The C.F. Burkheimer spring steelhead trip was another huge success, and we’ll be heading back next year with room for six anglers from March 30th through April 6th. Brian Styskal and crew hit the conditions perfectly this spring and the fishing was spectacular. Brian was kind enough to send us some great photos, and a full recap of the trip highlights.
The flight into Terrace, British Columbia is breath taking. Snow-capped mountains as far as the eye can see, lakes and rivers appear in the distance and then the Douglas channel comes into view. It’s hard not to notice the tributaries that feed into Douglas channel, and most are seldom fished. There are no roads into these rivers, you either boat in or helicopter in, it’s a commitment to access them and you will be hard pressed to find another human footprint. Definitely one of the most beautiful places on this earth in the spring time, huge waterfalls that plummet from shear rock faces a thousand feet high plunging straight into Douglas channel. The mind starts to flow as you’re thinking about river X and if it might have steelhead in it. Most likely it does. As I settle back in my seat with some good old Zack Brown comin’ in from the head phones it’s hard not to smile a bit and let the imagination wander.
The day before I departed for Terrace I got an e-mail from Wally Faetz telling me to be ready to fish when I got off the plane. Well, he wasn’t kidding around. Justin picked me up at the airport with raft in the back of the truck and we were off for the Kitimat. Waders on, rod rigged, and fully immersed in the flow of the water, I couldn’t imagine a better way to start the trip. It was interesting to see the changes a season will bring to the river. New pools to explore and fish and some familiar pools that seem unchanged from the high water and flooding a wild undammed river can provide.
Later that evening clients Mark Nickerson and David Flood arrive to the Spey Lodge and over an amazing meal prepared by chef Molly we discussed a game plan for the weeks fishing. Owner and head guide Wally Faetz says the Skeena is the best option, all I can think is “hell ya”! This will be the first time I get to fish the lower Skeena, on previous trips we had explored other rivers. The Copper River is brown and it’s starting to turn the lower Skeena a beautiful jade green , the perfect green that all steelheaders know as “go time”. At the end of our incredible meal by my favorite chef in the world it’s decided we are fishing the Skeena river.
It’s difficult to describe the lower Skeena river to an angler. It’s easily two times as wide as my home river, the Skagit. The scenery is stunning, with snow-capped mountains and classic steelhead pools that are easily four hundred yards long. It’s a gentle gradient that is easy to wade and the fish can be in right at your feet, or a 100 feet out there. Under these conditions you can throw your longest cast and expect to hook fish through the entire swing. The 9145-5 was a popular rod for the week, both Mark and David fished it with long, floating lines and lightly weighted flies. The Nextcast lines turn over a brick at distance, the Winter Authority 55 and Fall Favorite 70 were right at home on the big river and a joy to cast. Getting away from the Skagit line was an eye opener for these two gents from NorCal. On the first day they hooked eleven fish, the smallest was around 15lbs, a hen that would not stop until it ran David Flood into his backing twice and may have not been landed if it wasn’t for Wally’s long line netting tactics. These fish seem to have a third gear, maybe it’s just the sheer size of the Skeena and its flow? It reminded me of the Thompson river fish, big steelhead that take the fly viciously and are seemingly headed for another planet.
It was interesting to watch the level of casting rise to the occasion to meet the needs of the Skeena and the fish with in its flows. Wally and I could almost call it when Mark or David was going to hook a fish. There is a direct correlation between good casting and hooking fish. Solid technique brings confidence and keeps an angler alert and focused. The reward is a fish on the end of the line. I have seen it a hundred times and will see it one hundred more. Solid casting puts fish on the beach plain and simple! After a bit of coaching with the long rod and long lines both Mark and David had no problem making the adjustment and when they hit the perfect cast both Wally and I would remark, “there’s a fish”!
85% of the fish hooked and landed were hens in the 15 to 20lb range fresh from the salt. They were almost blinding to the camera lens in the sun. Sun? Yep, we were blessed all week long. There were also a couple of nice bucks hooked that topped the 20lb mark during our trip. Both of them were landed and released unharmed back into the Skeena. The steelhead gods blessed us with a newly formed pool on the Skeena, Mark and David had two Double hook ups in this run. After taking a good look at the water it was obvious, it was the perfect steelhead pool. It is not a long pool, 200 yrds at most, starts in a classic riffle and ends in one. At Speylodge it will now be known as “Double, Double”.
At the weeks end all I could think about was what an awesome trip it had been. I had the privilege of seeing some amazing steelhead thanks to Mark and David’s persistence and focus while fishing. Truly some of the most beautiful steelhead I have ever seen and may ever see. Also, spending time with Wally Faetz, one of the best guides I know. was a pleasure and a learning experience for me. I will be editing pictures and video for months to come from this trip. Each time I start I find something that is amazing that I easily fill an evening with. There is something about spring steelhead fishing that really gets deep into the soul. I have always felt this way, it’s my favorite time of year to chase steelhead and already I am thinking about dates for next year’s trip. Dates are set for 2014 and for those that are interested you should consider booking soon as I believe the trip will fill early for next year.
Many thanks to Wally Faetz and the Spey Lodge staff, Mark Nickerson, David Flood, Chef Molly, and the beautiful steelhead of the Skeena. I can’t wait for next year.
Join us next spring for some of the best steelheading on the planet. Wally Faetz and the Spey Lodge run a world-class program.
Dates: Week 1: March 30 – April 6, 2014; or Week 2: April 7 – 13th, 2014
Contact Nate Koenigsknecht or Kerry Burkheimer for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com