There is something to be said about a job that allows a person to sit on the banks of one of the finest wild steelhead rivers in the world and write a blog for “work.” I am fortunate enough to have that job. As I write this, I am sitting on the banks of the Sustut River in British Columbia after a warm-up session on the home pool here at Steelhead Valhalla Lodge – as a guest of my friend, Jeff Vermillion.
My adventure began yesterday with a long but uneventful flight from Pittsburgh, PA to Smithers, BC via Vancouver, Canada. When I landed at 3:30 pm, I was met by the lodge representative, Ali, at the Smithers Airport with my luggage in hand. Someone was surely looking over me as all connections went without a hitch. For me, that is remarkable.
After a short drive, we arrived at the Hudson Bay Inn, a casual roadside hotel, which is the suggested “hang-your-hat” location for the necessary pre-lodge overnight. The hotel is quaint and caters to steelhead anglers worldwide. A shuttle driver is available to drop you in the town, just about a mile away, for dinner or a walk and then collect you again afterward. I chose to walk to town and take a self-guided tour of the area. Since it was a Sunday, most shops were closed; however, it was evident that fishing is big business in Smithers as fly shops occupy many of the storefronts on Main Street.
We gathered at 9:30 am this morning and returned to the charter side of the airport where a Cessna Caravan awaited the group. After a bit of luggage weighing and loading of groceries, we were off on a breathtaking 45-minute flight that ended on an aspen-lined gravel runway with foliage in full fall colors.
Steelhead Valhalla Lodge is perched just 20-yards from the shore of the river. I honestly cannot wait for bedtime when I can lay with my window open, the wood burning stove at full force and fall asleep to the tumble of the river – possibly one of my favorite experiences in the world.
Conditions this week promise to be interesting. Suffering from a remarkably warm summer, the glaciers have melted to near extinction and the river is running as low as many of the guides have seen it. This takes the jet boats out of play for heading upstream and we will either shuttle or helicopter up to rafts and drift down, stopping at likely water. Floating lines are optimum this week and there has been great success with skating dries in the riffles and tailouts which is an exciting prospect for everyone in camp. I will be throwing both single and double handed – well, a switch rod really – this week and I am looking forward to honing my skill.
The breeze is picking up, the fire pit is burning down and the sun is beginning to dip over the Aspens. It’s time to head back to the river for that golden hour. We shall see what it will bring.
By: Hank Ingram, Department Manager