Sometimes I feel like the desire to explore tugs at me more than my desire to catch a fish. The lure of exploring a river you have never seen before and the possibility of finding a new run or pool is just as satisfying and landing the next slab. We had planned this years big exploration late fall last year, well that is at least when the idea was born. We were tossing around a few ideas, but finally decided on one river which we had heard good things about. Over the winter we google mapped like crazy, found forgotten stories from fishermen long gone, spoke to some locals that had been and let it all fuel our appetite to get on the water.
Winter and spring came and went. It was finally time to load up the truck and head up the dirt road. The drive was pretty typical for our neck of the woods. Dry dusty dirt roads, a couple of cows and twists and turns as we headed up into the mountains. A little over two hours on the road and we caught the first glimpse of the water that would become our home for the next couple days. As we drove along the water it was calling to us. Every riffle, every run and every pool looked like it was going to hold fish. We had finally stopped to take a better look at an amazing pool and low and behold our friendly neighborhood river ambassador pulled up as well. We are on a first name basis with the local river ambassador’s at this point so it was our usual pleasant conversation and he even gave us some tips for the fishing to come and pointed out some camping spots.
We continued up the road and eventually came upon the exact spot the river ambassador had told us about. There was a nice field surrounded by pine and spruce trees all around. We had decided to give hammock camping a go this time around so trees were a must. We quickly setup the hammocks in the trees right by the water’s edge then proceeded to dig out the fly rods. We wanted to get on the water this first evening before the sun had abandoned us. We headed downstream from our campsite and almost immediately came upon a decent pool. It was only a matter of a few casts before we were into a few nice Westslope Cutthroat. We were feeling really good about the day as it had only been ten minutes on the water and already there were fish in the net. We continued to make our way downstream looking for another run or maybe a pool. I had worked over a small run and then continued down stream. Only a minute or two after leaving that spot my brother moved in to give it a try. Within seconds he was yelling at me to get back up there. Turns out I am blind and there were at least four or five decent Bull Trout hanging out in the tail end of the pool. I am pretty notorious for not seeing anything in a pool, but to my defense I am partially color blind. My brother on the other hand is a serious Bull Trout spotter and this came in handy on this trip time and time again. Well, my brother spotted them so he took the first crack at them. Remembering what we read from Jake’s Nymphing For Bull’s article my brother went directly for a red dirty worm. Only about five casts in it paid off! Needless to say my brother was stoked! The excitement for this trip as at an all time high.
I had caught one myself a few minutes later, but we called it after that to head back to camp. It was time to eat and get things a little more organized. As the sun was setting over the mountains it was becoming fairly clear we had made a grave mistake. I don’t know if we were at a much higher elevation that I had anticipated or maybe there was a cold front being pushed in from the north, but I’ll be honest…. It was getting freaking cold. Leading up to leaving for our trip it had been lows of around 17 to 20 degrees celsius (62 to 68 fahrenheit) and honestly I had been sleeping outside in my yard for weeks leading up to this; most of the time being too warm. We both had decided to pack very light in the sleeping department thinking it was going to be super warm and the open air of the hammocks was going to be rather refreshing. Well, we ended up basically wearing every piece of clothing we owned and toughing it out. It ended up getting down to 4c (40f) that night and it was possibly one of the worst sleeps on my entire life. Now, I know in the grand scheme of life and the human race it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it could have been, but for us in the moment it sucked about as bad as anything could have. When the sun finally broke the next morning I was probably more stoked than catching the fish the night before.
Once we were both on our feet again, could feel our fingers and had some hot coffee in us we decided right there that was going to be the first and last night we slept there. But we still had the entire day ahead of us and we were going to make the most of it. We packed up our camp and headed further upstream to explore some more. Not far up the road we had spotted a creek flowing in the river and creating a very nice pool. After finding a parking spot a little further up the road we geared up and started hiking down the river. The first thing we stumbled upon was piles and piles of tiny frogs. There was a ton of algae in the water in the area so something was going on, but the frogs seemed to love it. Once we made it to the confluence we started working the seams and drops to some success. Nothing was particularly amazing and thus we did not stay very long. Back to the truck!
We decided to head back down the river to places we had spotted on our original drive in. As we were making our way down the road we were surprised to see as many people on the water and the road as we did. We had thought that being up there during the week would have felt like a ghost town. Sadly some of the spots we wanted to look at had people already in them, but we kept heading back down the road. We ended up at the spot where we bumped into the river ambassador. Staring down in the pool from above there was an older couple already fishing that spot, but we figured we would still head down say “Hi” and ask which way they were heading. As we were walking along the bank we stared into the dark depths of this pool. It look me a bit to realize what I was looking at, but it was easily the biggest Bull Trout I had ever seen. There is obviously no way to know the exact size, but I was worried to have my brother’s dog swimming in that pool. We exchanged greetings with the couple and found out they were heading down stream and thus we decided to give them all the space they needed and headed the opposite way.
We were not immediately rewarded for our decision, but I feel no need to crowd people while out on the water. The first few spots were pretty much a bust, but we continued walking upstream over log jams, around bends and through the brush. We found ourselves staring into a cookie cutter section of water that was fast riffles ending in a deep pool. It was clear as day there was going to be some fish here. It wasn’t long before my brother was spotting the white stripes on the fins of a bull. Then he started counting them, three, four, five, maybe one or two more that we could see. We rigged up the rods with what we wanted to throw and began our assault. My brother stayed true to the nymphing game, but for some reason I had to decided to switch over to streamers. I was fishing the top end of the pool just where the riffles were crashing down creating a torrent of white water. Out of nowhere something crushed my streamer, I was completely taken by surprise given how close the fly was to my feet. I made a super newbie mistake managing my line and he was gone only after a few seconds into the fight. I was truly upset at this moment and couldn’t believe I had done something so stupid. I know it happens to everyone once in awhile, but right then I was utterly gutted. Now, I don’t recall the exact events, but I am guessing I was sitting on the bank crying into my hands when my brother picked up the streamer setup and began tossing that. A little bit of time had passed and I decided to stop being a big baby and ended up on the the nymphing setup. There was a nice sized bull in the tail end of the pool that had been eluding us for awhile, but I knew I could get him. I am not going to lie, it took me an absurd amount of casts to finally get the correct drift at the right height in the water column, but when I did it was game on! We had been using fairly heavy tippet on the nymphing rig as we wanted to be able to land these fish as quickly a possible and get them back into the water. And I am happy to say I did just that! This was my favorite fish of the trip and the one I remember the most. The funny thing is we still had hours on the river that day and found numerous more pools and runs as we hiked further up the river.
The exploration was worth it for us once again. We learned a few things like the weather in BC is BS and don’t count on it, ever. Honestly, we should have already known this, but sometimes you have to suffer before a lesson really sets in. We also learned that this a river we will return too time and time again. The absolute beauty of the area would have been enough to come back, but the amazing fishing just put it over the top. I know this was an absolute novel of an article so if you made it this far thanks for hanging in there. I could have kept going on about this trip for another eight or nine paragraphs, but maybe that’s a story for another time. Tightlines everyone and never stop exploring!