BC Steelhead – Fall 2019 Opportunities

BC Steelhead – Fall 2019 Opportunities

Hi folks.  As you may know, I’ve been travelling to BC to steelhead fish and hosting trips for a number of years now.  Without questions, BC is one of my favorite destinations.  A unique place with wild rivers, big wild fish, and wonderful people and accommodations.  I just got word from a couple of lodges about open dates for fall 2019.  This past season was one for the record books, so most of the 2019 dates filled up immediately with return visitors.  That said, there are still some openings available on the Sustut and Bulkley Rivers, but we expect them to fill up fast.  If you have any interest in BC steelhead, feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email, and I’d be happy to discuss these and other opportunities with you.




Steelhead Valhalla Lodge – Sustut River
  • October 14-21: Two boats, Six rods, 6 days guided fishing on Sustut. Price $7300 per rod.
Trout Creek Lodge  – Bulkey River
  • Aug 24-Sept 1: One boat, fishing two per boat, 7 guided days fishing, Price $8300 per rod.
  • Oct 20-27: One boat, Three rods, 6 guided days fishing. Price $7100 per rod.
  • Oct 27-Nov2: One boat, Three rods, 6 guided days fishing. Price $7100 per rod.
Tierra del Fuego Sea Trout – Estancia Despedida

Tierra del Fuego Sea Trout – Estancia Despedida

Big Sky Anglers is excited to be able to offer two open spots at Despedida Lodge during the prime time in 2019. 

This adventure includes 6 full days of fishing, from March 10-15.

If you’ve ever thought about sea trout, please feel free to get in touch, and we will be happy to tell you more about this and other opportunities.

I made my first trip to Tierra del Fuego in search of sea trout in 2008.  Looking back now, I’d have to  describe my understanding of anadromous fish at the time as somewhere between clueless and hopeful.  I had a set of expectations that were based on things I’d read and stories that I’d heard from friends who had chased sea trout and steelhead.  Now I often think back, comparing those initial thoughts and expectations that I had back then to what I’ve learned and experienced over the last 10 seasons.  And, if there is one statement I could make about sea trout and Tierra del Fuego, is that both defy expectations, and both have a beauty and complexity that are not truly apparent without experiencing them for yourself.

Not only that, but if there is one place and time to go to experience all the beauty and complexity of sea run brown trout in Tierra del Fuego, it is Despedida Lodge in early to mid- March.  Despedida is unique in that it offers access to so many different facets of sea trout water and sea trout angling.  The Lodge is located at the confluence of the Rio Grande, and a smaller tributary called the Rio Menendez.  It is this location that makes fishing here so unique, and interesting.  Because the Menendez is a critical spawning tributary for returning sea trout, the runs and pool on the Rio Grande downstream of the Menendez confluence are staging areas for huge numbers of sea trout.  My early March, these runs are stacked with fish, and new fish arrive each day, offering anglers the opportunity to fish over good numbers of fish, and also to experiment with presentations that will tempt both early returning and newly returning fish to grab.

Often it is the water conditions which dictate our initial presentation approach.  If rains have raised the river fish will often act aggressively toward larger patterns like leeches, swung on sink tips.  In low and clear conditions, presentations become more technical with smaller flies, lighter tips and floating lines taking center stage.  These are fairly “traditional” approaches to sea trout fishing, and they are proven over decades.  We fish both single and 2-handed rods on the Rio Grande, depending on conditions.

The Rio Menendez also fishes well.  While traditional approaches also work there, the intimacy of the water and unpressured nature of the fishing sets the stage for some angling that truly shatters expectations of sea trout angling.  I am talking about the ability to fish for double digit sea trout with the upstream dry fly, or dry/dropper methods like we use on the rivers of Montana!  For those willing to experiment, there is a complexity and uniqueness here that can’t be described with words.

What I really like about Despedida Lodge aside from the unique angling is the size of the lodge, and the quality of the guides.  The lodge setting is small and personal, catering to only six anglers each week.  The guides are knowledgeable, skillful, and speak both Spanish and English, and are some of the best I have ever worked with anywhere.  When it comes to sea trout, an experienced guide makes a huge difference in shortening an angler’s learning curve and deciphering the sometimes whimsical nature of the bite.  The wine and food aren’t bad either!!

ORVIS Fly Fishing 101 Classes Hosted by Big Sky Anglers – 2018 Schedule

ORVIS Fly Fishing 101 Classes Hosted by Big Sky Anglers – 2018 Schedule

Beginning July 5th, BSA will be hosting ORVIS Fly Fishing 101 classes at the fly shop on Thursday nights. These 2-hour-long introductions are a great way to get started in fly fishing and learn the basics of gear, casting, entomology and flies, and knot tying. Space is limited for each session, so please call the shop at 406-646-7801 to get signed up.

Thursday Nights from 7-9 pm
July 5,12,19, & 26
August 2 & 8

These courses will be conducted both in the fly shop and at the city park or casting pond and is taught by Big Sky Anglers staff and guides.

You can expect to learn about:

  • What fly fishing is and how it works.
  • Local fish species and our home waters.
  • Setting up your gear
  • Beginning Fly Casting – loading the rod, pick-up and lay-down casting, false casting, loops and loop control, and target practice
  • Methods for hooking, fighting, and landing a fish
  • Catch & Release
  • Basic knots
  • Entomology and fly selection

Every class ends with a Q&A session, and swapping of stories and lies in the time honored fishing tradition.


Sustut River, BC – Steelhead Valhalla Lodge

Sustut River, BC – Steelhead Valhalla Lodge

We are excited to have 3 spots available at Steelhead Valhalla.

Prime Dates. October 2019.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us as these spots will fill up fast.


British Columbia is a special place to visit, especially if enjoy swinging a fly for steelhead. The mighty Skeena River and its tributaries provide some of the best opportunities to fish for big, wild steelhead in the world.  For many years my friends and I have been fortunate enough to explore various waters along the Skeena system.  Every year when I board the plane to leave BC for home I find myself already mentally planning my next trip.

Two seasons ago, in October 2016, I had the opportunity to host a group of anglers for a week on the legendary Sustut River, one of the uppermost, and perhaps the most remote of the Skeena tributaries.  After that first trip I knew I had to come back to the Sustut, and made the necessary arrangements for fall of 2017 as soon as I was able.  Now, with two trips under my belt, I’d like nothing more than to make this trip an annual pilgrimage.

To get to the Sustut we depart Smithers, BC on small plane with all of our gear and travel north for about 45 minutes. We land on a remote runway in the middle of the mountains and travel another 30 minutes on quads/four-wheelers to the remote lodge.  Aptly named Steelhead Valhalla, the lodge is located right on the banks of the Sustut River, with an awesome piece of steelhead water running right in front of the cabins.

The river is spectacular and the fish that make it all the way to the Sustut are truly special.  Neither photos nor words do them justice, but I will try my best.   One often thinks of sheer size when they imagine steelhead.  On the Sustut, 10 to 14 pound fish are common, and large males that tip the scales at and above the magical 20 pound mark are hooked and landed every year.  But these fish are special regardless of size.  They are summer run steelhead, and in October, they are full of the strength and vitality gained from multiple years at sea.  In his unmatched work “Steelhead Fly Fishing”, Trey Combs reported that the steelhead of the Sustut are impressively robust regardless of their length and carry more weight than all other races of Skeena steelhead with the exception of the Kispoix River fish.  Untainted by hatchery genetics, Sustut steelhead remain that way to this day.  Their coloration varies from the bright chrome of the sea, to blushed pinks and iridescent teals on some of the hens, to deeper shades of red and olive on big mature bucks.  Each fish is unique, they are all wonderful, and they are all very strong.

We approach the river mainly with wet flies in October, both unweighted and weighted, swung on either light sink tips or floating lines.  Skating or waking dry flies does work on the Sustut as well, and one of our friends found success on the surface this past trip in water right around 40 degrees!  That’s very cold:  too cold for dry fly fishing on the rivers in the States, which makes me think we should be fishing more dries and tiny wets near the surface when we are up north in BC.  As long as the water temps were on a warming trend, as they often are in the mid-afternoon, I think there is always a real chance of success on or near the surface.

One of the real joys of fishing the Sustut is the diversity of water types you can explore over the course of a day.  We fish water ranging from broad, classic runs to slottier, pocket water and canyon sections.  Every run provides a wilderness experience, surrounded by beautiful trees, wild animals, birds, and more.

Even deep in the wilderness, steelhead fishing is still a game where success is not measured in large numbers, and the catching depends on a sound mix of angler skill and probability.  We fish hard each day for as long an as well as we are able, both to take advantage of our time there, and also to honor the steelhead, which deserve our best effort and utmost respect.  Some days you return to the lodge with only stories and memories of a “pull” or two, a lost monster, or a black bear that walked by on the far bank.  On other days everyone celebrates hooking and landing several fish.

What sticks with me most about this trip is the remoteness of this river.  There is something really special about standing in a place few have been.  If anyone wants to experience a true wilderness steelhead river this trip is a must!

And the best part of my experience, hands down has been the lodge staff and guides that make up the Valhalla Lodge team. They are among the best I have seen. As a guide myself, I really value guides that are so passionate about what they do, and also so knowledgeable about the nuances of their home water.  That knowledge often makes the difference in steelhead fishing, because you spend your day concentrating your skill on the runs and buckets that are known to be A+ steelhead water.

I have been thinking and planning our next trip to BC (Fall 2018) since I got on that plane back to the US last month.  I’ve even started a list of the flies and lines I want to be sure I have.  I’m getting excited just writing about it!  If anyone ever wants to visit with us about steelhead fishing, either in BC or the Pacific Northwest, please don’t hesitate to call or email.  We are happy to do all we can to get you on the right track.

All the best,


Casting Practice Makes Perfect

Casting Practice Makes Perfect

Spring is here!  Maybe fishing season is in full swing where you are.  Maybe you are already planning for your big trip to Yellowstone Country this summer.  Or maybe you are stuck with runoff and have some extra pent up fishing energy.  Regardless of your situation, it is never a bad idea to take some time out and go practice your casting.  It’s fun, and there is no other skill that will improve your fishing success as much as casting.  Being able to put the fly where you want it while controlling the line to manage drag regardless of conditions is the number one key to presentation.  Practice makes perfect, so get out on the pond or the lawn in the park, and put in the effort.  Your guide will thank you!  And when the random passersby ask if you are “catchin’ anything”, just smile and say YES!

There are few casters and casting instructors finer than our friend Tim Rajeff of Echo Fly Rods.  If you are looking for a way to improve your casting, having a look through his series of Casting Tip videos is a great place to start!