Jeff sends off a large Chinook back into the Dean River.

Chinook Season

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.

The dock at Kimsquit Bay makes parking the  floatplane and  unloading a breeze.
Cold craft beer on draft and delicious healthy meals are the usual at Kimsquit Bay Lodge.
J.M. Reid Bamboo and Burkies line the rod rack wall at Kimsquit Bay Lodge.
The river boats at Kimsquit Bay Lodge are very comfortable, easy to get in and out of and perfect for safely boating in the Dean River shallow water.
I captured Jeff Hickman sending a cast out below the Eagle’s Nest.
At one year old, Oly Dean Hickman rides along for Chinook.
Oly Dean rides along for an evening and gets a close-up view of the magnificent tail.
The Dean River fish are true survivors. This one narrowly escaped a Salmon Shark.
Glacial green waters that hold fish are the best in the world for wading.
Sea lice cling to this mirrored tail. The sea lice from saltwater quickly fall off once the fish have adapted to the fresh water.
Ocean purples and blues in this Chinook face
Jeff Hickman admires a bright Chinook after a hard-fought battle.
Jeff Hickman admires a bright Chinook after a hard-fought battle.
James Reid casts into the lowest run , where the river meets the sea.
A screaming Farlex on a Burkheimer. Clicker pawl reels are not preferred for catching Chinook, but they sure are fun!
Landing Chinook this size takes a lot of luck and a willing fish.
Here’s a large masculine Chinook face.
A nice bright Chinook is released in the late afternoon glow.
The sunset casts dramatic evening light on Scarface.

Contributed By

Jeremy Koreski

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.

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