For those who have not had the good fortune to fish for steelhead on British Columbia’s Dean River, others’ tales of personal exploits can become overbearing. Stories of hard takes, hissing bellies of line, wild leaps, and the relentless runs of these “super” steelhead are admittedly hard to compete with, especially when compounded with a setting that is one of North America’s most impressive. Truly, the Dean River has defined the legend that is steelhead fly fishing in British Columbia.
Equally impressive is BC West’s willingness to go the extra mile and create a split-day fishing program where anglers fish from dawn to lunch, then return to camp for a gourmet meal and a siesta before heading out in the late afternoon to fish until dark. A fishery best suited to experienced anglers, BC West’s guests fish half of their days guided beneath the falls via jet boat. The other half of the time they are self-guided above the falls using personal four wheelers for access to prime runs. By all standards, this is a rigorous and rewarding routine and an unparalleled fly fishing trip.
For the ultimate anadromous challenge, anglers may also want to consider the June king salmon fishery. Like their steelhead co-habitants only larger, the Dean’s kings are widely considered some of the hardest fighting, and hardest to land, sea-run fish in the world. As BC West is a highly sought-after fly fishing lodge, spaces for both salmon and steelhead are extremely limited.
Location: The Dean River flows into the Dean Channel on the central British Columbian coast just north of Bella Coola.
Fishing Program: It is widely accepted that the Dean is home to the hottest summer steelhead in the world. This is due to many factors including the force of the river itself, relatively warm water temperatures, and the exceptional brightness or freshness of the average fish. From June through September, fresh steelhead enter the system daily. Peak season is considered to include the months of July and August, and anglers fishing for steelhead at BC West during that time can be assured that they will fishing over the freshest fish possible, for at no time will they ever be more than 6 miles from the salt. BC West fishes the lower river in a guided context (four anglers in a single jet boat being dropped at various holes) and the upper river is fished in an un-guided context with ATV’s used for access. Typically you will rotate between the upper river and the lower river each day. This program makes BC West a totally unique fly fishing lodge on the Dean River.
When fishing the upper river anglers will ride their own ATV 12.5 km each direction over rugged country. Helmets and are required and provided. Bring a long a pair of clear or yellow safety glasses for the evening rides back, as this will help protect your eyes from bugs. A Buff is also nice for keeping dust and bugs at bay. Also note that you will need to bungee your rod case and day bag to the ATV. Once the upper river is reached, there are several cata-rafts that can be used to cross the river. Always exercise caution when wading and never jump in beneath other anglers when they are fishing a run. While dry line and dry fly fishing can be excellent, most anglers fish with sinking tips and shooting heads. Dean fish are known for their willingness to move to a fly and range from 8 to 25 pounds, with the average fish typically weighing in around 10-12 pounds. Single barbless hooks are required and all steelhead must be released unharmed.
Accommodations and Meals: BC West is located in the woods on the right bank of the lower river and has four simple guest cabins. Anglers sleep either two or four per cabin and there is a large community cabin with a fireplace where drinks and the late night meals are served. There is a nice shower house with two showers and sinks as well as an attached drying room for all wading gear, and two double outhouses, in the morning and evenings the guests gather in the main lodge for meals.
The main formal sit down meal is served at lunchtime in the main lodge and is accompanied by excellent wines. The late meals follow an international theme and multiple dishes are served buffet style in the clubhouse. The food at BC West is absolutely fabulous by any standards.
Typical Daily Schedule:
5:00 AM: Get up – hot coffee & tea available in the dining room
5:30 AM: Breakfast served in the dining room
5:50 AM: Depart for fishing
12:15-12:30 PM: Guests return to Lodge
1:00 PM: Lunch (largest meal of the day) is served in the dining room
4:00-4:30 PM: Evening fishing resumes
8:00-9:00 PM: Guests return to Lodge
9:00 PM: Appetizers are served in the Clubhouse
10:30-11:00 PM: Generator is turned off
2020 Rate: $7,295 plus tax per person for a 7 night/6 ½ package
Included: Accommodations and meals at lodge, guiding, Dean River classified waters license, air charter between Bella Coola and the lodge, flies, limited beer and wine with meals, BC taxes.
Not Included: Airfare to/from Bella Coola, accommodations, meals/drinks in Bella Coola, BC basic fishing license and steelhead stamp, hard alcohol (BYOB), staff and guide gratuities.
Species: Summer steelhead, king salmon
Season: June - August
Capacity: 8 anglers
Map: Bella Coola, BC
Time: British Columbia time is the same as U.S. Pacific Time Zone