View all posts by Kristy V. Webster. To the north, the Skeena River steelhead summer run is estimated to be just over 15,000, which is less than half of that stock’s long-term average. Chasing Chrome: Vancouver Island Steelhead. My question is, do winter steelhead tend to stack up in the lower reaches before scooting up to the spawning grounds in spring? The Fish of a Thousand Casts. Listed as one of BC’s top steelhead rivers by BC Outdoor magazine, it’s definitely one of my favorite Vancouver Island Steelhead Rivers. The Cowichan is considered an urban river, however you’d never know it. Or do they generally scatter themselves throughout the river system? The skilled fisherman can get 20+ steelhead in a single day. Hatchery enhanced waters include the Stamp, Quinsam, and Quatse. Unlike winter run steelhead, whose single minded pursuit is spawning, the smaller summer run fish are more apt to rise up to take a fly, moving into freshwater when they are still immature to hold until spawning. Head out aboard a Bell 206 Jetranger Helicopter in search of salmon and steelhead in the remote coastal rivers along the coast of Vancouver Island. There is plenty of room, the river isn’t crowded with anglers and you’re surrounded by the tall trees that the west coast is famous for and it’s surrounded by a quiet hiking trail. Best way to experience this river is hiring a guide to do a drift. The fish in this Vancouver Island Steelhead river are known for their fight. A guide is your best bet for getting things right so don’t be afraid to spring for the help. Summer steelhead runs populate most west coast rivers but exist in only a few east coast rivers like the Campbell, the White and the Tsitika. In Region 1. all wild steelhead are catch and release only. These egg hunters have their noses down continually in search of their next tasty meal. 8. Some are wide and slow moving and many are steep, fast and deep. But that one day when the stars align, the conditions are right, fish are in the system (and cooperative) and your presentation is on, reminds you that there is little that can exceed standing in a remote, pristine river, without a soul in sight, fly casting into crystal clear waters for wild and willing sea run trout. When the water is clear enough, look for the fish or their shadows on the gravel below. Listed as one of BC’s top steelhead rivers by, , it’s definitely one of my favorite Vancouver Island Steelhead Rivers. Hatchery enhanced waters include the Stamp, Quinsam, and Quatse rivers. These were introduced back in the 1930’s and they actually took to the system and have survived very well among this ecosystem. Steelhead abundance plummets to all time lows. All the fish I caught in the Ash took my pattern within the first 400 meters upriver from the mouth of the Ash. Although they say you can catch Steelhead in this river year round the peaks are as follows: Sockeye, Chinook, Chum, Pink and Chum Salmon, Rainbow, Dolly Varden, Cutthroat and Kokanee Trout. Vancouver Island is a haven for anglers who seek the thrill of catching wild steelhead! The run is from early June until late July. This river is very beautiful, flowing green with great riffles and is perfectly suited for sports fishing. All of these Vancouver Island Steelhead rivers listed have their own character and need a little time and practice to get to know. Access is great for this river as many great fishing holes are literally a 15 minute drive from Port Alberni. Catching them causes even more stress and leads to reduced populations. And we’re definitely addicted to being out on the flow, chasing the fulfillment of the tug after a solid bobber down. A skilled angler can land several medium sized steelhead in a day out on this pretty river. Our favourite are. The Vedder River is a great local river close to Vancouver, it’s located approximately one and half hours east of the big city, in Chilliwack. This river begins at Port Renfrew and runs up the San Juan Valley and is fed by a few tributaries including the Caycuse and the Harris creek.. Vancouver Island has so much to offer when it comes to fishing. There is a certain trepidation toward disclosing too much classified intel. The fish are typically in the seven-pound range, though double-digit steelies are here as well. Steelhead returns are declining virtually everywhere across Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. Mid 1990s – alarm bells are ringing. Fortunately the Nimpkish Resource Management Board is changing that and returns are increasing again. You’ll need the help of a local or, The Stamp is a great fly fishing opportunity but once the salmon spawn occurs these steelhead won’t even notice a fly. Especially the stretches of white clay are always good for a pleasant surprise. The winter steelhead run in this river is absolutely amazing. Seasons: Winter and Early Spring are the best time to fish this river. There are various access options that accommodate all levels of anglers. Summer-run steelhead still return in healthy numbers to the Skeena and Dean systems. Babine River Upper Skeena tributary. The best holding spots in this river are actually only about 10 to 15 feet wide. The upper section is everything above Stamp Falls, middle is from the Bucket to the falls and everything below the Bucket is considered the lower. Sockeye, Chinook, Pink, Coho, and Chum salmon are all found in the rivers surrounding Vancouver, making Vancouver steelhead fishing just the icing on a delicious cake. This is a remote river and for that reason it's my second favorite Vancouver Island Steelhead Rivers. It does get float plane service if you’re into that sort of thing. wasn’t a Coho. This river is situated on mid Vancouver Island by the town of, you guessed it, Gold River and it flows into the Muchadhat inlet. Angler, Writer, Photographer & Island Angler's Fly Fishing Columnist. They return to their natal streams to spawn with timing that is unique to each location. The best thing about the Cowichan is actually the unique species of brown trout. This article highlights the prevalence, characteristics, and persistence of the Steelhead Trout, otherwise known as the "fish of a thousand casts," in Northern California. Most gear anglers don’t see fly fishing as the most effective way to fish, yet in the shallow, clear conditions of summer, the fly fisherman has a distinct advantage. To be honest, I’ve never gone out of my way to target summer steelhead, but when the time has been right, I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the right place. Very aggressive, they will actively chase down a swung fly or small lure, even rising to a dry fly, making them an excellent fish on the fly. It’s named from the color of the water because it definitely has a golden hue to it, some say it’s from the cedar sediment in the water. We'd like to camp, not in any campgrounds but rather more secluded, and plan on moving about to get a feel for your beautiful island. Even the smaller steelhead in the Nimpkish will fight like a large Steelhead of the other southern rivers. It’s hard to say what is more satisfying, the anticipation of watching the steelhead rise, sip the fly and explode into full on beast mode or the actual experience of a fish, hell-bent on escape, on the end of my line. Steelhead average 22 to 32 inches and weigh 8 to 10 lbs, but have been known to reach over 30 lbs. The main practical difference is that winter runs are notorious for hanging tough near the bottom. Dan Thomson with a beautiful Island steelhead, photo courtesy of Jenna Pollock . All of the 200 plus rivers on Vancouver island are with a day’s drive from anywhere on the island, this makes steelheading on vancouver island very convenient for the locals, but people from all over the world travel here every year to experience the wild rugged west coast and the feisty fish that come with it. On Vancouver Island, summer run steelhead are present either May through August or July through September, with earlier runs the further north you go. The steelhead aren’t as large as some of the main land rivers, averaging in the 10-15lb range for winter run, but there a few bigger ones lurking around! That primal wildness, nearly impossible to contain, is something that possesses us both. The, As with all Vancouver Island Steelhead Rivers, it’s very important to be up to date on, This river begins at Port Renfrew and runs up the San Juan Valley and is fed by a few tributaries including the Caycuse and the Harris creek.. Our favourite are steelybeads. These trophy rainbow trout enter rivers in December through April. WhatsApp. So because of this it is suited to great gear fishing. You are allowed to anchor and fish one of the many great spots. In Region 1, all wild steelhead are catch and release only. The Mahatta River flows westwards from O’Connell lake into Quatsino Sound on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. One being a summer-run of fish from July to October, and the other being a winter-run of fish from December to April. Old rumours say that an Orca made Muchadhat inlet home and ate all the steelhead but they’ve since recovered. It’s also changing regularly and different sections are opening and closing all the time. Lots of high teens to over 20 lb Steelhead inhabit our Vancouver Island rivers. We can provide light tackle spinning gear as well for those who request it. Even now, twenty-five years after Earl and I had our great day, not many people fish the river and very few know it well. we are focusing virtually all our guide efforts on winter-run steelhead. Gear fishing is very productive from October to December, best with egg patterns. Some are wide and slow moving and many are steep, fast and deep. Freshwater fishing has been closed in this area for several summers in a row for this reason. Which stands for Stamp, Somass and Sproat Rivers. Access to the Mahatta River is over rough logging roads from the northern town of Port Alice. There are summer-run steelhead found in other river systems in British Columbia, including the south coast of BC and Vancouver Island but these runs are generally small and guiding services for them are minimal. The possibilities are infinite – drifting a dry fly such as Roderick Haig Brown’s steelhead bee; skating a Grantham sedge cross stream; swinging a soft hackle wet-fly; traditional grease lining broadside with a Blue Charm; or dead drift nymphing a Kaufman stonefly, worm or later in the summer, egg pattern. Someone experienced with this system can get you into the great spots instead of wasting your time in the non-producing areas. But that one day when the stars align, the conditions are right, fish are in the system (and cooperative) and your presentation is on, reminds you that there is little that can exceed standing in a remote, pristine river, without a soul in sight, fly casting into crystal clear waters for wild and willing sea run trout. It boasts easy access and lots of steelhead. rivers. Many anglers will be pulled to the river by the first fish which typically arrive in June, with good opportunity to chase Summer Steelhead through September and into October. Fly fishing for Steelhead on Vancouver Island in British Columbia Canada. To find the ghosts of summer takes blisters and bushwhacking, time spent, sweat shed and miles tread. Winter runs peak late December to late January, but this does vary slightly from year to year depending on conditions. To be honest, I’ve never gone out of my way to target summer steelhead, but when the time has been right, I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the right place. You can also hike in if you know where to go or if you have a jet boat you can launch from Port Renfrew. This river can flood very quickly and become quite dangerous if you don’t have enough experience or know the character of this system. Dancing water, walking pace currents, tail outs, rocks to hold behind/in front of and river bottom depressions are all prime steelhead lies. It is difficult to find reliable data regarding size of summer steelhead returns, but according to the Ecological Reserves Collection, in the early 1990’s, Vancouver Island wild summer run steelhead returns ranged from less than 50 to a maximum of 500 (per river). With wild runs of both Summer and Winter Steelhead, and some numbers of hatchery fish the North Umpqua has earned its reputation as a Steelhead destination. Twitter. There are two different runs of Steelhead in the Vancouver Island area. The summer run of steelhead is just incredible. Known as the fish of a thousand casts for good reason, steelhead are not a fish you can expect to catch day after day. Besides the river is filled with tourists tubing every summer anyway, also not great for fish stress unfortunately. It didn’t take long to realize that I had the catch of a lifetime on, a coveted chromer, and it was going to be a wild ride. These Vancouver Island steelhead fishing trips focus on targeting steelhead on Vancouver Islands’s northern region, including the Nimpkish River, the Salmon River and a variety of others lesser known but equally impressive BC steelhead systems. Summer steelhead are most often found on the west coast rivers of Vancouver Island (most notably Gold River), however they are also present in a few select east coast island rivers. Angler, Outdoor Writer/Photographer and Island Angler's Fly Fishing Columnist A steelhead trout spends two or three years in a fresh water river environment before migrating to the open ocean to feed. With year round guided fishing trips for salmon, steelhead and trout, no matter what time of year you choose to visit we have an adventure of a lifetime waiting for you. Summer-run Steelhead range in size from 3 pounds to 15 pounds, and have a very explosive nature. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! Obviously, in high, fast conditions for winter steelies, sinking lines are the most effective. Part of the appeal of this fishery to me is the element of surprise – my first summer steelhead was caught on the Stamp River while fly fishing for Coho. With the heavy flows of winter, one often wonders how a steelhead can hold so easily in such strong currents. Ghosts of summer, an alias of the summer steelhead, seems a fitting nickname for a species with declining numbers. Part of the appeal of this fishery to me is the element of surprise – my first summer steelhead was caught on the Stamp River while fly fishing for Coho. Given the general downward trend in anadromous fish returns, we can only assume that the run size has not increased. Steelhead Fishing Vancouver Island is some of the most incredible sportfishing on the planet. These egg hunters have their noses down continually in search of their next tasty meal. Steelhead migration: Trying to learn a new river system here on Vancouver Island. It must be the rugged northern spirit. Long before the Kispiox and Sustut, the Dean and the Thompson became the renowned fishing destinations they did the Stamp River, on the central west coast of Vancouver Island, near Port Alberni had a well established reputation among the steelhead angling elite. Many of the same water types that hold summer steelhead will hold winters. Delicate also applies in terms of approach – stealth is an asset. This requires the fly be drifted almost into their face to elicit a strike. Ghosts of summer, an alias of the summer steelhead, seems a fitting nickname for a species with declining numbers. Facebook. Stamp/Somass: Upward of 2,000 steelhead stack up in this Vancouver Island system, most of them below Stamp Falls, 16 kilometres from the Alberni Inlet. The Stamp is a great fly fishing opportunity but once the salmon spawn occurs these steelhead won’t even notice a fly. Unlike Pacific salmon, steelhead trout do not die after spawning. Summer; Fall; Winter; Stamp River Winter Steelhead Winter Steelhead are a distinct run of Steelhead that arrive to their home rivers during the months of December, January, February, March and leave during April. 0. Unlike most Vancouver Island Steelhead rivers, this isn’t a great river for fly fishing, as it’s too narrow in most spots until it nears the ocean. GORDONRIVER: SUMMER STEELHEAD COUNTRY ... until the mid-seventies and beyond that the Gordon began to be known as a great stream among steelheaders of Southern Vancouver Island. To culminate these efforts with one chance to share a line in an epic dual with a rocket propelled chrome enigma is all I need. During the winter months (Dec.-Apr.) And for those who seek a connection with our dinosaur predecessors, there’s always chasing the giant White Sturgeon, found most predominately in the local Fraser River. Spawning anytime from March through May, summer-run steelhead typically enter rivers from June through October. The Gordon has its origins high in the hills south of the West Basin of Cowichan Lake. Practice “keepemwet” fishing to do your part to release fish in the best condition possible and reduce your impact on the fish. Hatchery enhanced waters include the Stamp, Quinsam, and Quatse rivers. Naturally, small, dark flies and lighter tippet usually present better in low and pressured waters, although some days steelheading means that nothing you tie on the end of your line will be right. Often you’ll share the river with Grizzly bears but enormous numbers of summer and fall steelhead, as will be the highlight of your trip. There a few ways to fish this river, and the best way, in my opinion, is by drift boat. They typically weigh in a range from 1.8 to 4.5 kilograms (four to ten pounds). Given the general downward trend in anadromous fish returns, we can only assume that the run size has not increased. Steelhead conservation tag required. Although I was relatively green at fly fishing, I instinctively knew that the leaping and cartwheeling fish on the end of my line wasn’t a Coho. Some say we’re crazy. Keep wild fish wet and remember NO GLOVES. Summer run steelhead, on Vancouver Island, July 1 − 7. Winter run steelhead November to March, peaking January and February, iGuideBC2043 Mable RdShawnigan Lake BCiguidebc@gmail.com250.508.1079. Check the Freshwater Fishing Synopsis on the specific stream you are fishing for specific closures, restrictions and open dates, which are intended to protect steelhead returns. Understanding that this is a bit of a fragile system is important to help get the steelhead numbers back up. 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