Wet Fly Fishing for Steelhead
The Skeena Region of Northwest British Columbia has the finest wild Steelhead fishery in the world. Nicholas Dean lodge is centrally located in the Skeena Region and we offer Guided trips on over a dozen different Steelhead Rivers directly from the lodge or by helicopter. Most of the year we use a wet fly swing presentation using fly patterns based on strip leeches, and general practitioners. To present the fly we us 8 to 10 weight outfits with interchangeable sink tip systems loaded onto reels capable of holding at least 150 yards of 30 pound backing. The average steelhead is 8-20lbs with a reasonable opportunity to catch Steelhead in access of 20lbs. Occasionally 30lbs plus Steelhead are caught and there have been Steelhead taken by Marine Biologists in the test fishery on the approach waters of the Skeena River of 44lbs plus. At Nicholas Dean Lodge world record Steelhead are a reality not a dream.
We have 4 seasons for steelhead fishing offering a unique variety of rivers, presentation and challenges. If you are a die hard steelheading then you will want to experience all of the seasons. Many of Nicholas Dean Lodge’s guests come steelheading at least 2, and sometimes all 4 seasons of year.
Spring Steelhead Season
Starts in mid March and goes until the end of May, during this time you find the pools are low and clear, loaded with winter run holdovers, fresh spring run chromers and a few dark fall run Steelhead. In most cases, these fish will chase down your fly and strike solidly, so hold on. There is also the opportunity to catch some different species during this time of the season, including fresh run spring Chinook which start to show up in mid-April. If you get tired fighting Steelhead, get out the 3-5 weight trout rod and catch Sea-Run Cutthroat Trout, Dolly Varden Char, Bull Trout and small Steelhead. Its not uncommon to catch 10-30 trout a day. The morning usually starts out in the 38-42 F degrees and warm up to mid 40’s to mid 50’s Fahrenheit. You need to wear multiple layers of clothing so you can adjust based on temperature.
Summer Steelhead Season
Starts in late July and goes until the middle of September. This season is characterized by strong runs of Steelhead straight out of the ocean that have hit the river for the first time this season. They are fresh, aggressive, white chrome and viciously attack your fly. These are the hottest steelhead you will find anywhere. It is not uncommon to get knuckle busted and have your reel warped and emptied by a Skeena Steelhead many times a day. These fish are mostly bound for the Kispiox, Babine, Bulkley, Sustut, Morice, and Copper Rivers the difference is, you get to catch them before anybody else does. On the main stem Skeena, it is not uncommon to hook many steelhead in a day, landing them is another story. The weather this time of year is beautiful, you can start out in the morning with polar fleece on and by noon be in your Gortex waders, rolled down to your waist and a T Shirt, fishing in 75 Fahrenheit plus weather. We see multiple plus 80 F degree days so bring your sun screen.
Fall Steelhead Season
Starts September to the end of October. It is a very popular time at the lodge due to the fact that the summer runs, which are still very fresh, are in the Skeena tributaries. The pools and runs are smaller and easily accessible with lighter fly gear. The Steelhead find their pools and start to rest from their ocean journey. The fall colors are in the hills with cool mornings and pleasantly warm afternoons. The resting Steelhead are also prime for Dry Fly presentation, more discussion on this on the web site so check out the details – there is nothing like it. Its not uncommon to watch the Steelhead chase your fly from the center of the pool right to the shore on the swing. The take is everything from a savage jerk to a light peck that you might expect from a small trout but be ready once the Steelhead is hooked you’re in for a furious battle.
Winter Steelhead Season
Prime time is Nov 1 to 15 with Steelhead available through out the entire winter. Winter Steelheading is what has made Steelheaders the legendary anglers that they are. Non-Steelheaders think it is insanity to step out into a 30 degree Fahrenheit morning and wade into a freezing wild river. We know better though because pools full of large wild steelhead await any angler brave enough to face the chilling elements. A few casts, a solid strike, a savage battle, and it all comes together as we look down on at the shimmering broad shoulders of a large Buck Steelhead in the shallow water at our feet. If this is what you live for than our Winter Steelhead Season is for you.
The lodge is located just off the Kalum River and centrally located to the main Skeena and its abundant tributaries. For Steelhead fishing we mainly angle on the following rivers:
- Copper River:
Classified River: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall
- Kalum River:
Classified River, Spring and Summer
- Skeena River:
Classified Sections of the River, Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall
- Kitimat River:
- Lower Skeena Tributaries:
- Nass Tributaries (Meziadin, & Bell-Irving):
- Coastal Rivers by Helicopter:
Secret Rivers lightly fished with many to choose from
The most productive presentation is the classic Wet Fly Swing. Depending on the water levels and speed, sink tips, varying in lengths from 5 ft to 20 ft are used. As a general rule the warmer the water, the cleaner the water and the fresher the fish the lighter and/or shorter the sink tip required. The cast is presented from 90 to 25 degrees angle cross stream and then allowed to swing around to directly below the angler. The angle of the cast depends on the pool and the type of presentation required.
For More Information Please Refer to the Fly Fishing Techniques Page.
Fly Fishing Gear
Our Steelhead can be very large and very powerful and we also fish some very large and fast flowing rivers. Keeping these consideration in mind we recommend:
8 to 10 Weight Double or Single Handed
Machined Aluminum capable of holding a minimum 150 yards of backing
- Fly Line:
Interchangeable tip System that has slow to very fast tips
Standard Steelhead Leech, and Prawn Patterns
For More Information Please Refer to the Fly fishing Gear and Equipment List Page.
There has been a few 30+pound Steelhead caught in the Summer on the Skeena, but the Lodge Record is a 34lb (41×25) Spring Steelhead caught on the Upper Kalum River by Robert Tomes in April of 2000, using a large pink Crystal Bugger pattern down deep. We have seen many potential records hooked in the summer but no one has managed to land a super hot ocean charged Steelhead larger than Mr. Tomes’s.