Every year as salmon pour into north central BC waters, fishermen from around the world hit the rivers in pursuit of a king salmon, otherwise known at chinook, tyee. Within easy driving distance of Terrace, anglers can access many notable salmon fisheries on the road system with the chance of hooking into this trophy fish.
Unfortunately for a lot of the chinook fishing in BC there is a combination of an easy drive, and easy access that sets the stage for what many fly fishermen consider a distasteful experience. Over crowded fishing can often seem synonymous with salmon fishing.
We are fortunate enough to have a river that gets a very large run of chinook salmon with zero guided pressure. This is in fact the Morice River, and we are the only guides on it. It runs quite clear in the spring run off and actually takes 30% of all chinook that enter the Skeena River. This is a staggering amount of fish in a river picture perfect for fly fishing. This is an under the radar fishery you do not want to miss.
We have 2 lodges, and 2 camps in the Bulkley Valley, one in Telkwa, one on the upper Morice, and a camp in each Bulkley canyon. We have a very diversified chinook fishery all to ourselves which is truly almost unheard of without flying into some extremely remote loication.
Our river camps in the Bulkley Canyons are best fished with gear. Spoons, jigs and roe are the most productive, and catch rates are extremely high. There are some very productive waters near our camps that you can get into some great numbers of chinook and never see another fisherman. The water is often very colored up which makes it difficult to catch them on the fly on the Bulkley.
However,when fishing the Morice River we strictly use flies. The fish that reach the Morice are in excellent condition and will give you a battle never to be forgotten. Our guide Ray Makowichuk has been fly fishing for chinook for 40 years on the Morice and with good reason, he catches fish consistently.
Some of the runs we fish anchored in our jet boats, and other swinging flies from shore with spey rods. An 8 wt. or 9 wt. is generally adequate for kings, but just barely and a lot depends on the fish and the water. We always use good quality reels suitable for large fish. You can expect fish to be 15-25 pounds, but fish over 50 pounds do enter this system.
We typically use a fast sinking, sink tip with a 4 foot piece of 25 pound mono. Kings aren't leader shy so its best to go as heavy as you can.
Line selection depends on the water we are fishing. There are so many variables to consider, but the one constant is you have to get the fly down deep in front of the holding fish. Kings salmon will not rise to take a fly very often.
Kings lay low, on the bottom, and can be coaxed to hit but often times won't move much to do it. You have to be knowledgeable about the river depth. If you combine depth and water speed you end up with an over-exaggerated need to get down quickly.
The combination we found that works best in most situations is a sink tip and weighted fly. When we take our guests out, we carry numerous sink tips in varying densities all rigged on rods ready to fire. Teeny 200 and up are the best bet for a single hand rod.
We have a couple patterns that really work well on the Morice and we tie them in a variety of colors, orange, purple, chartreuse, fuchsia, and black. We generally use the same sized fly but having a couple different sizes doesn’t hurt. You never know what will get them to bite.
Once you get the fly down "in the Zone" how do you present it? As much as fly fishers and tiers in particular like to think a certain fly is the ticket, its actually more about presentation. Sometimes they absolutley crush it, and others it's amazing how delicate a forty pound fish can be. Adding a little extra disturbance to the water with your fly sometimes can help, like a reverse cone head.
Typically we fish down and across, letting the fly drift and sink, then swing through holding fish at the appropriate depth. This often times triggers a more aggressive strike as it swings into their space. Once the swing is complete and the fly is hanging directly below you, we let it hang for a while and then begin to strip it in.
The great thing about early chinook fishing on the Bulkley and Morice is that the fish “roll” often in their pools. Anyone who spends enough time on the river quickly learns where the large pods of fish are stacking up. If you are interested in fishing with us for a day or for a week for chinook from June 17th - July 31st, give us a call.