Skeena Spring Steelhead - Epic!
By Terry Wiest
I recently traveled to Terrace BC where I had the opportunity to fish with Gill McKean of Westcoast Fishing Adventures. I have heard about Spring Steelhead, but never had the pleasure of actually fishing for them. From Late March through Early May a Spring Run of Steelhead enter the Skeena Region River looking to make a quick entrance, get their spawning done, and return to the Ocean within a month. Because of the quick timing of these runs, the fish are chrome bright and full of fight. These are not to be confused with Summer Run fish which will start to enter many rivers in late May and June, but those fish will actually winter over in the streams and spawn at basically the same time the winter fish do.
While there are many trophy rivers in the Terrace area that are world famous for their steelhead, I was in for a treat as Gill decided to take me and fishing partner Pierre-Phillippe Caron from KingPin Reels to a remote site on a small river known as the Moose. This is an Indian River that I could not spell nor pronounce as it’s only spoken in the native tongue. No matter, the only way up is by helicopter, until now. Westcoast Fishing Adventures purchased a new Can Am Side by Side with 4 wheel drive tracks that was able to transport us where no other machine could travel. What started out as dirt turned quickly to mud, snow and then deep snow, about 4 feet to be exact.
We camped in a large wall tent complete with wood stove and cots at the base of one of the most spectacular steelhead holes I’ve had the pleasure to drift. The peace and solitude that came with this trip was immeasurable.
No pollution, no traffic, no litter and no other fisherman… at all! The only other signs of humans was a pair of First Nation gentlemen that greeted us (even cut firewood for us) and those that were flying over via helicopter. Other than that, the three of us, some bear, moose, eagles and tons of steelhead. Oh yes the steelhead.
Even though we arrived late in the afternoon, we still had an hour or so before darkness was upon us so what better way to enjoy the daylight then by throwing a couple casts into the river. It didn’t take long, in fact it was the first cast and I hooked a chrome 17lb doe (hen to those in the US). Fight? Oh what a fight it was. The reel was screaming, the rod was bending and water was splashing. What an epic event. I really don’t know how it could have got any better. A quick pic and plenty of recovery time and she was on her way, back to her river. As I write this I have to ponder the moment as I get shivers down my spine. This could be the finest moment ever in my steelheading career.
I ended up hooking 4 fish out of that hole, with Pierre a couple more before we decided to head back to camp and grab a bite to eat.
Good morning Moose River! Oh that fresh air was incredible. Not being a breakfast person I decided to fish while Gill was putting on a nice breakfast. Within 15 minutes I’d hooked and landed 3 fish and was interrupting the boys breakfast. Hopefully this was an indication of the rest of the trip… and it was.
First full day we traveled downstream and fished the river along the way. There wasn’t a stretch of river we ventured without touching a fish. But then the bad news… we had to travel up river to return to camp. I was totally exhausted, but not so that I still didn’t throw in and hook fish on the way back as well.
What an epic day.
The next day was the same except we travelled upstream. Actually made it a little easier on the legs to return to camp, but fortunately the results were the same. Beautiful fish after beautiful fish graced our presence. The great feelings after releasing one of these gorgeous creatures was overwhelming. Truly one of Gods greatest gifts.
We’d seen a dozen or so black bear on the way in, but none on the river itself. This was probably a good thing in my opinion.
We were fortunate to see a bull moose cross the river just downstream from us. These are absolutely mammoth beasts.
Another epic day… and epic adventure!
I had brought plenty of gear to test and as these were Spring Steelhead, they were extremely aggressive and the hardest fighting steelhead I’ve ever seen.
Some of the failed tests which I’m not going to mention the brand:
New Braid: Fail
New Hooks: Fail
New Jig Hooks: Fail
New Fluorocarbon: Fail
OK, for some better news.
KingPin Center Pin Reel: Smoothest reel I’ve ever touched. European Engineering at its finest, KingPin is a winner.
Fetha Styx Chrome Series Center Pin Rod: Another winner! Great for smaller water or from within a boat. On the wider stretches of the river the rod was a bit stiff with the light weights we were using. Heavier weight would have solved the problem as the rod would have loaded up more. Once a fish was on, the rod was extremely light and we didn’t notice it was rated for 10 – 17 so it could have handled Chinook should one would have tempted to try us. Over all an excellent rod for smaller water or from a boat.
River Bend Jigs – Awesome and accounted for many hookups. Great quality and the material lasted through several tough fights. The custom patterns I had tied up were exactly like the picture I sent and were extremely effective. Some of the “stock” jigs were almost as well. The Owner 2X strong hooks were a must.
Snoqualmie Bait Co – Fake eggs worked great and lasted forever. I did apply some anise scent.
EZ Eggs – Worked great as well. Added as extra attraction to roe, but many times the eggs were gone and fish struck at the EZ Eggs alone.
Mad River Worms - Pink baby Pink. You can see why the Canadians came up with this technique so long ago... they flat out work.
Pautzke Fire Cure - Epic! My hands were pink, the rods, reels, all my gear. I couldn't get enough of this stuff and either could the fish.
ClearDrift Floats – Man if we could only put a hook on these! We had several fish each day that attacked the float!
Owner Hooks – Both the octopus and 2X Jigs hooks were great. Super sharp we didn’t worry about missing fish. Super tough… they had to be. NOTE: We did bend out a few 2X Jig hooks but we were trying to turn big fish before they entered the rapids.
Westcoast Fishing Adventures – Can’t say enough good about Gill, Mandi and Gord. First class outfit providing trips of a lifetime. This isn’t just fishing, it’s an adventure of a lifetime.