o'clock in the morning I have five steelheads – what a start! In the evening are then seven steelheads, one with 103 cm. A super fish. In the afternoon two other helicopters arrive; I fish behind which is of course, more difficult.

SUMMARY

The trip started bad and the prospects were so frustrating, but in the end the journey went well. The last four days with 32 steelheads caught, are my remaining impressions of this dream holiday.

ALL IMAGES OF THIS TRIP