British Columbia is an angler’s paradise, it has all the ingredients required to offer the perfect holiday for any fly-fisher. Stunningly beautiful rivers, five species of salmon and top of my list, the sublime steelhead plus other trout and char species. All this in a great country populated by friendly people with a tolerant attitude to fishers and a list of conservation measures that ensure fish stocks will remain high for years to come. Yes, it really is the promised land!
Kalum lodge is comfortable and makes the perfect place to stay – everything has been designed by lodge owner Andrew Rushton to meet an anglers needs. It’s set on a beautiful plot that sits just above the Kalum River (famous for its run of huge chinook salmon from May to mid-August) in clearing surrounded by ancient woodland. The setting is peaceful and makes a great place to relax after a day on the river. A highlight of every day is the superb meals served up by Andrew’s charming wife, lodge manager Deanna. There is certainly plenty of great food perfect for hungry anglers. Early nights and early morning starts are the order of the day and everyone sleeps very soundly!
After a spectacular trip last year and much discussion with Andrew we decided to go back a little later in the year this time. The argument for this was based around having the opportunity to fish for steelhead in some of the smaller rivers Andrew has access to and still have a good chance of finding the mighty Skeena in good order. The best of both worlds I guess.
My first day on the Skeena started well with a nice fresh ‘chromer’ steelhead within minutes of starting, I really felt my experience from last year had given me a head-start and I got back into the fishing very quickly. On the Skeena success comes to those who can cast accurately (often relatively short lines) across the current with a tungsten sink-tip and get the fly to swing across the current smoothly and evenly, just clear of the bottom. This sounds simple but there are a few subtleties you need to learn that will make a big difference to your catches. An eye for reading the water also helps and you quickly learn to identify where the larger stones are from the boil patterns on the surface. Fishing around these is often key to success as travelling fish will duck in behind these stones for a quick rest. One thing I found interesting was that moving the fly by hand lining and moving the rod tip up and down during a swing definitely put them off. It often has the opposite effect on Atlantic salmon. Also your line has to land straight – a heap of T17 will sink to the bottom out of control and you will get hooked up time after time. Practice certainly makes perfect on the Skeena.
As well as steelhead, we caught good numbers of coho or silver salmon up to around 15lbs in weight – these fish are really tough fighters, especially the fresh run examples. They just won’t give up – large ones take a load of line and are unstoppable. Because steelhead are the glamour fish it’s easy to forget how great the coho are to catch but the fly angler is very spoilt in BC!
As the week went on the steelhead got bigger my largest being estimated at 18lbs although Phil D’s 24lb’er caught on the final day did steal the show!
Tackle to Use in BC, Canada
My Skeena outfit consisted of a 13’6” 9 wt Loop Cross S1 6 pce fly rod, matched with a Spey fly reel with lots of backing, a 550g Rio Skagit head and Rio Connect Core Shooting line, this line makes casting a heavy sink–tip child’s play and balanced well with the rod. Leaders were 3’ lengths of 20lb maxima green (a good match for the Skeena’s greenish tinge). Flies were intruder styles in pink and purple – these flies have a free-swinging hook (all flies must have single hooks and no barbs whatsoever). Beyond this you need your normal waders, boots and wading jacket plus some layered clothing you can adjust to suit conditions. It was cold most mornings but warmed up quickly as the sun came up so being able to remove layers was a godsend. Also don’t forget your favourite fishing cap and sunglasses.
On the smaller rivers we visited I found a 10’ 7 weight Sage One fly rod matched with a Nautilus CCF-X2 6-8 reel and Rio Gold fly line worked perfectly. The fly needed to get down a little to find the steelhead so a fly weighted with dumbbell eyes achieved this with some success. The smooth drag on the Nautilus really helped land me more fish without doubt.
So this is a great trip for any salmon or trout angler – a chance to fish for new species in a spectacular environment. Andrew and Deanna will be joining us at Sportfish Reading on Saturday 22nd November in the morning to talk to anyone who is interested in coming out to their lodge. There are also some places left on next year’s Sportfish Hosted trip – for more details call either Allan on 0118 930 3860 at Sportfish or Mat at Fly Odyssey on 01621 743711.
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Have you been on a recent trip? Do you have any top tips to share? If so then comment below – we’d love to hear from you!