Man Plans, Mother Nature Laughs - Fly Fishing B.C.'s North Coast
Patagonia fly fishing ambassador Dylan Tomine recently returned from a trip to British Columbia. The conditions weren't ideal for fishing but they were ideal for some cold-weather gear testing. Dylan shares his thoughts here along with some great shots from photographer Tim Pask.
Just back from our North Coast, British Columbia spring steelhead expedition and thought I'd report in. We took a 42-foot converted gillnetter out of Prince Rupert and headed north with two small jet sleds in tow. The plan was to anchor up in the river mouths and take the sleds upstream to swing flies for big spring steelhead. But, as they say, "Man plans, Mother Nature laughs."
[Story of the trip...beautiful spot, no fish. Photo: Tim Pask]
We found 8-foot ice walls on the river banks (should be bare by this time of year), brutally low water and 34-degree river temps. To top it off, as the river dropped, it actually got dirtier, eventually reaching the chocolate milk stage and forcing us to bail on the whole enterprise. We did find a couple fish, but as the weather went down the tubes, and the boating became a scary matter of bouncing from rock to rock to stump to log jam to iceberg ... well, it just stopped making sense.
But it was actually a fun trip and a great adventure. I got to spend time with good friends and environmental superheroes Bruce Hill and Gerald Amos of the Headwaters Initiative and learn about the threats posed to this pristine region by the Enbridge Pipeline. And any time I get to hang around outside exploring rivers and messing around with boats with my buddy, photographer Tim Pask is always a great experience. Toss in some world class crabbing and the resulting gluttony, and well, like I said, fun trip.
The unseasonably wintry conditions also made for perfect gear testing. While standing in near-frozen water and dodging icebergs, I found the Guidewater Waders' Merino wool grid booties kept my feet exceptionally warm, dry and comfortable. This was especially surprising because upstream hikes and hauling the sled off rocks meant plenty of exertion and sweat happening between the long stretches of submerged standing and casting.
This was also my first "fleece free" expedition, where for weight and space limitations, I went with all Puff gear for my main insulation. Micropuff Pants over Cap 3 on the lower half and Micropuff Jacket over Cap 3 and R1 Pullover on top kept me warm and comfortable in all kinds of miserable weather. It was tough to leave my trusty R4 at home, but the light, airy feeling of puff gear, not to mention how easy it is to layer made it the perfect choice. In fact, other than sleeping, I never took the above combo off for the whole trip. When we were on deck and it got really cold, I just threw a DAS Parka over everything else and floated in warmth. I frickin' LOVE puff!
One other piece of equipment I have to call out for outstanding performance: The felted-bottom heavy-weight wool socks are absolutely unbeatable inside waders. Best socks ever.
So...busted trip? I guess as far as actually catching huge numbers of giant steelhead, yeah. But in the big picture, it was a killer experience and a ton of fun. And I've come to realize that's the real reason we roll the dice on "iffy" gambles like this one – it ends up being about the people, the place, the food and what you see and learn. So in that context, great trip.
How much gear does it take to catch a steelhead? Photo: Tim Pask
Pretending I know what I'm doing. At the wheel off Lax Wallams, B.C. Photo: Tim Pask
And then...depression set in. Too much ice, not enough water. Photo: Tim Pask
Okay, we did find a couple. Photo: Tim Pask
Tastes like chicken. Photo: Tim Pask
For more from Dylan, check out his environmental essay "State of the Steelhead - The Canary Ain’t Singing Anymore, But The Fat Lady’s Just Warming Up" on Patagonia.com.
[With thanks to Moldy Chum.]