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 2006

Joel La Follette - Saturday, October 14, 2006

If you look up the word optimist in the dictionary you’ll see a photo of a steelhead angler. If you look closely you’ll see he’s fishing a dry fly. That’s an extreme optimist…

When heading off to far-a-way locations to fish you never know what to expect. All the planning in the world can’t change the weather or make the fish bite. Like I always say, you pay your money and take your chances. Even the worst fishing trip can provide wonderful memories if you leave home with the right attitude and expectations. In fact, with the right attitude there’s no such thing as a bad fishing trip.

Returning to Smithers, BC after last years trip I had no expectations and was just looking forward to spending time with my good friend Stefan. Good fishing partners are hard to come by and I’m very lucky to have a few very good ones.  By now everyone knows about the big fish I caught last year and I had no illusion that I would be that lucky again. I was just looking forward to eight straight days of fishing.

After checking in to the Stork Nest Inn we wandered over to the Alpenhorn for dinner. There we met up with a few friends from Oregon who had been fishing the area for a few weeks. The report we got was not encouraging. The Telkwa was blown out and dumping slit into the Bulkley. The Kispiox was up and out of shape and those two conditions were blowing out the Skeena. In addition the Babine was out. Most of this was caused by the melting of about a foot of snow that had fallen the week before. It didn’t sound good. We decided on a plan that provided for a late start allowing for getting licenses, fuel for the JetBoils and a daylight look at the river conditions. No sense rushing into this.

The Bulkley was very low and clear above the Telkwa but un-fishable below. We decided to make a short drift from Quick to a private campground above Telkwa. Fishing was slow. I had one fish on in the morning and raised another to a dry fly in the evening and that was it. Most of the rest of the week was the same. We fished above the Telkwa in clear low water occasionally hooking a fish or at least raising a fish to a skater. I will say that even with the slow fishing I enjoyed fishing the skating fly and having fish come to the surface after it, even though I didn’t land too many of them. We fished hard, we enjoyed the beautiful fall colors, then we headed to the Kispiox.

There we found high water with a little color to it and very poor fishing reports. The river had been out but was falling back into shape. With the forecast calling for clear and cold weather over the next few days things were looking up. If we could just find some fish…

We launched late and again planned a short drift. Most of the anglers on that stretch had launched earlier and would be well below us. Stefan took a nice fish right at the put-in while I had drifted down to the first pool. We hooked five fish that day, each landing one. Back at camp the word was not good with the other anglers. Fishing was still slow. Stefan and I kept quiet and planned the same drift the next day. We didn’t touch a fish all day. Water temps had dropped down to 38 and the fish were hanging deep. T-14 and type eight tips helped but fishing was not red hot. On the third day I took a nice hen in the morning and landed a 41 inch buck in the evening. We had hooked other fish but not landed them. Stefan also took a very nice buck out of the last pool of the drift. 

The last morning on the Kispiox was probably the best day of the trip weather wise. The river had dropped and was almost perfect. In the same pool I hooked my big fish last year I hooked and landed a very respectable buck of about 16 lbs. It was a nice way to end my visit to this special river. We pulled out early and headed back to Smithers.

Although fishing had been spotty at best, we had a great trip. It was good to spent time with Stefan and hear about his family at home in Germany. His son Tobias is growing like a weed and has become quite a soccer star. He’s also becoming a talented fly angler. Before long he’ll be replacing me on these trips to BC. Stefan will have a new younger fishing partner. I’m sure they’ll let this old guy tag along. Sometimes it’s more about the place, the friends and memories than it is about the fish. And after all, there’s always next year…. Check out the photos and you'll see why we do it...

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