Bulkley River steelhead fly fishing

Fishing instructor, fly fishing tuition and fishing trips based in Scotland. Salmon and trout fishing advice, flies and articles.

Preparing for a steelhead fishing trip

Leaping steelhead
Preparing for a steelhead fishing trip. (Leaping steelhead).

My preparation for a steelhead fly fishing trip to the Bulkley River is having suitable flies and deciding which tackle to take along. It soon became obvious that the large single hook flies that I had used on previous trips have fallen from grace and most anglers are now using “stinger” style flies or tube flies. The best colours are apparently blue and black and so I set to work with my limited supply of suitable materials making a few tube flies in the intruder style hoping that they would not attract too much scorn from my Canadian fishing buddies! And just to make sure that I had all the bases covered a visit to the Iron Bow Fly Shop in Calgary found me with a selection of new fly characters and who could resist such names as Burnt Chicken, String Leech, Foxee Dog, and Foxee Prawn. It seems that I can never have too many flies; it’s just very odd that I seldom seem to have the right one attached to my leader! Catch & release for steelhead is mandatory in BC and only single barbless hooks can be used. Given that steelhead are amongst the feistiest fish encountered by fly fishermen single barbless hooks must one imagine result in fewer fish coming to hand, yet it’s really quite amazing how well these short shank stinger hooks hold and yet how easily they slip free to release. Perhaps the time when similar hook restrictions may apply to C&R fishing in the UK and elsewhere may not be long in coming?

When I first visited Canada twenty something years ago double handed rods were rarely used there, nowadays they are the preferred option for steelhead fishing throughout North America. They have not only been adopted (with both hands!), they and methods of using them have been evolved to suit their particular techniques and in most instances these methods have due to their success and perhaps also due to their ease of use found favour with salmon anglers everywhere. It appears that most steelhead and salmon anglers particularly on medium and large rivers have abandoned long head Spey lines preferring instead to use shooting heads. These were originally popularised by the Scandinavians using lengths of about 3 times rod length (usually 40 something feet) but since then they have been made shorter and stouter into the popular “Skagit” lines which are usually about 23ft long and designed to be used in conjunction with sinking tips of various lengths and densities to achieve the desired presentation. With so many different line types available it’s not surprising that many anglers, especially those new to salmon fishing are baffled by the choices, who isn’t?

Ally with a nice steelhead
Bulkley River steelhead

Dilemma would sum up my thoughts when choosing tackle to take on flights, especially when transfers are involved, should I risk packing my favourite rod and best reel fearing that they might go amiss or should I select less expensive gear that is adequate and serviceable? I never risk taking anything that is precious to me, on this trip I took a 14ft 3in #9 six piece Sharpes rod which easily packs into my duffle bag, a mid-priced Orvis large arbour reel with shooting line and a selection of shooting heads. Just in case conditions would suit dry fly fishing I also took an inexpensive 9ft #8 seven piece rod with reel and a WF floating line. The remainder of my kit was several spools of different sizes of Seagaur fluorocarbon, and as usual too many boxes of flies, dries, wets, tubes and streamers. Felt soled boots are best for the Bulkley, I treated mine with a solution of Virkon disinfectant (easily obtainable from Amazon and others) and dried them thoroughly before packing them. (I will disinfect them again before using them elsewhere.) Clothing included breathable waders, jackets and lots of warm socks, tops, fleeces, pants and down shirts for layering which were necessary because we experienced temperatures varying between 20degC to -10degC and everything from cloudless sunny skies to blizzards during our stay. It’s always better to stay warm than to try to get warm! Bulkley steelhead fishing page 2

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Copyright 2007 Alastair Gowans AAPGAI and FFF Master and THCI, APGAI. All rights reserved.