November 8-12, 2016 Trip Summary: My friend Steve Brown and I decided to visit the Smithers BC area to try and get a late season steelhead trip in before winter froze the rivers out. I thought by planning a November trip it would give us a chance at clear water and big late season steelhead, but boy was I wrong. Our plan was to meet up with our friend Will Blanchard who owns Animas Valley Anglers in Colorado. Will was fishing down on the Kispiox river with his black lab Kispi and would meet up with us in Smithers to head over to another one of his favorite rivers the Babine. What happened next were inches and inches of rain and unseasonably warm weather that barreled into the region from somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean by Hawaii. What greeted us when we arrived in Smithers were swollen rivers with trees floating down them, stained chocolate brown, and flowing bank to bank. The first night we met Will, we asked him how the fishing had been prior to the blow out and he modestly showed us a picture on his IPhone of him holding arguably the largest steelhead I have ever seen taken in BC – a brute somewhere around 40 inches by 26 inches or somewhere close to 30 Pounds. With that inspiration, we headed out to the Babine the next day. When we arrived at the Babine, the river was eerily quiet. The lodges had quit for the season and the river was flowing high, but tea colored at the Weir. We decided to stay at the Babine Cabins and fish the lower river each day. This ended up being a good decision as the beer drinking was much better than the fishing in retrospect. After bumping our way down the river, we reached the mouth of the Nilkitwa River. I was shocked to see that somehow the Nilkitwa had avoided the muddy fate of other rivers in the region and was flowing stained, but with about 2 feet of visibility. Excited at the chance to have the entire river to ourselves, we mounted a full on spey rod attack at the finest pools on the river. Angus, Allen, Corner, Trail, Albright’s, Brooks and so on. No one was home. Even Logjam didn’t show a sign of life. The water was super high on the Babine, and it was running ice cold and had a tint of sedimentation after mixing with the smaller murky Nilkitwa flow. We had enough visibility though, but could barely scratch a fish. Apparently the fish don’t like getting frozen out by high pushy snow melt which really isn’t much of a surprise. In denial about the reality of our conditions, we fished out on the Babine below the weir for three days dragging every style of fly and model of sink tip though some of the most famous steelhead water on earth. The water hovered in the mid 30’s. On our last day below the weir, we headed up river after drawing a blank most of the morning and passed one of the Babine guides fishing with his brother at a run called Deadman’s. As we passed by, they were in the process of landing a steelhead. I turned to Will and Steve and said I think the Babine just gave us the middle finger. Later as we were flying out, I saw the guide at the airport, and he said he and his brother had a good laugh about the fish they had on. It turned out it was one of the only fish they could scratch out of the river too, and we had just happened to come by right as they found the only diamond in the rough. Following our epic defeat on the river below the weir, we did put in a day on the river above the weir where we saved face and caught a couple of small steelhead and a big dolly varden, but we never saw anything even close to Will’s Behemoth. I can only imagine the number of giants that looked at my fly under those unhappy conditions and watched it go by.

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