| 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, Traceys 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 Ill 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 cant 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.
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
players "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. Traceys 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
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.
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, Mannys 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 Clausers 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
- 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, dont overdress with marabou just shove the
bead tight to the marabou and tie in a conventional eye between the bead and the eye of
- 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 BC Canada
Phone: 250 639-4277 or 250 638-0569