Just home from a little visit to the remote central coast of British Columbia with my good buddy, Yvon. And when I say remote, I mean a 35-mile open-water boat ride in a 17-foot skiff from “town,” and a near-complete lack of infrastructure. But that’s pretty much what it takes these days to chase steelhead in places where you don’t see any other anglers. That’s Yvon and our host, Will, checking out the solitude in front of camp.
Lack of infrastructure means it takes a little effort to even get to the fishing. From camp, we had an hour run to the mouth of the river, then hauled personal rafts up to the put in. Then we dragged the boats down a little tributary to the main water, and due to lack of rain, dragged them many more times throughout the day. Above, Will and Yvon look for enough water to float.
But the river itself–and the surroundings–are spectacular. Tannin-stained water, old-growth spruce and cedar forest, large, unsilted cobble everywhere. We worked our way downstream, stopping to fish every bit of swingable water. The lower we floated, the better it got…and better yet, not another angler in sight. In fact, some of these runs probably haven’t been fished in years, if ever. Below, Yvon goes old school with a floating line and comet.
Finally, as we neared the mouth, the tide ran out, revealing a series of perfect pools. And the tide had brought us some gifts. To be continued…
Apologies for the long gap in posts here, but I’m just home from a little trip up north. It started with a surprise birthday party for my good friend and conservation mentor, Bruce Hill, who lives in Terrace, British Columbia. But what self-respecting steelhead bum visits Skeena Country in September without fishing? So the trip turned into a weeklong gig with Bruce and another great fishing buddy and mentor, Yvon Chouinard. I also got to spend some time with Gerald Amos, yet another longtime friend from whom I continue to learn. Hanging with these three environmental superheroes is inspiring, educational and a ton of fun. That’s YC above, giving Bruce and me a tenkara fly rod demonstration. (The remarkably fun and simple tenkara technique uses a rod without a reel, and I actually caught a fish the first time I tried it.)
As luck would have it, fishing was lousy. Headwater rains following a summer-long drought had the Skeena running low and dirty, and most of the fish had already moved through the lower sections. But fishing was really the smallest part of the whole trip. Mostly it was about hanging out with good friends, cooking together, eating and telling stories. And boy, did we eat. We were joined for part of the time by Chef Colin Sako and had free run of the Hill family’s incredibly well-stocked freezer. Wild mushroom season was in full swing, too, with matsutakes (aka pine mushrooms), chanterelles, oysters and porcini sprouting throughout the nearby woods. In the picture above, Bruce and YC are just getting started with appetizers of coho ikura (which we made from a gorgeous silver we caught earlier that day) and white king salmon sashimi. The main course involved lightly smoked black cod broiled with balsamic vinegar glaze, salt-broiled coho bellies and aromatic matsutake mushroom rice. A truly memorable meal. Hard to believe, but by the end of the week, we’d eaten that whole bowl of salmon eggs–over chicken eggs and toast for breakfast, on crackers and bread for snacks and on pretty much everything else at dinner.
We did find a few fish, too. Had to range far and wide, bust brush, scramble down steep banks and, one day, even hike across a wildly beautiful lava field to reach good water. I think a lot of it was simply to work up an appetite for the evening meals we dreamed up while fishing. That’s me with a 37-inch hen steelhead taken on the last day. Huge thanks to Bruce, Anne, Julia, Aaron, Amanda and Zosha Hill, YC and Malinda, Colin, Bob Clay, Tom Derry, Lindsey, Lisa and everyone else who pitched in to make it a week I will savor for a long time.
This is a short fish story I wrote a couple months ago, now published in the current Patagonia catalog. That sweet image was shot by my good friend, Tim Pask, who captures some of the best stuff out there. If the jpeg is too hard to read, click HERE and check it out on their website. Hope you like it.