Stalking Steelhead on the Upper Squamish

Living abroad creates challenges regarding family Christmas presents. I was unable to go home for Christmas but despite my absence my parents very kindly treated me to a days guided fishing.

I had already done a day on the Squamish river with Austin, from Chromer Sports Fishing, so this was my first port of call in the hope of trying to track down a steelhead trout. A steelhead is a sea run rainbow trout and are notorious for being one of the hardest fighting fish. A bucket list fish! The steelhead was the primary goal but I might also catch bull or cutthroat trout which would be a bonus as I haven’t caught either before.

Austin picked me up at 7 and we headed towards Squamish, discussing the plan and tactics on the way. The previous time we had fished the Lower Squamish but today we headed to the Upper Squamish.

We drove 15km down a dirt track, way off the beaten path and left the world and phone signal behind. There were a few people camping but they hadn’t emerged from their tents yet so we put the rods together and set off towards the river.

It’s amazing to see how variable the river is. At full flow it’s probably 100m wide but in March the water level is low as the snow hasn’t started to melt. We walked across what later in the year will be a raging river.

On the river bed there were broken clay pigeons as clearly people come up here and mess around, it’s also apparently a great area for elk hunting. Austin had once seen wolves while fishing this area which is the one animal I would love to see. Not likely, but you never know!

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Time to get cracking and we started with a quick recap of the spey cast but it comes back to me quicker each time now I am fishing on a more regular basis. Not perfect by any means but I can cast a decent line.

As you cast and wait for the your line to swing downstream you have the opportunity to inspect the surrounding scenery! Breathtaking is about the only word I can use to describe this place….

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As always I just love being in the river surrounded by astonishing scenery. We were lucky that it was a beautiful day but this also made it quite chilly! Fishing takes you to some amazing locations but I am struggling to think of a more beautiful spot. Alaska was amazing with the expanse but here the mountains were right on me and the snow definitely helps.

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I worked my way down the pool focusing on the tail as apparently this is where steelhead like to hang out.

We continued down river through a number of pools. I was having the best time, we had the river to ourselves and I just love being out in nature away from the world in the cold (the cold helps keep others away). Also so far my rib wasn’t causing any problems as I had separated my ribs skiing a few weeks earlier.

One of the stretches of river had a deep pool at the top so we tried nymphing for cutthroat and bull trout. Similar to the technique I used in New Zealand, we used a strike indicator which was almost impossible to see in the bright light. Unfortunately, it never needed striking and we moved on.

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After I had been through a few pools Austin started coming down after me. Once I am set up there isn’t much for the guide to do as I like to fish in peace and quiet. I was also keen to see a steelhead even if I wasn’t to catch one. He had a take but it was a trout rather than a steelhead and it came off. A timely reminder that all the fishing here is catch and release, which means barbless hooks, and as a result it is very difficult to land fish!

We carried on working our way through the pools fishing hard and trying everything in Austins book of tricks. The conditions were tricky as the water was crystal clear and very cold which is not ideal as the fish go to sleep!

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After a few hours we took a break for lunch and drove down the river to try a new stretch. I was grateful for the break as my rib had started to hurt but it wasn’t bad enough to stop my hunt for the steelhead!

We got back to the river and tried everything through the afternoon!! Nymphing, changing flies, slow/fast/deep/shallow water, slow/medium/fast sinking leaders. Nothing! Not a single bite.

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So no fish but what a special, isolated, place to fish! I have been so lucky in BC that the weather has always been good when I’ve been fishing. Today, on a cold wet day would have been a tough day on the river. I think it keeps coming up but I still can’t remember a more beautiful part of the world I have fished! Massive river beds, crystal clear water and surrounded by snow covered mountains. I will definitely be back.

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This trip was just as Covid 19 began to explode and on the return journey we discussed trying to arrange a few more days as they were having a lot of cancellations. Unfortunately, a few days later the world moved in to lockdown.

The lockdown has made me appreciate how much I love being on the river and how lucky I was to get that day in before being confined to my apartment!

However being confined to my apartment has led to some exciting developments…

Firstly, unfortunately this is the year I turn 30 and as such seems worthy of a special trip. Just before Covid arrived I booked a trip fishing for steelhead on the River Skeena in Northern BC. I will be staying at the Skeena Spey Lodge for two days guided fishing in August, virus permitting!! For those that don’t know the Skeena is a world renowned river and on everybody’s list to fish. Seemed a good way to celebrate an age land mark.

Secondly, I am concerned that Covid is going to significantly limit my capacity for adventures this spring/summer. As a result I am in the process of purchasing a new bike!! The Brodie Romulus is a touring/gravel bike that I am turning in to an fishing adventure tourer. I will be able to load my rods and camping kit so I can escape the lockdown for some solo adventures! More details to follow soon…..

 

Categories Fishing

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