October's arrival meant that it was finally time to embark on a long scheduled trip that would take me and two other colleagues to British Columbia. The specific location was the Bulkley River Lodge and the task was a week long steelhead fishing assignment. I packed two handed rods, reels, a variety of lines and tips, Riverwalkers (felt), new S9 Guidewater Waders, the new S9 SST, Shelled Insulator Pants, the Insulator Jacket, the Stormfront Pack, the new S9 Hip Chest Pack, plenty of wool, a small collection of other protos, flies, tools and such. Everything fit in the regular Freightliner and the Guidewater Duffle (Large). Rod tubes were carried separately.
Flying in over the coastal mountains and drainages gave me a sense of the vastness and wild remnants still on the ground. Fall colors were in full swing and the water levels were running a bit low and blue green clear. Just the view from the air made me understand why my professed steelhead bum friends were so passionate about this species and the terrain.
We spent our first night at the Stork’s Nest in Smithers and met up with Tim Pask for dinner. Tim gave us the rundown on fishing expectations, his views on recent Guidewader Wader testing and updates on a range of environmental threats to the wild steelhead fishery we were about to experience. That would be the only path crossing with our friend Tim. His assignment was to connect with the AEG crew for a filming mission on remote sections of some other Metalhead waters.
The following morning we were picked up by Dave “Whitey” Evans and Jimmy Simonelli from the Bulkley River Lodge. We loaded the rigs and headed for the river bank where we would spend the next seven nights. Brian Bennett and I were assigned to cabin #2 which would become technology central. I wasted no time setting up because my first assignment was to get out the door and into the Bulkley River currents with Jimmy. The highlight of the day was a double hook up on a tricky wading ledge section. That would be my only landed fish on day 1 but the ice was broken and I was fully engaged.
The lodge took great care of us throughout the trip. The staff was phenomenal. Coffee arrived at the door each morning, hot breakfast followed, lunches were packed and on the boats, drinks were ready upon return and a ceremonial dinner capped off each day’s steelhead quest. After dinner Whitey would stand and begin a nightly ceremony with a toast, “Good evening, good evening, good evening everyone…” He proceeded to recap the day. The guides then provided award pins for the deserving anglers. Next would be the announcement of the “Prick of the Day” award winner which is a rather unique contest that this lodge created to make light of the events of the day. This helped form a bond between all the guests. At the end of the week a “Prick of the Week” would be crowned. Last came the next day’s assignments, “out the door and up”, “the magical mystery tour” and “in the canyon” were some of the location descriptors. Once this ceremony was completed it was time to digest the events, pix, stories and to prepare for the next day. Getting gear into the drying hut was paramount.
As the days passed I became completely enamored with the people, this place and this fishery. Wind, rain, snow, frost, sun, elk, deer, grouse, raptors, ravens, coyote, bull trout and black bear all made their presence felt as members of this steelhead environment. Friendships were formed that I hope remain into the next years. I highly recommend this wild steelhead adventure to all of you in the Way Upstream community. Keep the fly in the water and believe in every cast.
Here’s a short video of me fighting my largest fish of the trip.
Video by Brian Bennett
Photos by Dave "Whitey" Evans, Jimmy Simonelli, Pat Beahen and Brian Bennett