Skins and Fins

Professional Skier and Photographer Drew Stoecklein and his crew head out to BC in search of powder and steelhead.  But they find a different story.

Like any trip to an unfamiliar area nothing is certain and rarely ever goes as planned. No matter how much planning, research, and practice is accomplished before the trip, fish will never be predictable and the weather will never be certain.

With this statement in mind let me take a step back to the origins of the Skins & Fins Project. Trip leader Drew Stoecklein came up with the idea to set out on an adventure combining backcountry skiing and steelhead fly fishing with the destination being Terrace, British Columbia. The original plan was to go in late February but with unstable snow conditions and blown out rivers the trip had to be postponed to late March and early April.

The team was determined to make the trip happen no matter what the circumstances. The forecast looked good for a spring vacation but not necessarily ideal for fishing and skiing. We had almost two weeks of unseasonably sunny weather that kept the rivers low and clear and the snowpack unstable.

The first day was dedicated to backcountry skiing we headed up to Shames Mountain ski area, to meet up Hans, the local avalanche specialist and our backcountry guide for the day. As we skinned out along vast open ridges, we realized the magnitude of our surroundings. Massive snow covered peaks continued as far as the eye could see and the potential to ski big lines was a visual reality. We made our way to the top of a picture perfect bowl to set up for the first run of the trip. We analyzed the avalanche conditions and decided it was good to go. One by one the first five skiers took their respected lines. The filmer traversed around the bowl to get a better angle when all of the sudden the center of the bowl cracked and started plummeting down the hill. Everyone yelled “Avalanche” and chaos ensued. Once the event had come to an end and everyone was safe and accounted for, we made our way to the truck and decided fishing would be the better plan for the upcoming days.

Conditions for steelhead fishing weren’t ideal and with no spike in river levels the spring run was slow to start. We fished hard, trying many rivers and a variety of techniques but with little luck. A few tugs here and there and an occasional hook, jump, to spit, our motivation continued sun-up to sundown day after day.

At the closing of the trip we met up with Simms Sales Representative Todd Scharf for one last day of fishing for the elusive steelhead. Magically, the weather turned and the rain came in bumping up the water levels and adding some color. The fish started coming up rivers giving us a productive finally to our fishing. All our hard work had finally paid off. By the end of the float Adam had landed two amazing steelhead ending the trip on a positive note.

Looking back on the trip, the old sane “the fishing was great but the catching wasn’t so good,” took on a new meaning. As we drove away from Terrace we felt lucky to have seen such a beautiful area and survived some treacherous backcountry conditions.  And thoughts quickly turned towards a plan to try our luck again in the future.

This is Part One of a two-part post on the Skins & Fins Project.  Drew Stoecklein is a professional photographer and professional skier based in Bozeman, Montana.  You can see his work at www.drewstoecklein.com.