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Ronan's report

Wednesday 26 December, 2012

20 years ago I watched an excellent movie - Fly Fishing For Trophy Steelhead - presenting the expert fly fisherman Lani Waller showing his different tactics and great skills in hunting trophy Steelhead weighing 20 pounds (or more). Lani was fishing different Skeena tributaries like the Babine, the Sustut and the Kispiox in British Columbia. In the end of the film he indeed managed to release a 20 pounder Steelhead! Over the past 20 years I watched that movie at least once every year. To me it is one of the very best fly fishing films I have ever seen – truly inspirational.

Last year me and my (ex) girlfriend Sybille decided to fish for Steelhead for the first time. Of course it was pretty clear right from the start - it had to be the Skeena system in BC. To be honest I wasn’t dreaming of catching my first Steelhead but catching a 20 pounder! So I asked quite some experienced steelheaders for help. Most of them told me to better aim for catching my first (and maybe my second) Steelhead instead of having my focus on such a trophy fish. Of course I totally agreed. But then again I couldn’t forget Lani Waller catching that trophy fish!

Finally I found someone who gave us a very good hint to fish a special (quite long) part of one of the most famous tributaries of the Skeena – in which he said usually no one fishes because it would be too hard to reach that stretch of river. I researched quite a bit and made plans how to get there. On Google maps I could find the deepest pool of the whole stretch. It was pretty clear to me (after having fished 20 years for Atlantic Salmon, which show very similar behavior) that the biggest fish in the river would stay in exactly that pool.

We soon had to find out why nobody was fishing that stretch of river: After 2 hours driving by car we were passing a sign “road closed”. This means that all the trees and bushes along the road (which wasn’t really a road but a bad country lane anyway) were hanging all over the lane. For the next 15 Km we needed another 1,5 hours. Then we found a very small spot to park the car and tried to make our way thru the most amazing wood I have ever seen. Actually it was more of a jungle than what I would call to be a wood. Anyway it was fantastic: Thousands of mushrooms, fantastic moss all over, very old trees and no foot prints at all (besides those of a few bears)!

We made our long way upstream to that place where I knew was the best (deepest) pool. After hours of walking (and a few casts here and there on the way) we finally reached the hot spot. The moment I saw that pool, I knew that if there wouldn’t be a serious fish in there, we wouldn’t find one in the whole river, too.

It was a perfect day already, no matter if we would get a strike or not: Best nature we have ever been in, great company and a fair chance to hook up with a serious Steelhead.

I started to fish the upper part of the pool while Sybille started to fish the lower part at the same time. In the middle of my part I realized a very deep hole below a rocky cliff right on my side of the river. I decided to cast a heavy sinking line upstream and then let it sink while feeding additional line behind it. That way my fly could get really deep down into that hole. At the end my fly swung directly in the deepest part of the hole. With that technique I would only get a very short drift but it could be right in front of a trophy fish. I have taken a few serious Atlantic Salmon with that technique before. Suddenly I felt a very soft pull at the other end of my line! Then nothing, then again a short very soft pull. I answered the second pull with a quick reflex and pulled on my line. For a second I could feel something HUGE at the end of my line and then the hook was free again. “FUCK SHIT!” One probably could hear me yelling in whole BC. In Steelhead and Salmon fishing you never want to answer such a strike with a reflex and instead wait for the line to start seriously pulling out. Sometimes on these soft strikes you HAVE to wait really long! Otherwise you mostly don’t hook them up. I was completely pissed off! I knew that the perfect day was gone now. No problem to lose a fish. But not getting it hooked because of having done a stupid fault can be quite hard for an experienced fisherman. I was sure it was a very big fish by how it felt to me.

So I sat down at the bank and asked Sybille to fish that stretch again. I was hoping that she maybe could hook up a second fish. But to be honest I thought I just fucked up our day by “reflexing” away the one chance of the day!

Half an hour later Sybille came back and asked me to leave because we still had a long way back to the car and darkness would arrive within a few hours. But I couldn’t leave. I simply couldn’t. I had to give it just one more try. So Sybille agreed (well she probably knew there was no way to stop me from giving it a few more casts anyway) to once more fish thru the pool.

Just after I had that strike I positioned a small stone just next to my feet. So I knew exactly where I got the strike and where to put my cast (again upstream) to get the fly to that place where the first strike came. I was sure that this fish would not strike again. But I was wrong!

Same place, same cast, same slow pulls, BUT this time I was waiting. After (I think) 6 or 7 seconds the fish started to significantly pull on my line. I lifted my rod and felt a huge pressure on the other side. “Yes!!! Fish on!!!” Within the very next moment the fish changed the river side and came up rolling the surface. I immediately was sure about that Steelhead being over 1 meter in length and no doubt it was fat, too. I knew that this was the Steelhead of my lifetime, and I had a feeling it was even way bigger than the 20 pounder Lani released in his film. Unbelievable!

It was a long fight. The fish was staying down in the hole (around 7-8 meters below the surface) and I could not change my place while staying on the cliff on top of the fish. It was a hell of a fight and in the end I quickly could release the fish. Sybille made a quick photo and thanks Sybille: You made a perfect picture.

We both agreed this was a perfect day for us. To me it was maybe the best day of my life!?

Now - over a year later - I still can feel every second of that day. And it feels fantastic! I wish every one of you to feel such a perfect day, too. For me it’s these special days that I only can have in fly fishing.

All my best


p.s.: Thanks Lani, I couldn't have done this without your inspiration! And thanks Sybille for sharing a perfect day with me. Your company made it even better!

Pic Of Day



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