Fly Fishing for Steelhead - Queen Charlotte Islands and the Dean River
Fly Fisher/Fly Tier/Writer/Photographer★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Greg Thomas pursues wild steelhead in out of the way places, with a focus on British Columbia. Recently he's fished the Queen Charlotte Islands and the central British Columbia coast. In July he lucked into the best week in 10 years on the Dean River and had 17 fish to the beach in three days. Listen to Thomas' adventures and you'll learn how to reach these unique fisheries where 10-to 20-pound wild steelhead can be found, often in good numbers.
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If you’re thinking of fly fishing for steelhead you should plan a fly fishing vacation to some of the sweetest steelhead spots on the globe: Queen Charlotte Islands and the Dean River.
Celebrated writer and photographer Greg Thomas certainly has steelheads at the top of his angler picks and he’s been fishing these Canadians runs for years. So, just where will you be going if you want to try for these Canuck steelheads? Obviously, you’ll be heading north. The Queen Charlotte Islands are located off the west coast of British Columbia. The best route is to fly into Vancouver then hop a puddle jumper up the coast to a town called Masset. For the Dean River, you’re still heading towards British Columbia but more inland as opposed to working the coastline. To get there, once again fly into Vancouver then hop up to a slice of Canada called Bella Coola. From there it’s just a copter trip over to the Dean River runs. As you can imagine these runs will be more remote than Queen Charlotte, but according to Greg, either destination is a prime local for steelheads.
If you opt for the Queen Charlotte trip, you can base out of Masset. Greg recommends making accommodations at a local fly fishing lodge where your meals and accommodations will be covered. The perfect lodge should also provide you with a decent pickup for the 20 minute drive up to the Yakoun River. Thanks to onboard GPS you won’t have any trouble being a strange driver in a strange land. As for the fly fishing up there you could make the most of a nice drift in a small pontoon or single person rubber raft. Expect to be hooking steelheads that range in size from 8 to 10 pounds and all the way up to the big boys of 25 pounds.
Under the category of “stop and smell the roses,” Greg also suggests you take in the scenic coastal art all around you. If you’re lucky, you might be landing at the perfect combination of tides and high winds that can roll in weather vein scallops, octopus, clams and rock scallops right up onto the beach. Perfect for a seafood feast.
As for fishing the Dean River, Greg now knows what others told him about the steelhead up there: They are different than any other trout you’ve ever fished. “I didn’t know exactly what they were talking about but I’d only been fishing the Dean that first day for about 25 minutes before I hooked up on the fish and I knew what they meant, because it felt like the steelhead took, because it was already going full speed downstream,” explains Greg. “There’s no hesitation. There’s no tap, tap, tug, tug, any of that. It’s just the fish is on and it is running full steam ahead either across stream or straight downstream and your just hanging on for dear life!”
In terms of rods, Greg advises you take up three or four rods just in case. His suggestion for these zones is a 12 or 13-foot, 7 or 8-weight. For fly choices, Greg thinks you’ll do find with a swinging fly or a nymph. This doesn’t mean you need a huge array of flies. Keep it simple. All Greg needs is a pattern like an egg-sucking leech, a pick-your-pocket, a popsicle or a pink and white marabou fly. Number one pick? Green Butt Skunk. Let’s be honest; you can’t go wrong with anything called a Green Butt Skunk!