Anatomy of a Steelheader — Darren Wright

For most, waking up before the sun has even thought about rising on a cold, drizzly morning is reason enough to roll over, and go back to sleep. That’s most people — steelheaders on the other hand are on their second cup of coffee and ready to walk out the door before the alarm they set can even sound. To guides like Darren Wright the drearier more miserable the weather the better the fishing. Here, Wright talks a little about his steelhead addiction, the Steelhead House and some of his go-to G Series products.

Simms: So you like dreary days? What is it about those conditions that get you excited to chase steel?
Wright: My ideal forecast is hands down a low pressure miserable day with little wind. Fish are more on the bite in these conditions, especially in the fall and winter. I know on a dull day in September, I can have my clients skate dry flies all day. I also like these conditions because there’s something really special about holding a chromed bright winter steelhead while the snow is falling — it’s really a special moment.

Simms: What gear are using are you using on these miserable days you love so much?
In the spring and fall, I wear G4 Pro™ Waders but when the winter comes here in Terrace, I practically live in my G3 Guide™ Bootfoots. In the winter, my jacket of choice hands down is the new Bulkley.

Simms: Is there such a thing as too cold to fish for steelhead?
Wright: Well, I’ve fished clients and caught fish at -15. Ice management is obviously pretty intense when temps drop that low and if you dunk your reel, you’re done. When you get down that low, it’s definitely a bit extreme but as long as you are dressed appropriately and can manage the ice, you can fish with success in some pretty cold temps for sure.

Simms: In your own words, how would you describe the anatomy of a steelheader?
Wright: I don’t know if this is necessarily the anatomy of a steelheader but to me, describing a true steelheader is pretty simple: A steelheader is an addicted soul who will go to great lengths to pursue his/her quarry.

Simms: When did you become addicted?
Wright: I grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario and I don’t remember a time when fishing wasn’t a huge part of my life. I remember waking up super early and riding my bike down to the river just so I could get a couple of hours of fishing in before school. My dad would pick me up on the water and drop me off at school. I guess that’s really when the disease started. I was probably about 12 when I really started chasing steelhead and it took me 2 years of hard fishing before I ever landed one. After that first fish, I found my true passion.

Simms: Tell us how you ended up in Terrace and tell us a little bit about the lodge you run?
Wright: Well, like I say, I’ve been a steelhead bum for most of my life and always loved the Skeena region. I’d head to Terrace at the end of each September to unwind. A guide in the area hurt his back and I was asked if I’d like to fill in. From there, my wife Missy and I began looking and eventually found a beautiful log home and have turned it into a small fly fishing lodge called the Steelhead House. We cater to two anglers at a time and specialize in chasing anadromous fish on a spey rod. You could say we are truly living the dream.

Simms: What’s so unique about the area you fish?
Wright: Well, the Skeena is known as a super highway for steelhead, the fish are all wild and you can find them 12 months of the year here. In my opinion, we get the best runs of wild steelhead in the world and some of the biggest fish too.

Simms: Do you have any thoughts on why people obsess over steelhead arguably more than any other species?
Wright: I think it’s a combination of things. Steelheading is a mind game. And, it’s not for everybody — if it was, there’d be a lot more people doing it. These fish constantly cause you to second guess yourself and think you are doing something wrong. Because the always keep you guessing, it’s very easy to become addicted. For me personally, I just think steelhead are remarkable creatures. Each one has it’s own unique story. Each fish is different. When you catch one — especially the ones in Terrace, you can’t help but to think about that fish’s journey. It’s been in the ocean for three or four years and you think about what that fish has been through to get back in the river when you see a seal bight or other visible close calls with death. It’s the chrome, the more silver they are, the more special they are. Wearing that pearl dress, translucent fins, hardly any pink in the cheek, all steelheaders are the same, they want that chrome. All steelhead are special but there’s just something about a fish fresh from the sea you can’t duplicate. The electricity when the fish grabs that fly and almost tears the rod out of your hands, that’s what it’s all about, after that it’s all fun but the greatest part is the take.

Simms: Any tips for new steelheaders?
Wright: Like I say, the biggest thing about steelheading is that it’s a mind game. You just have to keep your mind in it, keep pounding away and keep putting the fly in the zone. Sooner or later, it will happen. Even the best steelheaders blank with regularity and you know what, most steelheaders wouldn’t have it any other way. If you caught a fish every single day, it wouldn’t be the same.

  • Adrian South

    So much truth in this article. Nobody likes getting up early but you have to put the time in to get rewarded.

  • mick

    Great article. I live in Terrace, and started chasing steelhead this Summer with a spey rod. I am addicted. It is a beautiful addiction. Tight lines.

    • Carsten Paarse

      which river is good with steelhead right now ?lands in the terrace Monday !