Steelhead trout are one of the finest game fish in the world. British
fished Fraser Valley has 16 steelhead rivers and streams, most of which have
hatchery programs with summer and winter steelhead. Foremost of these
steelhead rivers is the Fraser. Virtually all steelhead from every river in
the Fraser River watershed pass through this River.
In the Fraser Valley, the north shore has the most rivers, with a dozen
steelhead streams. From the Pitt, Alouette and Stave Rivers in the western
valley, to Emory Creek near Yale, anglers can choose to fish in many different
Thirty miles east of Stave River, the Harrison River, which drains the
Harrison Lake watershed, has several steelhead runs pass through its waters.
The Chehalis River, Weaver Creek, Cogbum Creek, Silver River and the Lillooet
River, all have steelhead.
Weaver Creek, which is the site of the Weaver Creek spawning channel in
Morris Valley, used to have lots of steelhead. One of my friends once caught a
steelhead over 30 pounds in Weaver Creek, but now the fish are fewer and
smaller. A few kilometers from Weaver Creek, the Chehalis River has a fair run of
summer steelhead and a large run of winter steelhead. Chehalis summer
steelhead average five to 12 pounds. They return to the river in June through
to September, averaging 500 to 1000 fish per year, depending on ocean
survival. A hatchery program from the Chehalis River hatchery ensures the
summer fishery. Winter steelhead are also hatchery dependent, though with many
more fish than in summer.
While the Chehalis River is a favourite for anglers, the Harrison Lake
watershed has several creeks and rivers, some of which have steelhead. One of
these is Cogbum Creek, on the Harrison East Forest Access Road. Cogbum Creek
was a local favourite decades ago, producing some very large steelhead. The
Silver River, along Harrison West Forest Access Road also has steelhead, as
does the Lillooet River, at the north end of Harrison Lake.
The Lillooet River is memorable, since I stayed at Spring Creek logging
camp several years ago, and followed the Lillooet River every day as I went to
work. Some of the loggers fished for winter steelhead, telling stories about
monster fish. The Lillooet River rushes down the valley, with fast flowing
water interspersed with deep pools and ripple rocks, perfect waters for
steelhead. Probably, there are still monster steelhead in the Lillooet.
Although the Harrison area has the best steelhead fishing on the north
shore, three creeks near Yale sometimes have steelhead. Emory Creek, American
Creek, and Anderson Creek still have a few steelhead, fished mostly by local
While the north shore of the Fraser River has the most steelhead rivers,
the south shore has the best steelhead river in the southern mainland,
incomparable Vedder. This world- famous steelhead river attracts thousands of
anglers, some as far away as Europe and Japan. Every Boxing Day fishing derby,
hundreds of anglers try for a prized steelhead. Like the Chehalis, a hatchery
program keeps the Vedder fishery sustainable.
Aside from the Vedder River, the Coquihala, near Hope, was oncelegendary
for the quality and quantity of its steelhead fishery. A combination of mine
wastes leached into the river and the building of the Coquihala highway,
nearly ruined the steelhead; however, nature is resilient. A few steelhead
survived and with the release of thousands of fry, the steelhead have
returned. Some years the numbers are a few dozen, other years a few hundred.
This year was a good year, with the return of about 800 fish. For six weeks in
autumn, a catch and release fly fishery opened on the Coquihala. Perhaps one
day the Coquihala will once again be a quality steelhead stream.
Another steelhead River west of Hope has a few steelhead. The Silver-Hope
River drains Silver Lake and the surrounding watershed. This used to be an
exciting fishery with both summer and winter steelhead. My uncle, Stan Deasty,
took me fishing in Silver Lake. Stan caught two of the loveliest summer
steelhead I have everseen. One of these fish was six pounds, the other eight
pounds. This fishery has since deteriorated and is now catch and release only.
Steelhead are a seagoing rainbow trout. Whether summer or winter runs,
steelhead spawn in late winter to early spring. They stay from one to four
years in fresh water, before migrating to the ocean. After spending a few
months to three years in the ocean, they return to their birth stream to
spawn. Steelhead range in size from 3 to 30 pounds. Unlike pacific salmon,
Steelhead can spawn more than once.
A variety of techniques, tackle, bait, lures and flies are used in
Steelhead fishing. Many anglers drift fish, with a ten-foot fishing rod, a
float and leader, with a pencil weight to get the bait or lure near the
Steelhead. Roe, artificial worms, plastic Jensen eggs, gooey bobs, clusters of
artificial eggs, spin and glo lures, brass and silver lures and flies will all
catch Steelhead. Since Steelhead are near the river bottom, anglers must
present the lure or bait to reach these fish. Experienced Steelhead anglers
lose a lot of tackle. If you are not prepared to lose tackle, chances are you
won't catch many steelhead.
Experienced steelhead anglers have their favourite lures, flies and bait
for each stream fished. A novice steelhead angler would be wise to observe
more experienced anglers to learn their methods and preferred lures or bait.
For the truly novice anglers, be patient, for most beginners do not catch a
steelhead in their first or even second season. Steelhead fishing really is an
art, requiring a lot of knowledge and experience.
Experienced anglers fishing the Chehalis and other local steelhead
rivers, are partial to a variety of lures, including: Blue Fox, Coho,
and other personal favourites such as
Crocodile lures and Colorado’s. Fish lures as close to the river
bottom as possible, to reach the Steelhead.
Aside from lures, increasing numbers of anglers are fly-fishing for
Steelhead. A lot of skill is needed to catch steelhead on the fly. Some of the
flies used on the Chehalis and other Fraser Valley rivers, are: Krystal
Egg, Silver and Red Flash Fly, Squamish Poacher, Black Nose Dase, Peter’s
Ladybug and Glo Bugs (an egg imitation in any desired colour according to the
No matter what the methods used to catch Steelhead, these fish face an
uncertain future in the increasingly crowded and urban Fraser Valley. Perhaps
urban development will not adversely affect Steelhead, but this seems
unlikely. Since the entire fishery for steelhead, cutthroat trout and coho and
spring salmon in the Fraser Valley has become hatchery dependent, we will have
to wait and see if a future fishery is available or sustainable. Hopefully
future generations will respect our heritage , so anglers will still be able
to enjoy catching Fraser Valley steelhead.
First picture courtesy of