As long as I have been fly fishing or just fishing in general I have been wondering off to explore areas that have been of interest to us as fishermen. This BC trip up to the renown Skeena system has been long over due, all though most Americans go to the region in search of there steelhead I was on a pilgrimage for Chinook Salmon. The Skeena is known for huge specimens of all anadromus fish not to mention the largest of them all the King or Chinook Salmon as they are called. Plan “A” was to launch the jet boat in the Skeena around the Kallum River and camp on a gravel bar with good swing runs right at out front door. Upon arrival some 20hrs of driving later we find the Morice River of all things totally blowing the Skeena system. We move to plan “B” which was fishing the Kallum itself as it has a huge lake in the headwaters and rarely if ever goes out turbidity wise to fishing. From the banks of the Kallum we realize the stars are not aligning and for that matter not even in the sky as the Kallum looks like the Queets in Washington with 9 inches of visibility, the flows not too bad but turbidity was terrible. After consulting the group we decide on heading for the Kitimat River about 45 minutes west. As we arrive we are elated to find beautiful three foot visibility with that sexy blue gray look of glacial rivers in prime shape. All though flowing rather fast it is fishable.
For myself, after driving two days straight I was looking for a home run the first day. We all decide to split up into teams two in the Jet boat running up the mouth from the salt channel and three in pontoons launching 6 miles up river from camp. Which by the way was right next to the town of Kitimat, not what we had envisioned but it was 3rd choice and last minute at that. I LOVE fishing tidal water or as close to it as I can get when it comes to Salmon and this was only that. The Kitimat is only accessible by law to a certain point in the system and above that must be accessed with out power. We negotiated the piles of stumps and logs at the mouth of the river and up we went to find two other jet boats already there, one was the guy camping by us whom directed us there. As we run upstream everyone is kindly waving and all friendly, we flew right past the marker on the tree about forty feet off the water. Passing gravel bars with campers and punkers we figure we must be too far up and hastily run back down getting below all traffic and decide on a fine bar with a sweet inside having depth and slow speed off the main current, bingo perfect! Three cast later I am hooked up into a 20 pound sea lice bearing chrome Nooky, great battle, fun landing with Jesse all pumped up , quick pic and away she went. Phil hits the spot five casts and another, and so we hit the mother load and stumbled onto the real deal. Soon after we land that fish a dude pops out on the far bank and yells over ” I think you guys are too far up for that Jet Boat” oops…We thank him, dive in the craft knowing just 45 minutes ago we screamed by 75 dudes lined up on various gravel bars and the law may be coming our way! Motoring down not five hundred yards and there’s the white triangle across river from some other boats that we were waving as we went by, stopping in there a great bunch from Alberta and laughing there ass off as they knew what had just transpired. We find out later that everyone waving us on figuring we were the law as they run around in a camo jet boat kinda like mine…Un able to reach the good bar we fish the less desirable bar for a while then move down and join the plugging crew, nobody was catching them, they all figured they just did not run that day, we figured we just got away with some damn good luck!
Since nobody but myself liked fishing a tidal zone we moved up the river and fished from pontoons for the next three days. Every day hearing how lucky we were to NOT have been arrested for a simple mistake. We were those dudes, the guys talked about on the river, stumbling around and into some nice fish the day the whole river went skunko. The Kitimat has wonderful steelhead water in the upper stretches and very good everything water in the middle 10 miles, but poor swinging cause of the inability to get out on the banks, at least at these levels. The lower 10 mile zone was a parade of boats plugging the deep runs and pools as there is no bait allowed anywere so every one was doing the same thing. Plugging from boats or jigging with 1/2 – 1 ounce black or purple jigs on spin poles. We seen 2 other fly fishermen outside our group of five.
Phil and I fished as a team and we managed 2 fish a day between us with a couple lost each day as an average, that with going skunko twice, the day we went and checked back at the Skeena and the last 1/2 day. The other three in the group all caught one each but for Bob he managed three for the week one with a guide trip they took. As usual the Canadian guides are chaperones when it comes to fly fishing, and that comes from fishing with them. As our week winded down the river dropped fast and much became more fishable and in hindsight I should have revisited the bottom end as I think it would have looked much better with two feet less water. All in all we fished a river none of us had ever seen before and caught just as many as the local guides and gear anglers and had a blast seeing new water every day, every bend, and that in itself is worth the price of admission.
As we drove past the Skeena on the way home it had dropped and cleared substantially and were it not for the Morice River blowing it out we would have found it in great shape and the outcome could have been much different. The Kallum remained too dirty as well. Both of these surprised us as historically they were both hardy drainages that ran clear water for most of the time even with seasonal rains. By the time we drove past Smithers and the mouth of the Bulkley we had counted twenty jet boats heading for the Skeena Chinook fishery…
I guess we should of been there NEXT week..
Thanks for subscribing , Jeff Brazda