Trouts Journal

Fly Fishing Report: The Skeena System and Steelhead on the Swing

Ivan Orsic / Oct 15, 2013

Trouts Guide Service Manager Reid Baker just made it back from Northwest British Columbia targeting summer run steelhead on the Skeena River System. One of the few remaining completely wild steelhead fisheries, this region is known as one of the best places to target these anadramous fish as they make their way back into the river for their spring spawning.

Though there are no shortage of world renowned lodges and outfitters in the area, Reid opted for a do-it-yourself experience, keeping him mobile and able to bounce from river to river, not relegated to a single area and its given conditions in the timeframe. If one river in the drainage was looking to be at a better level or fishing reports more positive, he would be able to move easily and find wherever the fish were. This mobility would ultimately lend itself to a very successful trip fishing for large wild steelhead in the beautiful setting of Northwest British Columbia.

Perhaps the biggest and most crucial variable in any steelhead trip is conditions. Water levels, temperature and clarity are always on the forefront of any steelhead angler’s mind. These elements can make the difference between successful days on the water and sitting in a hotel room drinking beer and tying flies all day waiting for blown out rivers to drop back into shape or fish to move in. Fortunately for Reid, conditions on this trip were overwhelmingly favorable and he was able to fish most of the rivers he hoped to fish with good success.

In particular, the area is perhaps best known as a haven for anglers who prefer using 2 handed rods and utilizing down-and-across- stream wet fly presentations, most commonly referred to as “swinging”. Though it is very common to use indicator nymphing setups with a dead drift presentation, very similar to what we do here in Colorado, “swinging flies” is an incredibly exciting way to fish for steelhead as they typically come with exciting grabs with longer casts. Essentially, anglers cast across stream and use the downstream current, a tight line and mends to pendulum or swing the fly directly below them, all the while waiting (rarely a matter of minutes, but more likely hours or even days) for the unforgettable take of a steelhead eating your fly. Being a fanatic of spey rods, Reid was thrilled to have such great opportunities to swing flies for large wild steelhead his entire trip, and all his fish would come to hand on the swing.

As is the case with any destination trip targeting big game fish, quality equipment is crucial. For this trip he used the Sage Method 6126 for his primary spey rod when swinging larger flies on sinking tips, and the Orvis Helios 2 711 and 811 switch rod with floating lines for skating dry flies or light wet flies just subsurface. For reels he used the Sage Evoke 8, Orvis Mirage V and Hatch reels. Stay tuned for upcoming gear reviews on these awesome pieces of equipment to get you geared up for your forays into the steelhead world or update your equipment now that particularly rod materials are getting stronger, lighter and easier to use.

Ultimately, the success of any steelhead trip, especially when coming from a DIY perspective, relies on proper preparation and knowledge of the fishery, planning, good equipment and perhaps most of all patience and luck. Like a roll of the dice you can find yourself a week deep without a single fish in this game, and Reid is no stranger to those weeks. Fortunately, for this trip the fish and conditions cooperated and he was able to maximize his time on the water to make for an exceptionally memorable trip. Best of all, he was able to fish for them in one of the few remaining wild steelhead fisheries in the world utilizing techniques and equipment he most enjoys.

Interested in taking a steelhead or salmon trip of your own? Curious how to those 2 handed rods and casts work, or how you could use them on our homewaters of Colorado? This Saturday, October 19, Reid Baker will be leading a Switch and Spey Casting Clinic on our Exclusive Property, The YR Ranch. 2 Handed rod casts are not nearly as complicated as they may appear and you can spend the day with Reid working on how to fish with these unique rods both from an anadramous fishing perspective, or for more practical uses in a Colorado setting targeting migratory brown trout on the Lower Blue River. This full day guided clinic includes all necessary wading equipment, flies, terminal tackle and a streamside lunch. Contact the shop today and sign up 303.733.1434.

Photos by Mark Shamburg and Reid Baker

Shopping Cart


Free shipping over $50.00

Shipping & taxes calculated at checkout

Checkout View / Edit Cart


Sold Out