Someone asked me the other day what my most extraordinary freshwater fishing experience was. A difficult one to answer, but there was one even that stood clearly in my mind. I have always loved steelhead fishing. I love that fact that it can be testing, the fish can be incredibly aggressive and that you catch them in some of the wildest surroundings. On a trip to Northern BC a few years ago I was fishing in September from Nicholas Dean just outside Terrace.
A friend and I had gone a long way up the Copper River by truck and then trekked for about an hour to some pools that receive very little pressure. Our guide was Dustin Kovacvich, the owner of NDL and one of the most respected guides in the area. We had arrived on the river about mid-morning and caught a few lovely fish including a cracker of about 17 ½ lbs.
As the sun began to hit the water on the opposite side we noticed a hatch of insects and small sipping rises occurring. Dustin began to get very excited and explained those were steelhead taking green drake Mayflies, and we might have the rare opportunity to catch them on upstream dry fly. The thought was mind boggling. The three of us linked arms and waded through the heavy water at the tail, and set up the single handed 7 weights that we had brought with floating lines. Dustin produced some Elk fair green drake mayfly patterns that he had tied called the “Copper Mayfly”. Alistair was up first, and almost as soon as he stepped into the water a fish rose above him. He was in his element as he cast upstream and dropped the fly a foot above its head. A nebb rolled over and inhaled the fly and he struck. Normally one would think this would be some small trout, but as he struck the water erupts as a 9 lbs steelhead went ballistic. He did managed to pull it down the pool so as not to spook the others rising freely up the bank, and after a hysterical struggle through the rocks at the tail Dustin landed it. Awesome. My go.
Another fish rose about four feet further up and I cast upstream, letting the fly kiss the surface. The fish slashed sideways and I struck. The steelhead went vertical immediately before again charging around the pool jumping madly. With the single hander I found it much easier to apply maximum pressure and angles against it. Again, a lovely fish of about 10 lbs came to hand. We took another two in quick succession as we worked up the bank, one of Alistair’s being 14 lbs, which is quite a fish to take on a dry fly. We were all slightly in a state of shock that this was actually happening. We asked Dustin to have a cast as well, and he too quickly hooked and landed another bar of chrome.
I then turned around and started fishing downstream with the waking fly again, and had a really savage take about halfway down where the fish came bodily out of the water as it hit the fly, inhaling it in mid-air! This steelhead behaved more like a tarpon as it charged away from me leaping like a mad thing as it went. A lovely 12 lber. I carried on to the lower part, and flicked it down the other side of a large boil. This fish just rolled up sideways from behind it eyeballing the fly as it came up and sucked it down before going down like a submerging submarine. I hit it hard on the strike and all hell broke loose as it felt the hook. These fish were so angry and aggressive it was extraordinary, it was little like being attached to a raging bull. There was a yell from up the bank as Alistair also connected and unbelievably we were into a double hook up on steelhead. Dustin was just chuckling to himself as he helped land both fish. I should also add this is no mean feat as he does not use a net as all these fish are released. It is a question of gingerly bring them in and trying to get a grip on them which is not easy. If they are laid on their side then they remain calm, but as soon as they are turned upright they go ballistic.
We began to pack up as the day had vanished in a steelhead frenzy. All three of us were not quite sure what we had done to deserve a day like that. Catching steelhead up to 14 lbs three feet from the bank on a dead drift dry fly has to be one of the high points in my angling career. We had hooked 20, and landed 16. The three of us began the long slow climb up to the truck through the woods which was a tough hike. I was feeling knackered by the time we got back, but it is always in my opinion worth hiking into areas like that. I felt I had worked for it.
The best chance of ever experiencing this phenomenon is to go in early September and it is only small part of this phenomenal freshwater fishery. For availability and price please click HERE, but if you would like more information then please do not hesitate to contact Steffan Jones or call our office on +44(0)1980 847389.