Big Flies and Bull Trout
Fishing trips are hard, specially when that trip involves crossing an international border, and when your targeted species is a migratory fish. Limited amount of fishing time, and the feeling of never being able to fish these waters again sets in and the pressure is on. Normally these types of trips are more likely to end in disappointment then in glory. But we sent it anyway, I mean you never know when you would be this close to THE place to catch Bull trout, during THE best time of year to find them. British Colombia here we come.
Most Bull trout live in larger bodies of water, like lakes and reservoirs and migrate into smaller rivers and streams to spawn. This is what makes them so elusive, and sought after. And fish don’t have a marked date on their calendars of when they want to get it on, it’s more up to water temps and word of mouth then anything else. But what we do know as anglers is that anywhere from September to October you are likely to see at least some Bulls in the river systems. It’s worth a shot at least.
Post-spawn, these fish like to drop back into deep pools, often at a convergence of another river, or when two branches of the main stem meet back up, oh, and woody debris. And as their run coincides with the Kokanee Salmon run- a fish species that dies after they spawn- the Bull trout sit in the pools waiting for the dead salmon to float by. A bright red, loud dinner bell for them. They gorge on these salmon, and will regain a lot of energy before heading back out into bigger water.
So use big flies, ok, we got that covered. Me, Ryan and The House of Fliez had been down and dirty in the tent at night tying up big streamers, christening them with whistles and imagining them hanging from the mouths of aggressive Bull trout. We felt comfortable with our arsenal of flies, and when you are confident in the pattern you throw you become dangerous to the fish.
Everything seemed bigger in BC- from the mountains to the wildlife, we felt like we were in the big-leagues of backcountry camping. And the Grizzlies made it obvious who the alphas of the forest were, leaving big prints all over the riverbanks almost as a reminder to us. Keep heads on swivels. But the water was crystal clear, and the Bull trout were very willing to eat our big streamers, so the bears became sort of like an afterthought.
Without boring anyone with the gory details of seeing a number of big angry, aggressive trout coming out of the depths to inhale large flies, like the way a musky eats right at the boat- all I’ll say is that these fish let us know if they were home very quickly. And if a spot looked fishy, it was probably going to produce a fish in the first three casts, if it doesn’t, get back in the car and find new water.
Ryan and I talked about big trophy fish on this trip, and we talked a lot about how social media is giving people a false image of what fly fishing really is. The time, miles walked, and fish-less days that go behind each picture you see of a massive fish. Big fish don’t come easily, that’s for damn. We worked hard for these fish that we got, and I know we both will always be grateful for that. However, we can not get consumed in the fishiness madness of social media and can not equate big fish to fishing success. You are a successful fisherman simply if you make it to the water, then each fish is just a bonus. And eventually, as we all keep fishing, the big boys will come. It’s sort of all luck anyways. Don't think, just fish.
I feel truly blessed to have fished waters as pristine as the Kooteney River in BC. Thank you Mother Nature for clean water and big fish eating fish!
Tight lines, and stay core.