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B C Steelhead 2nd Time Around

Oct 14, 2014 | Mike Lawson

Last September I accompanied a group of four anglers to Nicholas Dean Lodge. The lodge is located near Terrace, British Colombia. We booked the trip through Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures with my son Shaun. We had a great time but the fishing was very difficult because the weather had been bright and warm for the past several weeks and there weren’t a lot of fish moving through the Skeena River System. I was really impressed with the number of fishing options in a wide variety of rivers so I decided give it another try trusting that there would be more fish in the rivers and that the weather would be better for steelhead fishing. We scheduled another trip for the second week of October this year.

A.J. Campbell, a surgeon from Columbus, Ohio who accompanied me last year came back again. A. J. guided for Henry’s Fork Anglers back in the early 80s. Gary Grigg and Tony Schiavo also joined me on this trip. We got our first wish as there were plenty of fish in the rivers. The second wish for better weather was a complete dichotomy of the previous year. In fact we never saw the sun in five days of fishing.

A J Campbell with a hefty buck steelhead

It was raining hard when we arrived in Terrace where we were met by Chad, the operations manager, who took us to the Pioneer Lodge. It had been raining for three solid days and the Skeena River and surrounding waters were completely unfishable. I had visions of a long day of sitting around the lodge. Instead, our fishing outfitter, Dustin Kovacvich, took A.J. and me on a tour of the surrounding waters while guide, Sky Richard, took Gary and Tony to the river for some great spey casting instruction.

Gary Grigg, guide Dustin Kovacvich, and a typical Coho from the Kasiks

When we sat down for dinner the first evening we knew it would be a great week. The food was exceptional. After a great breakfast the following morning our guides loaded up and we headed for the river. While the best steelhead rivers were still out of whack the Kasiks River was clear and fishable. While the Kasiks doesn’t support a strong steelhead run it provides superb Coho (Silver) Salmon fishing. I was surprised to see clear water given what the other rivers looked like. We found pods of fresh Cohos in all of the runs and pools. I’ve caught Cohos a number of times in Alaska but never as large or as fresh as the fish we found in the Kasiks. More important, we caught most of our fish by sight fishing. You can imagine what a thrill it is to cast to a sighted fish and hook up with a 20 lb fresh Coho. Later in the week when I was back at the Kasiks with Gary Grigg, a fresh Coho yanked my 890-4 ZAxis Sage rod out of my hand. I had the drag cranked down pretty tight and the fish took rod, reel and line to places unknown and I never saw the rod again, $1200 retail value donated to the river. Sometimes the fish win!!


By our third day the steelhead rivers were still marginal but A.J. and I decided to go for it while Tony and Gary went back to fish for Cohos. Our guide was Scotty Young who took us to the Upper Kalum. There couldn’t have been more than 6” of visibility in the murky water and it was hard to imagine catching a fish under such conditions. Yet about 10am when the T-11 sink-tip had almost completed its swing, the line pulled tight. The water exploded and a 3 foot slab of chrome launched into the air and shot down the river. After a strong battle with my 12’6” Sage spey rod I beached the steelhead where Scotty grasped the tail of the fish. After a couple of photos I slipped the beautiful hen back into the water to complete her journey to the headwaters of the Kalum.

Guide Scotty Young tails a steelhead

A couple of hours later A.J. was into another fish. This time it was a male about the same size as my fish. Later he landed another smaller fish and we each had a couple more grabs but didn’t hook up. Not bad for a day when it looked like we had no chance. The following day Tony and A.J. went back with Scotty where they each landed a couple more steelhead. Scotty reported that Tony hooked up with one of the largest steelhead of the year that likely topped 20lbs. Unfortunately, after a long battle with the fish running downstream over 100 yards, the fish came off. It’s a memory Tony will have with him for a long time. By Friday the rain powered up again and shut us down but we all came home with some great memories and hopefully, we can go back again.

Tony Schiavo landing a steelhead (note the murky water)

I wish I could go back to Nicholas Dean next year but I have other obligations. However, if you want to go please let us know here at Henry’s Fork Anglers.

I can’t say enough about the great job from Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures. I’ve been in the guiding and outfitting business for about 40 years now and I’ve worked with a lot of travel companies as well as setting up and hosting trips directly with individual lodges and outfitters. I have done many hosted trips over the years but I had almost completely given up because of problems that I frequently encountered.  I have never worked with anybody who takes care of you from preparation, execution, and follow through like they do. From now on Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures will be our exclusive travel partner. We will do everything in our power to make sure you have a great experience and we can insure that will happen when you book your next travel adventure with us.

A great finish to a great day in the hot tub

We are very proud to have two members of our gang, my son Shaun, and guide John Hudgens, working for Yellow Dog. It is very hard to get dates with Nicholas Dean Lodge but I’m confident that Shaun will arrange a block of time next year. Again, if you want to go please let us know as soon as you can. I will also be hosting a trip to Pesca Maya Lodge in Yucatan with my wife Sheralee in early December. This is a fundraising trip sponsored by the Henry’s Fork Foundation through Yellow Dog Fly Fishing. Unfortunately this trip is completely full but we plan to do more hosted trips moving forward. If you want to join with us in the future, please let us know and we’ll keep you on our list. We would also appreciate it if you look at the Yellow Dog website and let us know if there is a specific place you’d like to go. I’m sure we can make it happen.