As anglers, we are all aware of how daunting it can be when travelling to a new destination to fish. This was no more apparent when I took my first trip up to British Colombia this fall to fish at the Bulkley River Lodge right outside of Smithers, BC. I knew that despite my countless questions of the guide staff and all the research in the world that I would still be learning many different lessons along the way. Simply due to the fact that Steelhead fishing in Canada is far different than any other fishing trip I have ever done. So, without further ado, here are just a few of the things that I learned along the way on my first steelhead adventure.
Steelhead Fishing Takes Time, Lots Of Time:
Before arriving to the Bulkley, I had over a year to prepare and get excited about this adventure. So, I dove in head first into the deep end of the world of steelhead fishing and spey casting. The overarching theme of swinging flies for steelhead is this, they are the fish of 1000 casts and you have to fish each run the best you possibly can and have a little bit of faith that a fish is going to be in the area and hungry that day. Steelhead fishing is not a numbers game by any means. The Bulkey river is known for having one of the most prolific steelhead runs in all of Canada and possibly the world. These fish are ridiculously strong and, in most cases, really large. I found out early into the trip that a good day steelhead fishing could mean only one grab or one fish landed. Whereas, a day of 5+ fish landed would be considered the day of a lifetime.
Just to give you an idea of what I mean, I fished the Bulkley for seven days for eight hours a day. Which means, over the course of the trip, I fished hard for round about 56 hours. Over the course of those 56 hours I landed four steelhead. Which means, that by my rough math, I landed a fish for every 14 hours of swinging my flies.
So, as you can see, steelhead fishing can be mentally and physically taxing. However, if you are lucky enough to catch one of these fish chances are it may be well over 30 inches and on the flip side, going home with a zero (skunk) is nothing to be ashamed about. As long as you fished the well that’s all that counts.
Not Catching Fish Can Be Really Fun:
Casting a two handed Spey Rod was completely new for me. With that said, I am hooked. That style of casting is so fun and efficient. There were many hours in the day to practice each different cast that I picked up during the trip. Whether doing a Snap-T or Double Spey I always felt like I was in the zone, and the best part was if I messed up a cast I could just stay in the same area and make a better presentation. By the end of the trip, I had that Loop Evotec / Airflo Skagit Compact combo dialed and fishing the best I could.
This style of fishing was far from boring, despite my personally low catch numbers. However, I don’t see how you could be bored when you are casting a spey rod when at any moment a giant steelhead could climb on and give you a run for your money.
Bring Good Rain Gear & Lots of Layers:
Luckily for me, I had a rough idea that I was going to need some good rain gear and layering pieces for this trip. I figured it would rain, and rain a lot. However, I didn’t expect it to rain every day, all day. My kit included the following, the Simms ProDry jacket, Bicomp Hoody, Exstream Core Top, and a fleece mid-layer, for the top and the Exstream core bottom, fleece midlayer, and wool socks to round out the selection. I think you get the idea, staying dry is the name of the game.
So, at the end of an eight hour fishing day, I was still as warm and dry as I possibly could be.
Try Not To Get Distracted By The Scenery:
Simply put, I come from a desert. Utah itself is very arid and dry, Smithers BC, on the other hand is extremely lush and green. The Bulkley boasts a bunch of breathtaking panoramic views with the occasional moose, bear, or eagle sighting. Let’s just say that, coupled with the long days of fishing, I found myself having a hard time focusing on the task at hand. Luckily, I never missed a hookset or fish grab due to this distraction, which would be entirely possible.
Good People & Great Accommodations Make Failing Easier to Handle:
I have been fortunate enough to travel to many destinations and have had the chance to experience the full range of angling accommodations and let’s just say after all these years I am not too picky. However, after cold, wet, hard day it was really nice to return to the comfort & warmth of the Bulkley River Lodge. The lodge is the classiest place that I have ever had a chance to stay in. Only steps from the river, it has a timeless, rustic look, with massive log beams, vaulted ceilings and a huge stone fireplace in the main seating area. Almost every surface in the main lodge is covered with memories of seasons past. A welcome sight to say the least at the end of the day.
The guide staff at the lodge is one of the most diverse that I have come across in my travels. Each guide is super fishy and knowledgeable however personality wise they are all very different. This fact alone adds a whole different element to each day. But the goal remains the same for each of these great guides. First off, to get you into fish as the angler and second to make sure you feel like you are part of the Bulkley River Lodge family and that your trip is one you will remember for many years to come.
For more on the Bulkley River Lodge visit Fishwest Travel