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CHASING CHILLIWACK STEELHEAD

an act of dedication with big rewards

Lush green forests, blue-green water flowing cold and clear in the winter, and anglers steadying themselves in the strong flow. These traits define the Chilliwack River, also known as the Vedder, a powerful flow that rushes through a steep-sided mountain valley more than 80 kilometres from Chilliwack Lake to the Fraser River.

Anglers come in the winter months in pursuit of one elusive silver prize — steelhead, a quarry that demands dedication and a commitment of many hours to hook even one.

The pursuit is an act of patience — one with no guarantee of success — but one that offers the potential for thrill unmatched by any other fish species that swims B.C.’s rivers.

Steelhead are found in the river from December and May — the winter steelhead season. Steelhead are rainbow trout fresh from the ocean. Silver with a pink hue across their cheeks, they are a beautiful fish, a species worthy of the utmost respect.

Anglers cast hand-tied flies with 12 to 14 foot spey roads, equipment that gives them the means to span great distances of water and fight big fish in heavy currents. Spey casting, a two-handed style of casting, requires care and confidence, practice and skill. Watching an angler who is efficient at spey casting is like watching a musician gracefully playing their instrument.

Anglers who step into the Chilliwack River in search of winter steelhead know that to chase these majestic fish in this place is reward in itself. They know the pursuit, the challenge and the camaraderie is the reason for going in the first place.

But they never lose sight of the added potential for an adrenaline-fuelled encounter, an experience that sears into one’s memory with enough power to keep people coming back to the riverbank again and again.

Photo Essay by Fishing BC Ambassador, Aaron Goodis

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