My Lifetime Steelhead

This past winter has been a grind for various reasons. Trade shows and traveling took up a lot of time and energy over a 2 month period. I was left feeling like I was living in Alberta for most of the winter!  Frustration that I couldn’t get out was crippling me. So when I heard that South West British Columbia was having the best Steelhead fishing, possibly ever, I had to find a way to get in the water.

This being our first season with the Fly Fishing Film Tour in Canada, a never ending amount of time, prep, phone calls and much more took place for the past 6 months, getting everything ready for 2011. Something that we are very proud of, the tour is growing and expanding across Canada with another upcoming show in Prince George next week.

To add to it all, the regular prep for the upcoming season, endless DOT compliance paperwork and regulation changes, Ruddocks Ranch prep to Ranch House and Lake, organizing upcoming Fly Fishing Clinics, dealing with massive amounts of emails and phones calls, the list goes on and on.

This is just the business side of my life!

It’s has not been a 9am-5pm job, its been a 7am-12am job. Anyone who owns their own business can appreciate what I am saying.

Needless to say I have been a stressed out, ready to snap individual.

But on April 28th, 2011, the fish gods rewarded a tired soul.

Fishing with good friends Mike, Ian and Cam we headed out to a river in SW BC, for some Steelhead fishing. Not expecting much, I have always been one who believes that the fish come second. Only to the people you share your time with in these moments, not to mention the experience you pick up along the way.

Guiding takes my personal time away from fishing, so it’s always a treat to be able to head out and relax without having to think throughout the day. So it was a pleasure to be in the hands of fishing buddy Mike Blenkarn, riding in his boat for what would be a lights out day of fishing.

I picked up Cam at 4:45am and away we went to meet up with Mike and Ian.

Before this trip (on the way to the river), I attempted to change out my drag cartridge, its a very simple process which takes 30 secs. For some reason a sticky drag and a rare seized part was my issue. It didn’t work, and I was unable to change over. It needs to be sent in. Obviously after this trip!

So I put everything together, and thought I would give it a go anyway. There was a very small resistance, enough to not keep the line from bird’s nesting, if of course I was fortunate enough to hook into something decent. One problem…..I didn’t put back in the one screw, evidently the screw that holds the drag cartridge in!

You know what happened next!

10am rolls around and I hook into the biggest Steelhead of my life….

A born, raised and proud BC boy I have been after the chrome for about 14 years. I have traveled, fished and lived for 6 years in the US. Wetted lines in the state of Washington on my frequent visits to relatives, lived in Europe for 3 years, driving anywhere I could to find Steelhead, and of course traveled up north in search of the best Steelhead fishing in the world.

But it was within driving distance that my proudest, Steelhead on the Spey moment would come.

As I’m fishing down river from Cam, I feel a massive tug on my Todd Scharf “Blue Balls Intruder” (My all time fav bug). I’m pumped. Not only am I on a fish, I know it’s bigger than 14-16lbs. How big I don’t know yet. As I learned from Toddy years ago, take it to the bank. He always said “Lift em’, lose em'”

Cam there for some coaching and moral support "Don't lose this"

As I take it to the bank, yep you guessed it, the drag cartridge falls right into the water! Great! Cam quickly ran over and snatches up the useless piece, that obviosuly I had not put back together correctly. Nervous of course about what would happen if I put in back in, and defiantly not willing to chance it. I fight the fish like it should be fought, by feel and palm. Now of course the little tiny drag I had to keep line from becoming a giant disaster, is gone. This does not feel like a Hardy, this feels like a free spooling, nervous, scared, hating every second moment in my fishing life.

As it happens, anytime you have a nice fish you don’t want to lose. You start reflecting, on all the teaching you have had, the “do’s and dont’s”, “not to hard”, “right there”, and so on.

I know I have lost enough fish in trying to “play it safe.” With this fish, the frustration and stress in my life over the past while.

I thought $%^& it.

Where do you get playing it safe?

I hammered down on this fish with my CF 8142-4 and went toe to toe. What felt like a lifetime, probably ended up being about 25min. With pretty minimal coaching from the peanut gallery, and my focus to not farm this fish. I slowly was winning the metal and physical battle to get him in.

With flashes and glimpses I knew the fish was big, but it wasn’t until Ian gently landed this brut in the cradle that I felt like crying with joy.

Alas, I have broken the 40 inch barrier.

One proud dude!

The cradle is 42 inches and this fish was all of the cradle plus a little. We did not do a girth and will leave that up to you the viewer to speculate on.

The Deepest Steelhead any of us have seen in person

The day was filled with fish. The gang landed 7 fish that day and the positive upbeat attitude (and of course my fish) made this day one of the best fishing days so far in my 28 years of life (29 in a couple weeks!)

I would like to thank Mike, Ian and Cam for this experience, Todd for years of coaching, and of course the fish gods for rewarding a warn down, mentally drained individual who was rejuvenated by a Beautiful, Thick, Wild, British Columbia Steelhead!!

The Release

PS. The story behind my arrogant hat is the fact I like to mix it up a bit on the river and have fun. Super comfy and warm.  Don’t knock it until you try it. Check out previous posts where I have an equally comfy hat on called a Pook Toque!

PSS. Feel free to chirp me on the hat if you want 😉

All photos taken by Mike Blenkarn.


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