Its now february and the winter steel have come into the rivers, big, chrome, and healthy. But we cant forget their T-shirt weather brothers and sisters in the months past. Here's a re-cap of this past summer steelhead season.
Words cannot describe what happens on this river. The fish, the birds, the wildlife, the ecosystem as a whole is a piece of art. Located on the North Coast of British Columbia, the Dean River is both remote, and yet well known. Accessed only by boat, plane, or helicopter, it is situated in paradise. Lush coastal rainforests, glacial fed streams, the birds, bears and fish are what accompany you while you're there.
Now what we are here for... The Fish:
Set aside in a class of their own, Dean fish are the powerhouses of the anadromous world. Straight out of the Pacific Ocean, these guys and gals are ready to 'play'. BIG BRIGHT AND STRONG. They nose into the estuary and enter the river in a craze. Just leaving the feed in the salt chuck to return in order to begin their long spawning process, these fish are on the hunt. Connecting with one on the lower river is something on its own. Whether it be steelhead or chinook, 1 of 2 things is going to happen. You are either going to get your socks knocked off, or, you are going to need a ride back to camp to change your bottoms. Its plain and simple, these rockets are ready for take off, and your fly, and line in tow.
Flies for the Dean:
The great debate, "What to use?" Well here are some recomendations. In this corner, weighing from approx. 10-65lbs, Oncorhynchus Tshawytscha (Chinook Salmon) Some of the chromest, and hottest chinook you will ever encounter return to the dean, in the months of may, june and july. Fish of such power, that 2 handed spey rods in the 9-11wt are a standard, with 200 yards of backing being undergunned. Tippet? How does 15-25lb maxima ultragreen sound. You could hold a 747 Airliner back, but you can't stop these guys. On to flies, certain colours have been discovered to work excellent for nooks'.
Blue/Chart: The fly of all flies, blue and chartreuse is an excellent combo when targeting chrome anything. Not only will it get demolished by the nooks, but the first early steel that enter the river at this time in the season climb all over it.
Variations of the fly can be whipped together: With the chinook, profile and movement is more of the concern, rather than colour. BIG and IN THEIR FACE!
Here is the proof to the madness:
Now to the real contenders and what most fishermen head to the Dean for. In the other corner, with a title of "The fish of a thousand casts" Oncorhynchus Mykiss (Steelhead) Ranging in the weight class from 6-30lbs, built of muscle and filled with piss and vinegar, these babies are what stories are made of. They can be tackled with single hander or spey rod, floating or sinking line, dry and subsurface flies, you can tell they are players. Once the steelhead enter the Dean they are on a mission to go upstream, and on this mission they take interest to other fish, obstacles, and unfortunate creatures in the water, one of which may be your fly. Fish of ten pounds have been known to take people to the arbor knot on their spool. They are not to be played with. Tuck in your shirt and do up your collar, because they are an encounter never forgotten.
When the fish are fresh from the sea, they don't really care what it is. Personally I have seen the results of pink and orange, and you can't argue that they don't work. Even late running chinook will pick up an un-expecting steelhead fly with no problem at all.
IF IN DOUBT, FISH PINK!!!! There is no 2 ways around it, pink is a colour that isn't left out of a box headed towards the Dean and its fish. The cool thing about tying flies for steelhead and salmon is that you can mix and match so many different variations, that no two are usually the same.
After talking in so many people about their experiences, and fishing hours on the river. Its got me to a point of dying craze to go. There is no other fishery like it, and no other that I want to experience more.