Tuesday, October 14, 2008


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


schnitzerPHOTO said...

Nicely done - a beautiful summary of the quintessential BC steelhead experience.

Unknown said...

it's the big ones that always get away...nicely done sir! thanks for representing with the fsm t-shirt. looks like a decent work r+d assignment. wow.

Brambor said...

wow. nice video.

Love this line:
...and believe in every cast.

El Pescador said...

Thanks for the comments Brambor and Travis. I'm glad you guys both appreciated the video. Casey, Brian and Whitey saw that the fish was a "kahuna" so they stopped to watch. Luckily Brian pulled out the video camera to document the event. He nabbed a few stop action frames and you can see that the male steelhead was a slab.

Anonymous said...

Nice fish! Wish I could have been there.

Taco Meeuwsen said...

Ooooh! I can feel the loss there with you Steve. Great shoot! Monster fish!

El Pescador said...

I wish you could have been there too Marie. Note that you can run up to Pulaski and chase the lake run version of this critter if the time ever presents itself.

Taco, thanks for the comment. The video does convey my sense of loss. I'm glad it allows the viewer to feel something too. Great blog by the way - http://hocuslocus.blogspot.com/. I especially appreciate the Patagonia related posts.

Tim Pask said...

Howdy El Pescador,

It was a pleasure to down a few beers with you and Team Fish before you proceeded to put together an epic week. The low water was a bit concerning, but it didn't slow you down a bit, which is great.

That looked like a huge fish that escaped after a long battle. It won't be the last one and makes for great folklore for years to come. Bennett should have dropped the camera and thrown his body on the fish........

I am just back from a 12 day float with the AEG Media crew. I managed to bust a finger, hit my thumb with a machete, fall in a few times, but at least I picked up a water born bug that has haunted me non-stop for going on 6 days. I will spare you the nasty details, but be assured I was the entertainment for the last few days of the trip.

Water temps were down to 43 and several nights were well below freezing. The gear worked great!! I am still amazed how comfortable the new waders are. I turned them inside out every 3 or 4 days and put them in my sleeping bag to make sure the booties were 100% moisture free before putting them on. It made a huge difference to creating that dry feeling throughout the day.

I was also amazed just how water proof the Guidewater Jacket is. it seems far to light to be such a extreme use jacket. A few days it really tore us up, but I was 100% waterproof top-to-bottom and completely comfortable.


A big thanks to Justin Crump for the wader in the sleeping bag trick, which made a huge difference over a 12 day period.

All the best

El Paskador

El Pescador said...

Thanks for the report El Paskador. I'm looking forward to seeing the fish (and gear) on film. I hope you and Dylan get into 'em. Thanks for sharing Justin's sleeping bag trick. Stay warm.

Anonymous said...

Hola Senor Stracqualursi!

Just home from BC and I thought I’d send you a report/gear review. Fishing was up and down, but through it all I thoroughly enjoyed being able to hang out with my great friend, photographer Tim Pask. When we had overcast nights and generally “warm” air temps in the low 40’s, fishing was stellar, including an epic 12 fish day. When the north wind brought clear night skies or distant headwater rain caused rising water, it was tough. Those conditions, though, provided great gear-testing opportunities, under what would normally be pretty uncomfortable fishing/wading conditions.

On mornings when we had to break ice to launch the boat and the rod-guides froze solid as you fished, I found I was incredibly warm, comfortable and relaxed in “max warmth” clothing. Here’s what I wore for insulation: Lightweight Hiking Crew Socks under Heavyweight Mountaineering Socks, Capilene 3 Bottoms under Micro Puff Pants, Capilene 3 L/S Crew under the R1 Flash Pullover and a DAS Parka. My shell consisted of prototype Guidewater Waders with the incredible wool-grid lined neoprene booties, Deep Wading Jacket (which surprisingly fit fine over the DAS) and old knit-wool sherpa hat over a ball cap.

Sounds like a ton of gear, but with the Micro Puff Pants and the DAS Parka, I felt like I was floating in a cloud of warmth, even as I was breaking through ice and standing in 36 degree water for hours on end. This “puffy” stuff is a remarkable system for cold weather fishing, and I couldn’t be happier with how it worked.

Some specifics: Riverwalker Boots: Lighter, tougher and more supportive than anything else out there. It’s remarkable how much less fatigued you are at the end of the day because of their light weight and strong support. Socks: The Heavyweight Mountaineering Socks with the felted merino bottoms are awesome—they wick like crazy and cushion feet in a cradle of warmth. Guidewater Waders: The merino wool-grid booties are a real breakthrough for wicking moisture (and preventing “clammy” feet) while creating critical dead-air space for warmth around your feet. Micro Puff Pants/DAS Parka: There is just nothing like puffy when you need serious warmth, and this system, while it may make you look like the Michelin Man, provides a level of comfort in cold weather that’s hard to believe. Riverwalker Vest: Keeps gear close to your body and easily accessible—the perfect steelhead vest. Only improvement for a steelheader would be to add hand warmer pockets for your free hand while fishing through.

Bottom line is that I have never fished temps this low and felt so comfortable.

On another note, the politics surrounding the Skeena fisheries continues to swirl, with the latest issue being the so-called “Quality Waters” initiative. If you haven’t heard, the latest proposal on the table would greatly impact non-resident anglers to the region with guided-only angling on the Copper and Kalum, eight-day limited permits distributed by lottery for the Bulkley and Kispiox, and weekends reserved for locals only. The results of this, should it be implemented, will have a huge affect on local non-lodge businesses and the fishery itself, as a majority of funding to stop fish-killing resource extraction comes from these very non-residents. If you fish these waters or want to someday, I urge you to make your thoughts known on the Minestry's survey website: http://wlapwww.gov.bc.ca/ske/qws/feedback. Believe it or not, they are looking at the results and your voice is important.

Guess that’s about it for my report. After months of being mentally bogged down with the politics of steelhead conservation, it was refreshing to be able to simply fish for them and spend time with a good friend on the river.