Exploring new wilderness
on the fly. (Skeena River, Terrace. B.C)
by Kathryn Maroun (www.WhataCatch.net)
big part of fishing is exploring new wilderness. Discovering a
new river that you look forward to revisiting again and again.
The lore, history and people endear you to an area. The
prospect of catching more fish , and bigger fish helps to
bring you back time after time.
The Kitimat airport is only
accessible by small jet. The big planes can’t negotiate the
hard left bank and steep decent necessary to find the strip.
Terrace is protected all around with white mountains, like a
deep popcorn bowl. The one room airport was packed by family
and friends, eagerly awaiting their loved ones. It felt a bit
like crashing a wedding reception, as they all new one another
except for us. I ‘m sure they wondered who we were and what we
were up to.
Soon , Lou had his hand
outstretched to greet a young man in a fish motif shirt and
ball cap. This would turn out to be our guide Andrew. He
seemed to know everyone in the airport and soon they knew we
were with him.
Going into a new camp
requires a little more thought and at times, makes you a
little anxious. It’s hard to know what gear you will need and
what the water and weather conditions will be. Andrew’s car
was just large enough to accommodate us and our gear. I sat in
the back seat, (uncharacteristically quiet) a little
unsure of it all. It was very dark and quiet. A total contrast
from the large city we had left behind that morning.
Not loosing any time, our
first stop, the fly shop. The store had a carving of a giant
Chinook out front, and they were just about to close for the
night. We managed to get our licenses, and of course we were
interested in some local flies. Ravens and fishermen share an
attraction for shinny bobbles and a curiosity for the new and
unusual. A short visit to a fly shop is therefore impossible.
Undoubtedly someone will start with a fishing story….. a
little grander in the telling each time. The husband and wife
team stayed after hours to accommodate us. They had an
extensive inventory , and as I perused the store, they shared
advice and pictures with Lou. They showed him news paper
clippings of record Salmon caught by worthy opponents. Latter
at camp, Andrew would re-enforce our expectations with videos
of big fish. There were Chinook , some as large as 90 pounds.
They were being tagged by the fisheries department. These
giants made a good size man look like a boy. It took two men
to wrestle the fish into position for a tag to be secured into
the gill plate. We were excited over the prospect of the next
few days. At the very least we were well equipped with our egg
sucking leaches and double egg patterns in #6 and #4’s.
Kalum River Lodge is some twenty minutes from the airport. The
mountainscape acts as a backdrop for the sprawling lawns and
flower beds that are best enjoyed from the view from a second
level deck that runs the length of the lodge. The rambling
sound of the river below the camp is ever-present. We enjoyed
organically grown vegetables from the garden at the lodge. We
fed some of these tasty treats to the pet Imu “ookie”. The
British Columbian rainforest acts as an incubator that
encourages growth. Cedars, Chinook and the timber wolf to name
a few. Andrew explained that the pelt on the floor in the
guest room ,was one of three timber wolves that he shot as
they attacked his beloved lab not long ago. The wolves head
was so large, that I thought it was that of a black bear.
We would go to bed that night
unable to sleep. In part because of excited anticipation for
the day of fishing ahead. But mostly because the eyes of the
wolf rug seemed to glow from across the room, punctuated by a
chorus outside our window from the pack.
It was still dark when Andrew
called us to breakfast. Perfectly cooked , free range eggs
from his hen house and fresh brewed coffee. The lunches were
packed as we talked over the best course of action for the
day, taking into account the weather and water conditions.
It seems to take a little
longer to get ready the first morning out. Sorting out gear
and familiarizing yourself with the camp routine can feel like
a bit of work first thing in the morning. We had missed being
on the river for first light. As we plodded our way to the
river, Andrew answered our questions as we walked. I stayed
close to Lou as we made our way along , making sure not to
step in any droppings the wolves left behind the night before.
could see other fishermen were already fishing as we launched
the fiberglass drift boat into Stumble Run Pool . We had six
miles of river ahead of us to cover and we were happy to
exchange greetings with other diehard fishermen and their dogs
as we drifted by. It was a cold day, third week in March, only
the most dedicated to the sport would be out. We counted over
twenty anglers that day. They looked like crocuses peppering
the bank as we went past , they remained un-wilted by the cold
swirling wind, drizzle and snowy grey sky. We dead drifted our
egg sucking leach with the current as we went, casting every
here and there. Andrew explained “ that fishing in his area is
popular because of the diversity of species, and the diversity
of methods used to catch them, complemented by five major
We were the only fly
fishermen that day, and we new our guide felt we would have
more success using other methods. Never mind….we had two
strong takes on Lasagna Run, we landed a couple of Cutthroats
and a Dolly at the Portuguese Log Jam and our timing felt
pretty good with that always challenging sink line. It was an
eight hour drift and with every bend we were rewarded with
something new as we were discovering this area for the first
time. An eagles nest; an enormous bleached sculptured log jam;
fantastic scenery and fishy looking water.
The next day, the water was
up and fast. It didn’t take any time to revisit the pools. In
fact we covered the same water as the previous day in half the
time. Lou and I are comfortable fishing two rods at once in
close proximity from a boat as we do often as fishing
partners. We like to have both rods in the water as much as
possible to maximize our chances of catching fish as we cover
the water . This was not to be on day two. We had traveled a
long distance into this remote area and I ended up with gear
failure. No choice but to share a rod; at least for the
moment. My Battenkill 8/9 weight rapid retrieve had been
damaged in transit by the airline . Lou tried to make the best
out of the situation and he seemed to enjoy the opportunity to
use his leatherman tool and executed a successful temporary
repair to the delicate workings. Lesson learned. It is as a
result of this, that I carry a rod, reel and spare gear with
me as carry-on in the sorry event of damage or loss of
equipment by the airline.
Andrews local networking
contacts would pay off. A guide is invaluable when it comes to
knowing what’s happening with the fish and where they have
ended up on a given day in his/her area. We reworked our
strategy. Instead of fishing the water below the camp, as we
had been, we would head upriver to Canyon Pool. We walked
through old growth forest for the better part of twenty
minutes. The walk warmed me up again. Even more amazing, I had
forgotten all about the Timber Wolves. Suddenly we were there.
A bowl shaped Basin with emerald green water ,spectacular. The
water was deep. It was slow moving thirty feet offshore with a
faster current cutting through the middle of the bowl ,
picking up speed toward the tailout. The windward bank was too
far to cast to and inaccessible by foot because of a steep
shale slope. We opted for the lee shore with a gravel bank
beach. There was just enough room for a comfortable back cast
. The tall canopy prevented any ground cover from growing and
causing low shrub snaireups.
I enjoyed watching Andrew
float fish. It was new to me, but very common on the west
coast. Without effort, he was able to lay out 150 feet of
line. A cured Salmon egg sack hitchhiked a ride on a 3/0
barbless hook. His bait would land with a “Gloop”, in the
middle of the lagoon. He would then jam the rod butt between
three large boulders. The boulders were too large to have been
placed there by someone, but to perfectly placed to have been
an accident. I figure Sasquatch.
We were making a reasonable
dent in a bag of assorted cookies as we watched for Andrews
rod to bend. It would move every so often like someone tugging
on the rope of a church bell. Up and down up and down….then
nothing as Andrew scrambled to remove the rod from its cradle
and do a hook set. Time after time , no takers.
A soft rain began to fall,
and every so often Andrew would put on a fresh bait sack and
announce… “one more cast and then we’ll go”, ..as fishermen
do. Lou in agreement, standing on the highest point on the
gravel bar putting out beautiful line, would echo back
something similar from time to time. He would take time out to
eat a cookie in between sorting out line from snare ups on
It was raining a lot harder
…more bait, one more cast….more bait one more cast. The bag of
cookies almost gone. Something had to give. At last! Lou had
hooked up on a Steelhead with the fly rod. His first. It was a
little on the small side,( a little larger perhaps if he were
telling the story) but it had all the usual characteristics
and fighting traits of a big fish, down to the gator role. We
were soaked and cold, but strangely content.
I sat in the front seat on
the return trip to the airport with Andrew, taking in the
scenery for the first time that had been cloaked in darkness
on our arrival. This place wasn’t strange and quiet anymore.
It was in fact a busy hub for Northern communities. I replayed
the weekend in my mind and wondered about the really big fish
we had heard about . “ You should have been here this
particular week , you should have been here that particular
week”, Andrew recounted catches of notable size and number.
In the airport we began to
recognize some familiar faces. They were fisherman we had met
on the river. We sat together while waiting for our flights,
drinking coffee and sharing similar stories. After a quick
study , we concluded that wet or dry fly fishing is the
favored method, while spinning or drift fishing are a close
second. More to the point, Steelhead and a few species of
trout are the only fish you will find in the river in March.
The Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, and Steelhead runs over lap in
full force July and August. This is when anglers catch large
fish and many fish, as the stories go.
The lore, history, beauty of
the place and the people we made friends with during our stay,
endear us to the area. All of this and the prospect of
catching more fish , and bigger fish will bring us back next
year…….in the summer. Part of discovering an area , is finding
out when not to visit.
About Kathryn Maroun
What a Catch!
(new TV show)
the waters and travel with Kathryn to some of the
world’s most remote and exotic destinations in her quest
to conquer the top 13 game fish. With "What A Catch!",
Kathryn pushes the limits of the great outdoors and her
personal physical endurance to capture the essence of a
true adventure. See Kathryn as she tackles unparalleled
challenging elements and extreme wilderness conditions
to bring viewers closer to the thrill of the catch.