Formerly known only to anglers living in the lower Skeena Valley, spring steelhead fishing here is now gaining an international reputation. For anyone who has cast a fly through the clear, crisp air in March, April, or May, it's not hard to appreciate why this is so.
In March, when the land is still hard and the snow shelves are stacked along the river bank, a fast sinking line is the order of the day. During April, when the buds are out and rivers are beginning to rise in height and temperature, a slow sinking line is preferred. Finally, in May, the air is full of fragrance and the land is green, but the last of the spring steelheads can be persuaded to come up for a surface fly.
All spring steelhead fishing in the Skeena Valley is done when the water is low and clear, and the steelheads shine like newly minted coins. They will be readily found with a fly and they fight surprisingly well. Spring is also a good time to find sea-run cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden trout, and bull trout, all of which can be fooled with a minnow pattern fished at the end of a floating line and a long leader.
Summer & Fall Steelhead
The Skeena Valley is resplendent in the summer and the fishing is as brilliant as the green landscape. This is the time when the summer steelhead of Skeena surge up the river and its tributaries. The fish bound for the upper branches of the river—the Kispiox, Babine, and Sustut—are the largest of the species.
The possibility of catching one of these great fish is distinct; the chance of catching a world record is remote, but possible. When these Skeena giants reach their home rivers they have burned a lot of energy. The fish can be intercepted from a few to fifty miles above tide when they are fresh and strong. Fastening onto a fish of these proportions in the lower Skeena is the angling thrill of a lifetime.
Fishing the main stem for Skeena giants is fishing that demands long rods and long casts. Fewer steelhead are hooked on the fly rod in the Skeena than are hooked in her tributaries, but those hooked are well worth the effort. Spin fishing there can be especially spectacular.
Summer steelhead is arguably the best freshwater game fish in the world. With its aggressive nature and penchant for floating flies, the summer steelhead of the Copper River (Zymoetz) is the kind of steelhead that has given the species its well-deserved reputation. A floating line, a seven or eight weight rod, and reels with robust drag that carry plenty of backing are your best choices.