The Dean River may be the best steelhead river in the world. Its fish are the epitome of ‘wild.’ In addition to holding steelhead, the river is home to huge and powerful Chinook. The first three weeks of the season at Kimsquit Bay Lodge are dedicated to chasing these Sea Monsters of the river. During the month of June, early-run steelhead intercept Chinook flies. By the third week of the season, anglers will catch nearly as many steelhead as Chinook. By July, the focus shifts to targeting primarily steelhead. However, late into July anglers can be surprised by a late-run, big Chinook. Chinook on the Dean River will test your abilities like no other freshwater fish.
They are unimaginably strong, fast and stubborn. Despite common belief that Chinook are more picky, these fish love to eat swung flies. When the right mood converges with the right conditions, Chinook will take a fly on or near the surface and will go airborne once hooked. They will fight, giving you a good challenge. If you’re lucky, the Chinook will turn and head back downriver for saltwater, as though they’ve realized swimming into the river was a mistake. If you’re not so lucky, they run hard upstream and never stop. No other freshwater fish can make a 20-pound Maxima and a 9-weight spey rod feel so insignificant.
When anglers hook their first Chinook, fear is the most common emotion, as anglers quickly realize they are not in control at all. When you finally land one of these amazing fish, you will feel the victory of one of fly fishing’s greatest achievements.
Sea lice, a saltwater parasite, are commonly found on fish’s tails at Kimsquit Bay Lodge. The lice indicate that the fish has come directly from the ocean, and they fall off quickly in freshwater. You won’t find any dark green-backs, oversized kypes, soft hens or double-stripe bucks here. The chrome-bright appearance is telling of these fish’s natural ocean camouflage. They haven’t been in freshwater long enough to change color, adapt to freshwater or become tired. Clear fins, purple backs, white bellies and silver sides are the norm. The Dean River’s fish are as fresh as anadromous fish come.
I grew up in Tofino, B.C., and had the good fortune to be in and around the ocean from an early age. I started out in high school taking photos of my friends surfing our home beaches, and since then my still and motion work has focused on surfing, fishing, and the life and culture of the Canadian coast. Basically, I’ve just always loved the journey and the simple adventure of getting there. I love exploring new places and being outdoors all the time, and I hope to inspire people, through my work, to do the same.