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Derek Botchford

Biography: 

My biggest interest is finding new water to swing for anadromous fish and figure out how and when to catch them.  I think this began to consume my life when I first read the John Fennelly book “Steelhead Paradise”.  Reading those stories of exploration in northern BC had me so wound up I could hardly sleep.

I started guiding in Alaska, and in Chile in the late 90‘s but found my bosses would never let me explore new waters to add diversity to the fishing programs. Exploration is expensive, and more often than not you don’t find what your looking for. However one out of five times you have a trip of a lifetime, and that makes the risk worth the reward.

Now that I own my own lodges in BC, we make a point of constantly exploring, and expanding our business. We always have something new to offer guests even if they have been fishing with us for years.  There is something exciting about fishing a new river or a new piece of water for the first time.  That first steelhead in a new run always brings me back to the first steelhead I ever caught on the Dean river in the early 90’s.  I have been beaten down beyond belief on exploratory fishing expeditions over the years where everything goes horribly wrong.   However, every time we start discussing a new one, I can’t help get extremely excited.  

Although I own and operate 3 separate lodges, I still guide nearly each and every day. Guiding is the reason I got into this business and I will never let that passion slip away. I coach my guests to cast well enough to fish, but often spend more time examining the small details of fishing. These are the subtle differences that allow some anglers to become predators on the water. The lost art of mending and fly control on a given swing are the most important factors when fishing for winter steelhead or king salmon, and I work hard with my guests so they understand what their fly is doing at all times.

Blog posts

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2017 season rolls on

After guiding for trout for 15 years you come to realize how consitant the fisheries can be.  2017 was our 10th season operating Frontier Farwest and it is evident that one thing is for sure, there is no consistency to steelhead.  They seem to show up early, or late or some year not at all.  The weather is either too hot, to dry, to wet or too cold.  Rarely is there ever even a week that goes...

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Big Pine with Shallow Phins

When you head out to fly fish the ocean you are completely at the mercy of the weather.  Since we live and die by the weather for steelhead we certainly understand our trip was going to be a roll of the dice. 

Luckily for us the storms parted and we were able to hit a perfect weather window for tarpon fishing. We also lucked out by surprisingly catching a may long weekend worm hatch. ...

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Epic Waters is hiring for all lodge positions

We have employment opportunities at all our lodges for 2017 and 2018 seasons.  If you have ever wanted to work in the fishing industry we have jobs for every scenario.  Housekeepers, servers, chefs and apprentice guiding opportunities at your choice of lodge.  Just select the position you would like to apply for and the lodge that most interests you.  Email us at info@...

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Spring in Review

Normally when our winter steelhead program in Haida Gwaii shuts down we get some free time to catch up on things, but this year one program rolled right into the next.  We worked with guide/outfitter Nomads of the North in Terrace BC and longtime friend Mike VanWormer (AKA VDubs).  As usual he produced incredible trips for guests lucky enough to go.  The April spring fishery worked out...

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Cruelties of mother nature

We just finished up nearly two weeks of rare temperatures on Haida Gwaii. Just like Vancouver has been getting pummeled by unlikely snow storms, to our dismay, so have we. Our March fish are much like our guests from sunny California: they hate the cold.  When water temps edge toward 33 degrees, our fair-weathered ocean friends turn their noses up and push back out to seals-ville. Facing the...

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Skeena steelhead for $650 a day

Weather directly effects our lives in a ver intrusive way each and every day.  Over the past year it seems we have hardly had any luck at all.  The Bulkley season saw one of the most pervasive blow out seasons we have ever seen.  Every time the river started to clear - along came another storm.  Unfortunately that came after a very cold and wet summer.  Even last spring was too hot and dry...

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Getting back to single hand rods for steelhead

If you could step into a steelhead time machine, you would probably end up fishing some of the greatest runs in history and have them all to yourself. The one thing that would surprise you as you stepped out of the time machine all wadered up is that your spey rod would have turned back in time as well and is now a single-hand rod. 

Now, single-hand rods have seen a major resurgence in...

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Haida Gwaii

Haida Gwaii is where we call home during the winter months, and anyone who has ever been here knows how incredibly special it is.  It is one of the truly unique destinations in Canada   that offers something for everyone to relate to.  Whether you choose to come in the summer, winter, for fishing or touring you will have a very memorable and wonderful experience.

Here is a photo blog of...

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Swinging with spey rods for chum salmon

Everyone seems to be on a quest for the “best” of something in the fishing world: the best rod, the best reel, the best line, or the best rive. Whenever someone uses the cliche word “best” with anything related to fishing I immediately tune out.  

The Qualifier

The other day, a guest asked one of the most well-informed  fishing questions I’ve ever heard. Usually, people ask the question...

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Stranded on a desert island with 3 rods

Yesterday I had a conversation with a guest about spey rods, and it raised a point regarding rod selection that I thought was interesting.

He indicated that he was contemplating buying several rods, and he asked me to name my 3 “go-to” spey rods.  Immediately I resisted answering—not out of fear of sharing my rod preferences but because I know that my preferences rarely match other...

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2017 program availability

Babine Steelhead Lodge –

Few places in the world of steelhead fishing boast such an impressive resume as the Babine. The river can support 10,000+ steelhead each year with many of the very largest in the world. The surroundings are true British Columbia wilderness, the runs are perfect for swinging and the fishing is incredible. Newly renovated Babine Steelhead Lodge sits amongst a grove of...

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12 days of Christmas gifts for the fisherman

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Ok we may be last minute shoppers but our gifts are WAY better than a pear tree and turtle doves.  We would like to thank all our friends, readers and guests for a great year.  We will work...

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Wandering November

The end of the season is an awesome time of the year for the staff. It signals the time to step back from the draining season and get back to basics on the rivers.  Great friends throwing some lines, catching a few fish and sharing in some old and new memories.  You never know what the weather will do and this year it was high and brown from a rain on snow event creating the largest flows...

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Winter Steelhead just isn't for you

Too many articles have been written about winter steelhead, so I shall tread lightly.  As most readers know, this is a very difficult fishery for those who do it on a swung fly.  Not to take anything away from indicator warriors or float fisherman, but swinging up a big, chrome tide fresh steelhead in absurdly cold temperatures is not an easy feat.  We often bite our lips on the Bulkley when...

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The Truth behind Canadian Thanksgiving

Not too many holidays land smack in the middle of prime fishing weeks, but the biggest one of note is Canadian Thanksgiving. It is here this weekend, and if you live up north you are either hunting or fishing with your time off. Many of our fantastic American guests are quite curious about this Canadian holiday-weekend. In fact, many Canadians have no idea why or even how we celebrate it. With...

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Life, Death and Steelhead

Some trips out on the river are easy pickings, while others are so hard it nearly seems futile. Fishing is very much like life in that sense. 2016 has been filled with ups and downs for both me and my family. During our winter steelhead season in Haida Gwaii, I received the call that no one ever wants to get. The one that tells you your mother has passed away. In a very cliche way, I...

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Epics Day on the Skeena : Photo Blog

   

 

Heading out from Smithers : Frontier Farwest

Andrea doing some pregnant sockeye fishing : Due date mid Sept

 

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Epic Beer Blog

 The Beer Blog

As everyone knows, fall in the Bulkley Valley is hard-core steelhead season, and our families and significant others know not to expect to see very much of us. What you probably don’t know is that our family time on the Skeena system takes place in May and June. This is because it is bar fishing season. Bar fishing is the technical term for bank fishing with a fixed line...

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3 Epic fishing vacation fails and how to avoid them

Imagine this, you have just booked a trip to go trout fishing in BC at a beautiful lodge with a wonderful lake and river right out front.  At the sport shows you saw video and photo proof that you would be catching 100 trout a day all on dry flies.  The owner who was at the show was nice enough to let you in on the secret that if you didn't put a deposit down right than and there with your...

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A Steelheader goes Tarpon fishing

For most of us serious fly fisherman there is nothing more exhilarating in this world than chasing silver, chrome fish that bite a fly and jump like hell. I can’t say a day on the ocean can match a day swinging flies for wild steelhead, however I am hard pressed to remember anything that caused the type of adrenaline rush that occurs when you see giant tarpon surfacing. There are many...

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Dominatrix Guide listings

As I sit here packing for my trip to the florida keys next week I quickly realize I may not have everything I need.  I have heard the stories of tarpon guides tearing strips off rookie fisherman who just cant hit the casts in a timely fashion.  If my guide is female she would surely be a dominatrix.

I decide I need to reach into my sadsim and masochism Mr Dressup ‘tickle trunk’ and be...

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Fisherman's 5 with Sean Johnson

The Fisherman's 5 is a new series we are running here at Epic Waters, so keep your eye out for it in the upcoming weeks.  We will be asking folks who have been in the fishing industry for many years 5 questions to answer honestly.  Expect to hear from guides, marketing experts, casting champions, rod and reel builders and much more.  Our industry has changed a lot over the last decade and many...

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5 terms to avoid when steelhead fishing

The quality of your steelheading trip is typically based on expectations.  We often see anglers get so dejected from the sport that we have to put them on suicide watch, hiding all ropes, knives and pills.

To avoid depression while steelheading try to stay away from terms that can send you down the wrong path on your trip.  Trust us, an excellent method to avoiding the pitfalls of...

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Fishing a Short Line

Many accomplished spey fisherman love to cast long, tight loops that sail across the river while the sun glimmers off the shimmering long belly line.  Perfect posture, effortless strokes while activating their glutes like the finest Tiger Woods golf swing in his prime.  This scene with the right light is a photographers dream.  However when the steelhead see this they typically snicker in...

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So you want to guide steelhead….

Fly fishing guides are always attracted to the job initially from the misconception they will be able to fish the best and most productive waters of the world.  Although you may hear about them often from your guests, you will be hard pressed to access them yourself.  Although I did once train a guide on the Alagnak in Alaska for a 7 day float trip in which he fished the entire time instead of...

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Just a Yiddle Bit

Fly fishing is a game of inches, and subtleties that ultimately determines success.  Actions typically need to be small and never exaggerated from casting, to mending, to setting the hook and to fighting the fish.  Too big of a sweep and you can blow your anchor, too big of a stroke and you get rainbow loops, and too big of a mend you get a fly that never fishes.  To big of a hook set you and...

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The dangers of fishing, no really

Every so often in the fishing game, you are going to end up in some horrible and dangerous situations.  Usually it is due to a bad decision somewhere along the way. Charging through water that manute bol couldn’t wade, rafting class 5 rapids in a float tube or hiking through miles of devils club all spell disaster.  In the fishing world we all do a lot of exploratory trips, and with all the...

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Simply good product at a good price

Have you ever wanted to take a trip doing something new?  If it’s your first time doing something you are often inclined to buy cheap gear as you have no certainty on how many times you will use it.  In the fishing world this can end in sheer disaster.  You may end up being a walking version of an epic toyota recall, a ticking time bomb.  The drag blows up on your reel, rod snaps, wader seams...

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When things go from bad to WORSE.

Every so often in the fishing game, you are going to end up in some horrible and dangerous situations.  Usually it is due to a bad decision somewhere along the way. Charging through water that manute bol couldn’t wade, rafting class 5 rapids in a float tube or hiking through miles of devils club all spells disaster.  In the fishing world we all do a lot of exploratory trips and with all the...

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Don’t fish a bad cast

Warning: This post is bad advice for beginners.

In the guiding business patience is a virtue.   All guides have there own variety of “go to” phrases that flow out so naturally and often you don’t even notice them being said.  Should of been here yesterday, never leave fish to find fish, A bad day's fishing is better than a good day at work. All of these can be heard echoing along every river...

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What to do when you fall in

Steelhead fishing is often done is cold or crappy weather unless you are lucky enough to squeeze in some summer fishing where falling in certainly isn't a big issue.  However if it’s fall or winter you can expect bone chilling water and air temps that are so cold hitch hikers hold up pictures of thumbs.  Falling in the river anytime can be horrible but in the cold it can even be dangerous.  If...

Top 5 photos captured

1.  Ken Morrish of Flywater Travel makes a living following the best fish in the world, from snarling freshwater golden dorado to the Finest BC steelhead rivers to supercharged King salmon all on the fly.  With his great eye for photography it’s not surprising he captured this incredible photograph on the Bulkley River on one of FFW’s Steve Morrow Canyon trips.  Pretty much sums up the reason...

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Fishing BC? here are the Cana-dos and the Cana-don'ts

 If you have finally saved enough money for the insanely expensive BC angling licenses, and the steelhead season up-charge for rental cars or fishing guides, you should bone up on the “Canadian” ways. 

To start you will want to load up your spotify playlists with Neil Young, Tragically Hip, Feist and Michael Buble. Toss on some Stompin’ Tom Connors and Leonard Cohen for some bonus...

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Top 5 King salmon flies 2015

Those who target king salmon on the fly often, have endured through much pain in there fishing careers.  Throwing big heavy rods and fast sinking tips is usually key to success.  The new lighter, high module, graphite rods have made life easier on the river while casting endless hours waiting for the saltwater wrecking balls to come into the river. Last summer our favorite rod was the 10130-4...

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Our top 5 winter steelhead flies

Swinging flies for winter steelhead in BC is certainly not for everyone, but if you have enjoyed many years of successful summer run adventures it is time to add it to your repertoire (its all about the challenge).  Fly selection is much more critical when winter steelheading because the fish tend not to move as far for your fly.  The strike zones are smaller so having a fly that will hit the...

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Steelheaders New Years Resolutions for 2015

Now thats its 2015 we all need a few resolutions that will help us catch more fish. The best way to do that is to get some good karma going to appease the steelhead gods.

When people talk about steelhead as the fish of a thousand casts, they often persuade you to believe that catching them is all about perseverance and time on the water. Many people have attempted to figure out why some...

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Official end of an era in Telkwa BC

On the Bulkley river sits a lodge steeped in time honored traditions, and rich in history and lore.   Frontier Farwest has been around for 50 years and under the guidance of founder Collin Schadwrech FFW has placed its stamp on the steelhead world forever.

Schadrech is the most famous angler to ever guide the Bulkley River. In fact today, almost every single outfitter, owner or head...

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Lacrosse training for fishing guides

Lacrosse is a growing sport out west, but out east where I grew up it was pushed on us harder than the french language.  At an early age lacrosse sticks were put in our hands and we were taught how to scoop up grounders, cradle, and hum an indian rubber ball a country mile.  I still love the sport, but looking back now I realize it taught me a skill set I would use the rest of my life, netting...

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Wild fish or pass thank you

Since I was 10 years old there has not been one time in my life when wild fish stocks did not need our help wherever I was fishing.  I grew up fishing in the Catskill mountain streams during probably the worst climate for native fish in the history of the region. The famed rivers had been greatly effected by habitat destruction. At the time the common ideology  was to pump the systems full of...

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The difference between men and women and steelhead and trout

In the fishing world trout are the men and steelhead are the women.  Trout have one track minds living their lives searching for ways to feed as much as possible while expending the least amount of energy.  They generally don’t like to work very hard for their food.  If you study the feeding habits of a man while his wife and kids are off visiting the inlaws, you will notice a very close...

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Is your guide a stud or a dud?

Sometimes in the fishing business you book a trip with someone and they stick you with the guide of their choice.  You are often at the mercy of ‘luck of the draw’ at this point.  Its like when you go to a trout lodge and half the guides are young, fresh out of college kids, taking a year off to full fill a bucketlist dream job for a year before they get a “real job”.  You know you are going...

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Fishing between the runs

One of the reasons a lot of people prefer early season steelhead fishing over late season is that the fish are much more aggressive to a dry fly.  However another attraction to catching steelhead in warmer water temps is having the opportunity to fish some very interesting water . With warm water the fish will search out fast, highly oxygenated spots to hold. With even a couple rocks to lay...

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Guide Training

It is not often that a position opens up for a new steelhead guide, however when it does it is important to bring them along as quick as possible. Each steelhead river has its own personality and the most important thing to learn is where and when the steelhead like to lie.  A big mistake many guides make when training new additions is taking them from run to run having them memorize where...

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King Salmon on the fly

Although we all dream of swinging grease lines, or skating dries, the reality of the game is if we plan on fishing often throughout a calendar year one has to come to terms with a sink tip. Once you get used to that idea an entire world of spey fishing opens up, one that we have been fully immersed in for the past 5 years. 

Swinging for kings is technically similar to winter steelhead...

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5 tips for swinging for kings with spey rods

Keep your line as straight as possible on the swing, kings are deep, and absolutely hate(in a good way) slow moving flies passing through there personal space. The longer your fly stays in that window the more likely you will be to entice a strike. Don’t set to quick. The slower the current the slower the set has to be. Kings are like big dumb jocks on steroids, they will chew that fly long and...
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Its all about the staff

Anyone in the service business knows they are as only good as their staff.  Here at Epic we are the management team that operates several lodges in BC. The guides, the chefs, and everyone else involved work hard as a team to make each one of our operations a success.  It is the same group of guys working the Bulkley/Morice in the fall at Frontier Farwest as it is hiking the many rivers of...

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Tools of the Trade

One of the fun things about guiding is having the ability to target all kinds of species throughout the year. As much as I love steelhead I also enjoy all the other fish that we catch.  In the summer I find myself chasing kings one day, and trout the next, and in the coastal camps we have to be ready for our nightly dungeness crab and BC spot prawn missions. To be ready for any of this on a...

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Don't always judge a run by the surface

Throughout a calendar year we spend a lot of time guiding on many different rivers with wildly opposite characteristics.  The micro runs of Haida Gwaii to the marathon runs of the Skeena all make for new and interesting challenges. It is easy to fish a river once and point out the “A” water where you can watch your undulating fly walk through at a perfect speed.  However life just isn’t always...

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Curiosity is the single most important trait of a fly fisherman

Curiosity is the attribute that drives the sport of fly fishing.  It is why we start in the first place and it is what drives us to continue the pursuit until our legs stops working and beyond.  It is the single most important factor in the sport, and it is the common denominator among all of us that fly fish. 

Just like everything else in life, fly fishing has so many elements one can...

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A beer lovers guide to fishing BC

If you are coming to BC to swing flies for winter or summer steelhead, or trying your luck for king salmon on the fly there is one very important thing you should study up on before your trip.  In the end it may be more important than your flies, rods, reels or any other research you have done.  I am of course talking about beer! What to sample immediately upon arrival.  The craft beer world in...
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The thrill ISN'T gone

The most important thing about targeting any anadromous fish is timing. Water conditions and run timing are far and away the most important factors to catching fish. Beyond how far you cast, or what your beautifully spun flies look like, or how well you know a river. Timing is everything. This fact is true of many things in life, and when timing is good and opportunities abound you better get...

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Keeping the fight for our coastal fish simple

Many things have contributed to the great decrease in salmon populations up and down the coast.  There are plenty of arguments to suggest we should sit idly by with our hands tied. Many   believe we understand so little about the causes that it’s a waste of time and money to try to stop it, or maybe they just give up thinking its things we can’t help like loss of habitat, or climate change....

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Lot of ways to get beat in this game

When you think of tough winter steelheading you think of low water, cold water, no water, snow, ice and freezing temps.  Unfortunately for us we saw all of these at one point or another this season. As our guest Mark Bale pointed out, “there’s a lot of ways to get beat in this game.”  

As our winter steelhead season on Haida Gwaii comes to a close we can start to reflect on what we saw...

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When the world is stacked against you

Steelhead fishing can be a torturous sport where sometimes it seems the entire universe is out to screw you.  For winter steelhead fisherman this truth is echoed several times each and every week.  

After surviving the past couple difficult weeks here in Haida Gwaii our guides are trying to keep spirits high.  The problem is that at times like this it seems the entire galaxy is plotting...

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The Dos and Don'ts of swinging flies

Be grateful for every fish. The big, the small, the tiny. Fishing any time is a precious gift. The pleasure, the pain -- it's all part of why we love it. Subtle shifts in presentation will transform your success rate.  When feeling angry that your not catching crap, simply choose to try something different. Every steelhead comes into our life for a reason...
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Twerk your fly

Although some of our runs here in haida Gwaii are big wide open gravel bars akin to the Bulkley or Morice with enough room to carelessly fling flies in any direction, others are quite opposite. With grabby trees above your head, and looming over soft bouldery buckets, each cast we make has to be well constructed from its conception. 

Every week our guests have a learning curve to get in...

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Why you should swing a fly through water you hate

On any given guided day you are most likely going to find yourself in a run where you really don’t like the water. Too fast, too slow, or too whatever, its a piece that if given the chance you would pass on.  Unfortunately for those of us that love to swing flies, sometimes we have to target steelhead in some water that is not an ideal swing.  That means once in a while you will have to fight...

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2013 Bulkley/Morice year in review

The entire skeena system is famous for having steelhead that are eager to take a dry fly and the 2013 season showed us just how good it can be. It was far and away the best dry fly season in the past decade.  

The season started out well for us as the early return in the Skeena was quite good.  For a short period of time fish counts entering the system were keeping up with the last 2...

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Winter Steelhead Comeback Fly

In the summer and fall when swinging for steelhead we get a lot of first takes from fish that can be lackluster and tentative at best.  We often watch steelhead mouth a fly during the swing so softly the fisherman won’t even feel a thing.  Its amazing how delicate they can be at times. Everyone has their own techniques for a fish like this. Some count to 50 and re-cast, others take 5 steps up...

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Winter steelheading

Winter steelhead fishing on the Queen Charlottes Islands now known as Haida Gwaii.  This trip is for intermediate to advanced anglers looking to target steelhead off the grid. The rivers are small walk and wades with fish up to 20lbs. Ever dreamed of having a steelhead river to yourself and fishing under old growth 700 year old trees. This is one of the most unique destinations in North...

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Threats to steelhead

A 1996 study of all anadromous or ocean-going fish stocks in British Columbia and Yukon documented that 142 separate stocks or runs have already gone extinct out of a total of 9,662. In the United States, which has endured far more human impacts to Steelhead and salmon rivers and their watersheds, have lost over 400 indigenous stocks (29%) of the 1400 that originally existed. The majority of...

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King salmon on the fly

Although people have been targeting kings on a fly for many years it is becoming quite apparent that what we thought we knew 20 years ago was mostly incorrect.  In modern fly fishing we are constantly redefining what is considered “fly water” or a “fly species” every day.  Advances in technology, techniques, and a better understanding of fish in general has allowed us to start targeting fish...

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Rainbow Alley

We just completed our first week guiding at Rainbow Alley fishing the sockeye fry bust.  As the year old smolts migrate down river, and the fry hatchlings emerge from the gravel , the large lake rainbow trout residents move into the alley to ferociously feed.  

The fry migrate mostly in the morning and evening so we base our day around hitting the peak fishing hours.  That means an...

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Low Water Steelhead Fishing

Low and behold the Bulkley River has been blessed by the grace of God a low water year.  How does that translate to fishing you ask? When you figure out where they are hiding it is incredible.   Fishing low water has usually been pure joy for our guide team.  To see runs that we haven’t been able to fish since 2008 has been exciting, exhilarating, and very productive.

Fishing in low...

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