Steelhead Camp

Pull your waders off and prop your feet up by the fire. Steelhead Camp is a collection of adventures from across the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Steelhead anglers are a special kind of crazy, but you already knew that.

German/American Steelhead Expedition 2005

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Dad gave me a ride to the airport. Glad he had the truck as the gear wouldn’t have made it into his Boxster. I had my WaterMaster in a roller bag to make getting through customs in Canada easier. Frankly I was impressed with the little amount of gear I was able to get by on. I cut back on both fishing gear and clothing. I might come home smelling a little gamey but that’s the price you pay.

Survived the first scare when they weren’t going to let me travel without my passport (which is being renewed, and taking longer than expected). Finally cleared to fly and through security with rods, flies and reels.

Arrived in Vancouver BC on time and with all my gear. Rechecked bags and headed to the Smithers gate to find Stefan. Finally spotted him sleep walking down the concourse. We had plenty of time to catch up on family and news while we waited for our flight to Smithers. We did notice that there was an earlier flight that we could have made. Will have to keep that in mind for next time.

 The flight into Smithers was beautiful. I sat on the left side of the plane and watched the setting sun light up the hundreds of mountain lakes like little puddles of silver mercury. Snow capped peaks with their glaciers birthing small mountain streams fed these lakes and cut deep canyons that led to larger rivers or Fiords then to the sea. The landscape that passed below was both rugged and beautiful.

As we enter the Bulkley valley I started to recognize landmarks from my previous trip. We passed over the Telkwa River and I could see it was dumping a little glacier melt into the Bulkley, but the main river looked quite fishable. Below the Aspens and Cottonwood trees glowed in the fading light. Fall had come to the valley and it was in full splendor. My anticipation grew. What would tomorrow bring?


Got an early start and headed to Telkwa after dropping Stefan’s rental car at the take out in Smithers. Light rain was falling but the Bulkley looked to be fishable. It was quite low but did have some color to it. Water temp was 50. We headed down to the meadow run and Stefan stopped in the run above while I pulled my boat up to the high bank and rigged up my dry line rod.      

Stefan radioed and said he had landed a nice 8 pound fish in the run above on a leech fish deep. I fished through the meadow run with a dry line and skater raising four fish without hooking even one. The takes were very timid. Stefan came down and fished through, briefly hooking one fish in the tailout.

Rain fell and it got very wet and chilly. By afternoon we had seen a few other anglers but it was not too crowded. Stefan found a nice 10 pound fish in a deep slot in front of Serge’s cabin and I lost a fish in the boulder patch downstream. At the Coal Vein I finally landed a nice buck around 8 pounds. At the farm field Stefan took a very small (18”) Morice fish. We took out in Smithers right at dark.


Got a late start as we hit Oscar’s for permits and fuel for the JetBoil. Launched just above China Creek and drifted to the camp above Suskwa Creek. We had to pack the boats down a steep rocky bank to get to the river. Water was cloudy with the visibility about 3-4 feet.  Rained off and on all day.

Battled a nice fish on a dry to a short line release so no photo. Took a very nice hen of 34” at the Red Roof Run. Stefan rowed across the river to take a photo for me. He had raised one fish to a skater but it failed to returned.

Fall colors were breath taking even with the rain. Saw a very large eagle nest and tried to take a photo. Very nice looking water on this drift, would love to fish it again.

Ran into Kelly the Tioga reel guy at the Alpenhorn. Frank Moore and his wife are staying at their place on the Kispiox. He reported the Kispiox got some fish early. I hope so!


Launched at Walcott and drifted to Quick. Water is up and off color. Temp is 48. Weather was cloudy with rain and sun breaks. Very slow day of fishing. I took one very small fish on a skater at Goose Poop Island. Had a very nice hot soup lunch thanks to the JetBoil. Saw two foxes and several deer.


River is clearing. Water temp is 48. Drifted Telkwa to Smithers again. Watched six jet fighters doing mid-air refueling directly overhead. Turns out the VP was heading up to the Silver Hilton for some fishing. My tax dollars at work!

Very slow fishing today. Not much to show for our efforts. Met Serge Mazerand a musician and river rat. He has a beautiful log home right on the river. He gave both of us a CD of his piano music intertwined with river sounds. He says he just sits at the piano letting the river inspire the music. He also is a great lover of saltwater fishing and Christmas Island in particular. (Note: I've been playing his CD and if you can't be on the water, this is the next best thing! Wonderful music!)

I had a coyote walk up on me at the Coal Seam. He finally noticed me and blasted off knocking much of the bank down on me. Very big surprise for him for sure.

Stefan finally got a very small Morice fish at the farm meadow just before we rowed out in the dark.


After breakfast and shopping for food we headed up to the Kispiox Steelhead Camp. Helmet has done some work on the place since my last visit. A new shower house and log cabin have been added. Dropped the gear and headed upriver. Stopped at Dorothy’s and dropped off the cookies Stefan had brought from Germany. Quick stop then up to fish.

Launched at Cullin Creek. Weather was clearing with fog patches and some high clouds. Water was perfect color and 44 degrees.  Many boats and anglers on the water. It one point I had the whole Italian navy float by in front of me. We did fish most of the places we wanted to. I hooked into a very nice fish of about 12 pounds at the same location I had a fish turn me loose two years ago. It was nice to redeem myself. Stefan lost one fish in the tailout below me but that was it for the day. Took out at the campground.

The Sportsman’s lodge is closed and for sale so our dinner plans have changed. Soup, crackers, tuna and cream cheese was the fair and it was wonderful! A better meal couldn’t have been asked for. After all we were on the Kispiox!


Very cold last night. Had to get up and put on a fleece shirt and cap! Started the fire and got back in bed.

Again drifted Cullin Creek to Dorothy’s. One guide was launching as we pulled away. I fished behind Stefan at the first pool and as he finished up in the tailout he said he could smell one. I made a few more casts and hooked a nice fish from behind the tailout rock. Stefan had the hot hand today landing three nice fish and one small one. I lost a very hot fish after a five minute battle. Landed a nice Dollie Varden. A beautiful but chilly day on the water. Dinner at the Hummingbird in Hazelton was very good.


Cloudy day. River is dropping and clear. Water temp is 44. Put in at Cullin Creek again, hoping the dropping water conditions will have moved some new fish in. Lost a fish in the same spot I hooked one yesterday. Hit the slot three clicks down and followed Stefan through. He lost what seemed to be a very large fish after a throbbing short run. Watched how Stefan was fishing the slot and changed my tactics. Second cast stopped and I set up on a very large fish. Stefan scampered out of the way of the charging fish while I just tried to hang on. Finally the fish stopped in fast water and held station. Working the rod from different angles I finally tired the fish and slid him into the shallows. After photos and measurements he was released. 42 inches long and around 30 pounds of wild Canadian Steelhead. Stefan was as happy as I was and I couldn’t find a better friend to share the moment with. I’m afraid in my excitement I slapped him on the back so hard I knocked the air out of him! It was truly a magical moment.

I didn’t touch a fish the rest of the day but Stefan hooked and lost 4 before landing a small “Morice” fish.

A day I won’t soon forget. Although I’d like to forget the blackflies that have emerged and are causing a great deal of trouble. Cold, windy and black flies….and one big fish. What a perfect day!


Clouds with high overcast. Water is still dropping and 44.

 I was done fishing after the fish of yesterday but Stefan wanted to do the short drift again. We had the river to ourselves and we hit all the good spots. The blackflies were out in force and in trying to avoid being consumed I knocked my glasses off never to be seen again. Not a great way to end the trip.

Just before pulling off for the day Stefan took a nice fish from the camp slot. I followed and found a fish holding in nearly the same spot. We pulled out under a cloud of blackflies. Very nasty creatures!

Only took a few minutes to pack and head back to Smithers to look for gifts for the folks at home. Stefan came along and we hit a few shops. At Oscar’s we bought permits for the Bulkley as Stefan had a run he wanted to show me close to town.

Now the last thing I really wanted to do was to get back into those nasty damp waders I’d been living in all week, but that’s just what I did. We got to Stefan’s secret spot only to find three cars parked and four guys fishing through the run. I grabbed my dry line and a handful of skaters. Stefan said I should bring the sink tips but I said these would do me fine. We walked above the other anglers and started working down the run. A half hour into the run I felt my attention starting to wander. What was I doing here? I could be back at the Stork’s Nest taking a nice warm shower, then heading out for dinner, but no, I’m casting a dry flies in water worked over by four other fishermen who are just as silly as I am! That’s when the fish grabbed my fly.

 Blasting into the air a very large hen cartwheel down river and made my reel and heart sing. But just as fast as she had come, she was gone. I was left laughing out loud at the turn of events. It was time to end this trip. I started to reel up but stopped and started to cast again. A few more casts wouldn’t hurt. The thought had barely cleared my foggy mind when another fish grabbed my fly off the surface and made a mad dash for freedom. A very long and hard battle followed until finally the fish tired and was brought to hand. For its size this fish had fought a fight more like a fish twice its size. It was a perfect way to end the trip. I cut the fly from my tippet and turned to Stefan and with a laugh said “I’m done, and you can’t make me fish anymore!” He laughed and continued to cast his sink tip through the run until it was dark.

Dinner passed too quickly and soon it was time for Stefan to head back to the Kispiox. We promised to return and fish together again. We agreed this had been a fantastic trip, one to remember. He of course had another week to make memories; I’m headed back to work. I’ll miss this place and this friend, but not the blackflies…

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