Swedish version

© Tracey Hittel

April report from Kitimat River
By Archie Begin


    It is just before seven in the morning, my eyes strain to see through a scum of congealing snowflakes, each the size of a dried apricot and I want to kill the skipper. How does he talk me into this stuff? What the hell were we thinking? I curse under my breath as my foot again slips off the pump. A stalactite of clumped snow is glued to the bottom of my wading boot with a grip that would make a barnacle proud and the surface is now polished with a crown of ice. The ice does not mate favorably with the plastic surface of the foot pump. Sane people are still sleeping. We both had to put our vehicles in four wheel drive just to navigate the paved roads and despite that, Tracey’s vehicle now sits waiting down river at the end of a slush covered goat path that no-one else will drive for at least a week and my truck now rests streamside at the put in, mired in a foot of newly fallen snow. Welcome to steelhead fishing on the north coast!

   The skipper and I are floating down the Kitimat River. It is the 6th of April, orange trees are in full blossom in Florida and we are fly fishing in the middle of a blizzard! We will see no other fishermen today no-one else is this stupid. The river is very low - making the water as clear as polished glass and fishing reports have been poor. It seems the authors or these reports neglected to talk to me or the skipper. We have a secret weapon. Come float with us for a few minutes and I’ll tell you all about it.

   I fished on two of the previous three days, got skunked on Thursday, but I landed two nice bucks on Wednesday, both using the same fly and both near the same stretch of water just coming up. Two main tributaries have joined the Kitimat now. The water is deeper, the current moves through each set of rapids with more intent and every new run looks more promising than the last. I was sticking with the same fly – a new one, of my own invention. It is called a Kitimat Kombo and I am tempted to offer the challenge "If you can’t catch a Steelhead with one of these, throw your fly rod away and take up golf instead!" I had told the Skipper about this new fly last season, but he remained skeptical and was tossing another favorite – an egg-sucking leech. Our shoulders were layered in half an inch of freshly fallen snow, but miraculously – the sky began to clear and lances of sunlight were now poking down through popcorn shaped clusters of clouds. The temperature warmed almost instantly it is now noon, we have yet to touch a fish, but the sunshine and improved water conditions have infected us both with a new enthusiasm.

© Tracey Hittel

   As is our custom, the skipper and I had split up to fish the run from opposite sides of the river. Every single one of us has a special way of showing that we have gotten a hit it is like a poker player’s "tell". I have fished with the skipper enough to recognize almost before he knew himself, that he had a strike. His muttered epitaph a few seconds later confirmed my suspicion. My next cast was a bit further across the stream and when I made my mend upstream, I threw in a second loop. I imagined myself as the fly drifting along now, suspended in the current. The rabbit fur pulsates in the water like it is alive. Flashabou glistens with tendrils of light. The three shades of marabou pulsate against the saddle hackle and the whole fly seems to undulate, swimming softly in the current. It is impossible to resist.

   The take is so hard, my rod is nearly ripped from my hand. The fish gyrates free of the water and twists mid-air, turning to look back at me and sneer. Loops of line tear out of my left hand and somehow manage to choke their way through my guides without knotting. In seconds I am staring at fluorescent backing tearing free from my reel. I can tell instantly that the fish is wild. Many of you will claim this is BS, that there is no difference in how a wild fish fights compared to one born and pampered for the first year of its' life in a hatchery. All I can say to you naysayers is that you need to catch more steelhead then you will see.

   Lice still clung to the underside of my plump little doe when I finally managed to beach her. I was taken so far into my backing on her first flashing run, that I considered running. The skipper digitalized the moment and the fish blended again with the bottom in seconds. The skipper was convinced, time to switch. Within three casts, he hooked into the fish of the day – another wild one. Tracey’s fish was a feisty, eighteen pound buck that severely tested his nine weight Loomis and forced us to chase it when it shot down through a set of rapids. His fish too, was sporting sea lice and doubtless came in the river on the most recent tide. His Kombo was completely destroyed by the time he landed the monster, but I am sure he will keep the fly as a memento. We finished the day beaching four and losing four others, every one a memory to be cherished. We never saw another angler all day, despite we were fishing on a weekend. I guess everyone else stayed snuggled up in front of their fireplaces. At the end of the day, the skipper surprised my with a cold beer and as we sat and talked, reliving the day - I told him how to tie the Kitimat Kombo.

   I arrived at the design for the fly following a period of fascination with rabbit fur. I love the way it looks so life-like in the water and I have been experimenting with using it for tails, Matuka type wings and even palmering the stuff for the entire length of the hook shank to make a very productive leech pattern. Actually, that idea belongs to my brother, Paul – a guide in the Kootenays. It was he who first infected me with my love of rabbit during a memorable week on the Copper a few years back.

© Tracey Hittel

   Two years ago, I was having good success using spey type flies on the Kitimat, favoring one called a Popsicle and I was fishing with a friend who was using a rubber worm. We were both doing equally well, but we seldom caught fish in the same run. It seemed like I was picking up all my fish in slower moving runs and in the faster moving water, Manny’s worm reigned supreme. At the end of the day, Manny made the comment, “What a guy needs is a fly like yours with a rubber worm on it”, and the Kitimat Kombo was born.

Hook: size 1/0 streamer
Tail: pink rabbit strip (think worm here)
Body: flat silver tinsel
Underwing: soft pink saddle hackle
Wing: purple over red over pink marabou, tie in a few strands of silver flashabou after the first course of marabou.
Head: glass or tungsten bead (glass is much cheaper and works just as good. You can add a couple of wraps of lead if you want a little more weight, or you can dispense with the bead altogether if you wish. I like the finish it gives the fly and I think it helps the fly move better through the water, akin to a Clauser’s minnow.)

  • After the hook barb has been filed smooth, slide the bead head over the hook bend and place it next to the eye
  • Tie in a piece of pink rabbit strip at least twice the length of the hook shank. (tying tip, cup the skin down, against the top of the hook as the rabbit strip is tied into place. This makes for a much neater, tighter body section near the tail, helps the tail stay straight and prevents tangling with the hook point)
  • Wrap a tinsel body to cover the bottom two thirds of the hook shank leave at least three eighths of an inch room behind the eye to tie in all the wings. I add a fine wire rib for durability, as steelhead tend to tear the fly up pretty good on a strike and I can usually get a fly to last for two or three fish before it has to be retired to the recycle bin.
  • Tie in the pink saddle hackle, aiming all the barbules toward the hook point.
  • Tie in a clump of pink marabou (tying tip, tie in the extreme tip of the feather first. It makes it easier when wrapping the marabou strands) and wrap, spey fashion – toward the eye of the hook. Be careful to not overlap turns of the marabou and pull the individual strands back toward the hook point with the fingers of your free hand with each wrap of the feather.
  • Tie in a few strands of silver flashabou, the ends should extend a little shorter than the marabou strands.
  • Tie in a clump of red marabou and wrap as per the pink. Brush the marabou tendrils back with each wrap.
  • Tie in a clump of purple marabou and wrap it tight to the back side of the bead head, ensuring the bead is locked rigidly in place. If you come up a little short, don’t overdress with marabou – just shove the bead tight to the marabou and tie in a conventional eye between the bead and the eye of the hook.
  • Whip finish and glue with head cement.

The finished fly looks quite a bit like something the cat coughed up, but once it is in the water, it swims well and works like magic. Make sure you hang on tight!

By Archie Begin


Read more about fishing on Kitimat River
Guide Services
Kitimat BC Canada
Phone: 250 639-4277 or 250 638-0569



To get the best experience of the Magazine it is important that you have the right settings
Here are my recommended settings
Please respect the copyright regulations and do not copy any materials from this or any other of the pages in the Rackelhanen Flyfishing Magazine.

© Mats Sjöstrand 2004

If you have any comments or questions about the Magazine, feel free to contact me.

Mats Sjöstrand

Please excuse me if you find misspelled words or any other grammatical errors.
I will be grateful if you contact
me about the errors you find.