2015/16 Winter Steelhead Recap – Photoblog part I

Each year I try my best to find the time to put together a recap of the season such as these:



I never did have time to write an entire recap of this winter. Winter quickly became spring, and soon I was back into full time work and planning a wedding with my wonderful fiancée, Kitty.

Things have slowed down now, and I feel as if I can finally put this photoblog together (it’s a little late – but hopefully it will still be well received). Each photo will be a small highlight of what best captured our season, with a little description of what went on.

A little back history – this year I wanted to land/tail a winter run fish (kelts and summers didn’t count) out of 20 different rivers (rather than going after a high numbers game for fish). A minimum of 5 of these rivers had to be new. Kitty was aiming for 10, and she really wanted to get a steelhead out of the Vedder river this season… what we were able to achieve is captured below.

The first trip of the year was a classic winter steelheading day – freezing cold and complete with fresh snow on the ground.

icy start

Kitty and I both achieved our first winter run fish of the season out of river #1.

Beautiful doe
Kitty’s 1st river
big spoon buck
My river #1 fish

Of course they were both on our favourite method.. swinging R&B spoons! We ended up getting 7 steelhead and a surprise coho that day – a great way to start the season.

spoon doe
A beautiful doe on a 2/5 genuine silver R&B spoon

The next day we got out was to a brand new river. We fished incredibly hard all day. The first pool we came out to had a big school (20 or more) of steelhead, but we spooked them before any would bite. The weather was gross and cold (we experienced freezing rain all day). We persevered for a long time and covered 8 km of some of the nicest water I had ever seen. We finally found a spot where we could get out of the 300+ foot vertical canyon on either side and thought we should end our day. There was one more good looking run just downriver. I said to go there and then come back. Kitty’s response was, “why would there be one there after the last 8 km of perfect water holding nothing.” Marc and I replied “Because it could be that one stack hole where the next 20 fish are like the first one we came down to.” She was convinced to try it. There weren’t 20… but we found one. It was also a cool accomplishment, because it was Kitty’s first winter steelhead ever on a swung inline spinner – the ever reliable black body and white silver R&B (a real killer!).

Canyon fish edit
Kitty’s 2nd river
R&B spinner edit
Kitty’s first ever spinner fish

After that we hit a long dry spell with only a few summer runs and rainbows to show in a half dozen trips. We hit a number of rivers that should have been give me’s, but it was a slow year, and we were constantly fighting high water and blow outs every 2 days. I’ve never seen so much rain, ever.

white silver rainbow
A nice rainbow on a white silver 2/5 R&B spoon

We finally hit it right again, once again on a totally new river. We spent the whole first 4 hours of the day fishing through spectacular water again with no results. Eventually we decided to do a rough hike into a canyon. We finally sighted a fish and missed it a half dozen times (somehow before it swam away). The next run down Kitty and I both had hookups. She lost her fish, but I was able to land mine, checking river #2 for myself off the list. Again – another accomplishment for myself that I really wanted to achieve this year – my first ever winter steelhead on an inline casting spinner (can you guess which one?)!

first on stream 2
My 2nd flow checked off
first on a spinner
My first ever spinner winter run

After that, the season took a turn for the worst again. We went on a short dry spell, but that wasn’t the worst of things. I took a serious bail the one day off a 10 foot cliff face into some really heavy white water. I managed to swim my way out somehow, but it wasn’t pretty. In the process I nuked our dslr camera and my phone, and also managed to do some damage to rods and reels (I fell 8 feet, bounced off a rock, and then completed my fall into 10 foot deep white water). A close call, and I was lucky that the camera was the worst damage out of the ordeal – but it was still frustrating. The rest of the photos from here on out are taken on a gopro (or a small olympus stylus hand held), and are considerably lesser quality than most would be used to from me. I did the best I could with what I had given the circumstances until I can afford a better camera again!

The next trip that we did was memorable in both a good and a bad way. We spent the entire day on a river that had been fishing well, but it was busy and the water quality was degrading throughout the day due to heavy rain. We normally do well there, and for the first time in 3 years of fishing that river, I had a skunked day. On the way home, I decided to hit a river that I have often hit fish in on the rising water. Kitty has tried it a few times with me, and had lost fish before, but had never landed one. The last ditch effort to save our day was a good call, and it just so happened to be the biggest fish of the season! Can you guess what it was caught on?

A big ole’ piggy on river #3 for Kitty
A white silver 2/5 R&B modified with a green sharpie to give it a 50/50 lime effect

Next trip it was my turn to get my river #3. Again, rivers were rising hard, but there was one particular flow that always stays in shape no matter how high it gets. It was nothing special, but a fish none the less and a river that I hadn’t yet checked off this year (I typically avoid it unless everything else is blown out).

River #3

After this the fishing finally turned on and we were back to hitting them every trip. Kitty and I decided to hit a new river again, one we had never been to. We showed up to find a river much bigger than I was expecting, and again, it was pouring rain and the river was quickly rising and colouring. We tried the big structureless tail out that we came up to just because we were there. Kitty was begging me to leave, saying it was pointless and that we could hit a river we were comfortable with on the way home. I told her we should stick it out since we were here and at least fish the one run. Three casts in Kitty hit one. Next cast another, and the next another. Then it was my turn and I lost all 3 I hooked in a row. Kitty landed all of hers and got to mark river #4 off her list. It was our first really decent day where we hit 8 fish.

Kitty’s first out of her river #4 in a huge sweeping tail out… on a 2/5 R&B swung spoon
Tight water spoon smash.. second fish

I didn’t fair so badly earlier that day… A beautiful fish, but it wasn’t a new river off of the list.

Big doe that crushed the black bodied, white silver blade R&B

Kitty was soon leaving the island now… she had taken an offer to start working with the Learn to Fish program early. We tried to get as many more rivers in for her as we could, but rain often hampered our efforts for the next 5 days. We did manage to check 2 more rivers off her list though (the only 2 we were able to fish due to high and blown out water). I also managed to check river #4 off the list as well for myself.

Kitty proudly holding a beautiful doe out of river #5
Kitty finally landed a fish out of this river (she had lost fish on 2 previous trips), checking off river #6
River #4 started off with a perfect buck
A second perfect fish on my 4th river for the year

I travelled back to the mainland to help Kitty move back.. and would spend the next month on the island alone. Finally it appeared as though the weather may start co-operating….


3 thoughts on “2015/16 Winter Steelhead Recap – Photoblog part I

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