As anglers we all dream of the undiscovered: a Shangri-la with lush valleys and pristine rivers where steelhead far outnumber footprints. In the realm of North American steelhead fly fishing, these places are few and far between. But in the fall of 2005, with the help of a local BC outfitter, a crew from Fly Water Travel found and fished precisely such a place — with great results. The camp is the most rustic we represent (not unlike camping in a wooded tent). The physical demands of the trip are many, as the amount of water you can fly fish during a week depends solely on how far you can walk and how many river crossings you can make. Nothing good is easy and believe us, this place is good! Located on the shores of a quiet lake surrounded by peaks in northern British Columbia, the camp offers groups of two or three steelhead anglers exclusive walk-and-wade access to five miles of picture-perfect river, where the wild and willing steelhead average eleven-plus pounds and occasionally exceed twenty pounds. For those who relish true wilderness, love fly fishing the dry line, and feel that a shot of booze tastes better after bush-whacking, this trip is nothing short of a treasure.
Location: The Secret System is located on a remote Skeena River tributary.
Fishing Program: The Secret System is an upper Skeena River significant tributary and has remained largely unknown due to its exceedingly remote location. The BC government has issued a meager 55 rod days to the river, meaning that no more than 55 total user days can be guided there annually. The Secret System is a small high elevation stream that is crossable in numerous locations under normal flows. The valley is a combination of willow and spruce and ringed by impressive snow-clad peaks. Located at 3,300 ft the Secret System elevation is 1,000 – 1,500 ft higher than most of the popular Skeena tributaries, and fall comes early. The river has a strong glacial tint but can fish well with limited visibility. Water temps will typically range from 46-37 degrees. We have done well with dries in water temps as low as 38 degrees. The river is ideally suited to fly fishing and has numerous classic pools and runs with open backcasts. The top three miles of the river seem to have the highest concentration of productive steelhead water but there is an endless supply of fresh water downstream awaiting serious hikers. We encourage anglers to hike down into the river’s lower reaches at least once during their stay. While these days entail more hiking and the pools are more spread out, these waters do fly fish well and this also enables the upper pools to rest so that that they will continue to produce steelhead throughout your stay. Steelhead enter the system the first week of September and over-winter until their spawn in May.
Secret System fish respond well to dry flies and streamers alike and the entire river can be fly fished effectively with floating lines if one so desires. Our initial trip to the river yielded excellent catch rates of steelhead that averaged just over 11 pounds, with several trophy steelhead in the high teens and low 20’s. Through past reports and some personal encounters we feel that steelhead in the high twenty to low thirty pound class are present. All Secret System steelhead are wild and must be released unharmed as quickly as possible. Regulations mandate use of single barbless hooks.
Fishing this river is best suited to physically fit anglers who are capable of hiking at least three hours a day over semi-rugged terrain. Groups of two or three anglers will be accompanied by one guide who will carry a large pack and the lunches. While signs of bear are evident they tend to be shy as they are hunted actively by other lodge clients. Bear Spray will be provided upon request for anglers.
Accommodations and Meals: The lodge is the most rustic operation we represent and resembles camping in wooden tents. It should be noted that the main lodge where you land so there will be hunters and guns and dead animals around. There is now a simple down river cabin just for anglers. Guests will need to carry all of their gear in so pack light and bring a backpack. It will have a simple table, benches, a lantern and a wood burning stove. Bunks will have simple foam pads and pillows. Water is packed in from spring fed source outside the main lodge and a warm shower is expected for 2015.
Meals are prepared by your guide after the day’s fishing in the riverside cabin. They tend to be very simple and served on the late side. The food will not impress you but should prove nourishing. Meals are often served late so we encourage anglers to bring their own hors d’oeuvres, like cheese, salami, nut etc. and prep them yourselves. Energy bars for the longs days spent on the water are also a good idea.
**Note- Anglers need to bring their own sleeping bags, backpack, headlamp, towels and alcohol
Day 1: Arrive Smithers BC and overnight.
Day 2: Transfer from Smithers to the camp. Fish for ½ day.
Days 3-7: Five full days of guided fishing.
Day 8: Transfer back to Smithers. Either fly home in the evening or overnight and fly home the following day.
"Steelhead fishing can be unpredictable and I went to the Secret System in early September with tightly managed expectations and a deep hope for a great experience. Well, the steelhead gods were smiling and I received the greatest gift I could hope for...lots of big aggressive fish that slashed at my dry fly like tuna busting bait, freight train takes on wets fished shallow, and beautiful intimate water where I could hit every lie. My best day ended with fingers cut by burning backing. Dale soaked from tailing thrashing fish, a dozen boils and 14 fish hooked. Not that numbers really matter with an experience like this, but what the heck...23 for 29. What a gift!" E. R., CA
2019 Rate: CAD $8,000 plus tax per person for a 6 night/5 ½ day package
Included: Accommodations and meals at camp, guiding, air transportation between Smithers and the lodge, BC taxes
Not Included: Roundtrip airfare to Smithers, accommodations and meals in Smithers, gratuities, alcohol, beer, wine, fishing licenses, arrival and departure taxes, sleeping bag
Season: September 8 – October 14
Capacity: 2-3 anglers
Map: Smithers, BC
Time: British Columbia time is the same as U.S. Pacific Time Zone.