Nicholas Dean Lodge

461st Weekly Fishing Report from Nicholas Dean Lodge

For Tuesday, January 22, 2008 to Monday, January 28, 2008


Sky Richard with a smaller than average, but very fresh male Steelhead caught on the main channel Skeena a few weeks ago. For its size, the fish was a very hard figher. Chad Black Photo


Fish Tales

Hello Anglers,

For a die-hard Steelhead angler, or rather, an aspiring die-hard Steelhead angler, the fishing during the past week hasn’t necessarily been a good one. After the warm temperatures and great fishing of last weekend, the level of mercury dropped significantly and stayed below freezing for the duration of the week. The unfortunate thing is that the cold snap is expected to continue, and actually get worse this week. As I write this, we’re sitting at a nice – 20 C, not exactly the type of weather that begs a fly fisher to step out into a river – if one did, it would probably be a frozen one anyways! Still, though the weather on Friday was less than perfect, I couldn’t be kept indoors and wanted to try out one of my newest intruder/popsickle/prawn/Jeff Bright/Martin Walker inventions. I say that because the fly has sort of borrowed or been influenced by the different qualities of each fly or their maker. I tried to incorporate the long, flowing appeal that the intruder has, the wrapped marabou that makes up a great popsickle, the general shape and colour of a prawn and its associated imitations, the meticulously wrapped hackles around a dubbed body of seal fur a la Jeff Bright, and the variegated fibres from an amherst as demonstrated by Martin Walker’s flies. Hardly original obviously, but it keeps a guy busy during the cold nights when he can’t get out fishing and testing flies. Plus, they’re a lot of fun to tie.

So when I arrived on the Skeena and saw large chunks of ice flowing by in the slow, shallow water, I knew that a dry line, long leader and bulky fly would be the order of the day. Without a sink tip, the fly would stay off the rocks in the shallow water, and if I felt that I wasn’t getting down deep enough, I just had to angle my cast a further upstream and feed line into the current prior to the swing. There had been times on the Copper when the fishing conditions were similar and probably more like practise than anything else, as I could see my fly swing, then jump an iceberg, sink again, and breach the surface once more. This wasn’t the case this time though – I never did see my fly pop out of the water once, though I could feel the bump of ice every once in awhile. Or at least that’s what I hope it was, for I never did sting any fish on this day. Still, based on the weekend that I’d had previously, I just had to pay my dues and anticipate the next grab…

You know, the grab can be a funny thing and if you were to try and explain it to anyone else aside from a person who has fished for Steelhead before, they’d probably think that you were mad. Standing in water so cold that you could catch hypothermia, picking ice out of your guides, waiting for a strike that may or may not come on a particular day might seem like madness more than awareness. However, I like to think that us Steelheaders are optimists and that the very next cast could be the one. The one that connects you to the fish of a lifetime. And somewhere in each angler’s memories, there is likely one or two grabs that seem to stand out a little more than others. For me, that was a few weekends ago while fishing with Dustin and Michael Hogg on a Skeena tributary.

We had worked down a long stretch of water, and I’d had a few chances at some bright Steelhead and failed miserably. Dustin and Michael had rotated through the pool and managed to get into a few big Cutthroat and Dolly Varden, and even one smaller male Steelhead around 4 lbs. Fishing in turn, I decided to try the pool one more time, and wanted to concentrate on firing longer casts to the far bank, and having the fly swing through the adjacent deep slot. The fish I’d hooked previously had taken an orange and pink intruder style fly, and I reasoned that the same fly would probably be a good choice, especially since Dustin and Michael had gone through the run already with flies ranging in colours from black to purple. The Echo spey rod flexed well using a 9/10 midspey line, and gently set the fly on the water within a few feet of the bank. After mending, and fishing through what I thought would be the prime water, I approached the lower tailout, where the water was a little shallower. To prevent the sink tip from dragging the bottom too much, I cast on an angle further downstream and started the swing almost immediately. I could see a large boulder submerged in the even flow, and its telltale currents near the surface.

As my fly swung on a path in front of the rock, my line stopped and I could feel the slow headshakes of a fish. Up to that point though, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was – the grab was a relatively soft take, which could have been either a Trout or a Steelhead. I was more inclined to think that the fish was a nice Coastal Cutthroat like those Michael and Dustin had landed previously, but at the same time, it wasn’t doing any acrobatic rolls or twists, and had not jumped free of the water, as is often customary for these fish. If there was any doubt in the first few moments of the battle though, it didn’t last long. I had about 15 to 20 ft of fly line coiled on the water downstream from me, and before I could react – check to make sure my line wasn’t caught on the reel, my fingers weren’t near the handle – the fish had made an incredibly fast surge downstream, taking all of the excess slack with it, making my Islander reel scream in protest. And after that, I wouldn’t necessarily say that the fight was exceptional or particularly exciting. The fish sounded and made a few good runs before Michael tailed the fish in the shallows and I had the chance to admire a nice Winter hen Steelhead around 10 lbs. But it was the grab – the few seconds of uncertainty and the ensuing moments of chaos that will remain indelible…and ultimately what I’ll be seeking at the first hint of warmer weather.

Until next week, tight lines and screaming reels…

Chad Black

Operations Manager

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Nicholas Dean Lodge 2007 Season Records To Date:

Steelhead: 27 lbs, Caught by Yvonne Williams of Vancouver, BC on the Skeena River

Chinook Salmon: 55 lbs, Caught by Mike Bingham of Sheridan, California on the Skeena River

Coho Salmon: 20 lbs, Caught by Derrick Ames of Fergus, Ontario on a Skeena River Tributary


Fishing Conditions

The chart below provides an overview on the current river fishing conditions by fish species:

Fish Species Poor Marginal Fair Good Excellent
Steelhead
Chinook Salmon
Coho Salmon Out of season
Pink Salmon Out of season
Sockeye Salmon Out of season
Chum Salmon Out of season
Sea-Run Cutthroat Trout
Dolly Varden
Bull Trout
Rainbow Trout

Steelhead have continued to trickle through the Skeena and into its aquamarine tributaries, but have been diffiicult to access, owing to frozen rivers and subzero temperatures. It’s hard to get a proper swing with your fly and drift with your float if you have to navigate your line through hundreds of mini icebergs! Steelhead fishing will improve once the temperatures rise and the rivers once again open up. Though we haven’t been doing much Chinook fishing in the near shore waters near Prince Rupert, the fishing can be quite good at this time of year, and you can bet we’ll make plans to go once the gale force winds have stopped (a few of us were going to make a trip on Sunday, but the strong winds and big waves weren’t enough to entice us there!). Like the Steelhead, fishing for Trout and Char has been difficult, but a few fish have still been willing to play with a well presented minnow or leech pattern.