Monday, February 28, 2011

Steelhead On the Quatse River (take two)

Sometimes co-ordinating time to go fishing together can be hard for the three of us. We all work different shifts and have varying days off. Add in to the mix the fact that the Jester has two young kids and a wife who works weekends, and time becomes a rare commodity. In the summer we bring the kids with us and they have a blast on shore cheering us on. His eight year-old daughter is great at helping to release or bonk the fish and even reeled in a sockeye last year. In the winter the places we have been fishing are definitely not kid friendly. So, on Saturday evening when the Jester discovered that his in-laws wanted to spend Sunday with the kids and that I had the next day off work, we began to quickly pan an impromptu steelhead hunt for the next day. The Prince had to work so it would just be the two of us. We decided to try the Quatse River again after getting skunked there last week. We checked the weather report (**remember this as you read on**) and it called for light rain and 5 degrees. We thought some fresh water and a rising river level would give us a better chance to find some fish. Reports out of Port Hardy were that people will still pulling out fish in decent numbers and I really really really want to catch a winter steelhead!

We decided to try and get in on the morning bite so we set out on the three hour drive at 4:00am. It was snowing lightly as we headed North but we were trusting the weather report and itching for redemption. As we reached the Woss turnoff it was snowing pretty heavily but by this time we had passed the halfway point and the sun was beginning to rise so we pressed on. The drive took longer than usual because of the snow but we had our lines in the water by 8:00. We were a little disheartened to see that the river level was actually down from the previous week so this limited the number of deep pools where the elusive creatures might be hiding out. We stopped to chat with a fellow angler who told us stories of the fish he had been catching all week but said he had not even had a bite that morning. This seemed to be the theme of the day. Lots of stories of how good the fishing was only a few days earlier. I am starting to this there is a larger Quatse River conspiracy going on designed to make me think I am going insane. I have never even see someone play a fish on that river despite the all the fish tales!

Snowy start to the day

We spent the morning fishing the North side of the Quatse trying each pool for 30-60 minutes before hiking to the next area and casting in again. The snow fell lightly until 11am and then the sun came out and we had an hour of warmth and blue sky. As the promise of a morning bite began to fade we decided to do a little exploring and drove back towards Port McNeill to check out the Cluxewe River. We knew little of this river other than that the Steelhead run the previous winter had been incredible. We found a logging road that ran along the river, parked and hiked down towards the shore. Unlike the Quatse, the Cluxewe is crystal clear and mostly shallow. It was a beautiful river but definitely not the place for Steelhead to hide in the murky shadows. The river is not a long one and we hiked the shore for awhile looking for any areas that might have some potential, but it was just not meant to be this time. I would love to come back to this beautiful river in the summer and fall to try for Coho and Pinks. We spent and hour or so exploring the Cuxewe and then decided to head back to the Quatse and start hunting again.

Cluxewe River

Here fishy fishy!

This time we explored the shore further North on the Hatchery side, by this point we were running on pure stubbornness but were generally in good spirits. We discussed heading for home but the sun began to shine again so we kept on tossing in our lines. At one point Kris said we just needed a final sign to tell us it was time to call it a day. Moments later, after a day of almost no gear loss, he wrapped his line around a tree limb above his head. I said that was the first sign, on my next cast I snagged and lost my entire set up, sign number two. Within moments the third sign arrived in a spontaneous and head battering hail storm. We were still about a half hours hike to the car so we could do nothing but shake our heads and laugh at our misfortune and poor judgement. As we trudge up the bank and along the trail through the hail that was turning to snow we saw one lone fisherman in the middle of the river. He told us he had not brought in a fish all day but had had a strike a little while earlier. That was enough for the Jester to scramble down the rocky slope and try a little longer. I shot a little video in hopes that at a later, more clear headed moment, it could be used to show him how deep his obsession goes.

Admitting Defeat

We left Port Hardy at 4:30 with an empty cooler and frozen toes but we were still happy to have spent the day outside on the hunt. The snow was coming down heavy and we debated the logic of driving over the mountain pass in this weather or heading to Port Alice and crashing with the Prince for the night. As we approached the Port Alice turnoff the weather began to clear and the sun poked through. We kept driving, remembering the weather report that had called for rain and warmer temperatures. By the time we reached Woss the snow was several inches thick on the road and we were inching our way along. At one point we decided we should turn back but the thought of trying to turn around anywhere on the narrow snow covered highway was terrifying so we kept creeping along. 20km outside of Sayward we hit complete white out. I lived in Calgary for many years and have driven through a lot of snow but I have never been in a storm like that.

Beginning of a scary snowy drive

When I finally crawled into bed, 20 hours after leaving it that morning, I was reflecting on the day. I was relieved that we made it through the storm in one peace, I was physically exhausted from many hours of hiking and casting and I was mentally exhausted from the drive home. I was also trying to figure out how soon I could get back out there and try again. The winter steelhead window is shrinking and I am not good at admitting defeat. I have also had a new reel on order for six weeks and it should be here in a few days, I would love for the first fish I catch with it to be the steelhead that keeps eluding me.


  1. You both have issues :)

  2. Liz's Comment was that poor judgement can be considered a form of mental illness... Hahaha

  3. Addiction makes one do CRAZY things... LMAO!
    I really enjoyed the read & loved seeing the pics of the North island... sure miss it!
    looking forward to your NEXT adventure!

  4. I'm on the Steelhead run next week! Always a journey, isn't it??

  5. I hope you have better luck than we did!!

  6. Pink Waders, you've got a very cool, unique place here. Not to choosy about who you let in and River Damsel? All you need is an Owl Jones and, well...there goes the neighborhood.

  7. Haha, if you met my fishing partners you would quickly see that I am not very choosy about the company I keep! Thanks for stopping by!