Adequate Sized Fish by Jason Renfro

I like to catch big fish.  I do so far less often than I’m willing to let others believe, but I like it when I do.  Most fly anglers do.  Perhaps because I understand how rare they can be, or how they may be more wily than their more diminutive counterparts, or just because it makes me feel superior to my fishing partners without having to vocalize it specifically and overtly at the time.  My psychological motivations may or may not be those of other anglers; read on and find out.

I’ve read the predominant view of the angler’s progression, and you probably have too, it being a common theme of angling writers’ hackery.  You know, the one about wanting to catch one fish, then many fish, then… blah, blah, blah.  It often ends with a BS description of a non-sensical, quasi-spiritual motive where fishing without having to catch any fish at all becomes the goal.  Perhaps this theory accurately reflects others experience, but I doubt it will ever be my own.  If I stopped catching fish after some period of time I deem far beyond the wildest stretches of cold spells, I’m near certain I’d stop bringing a rod along.  I might become one of those backpacking types, who goes out in the wild without any stated or intelligible reason.

I’ve been thinking recently about one of my most beloved trout streams, because that is what fly fishing bankers do while sitting behind their desks.  I won’t call it my favorite stream because I inordinately pride myself on consistency, and don’t want to paint myself into a corner I’ll likely carpet over later.  This stream may contain big trout, but I haven’t caught nor seen one yet.  I like it because it’s beautiful, rarely crowded, full of bug life and full of wild fish.  It also lends itself to the pursuit of said fish with a dry fly.  Part of me may like it a little more than I might otherwise if it weren’t a lesser known, but I am unsure.  I am sure the experience it provides epitomizes fly fishing as I like to see it; there is no preoccupation with measuring the fish or with trophy shots of any kind--even the good ones where the angler leaves the fish in the water; and there is no preoccupation with second guessing which technique will get the biggest fish--nymphing down deep with lots of lead, hucking a monster streamer-lure—because this is a dry fly stream.  Just the joy of the cast, rising fish and quietude.  The quiet provided is more than the lack of sound; it is the peace of angling to merely adequate-sized fish.

Lucky 7's by Steve Perakis

My lucky number has always been 7.  Very cliché, but it works for me.  It stands tall, with a list to one side. It is odd, and prime, the perfect counterbalance to “Even Steventendencies.  It is also my favorite weight of two-handed rod, perfectly matched to Oregon steelhead and the rivers they inhabit.  Hope in a number. 

The anticipation started to rise as my rig piled on the miles … 50,000 … 60,000 … 70,000 … 77,000 … 77,700.  With my drive to winter steelhead waters around 100 miles round trip, I knew the magical mark was coming:  77,777.  Would the day bring good luck?  Hope and superstition spring eternal among anglers, and I had to conjure some more.  I dialed up the studio version of Sonic Youths “Stereo Sanctity” from my younger rowdier days, and heard a resounding “7” tumble into cacophony, propelling me along winding ice and snow covered roads to my first winter steelhead trip of the year. 

I strung up my favorite all-rounder for these tightly hemmed coastal rivers, the C.F. Burkheimer 7127-4. This sweetheart is a light but capable 7 wt that fishes floaters and sunken lines equally well. With the cold high water and low air temps, I was expecting little more than some casting practice, a chance to relearn the groove of swinging sinktips and sunken flies.  It was the perfect day to fish water from top to bottom, to feel the soul of the rod and relish each cast as it soaks through the flow.  It was also a day to reacquaint with many boulders and ledges concealed by greasy slicks.  Find them under gentle tension or they’ll trick you into a rock-hard hookset.

I stood at the head of The Funnel in hard pushy current, casting over fast seams for a broadside swing in quieter water.  As I etched the river’s contours in my mind, the fly stopped hard and cold.  Honestly, I thought it was a boulder, and immediately a downstream belly started to form in the line.  Damn boulder.  A gentle tug to free it.  The boulder tugs back.  Huh?  The boulder then headshakes and I realize my good fortune.  With the line’s belly pulling steadily downriver, the fish swims slowly upriver against the tension, acting like it isn’t even hooked. Everything seeming as calm as can be, I take the opportunity to wade to safer position, but just as I start to move the fish responds with a surge.  I’m halfway turned away when the pool lights up in a fury of leaps.  Fighting the cold water, the current, and the drag of the reel, the fish soon tires and comes quickly to hand.  What a rock!  This one has sea-bright scales and translucent fins.  An ingot of silver etches permanently in my mind’s map of the pool.           

This is only the beginning of improbable day that turns out far better than I’d ever expected.  By day’s end, I’ve hooked five fish and landed each of them - all bucks.  What did I do to deserve this?  I pack up early, leaving time for icy roads.  On the drive home, I glance down momentarily, and the odometer flashes back the only explanation that makes sense.



Is a 4 Weight the New 5 Weight? by Jason Renfro

Late summer in Southwest Montana promises Tricos and the last few weeks of good hopper fishing.  The crowds are still present in some watersheds while others begin to see a respite from the height of the season.  2016 has been exceptionally kind to me as an angler as I find myself in Montana for the second time with one more visit planned before year end.  Those Montana trout had thus far been accommodating and plentiful, even if I have yet to return home with a hero shot of a salmon-sized brown or story of gargantuan fish of questionable authenticity.  I did however return with a familiar appreciation for God’s creation and an ever growing longing to be where it feels most genuine to me.

As a self-admitted fly rod junkie I brought a somewhat absurd number of 3, 4 and 5 weights on my visits. As the days went on a trend began to appear.  With the exception of specific small stream fishing, I found a 4 weight in my hand nearly every day.  Thus arose a thought, “Is the 4 weight the new standard for all around trout fishing?”  For many years the 6 weight rod was perhaps the most popular go to trout rod, with the 9 foot 5 weight being the current standard.  Today many anglers reach for a 6 weight only for streamers, heavy sinking lines, and larger wind resistant flies.

In thinking back to my last 5 years of fishing I realized I can’t recall the last time I fished a 6 weight single handed rod.  I reach for a 5 weight only when I expect the same conditions or requirements previously mentioned as 6 weight material.  All other times I find a 4 weight in my hand.  A moderate action 4 weight has served me well for dry flies size 8 and smaller, nymph fishing those same sized flies and streamer fishing all but the most absurdly sized offerings.  Am I alone?  Is this a result of advances in rod material and design?  Are rods just too fast these days? Or are they just that good?

I’m not sure of the answer to the first question but I can offer my thoughts on the latter two.  There are some very sweet, soulful and capable 4 weights being made with today’s materials and with an ever-increasing refinement.  Rods relying on artful design and recovery speed for a capability not historically found in a 4 weight rod are now becoming the norm for high-end offerings. That said, true greatness lies in subtle detail.  There is no shortage of inappropriately or carelessly designed trout rods on the market.  With the reality of distances at which trout are most often caught, rods that don’t provide feel and load at 20 feet or so are simply not good trout rods.  Too often our judgement before purchase is reliant on overly esoteric analysis, or on so called “shootouts,” that are tainted by subjective opinion, personal relationships, and business interests. (Unless, of course, you fish mostly with monster indicators; then you can use any old stick to do the job, like maybe a spinning rod.)

Before I go so far as to offend the masses, I think I’ll grab my “Burkie” 489-4 DAL and go fishing...

Why May the Rivers Never Sleep?

by: John R. McMillan

I never thought of the question until now.

Randy Stetzer asked me: What was your inspiration for May the Rivers Never Sleep?  How did it come about?

Great question, I thought. Easy enough. 

But, after sitting down to the computer to punch out a quick response I realized it was not so straight forward.  So I let the question rattle around in my brain for a month or two, pondering the answer while fishing and hoping it would collect some of the mental residue lying around from past ideas.

Alas, I was never able to recall the exact moment that sparked the idea for the book.  And for good reason. I came to realize that there was no specific impetus. Rather, the idea had been drifting around in our family for some time – like a caddis circling the gyre of a back-eddy – before becoming a daily thought that necessitated an outlet.

The sinuous path to publication started long ago, probably with my grandfather and his brother who were raised on the banks of the Willamette River near Oregon City.  Their love for fishing was passed to my father and then to me. Given my family’s history of living in the Pacific Northwest and our long connection to fish, it just seemed the natural thing to do.

I was raised as an angler and budding biologist with a dad who was struck by the curious life of rivers and fish.  Maybe there were other things I would have done if my father had been different. Maybe there were other things I wanted to do as a boy – like become Dan Marino and a football star.  Regardless, the path was blazed and for the life of me – while being a professional quarterback would have been incredible – I don’t think there is a damn thing I would have changed.

I digress, which is why my answer to the question is so obtuse.

One thing that is clear is the motivation. My father and I both loved one book in particular that was written by Roderick Haig-Brown. Haig-Brown was a remarkable observer of nature who lived on the banks of the Campbell River on Vancouver Island.  In our view, his writings represent the benchmark of all other fishing literature thereafter, largely because he was not just a fisherman.  He was also a pioneering conservationist that paid as much attention to the rivers and their life as he did angling, and his stories beautifully conveyed a complex understanding of nature’s patterns and the ecological relationships underlying the steelhead and salmon.  The stories were read and re-read by my father too many times to count.  I most frequently read them under the dim light of winter in a bedroom that overlooked the Washougal River.  We wanted to pay homage to Haig-Brown and his book A River Never Sleeps that captured our mutual passion for rivers and fish.

I also wanted to write something with my father. I love him dearly, and we have done a great many things together.  But writing was not one of them.

And this is where things begin to stray.  Although we modeled our book after A River Never Sleeps, it was actually another book that planted the seed for collaboration: The Monk and the Philosopher. 

The book is essentially a conversation between a father, a scientist, and a son, a former scientist turned Buddhist monk.  The back-and-forth dialogue uniquely highlighted the difference and similarities between spirituality and science, but in our case the roles were slightly reversed.  My father is more the philosopher, though also a field biologist, while I have worked professionally as a fishery research scientist for most of the past twenty years.  We initially wanted something similar, but eventually realized that the format was inadequate for our purpose.

My father and I had several discussions about this over a one-year period before approaching Frank Amato about publishing the book. After a few meetings with Frank and his team, we agreed to a basic template that combined the two books in a way that would allow the reader to see the different perspectives of father and son.  To do this we settled on a concept of what we call “river time.”

The concept is that we view nature as our calendar, and that the shifting concept of calendars across human history has been fundamentally linked to nature’s patterns – or those based on agriculture.  Regardless, the point being that the need for understanding and measuring time is founded in the seasons and the biological patterns that follow.  A life spent on rivers is intrinsically linked to these patterns, but there is also a fabric of life overlaying that template. This is what we wanted to focus on. Both the rivers and the life therein.

To capture our perspective of river time we focused on the twelve months of our annual calendar and divvied the months equally among father and son – each of us selecting the months that most strongly resonated with our experiences in angling and biology.

This is the core of the book, a story about the seasonal changes in rivers and life.

On the surface, the river calendar represents a shifting mosaic, a biological tapestry overlaid on physical changes in climate and stream flow.  More deeply, it is an instinctual anticipation derived from decades spent on rivers. Owing to this connection, I no longer think of December as Christmas or January as New Years. I anticipate those months as winter floods, ice and steelhead. They are about the song of the winter wren and the drenching rains of rainforest storms. They have nothing to do with snowy mountain peaks, skiing, holidays, Christmas parties or any other shit like that.  They only represent the start of winter steelhead season and the close of the salmon’s fall run. 

In the same vein, I don’t think of July as Independence Day nor do I associate June as the beginning of summer, because as anyone who grew up on the west side of the Cascades knows, summer always begins sometime around the second week of July – before climate change at least.  Summer is not about bikinis, surfing or vacations to Disneyland. Those are all likely very fun things, to others.  No, summer to me is about fishing for trout, steelhead on surface flies, and snorkeling rivers.  It is about drought, unexpected thunderstorms and massive evening caddis hatches.  It is the time of nature’s bounty, or nature’s bust if you live in a warmer and drier region.

Fall is uniquely dichotomous in the river calendar, salmon spawning and dying on the coast while summer steelhead are just coming to life in the interior Columbia as temperatures cool and river flows rise.  It is not about Halloween or football season, it is a contrast of death and deserts, the stench of rotting salmon versus the sweet smell of sage.   On the other hand, spring is the gift of life, horny steelhead and birds caught in the throes of reproductive desires.  It is not tax time nor is it about any specific date representing the onset of spring. It is a gradual change, the time when plants rise from the dead and the fragrant cottonwoods begin to tease the nostrils about the upcoming warmth of summer. 

That is my river time: the ever changing theater of birds, fish and plants. The end of life, and the beginning, all in a calendar year. 

The hope in writing the book was that other anglers and biologists start to recognize their own internal calendars, those based on their local rivers and fish.  Each of our calendars has been sculpted by a lifetime of experiences, and as such, observations and patterns likely differ strongly among regions and individuals.  Every river is different, every population of salmon and steelhead unique.  Our calendars should reflect this diversity.

And that brings me to the real reason for writing the book.  Rivers are only alive as the life within.  Yet, the only reason we know what we once had is through reading the observations and study of others – people like Haig-Brown.   We need those guideposts if we are ever going to fully appreciate, and potentially recover, our rivers and fish.  Without them we are at the mercy of the Shifting Baseline syndrome, where undocumented losses accumulate such that each generation – not knowing what formerly existed – comes to accept the diversity and abundance in their lifetime as the new norm.  This is a very real and big problem in fisheries conservation.  It is hard to fix something if the person does not know what was broken, and as a result, it is nearly impossible to define what recovery looks like.

Our book leaves behind a documentation of what we have and what we have lost in the places and populations that my father and I are familiar with. But our knowledge is limited geographically.  It is incumbent upon others in different areas to leave behind similar knowledge of patterns and place. All we ask is that next time you are out on the river, closely observe something and parse out a bit of effort to keep written notes about changes in rivers and fish.   If we can do that, cumulatively we can leave behind what others have left for us.

While it may seem we are on the losing end of the conservation war, remember, nature always bats last. There is hope for the future. In the closing chapter of the book I reference my experiences working on the Elwha River during and after dam removal.  It was something to observe the first steelhead make it above the dams, to see the dippers feasting on salmon eggs and realizing that sooner than later, some person will be fishing the river. 

It is amazing to see how much the Elwha’s river calendar has changed over the past four to five years, and it is continually evolving. Just a few weeks ago a close friend, James Starr, was snorkeling the upper Elwha and documented four wild summer steelhead.  We were lucky to see any wild summer steelhead prior to dam removal, and James saw four in just four miles of river. 

We can’t relax though. We need to strive for greater change. Our book is a prayer that the change continues – that The Rivers Never Sleep – and that the coming generations of anglers have opportunities to fish and snorkel rivers that we did not.

That won’t happen with a book. It won’t happen overnight, nor will it be easy. But it won’t happen at all if you don’t get involved.

It will only happen with each of you making a very small difference.

You can purchase a copy of the book at:

You can see John McMillan’s underwater photography at:

Kharlovka Atlantic Salmon Trip with Pete Gadd

I’ve always wanted to go Atlantic Salmon Fishing in Russia. Always. Well, ever since they first really opened it to outsiders circa 1990. It was 15 years ago that I became aware of the ASR - Atlantic Salmon Reserve and to be honest I never really thought I would be able to go. Too far, too expensive, too exotic, but every now and then in life, things align. I found myself with a booking for the last single-rod available on the first week of the season.

In what was a dramatic case of surge pricing, closely tied to the probability of success, my week at Kharlovka was about 1/5th the price of the folks’ booking three weeks later. So a bit of gamble, but like I said, the stars were aligning in favor of this trip.

Going somewhere like that, especially with the burden of practically life-long held dreams, there was a fair amount of anxiety. Spring run Atlantic Salmon are considerably larger than the later fish, 25% are over 20 lbs with a legitimate possibility for true monsters. They’re fresh from the ocean, chrome bright most with a few sea lice still attached, in snow-melt-swollen-rivers.

Plus you’re in the tundra, a helicopter ride from your cabin, a sat phone away from civilization and getting it right counts. So I agonized.  I even had a nightmare. Vladimir was stealing my fly reels at customs.  He just loved my lovely old English fly reels! Nothing could have been further from the truth in reality but, which turned out to be a good message from my subconscious because I was happy I packed my nice modern fly reels instead. Speaking of packing, I brought one 5-piece rod and I wished repeatedly that my 4-piece was similarly divided. As the Russian proverb goes: seeing it once is worth hearing it a thousand times, note to self: buy a 9144-5 and a 9136-5 to match my 10148-5, it’ll be worth there purchase price in saved luggage fees.

Most importantly your tackle needs to be in perfect working order, no light tippets, no old backing, I fished 30 pound tippet the whole time. Your loops on your lines can have no frays considering its possible to hook a fish with a weight higher than your fly line cores breaking strength. Honestly fifty pound running line and 300 yards of gel-spun backing, fish leave the pools here often. A shameless plug is in order for Helsinki Spey Clave, they delivered lines, hooks and extra tippet to my hotel room FOC, that kind of customer service is rare. Their knowledge of the Kola Rivers is worth a email for tackle advice if you’re headed there.

Given my standing as a fishing bum-dog sweater salesman (although judging by my reservation date and accompanying bargain pricing, I am no hedge-fund manager) the ASR is as marvelous a camp as one could hope. The fried cod-tongue, the reindeer charcuterie and open bar. They made a chocolate birthday cake in the middle of the tundra for our friend Ulrik from Copenhagen. My guide Volody, a twenty five year guiding veteran, who at 60 sprang up and down the rocks like a mountain goat, cigarette dangling beneath his quintessentially Russian mustache, was so familiar with the river I felt sure he could navigate the whole thing blindfolded.

The tundra was wide and rambling, scrubby with a even green wash of reindeer moss and above, a vast ever-changing, always-lit sky. The wind was fierce and restlessly shifted up and down stream all through the canyon. It was early still and felt like late winter in Oregon, with a moist crispness to the air. That sounds like early in the season right? Remember how I mentioned the stars aligning for this trip? Well maybe that was the case here. The snow-pack was light last year and the the water was 50F when it was typically closer to 40F during this time. It was like I was there at peak-price time, catching a couple fish every day. While I didn’t break the 30 lb mark, I came very close once. Full sinking scandi lines, nope half of my fish came on floaters and unweighted flies. I was hitching tubes my last afternoon fishing. I have had enough of heavy tips and flies by the time I arrived.


So did it live up to my decades of dreaming? Was the fishing all that I hoped for? I can say it comfortably surpassed them, especially when I take into account aspects that I hadn’t thought of - , the breadth of knowledge of my guides, the excellent appointment of the camp. Most importantly there were fresh fish in the river. That’s the biggest part of the trip and there were fresh fish coming every day. I am already scheming for new avenues to make money and surveying the garage for treasures to sell. Would a Costa Rican yoga retreat for my wife convince her that I could go again? I will be back, I'm sure the first week will still be in my price range next year. Thanks Justin, Volody and all the employees of the camp. If you are interested, you can email them directly at

Proper Catch & Release By John McMillan

Doing what we can to minimize catch-and-release effects and maximize survival of steelhead

John R. McMillan

There is no worse feeling than bringing a steelhead to hand and seeing the gills pumping blood.  Such experiences are one of the reasons that anglers have created flies that reduce deep hookings.  Still, fishing is a blood sport, and despite our best efforts, we ultimately cannot eliminate the potential for some mortality.

While we can’t control where the fish is hooked, not every fish dies because it was mortality wounded.  As I have learned from firsthand experience, fish are also needlessly harmed and die due to poor handling. 

Fortunately, we can control how we handle the fish and there are steps that can minimize our effects.  This should be the goal for every angler practicing catch-and-release (C&R) on wild steelhead.

In fact, reducing our impacts is not only important to our state of mind, but also the sustainability and future of our fisheries.  There is a reason nearly all wild steelhead seasons are strictly C&R. Most populations in the lower-48 are either listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act and/or severely depleted from historic levels.  The causes are many, but one thing is for sure, the population of humans is growing and there has been a surge in the coolness of steelheading.  The combination of factors means that there are now more anglers sharing fewer open rivers for lesser numbers of wild steelhead than ever before.  

Given that more new anglers seem to be trying steelheading than I can previously recall, it seems imperative to outline some basic practices to minimize the effects of C&R.

The effects of C&R are generally delineated into two types: lethal effects, which occur when the fish dies, and sublethal effects, which harm the fish to varying degrees but do not cause mortality.

In general, mortality associated with C&R and steelhead is pretty low. Most studies have found the lethal effect to be 2-7% or so, with mortality rates increasing once water temperatures exceed 70-75F. That is generally good for us because it means that sport fishing has a pretty low mortality rate, but, let’s also remember that most published studies on C&R were done by experienced anglers and scientists. Further, it is likely that all anglers were on their best behavior because they were being closely observed by scientists.  So, it is possible that mortality rates are higher under normal circumstances, such as when people drag the fish onto the bottom of the boat and let it flop around for a minute. Or when someone drags the fish on bank, lifts it up by the gills to remove the hook and then throws it back into the river.  I don’t see these behaviors as much as I did 15 years ago, but they are still prevalent enough that I would guess mortality rates are probably a few percentage points higher.  Doesn’t matter really, the rates are still low.

Far less is known about sub-lethal effects on steelhead. We know that more exhaustive fights result in increased cortisol and lactic acid levels, and elevated levels of cortisol can have negative effects on the physiology of the fish. Otherwise, we have to look to studies on other species – like Atlantic salmon – to understand potential sub-lethal effects. For example, recent research on Atlantic salmon indicates that reproductive success of females that were C&R’d was reduced after they were exposed to air compared to fish that were not exposed to air.  It is hard to say what this means to steelhead, but I think we can all agree that minimizing air exposure is probably a good thing for the fish.

The body of research, and my personal experiences as a steelheader over the past 35 years, suggests there are a few important practices that can reduce both lethal and sub-lethal effects.  First, make sure and cut the leader if the fish is deeply hooked. Don’t go fussing around inside its throat to retrieve the fly. That only makes matters worse.  Not all of those fish that are pumping blood will die.  I have participated in a number of studies where I observed fish survive instances when I thought they would succumb to blood loss.  It is not many, but some do survive deep hookings. 

Second, fight and land the fish as quickly as possible, which means putting the wood to the fish, rather than letting the fish play itself to complete exhaustion. It also means using the appropriate size rod, reel, tippet and fly.  This will reduce the cortisol buildup in the fish and allow it to reach stasis sooner rather than later, and it also reduces the amount of energy the fish expends. The latter could be particularly important to summer steelhead that rely on their fat stores to survive for prolonged periods in freshwater without restorative nutrition.  I fully appreciate the challenge of landing steelhead on light gear, and that is completely fine for hatchery fish and in populations where most of the steelhead are small in size.  But those normal 2-4 salt wild fish are too few to be hooked on 4wts with 4lb test.

Third, there are a number of safe ways to land the fish.  The best way for the fish is to simply grab the leader and unpin the fly while standing a few feet from shore in knee deep water.  That ensures the fish won’t slam its heads on rocks or beach itself.  But that is not always possible depending on the size of the fish, length of the rod and features of the river.  If fishing with a partner, have them either tail or net the fish (using a knotless net).  If fishing alone, as I do the vast majority of the time, it is sometimes easiest to slide the fish into the 6”-12” of water near the shore, remove the hook and then release the fish.  Any of these are generally acceptable, though the latter requires more practice and experience to ensure the fish does not go ape crazy when it does enter the shallow water.

Fourth, minimize handling the fish, period.  Their slime is a protective layer, which is why handling a fish with wet hands is better than handling a fish with dry hands.  Don’t squeeze the fish too hard either, as C&R studies on other species have found that hard handling near the pectoral fins can bruise the heart and squeezing too tightly on the wrist can damage vertebrae.  This is why it’s best, if possible, to not lift heavy fish completely from the water. We have all tightened a death grip trying to hold onto the tail of a struggling steelhead, but avoiding that tendency on our part if important to the fish’s health. 

Lastly, if you want a photo, and I take photos myself, then do your best to keep at least part of the fish’s head in contact with the water.  This can be accomplished by holding the fish sideways in the water, allowing the current to wash across one sides of its gills.  It can also be done by keeping the bottom 1-2” of the fish submerged.  If alone, and this is the most difficult time to get photographs, make sure and keep the fish’s interest in mind.  I try to slide the fish into 5-8” of water where there is clean gravel, not mud or silt. I then remove the fly so the fish can easily right itself and swim away if it desires. I pull out my camera and snap a few photos while the fish is lying on its side, then gently guide the fish back into the main part of the river.  It seems about half the fish I do this with end up swimming away before I can ever get a photo, which is fine with me, and highlights why it is key to remove the hook first. Although I would suggest trying to not lift the fish entirely from the water for a photograph, if that does happen, make sure the fish is not out of the water for more than 10 seconds.  That is plenty of time to get a couple shots and reduce possible sub-lethal effects from air exposure.  

In summary, the goal of C&R is to not only have the fish survive the encounter but also swim away without extensive sub-lethal effects that may reduce its spawning success later in life.  Taking the steps outlined above will help minimize the aforementioned effects.  It may seem like the loss of a single fish is small potatoes in the scheme of things. But, there are lots of anglers fishing for steelhead and in some populations we are C&R’ing the entire population of steelhead.  Further, it is often a small proportion of the steelhead population that produces most of the offspring for the next generation, which means that we never know if the fish we are handling is one of those lucky individuals that will be critical to the future of the population. 

C&R is the future of steelheading, but that means the future of angling opportunity partly depends on how we treat the fish. I think we all agree that wild steelhead are a precocious resource, and no one wants to experience that sinking feeling of having such a beautiful animal die because of something we did. 

If you are interested in further details about landing and handling steelhead, please watch the online video I did with Trout Unlimited. It can be seen at (

"It Only Take's One" By Chris Andelin

They all count, some just count a little bit more. Trout that you really have to work for, the one's that truly define the saying "it only takes one", a term used widely here in Henry's Fork country by accomplished anglers and weathered guides alike. A reputation as having the toughest trout on the planet isn't easily earned, but this river certainly holds the title, housing the most hard-nosed trout known to man. That's why we work endlessly on these fish, because the reward is so great when you finally put "one" in the net.

You never take "one" for granted, that super picky trickster, the one laid up way back under that shade tree, nearly impossible to see, let alone reach with a fly. You send cast after cast into its lair, covering the feeding lane with countless perfect presentations as the trout continues to eat everything, within inches of you imitation, seemingly taunting you with an almost acute sense of your ulterior motive. You persevere, re-positioning multiple times and pulling out all the tricks. Dead drifting the fly by both sides of his mouth - in case he's missing an eye -getting way above and wiggling out an appalling amount of line with a flawless down-stream presentation, changing flies and casting more times than you'd like to admit. Hoping and praying the beast greets your fly with an open mouth, or better yet, a violent toilet bowl flush explosion of an eat. But no, the fish ain't givin' in, it has a serious attitude problem. So you finally reel up, tuck you tail between your legs, pull the anchor and float on down in hopes of sniffing out another.

You waste a good amount of time that night pondering strategy on how to feed this onerous fish before your return the next day. You anchor up high, a safe distance from his lair and you're quick to notice a familiar disruption in the water.  A closer look, and contrasting light, reveal the healthy size of the trout, a true brut. Chatter in the boat is minimal, the only noticeable sound is the subdued clicks of a reel releasing enough line for a cast. A bomber double haul drops the fly a comfortable, but dangerous distance above the fish. It's eerily quiet, you could hear a pin drop. The fly drifts flawlessly, covering the target area and continuing on toward the back of the lie. Just as you hear "nope, he ain't having it".......again, you detect a small disruption and the fly disappears. Your smile widens as "one" leaves the water to show you its utter brilliance.

After the release, you laugh and mutter under your breath "it only takes one".

Brought to you by: C.F. Burheimer fly rods and TroutHunter leaders and tippet.

Kola Penisula - Fishing Atlantic Salmon with Markus Leivo

I had dreamed of fishing the Kola Peninsula since I started fly fishing at the age of 10. Now, after over 20 long years of waiting, I was able to experience this every spey fisherman's dream. I had extremely high expectations about the coming fishing adventure due to one of the best early season fishing there have been at Kola River. When I arrived and heard fish were not running in numbers they usually do this time of the year I was wondering if my dream was turning into a big disappointment. Normal numbers for daily incomers have been 100 to 150 fish and now it was 20-40, wasn't very encouraging.

Kola River is a fairly big river and I was anticipating the need for my heaviest gear. However I ended up using my Burkheimer 8134-4 ninety percent of the time. I have played 40lb fish with it and it is amazing how much power there is in it. On the other hand it's still a very fun rod to fish grilse salmon. Nowadays I have been using it with "S" tip and Guideline shooting heads in range of #9/10. I am pretty sure anybody could feel as a rock star with this rig!

First two days I fished Kola River tributary Kitza. It is a river that is very easy to cover with light spey rod. Kitza is famous for huge salmon. It is said all the biggest Kola river salmon go to Kitza. One of my fishing buddies had a monster on the second day but he lost it. I had also a fish on but I broke my line. That is extremely rare for me when fishing Atlantic salmon. After my second day and about 30 hours of fishing I was naturally enjoying the fishing but at the same time I started to feel little restless. Little monkey started to climb on my shoulder.

On the third day I fished Kola River with a guide and Seppo Muttilainen, the CEO of the company that arranges fishing trips to Kola River and all over the Kola Peninsula also. Seppo has been arranging these trips over 20 years with his company Lapin Ekspertit. He has accommodated people from all over the world.
We had quite a lot of action on that day. I managed to land two beautiful fish and lost couple more. We used float boat and fished 7 different pools from boat and bank. I couldn't have had better teachers for how to fish Kola River. On the following day when I was solo fishing upper beats of Kola I was able to land three salmon in range of 81 cm to 91 cm. I also had couple nice fish on but lost them. Kola River salmon are wide shouldered thick fish that are blessed with strength and beauty. Probably the most beautiful Atlantic salmon I have seen.

Last two days were very hard. Weather was weird for the whole week but it became almost absurd at the end of my trip. Hot t-shirt weather to snow rain and thunderstorms. This just strengthened the idea of successful salmon fishing requires. There are so many variables that can mess up our game. The best part was having Seppo as my guide for the last day. At the end I had a fish biting my fly at the other end of the line every day and that is something I can only dream of on the rivers I have been fishing in Finland, Sweden and Norway.

Our cabins were nice and clean. Food was ok. Before the trip I was advised to have a following mind set during my trip: "Nothing works but everything is possible". What can I say, it was spot on. Considering the tough conditions and not so many fresh fish running into the river I was still so impressed about the fishing itself that I am already looking for the next trip to Kola Peninsula.

Greg Bencivenga Joins the Burkheimer Team

Long time Berkheimer Pro-Staffer, FFF CI & THCI Casting instructor, and a no holds barred, get it done angler.  Greg is well known and highly respected throughout the fly casting and fishing world.  His knowledge on lines, rods, rivers, techniques, and fly casting is second to none and we’re extremely excited to have him on board.

Greg is one of the best two-handed casters around, regularly placing in the Spey O Rama casting competition and teaching others in all aspects of spey casting.  He is known as Sensei by the other competitors.

Greg will be responsible for blank production at the shop, starting with preparation and cutting of prepreg graphite material to rolling, baking, sanding, coating, ferruling, and inspection.  As you can see we plan on keeping him busy.

If you need a casting tune up, a specific line to rod match question, what rod to consider, or just want to talk fishing you can reach him via email 

Early Spring in Montana by Jason Renfro

Northern California has received a much-needed wet winter.  While I am grateful for the outlook of a summer and fall that accompanies this more adequate water supply, the blown-out local streams have further limited winter trout options for the wading angler.  I count myself lucky to have recently benefitted from a generous friend and an understanding wife.  I thusly found myself in Southwest Montana for 5 full days of indulging my addiction for fly fishing for trout.  This trip also afforded me the perfect opportunity to break in a recently acquired Burkheimer 489-4 DAL. 

My time in Montana was filled with exceptional fishing, hatching baetis, rising fish and too many delicious cheeseburgers.  I also emerged with an even greater appreciation for my new Burkie.  As an angler and caster who prefers rods with feel and easy loading, I was pleased to find that 489-4 DAL capable of pinpoint accuracy, great delicacy and at the same time, when called upon, line speed to defeat the wind and deliver larger flies.  I am fortunate to have an excessively large quiver of rods, numbering more than I care to admit, but this luxury does not come without hazard.  Deciding which rod to bring to the stream can become a silly, but real dilemma.  The 489-4 DAL has now made that process much easier. 

As my time in Big Sky country came to end, I left with the all too familiar longing to return.  While the quality of fishing plays into that longing, the connection with the natural world, and the rhythm of life it suggests predominate it.  My heart yearns for a life lived simply.  As a twinge of melancholy threatens my return home, I am reminded of an excerpt from a recent book I read: 

“…These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire… yet they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”   - C.S. Lewis

Late Winter Dispatch from Yellowstone Country

By Chris "Grizz" Andelin

The weather has taken a turn for the better here in Henry's Fork country. Old man winter hasn't quite left yet, but he's packing his bags for a holiday in some far off hemisphere, and that's fine by me! It's been really nice here, nice enough to finally get some strong midge hatches popping and offer a dry fly junkie like myself a shot at some rising trout. The perfect opportunity to bust out the 489 in vintage dress and classic action. My favorite Burky when tiny flies and light tippet are the call of the day. 

A two day dry fly bender provided plenty of targets and some superb action. The Burky preformed as expected delivering accurate presentations and protecting the fine tippets during some hard fast runs from good fish. Being a little "old school" and forever promoting and respecting the traditional aspects of our sport, it's always a pleasure fishing these rods, which preform second to none and look damn fine doing it!

Now that dry fly season has started on the Fork, the 489 will be in constant rotation as one of my daily "working" rods. It's just getting started kids and we're staring down the barrel of about nine months of dry fly nirvana. Midges, Baetis, March Browns, Skwalas............ Oh my! Stay tuned.

Still Steelheading by Pete Gadd

You know how Elmer Fudd never knew whether it was duck season or rabbit season? Daffy would be dressed as a rabbit, telling poor gullible Elmer it was duck season, then Bugs would don a duck outfit assuring him it was definitely wabbit season. Well allow me to remind you, we are squarely in winter steelhead season, even if the warm sun on your shoulders might be saying something else. 

Winter steelheading isn’t shooting fish in a barrel. These prizes are few and far between and demand a level of intimacy that only comes from monogamy with a river. Don’t be impulsive, jumping rivers, casting about and then going elsewhere. Winter is a quiet time, a time to dedicate yourself to learning a river. You’ll come to know what levels the river is best at. You’ll learn the underwater topography that comes with seeing a river in many states. 

Start at the only reasonable place, the beginning. From the top of the run, start short, slowly working your way throughout the entirety. Over time you’ll come to know the ideal conditions for each spot on the run, but you can’t get there without experiencing all the aspects of the run first. While everyone only has eyes for spey rods, I’d like to gently suggest that you keep a single-handed rod in your tool kit as well. There are many situations where casting far, while fun, is missing fish right in front of you. A well-made, long, modern single-handed rod might very well expand your horizons, allowing you to pleasurably cast short at the top of runs. It’s not outdated or retro, but a specific tool for a specific situation that might open up a run to you in a way you didn’t consider. You can overhead cast, roll cast or even spey cast with a haul and send the line anywhere you desire. 

Stay warm, be patient and enjoy yourself.  It’s still steelhead season!

WINTER IS HERE - DECEMBER 2015 by Steve Perakis

After a summer of record-setting drought and low flows, winter roared into the Pacific Northwest late in 2015, dumping much needed snow in the mountains and rain in the rivers.  So much rain, so fast, that many rivers reached flood stage over multiple days in back-to-back storms.  Bank side trees were uprooted and moved to new places.  Gravel was scoured and sculpted into new bars. Big changes, but only temporary until the next big storm comes along.

This is the season that brings heart racing anticipation to many Pacific Northwest anglers - the season of winter steelhead - the burliest we've got.  Everyone knows the fishing it tough and the weather unpredictable.  Even with modern tools like 10 day weather predictions and satellite images, ideal conditions remain as elusive as the fish.  Sure, I could try to wait for the perfect day, but with life beyond the river tugging on my time, I rely on plan "A" and simply go when I can. Even marginal conditions give cause for celebration, an excuse to explore.  It's a time to cut new trails and groom old ones, clearing away the summer's salmonberry thickets, but carefully keeping the entrances hidden in the hope that I can stay there forever.

The view opens up into endless possibility and a preternatural instinct takes over.  Strip the line slowly and ply the soft water near the bank.  Stretch the kinks out of the running line and toss one to the bucket formed by the ledge.  Drop it in broadside, a little slack at first, then swim it slowly with the pulse of the flow.  Feel the pull of the current and the river's deep green beauty.  Winter is here!

Beer Season is Over - Time for Bourbon By Pete Gadd

I was Summer Steelheading on a lovely 16ºF afternoon when it occurred to me; perhaps it is no longer summer. The beer, slushing about, half frozen in our dry box, the icicles lengthening along the sides of the raft, each dip in the river adding another icy layer to our tube’s encapsulation. My rod, a Burkheimer 6128-4, which a few weeks ago was throwing a nice 390 grain dry line was now pressed into service throwing a 450 Skagit and 12 feet of T-11. 

The 6128-4 is a true 6-weight, not a 7- in disguise: it’s aptly suited for dry lines. In a pinch it can throw large flies and bigger chunks of sinking tip than you want to deal with, but it’s truly designed for summer runs, think, the Grande Ronde, the Deschutes, the John Day. Putting large sink tips on this rod is like putting four donuts on your new Porsche, you lose a lot of soul. That said, the 6128-4 is my favorite three season rod of all time.

Now, I like beer. Nothing can beat it on a hot summer day and there are spicy higher alcohol winter ales a plenty. But at a certain point, if you’re like me, one has to face the music (probably Christmas), recognize that we are Winter Steelheading, and switch to bourbon, and a heavier seven- or eight- weight rod. Fresh winter fish are bigger and stronger. The rivers are swollen and everything is against you landing a fish. Wild winter fish are jewels and should be respected. Your rod should be substantial enough to comfortably and quickly land these treasures with minimal distress, on both parties parts. So line up your bigger rod and pour yourself a drink, and get ready for winter.

excusez-moi, où sont les volants staek de flavore ?

By Pete Gadd

Several hundred years of fly fishing tradition for Atlantic Salmon is ancestor of modern steelheading and so holds a good amount of Romantic Charm for us. While our aspirations abound, we are not all able to drop $1500/night at a lodge. The better destinations are often saddled with difficult native tongues and flights that seem unending. You may feel it is hopelessly out of reach. But worry not dreamer, there can still be Atlantic Salmon chasing your flies. I come to you $68.75 per day poorer, and a good deal richer for a fantastic week of fishing for Atlantic Salmon.

Eastern Canada checks all my boxes for an Atlantic Salmon destination: the flights are direct, the people charming and the English language abounds, while not necessarily there native tongue. It may not have the heritage of Scotland or the mystique of Scandinavia, the rivers are gorgeously clean, ridiculously clean even, not a bubblegum wrapper in sight. Since you aren’t suffering terrible jet lag from flying halfway across the world, you can enjoy it all the more and do so, on the cheap, since the licensing can run as low as $70 per day. Not only that, but Canada has the best potato chip flavor of all time: Grilled Steak Ruffles®.

June brings fresh great grey Ghosts into the rivers of Eastern Canada. While there aren’t hordes of Chromers headed upstream yet, the quality of the fish more than makes up for their numbers. It is an excellent time to catch the fish of a lifetime — so fresh they are leaping out of the water to shake the sea lice off. Because there aren’t thirty fish to a pool at this time of year, it is even more important to get a guide, at least for a day or two, and save yourself a week of frustration and regret. While the fish are somewhat sparse, so are the crowds which always has me giving a little sigh of relief.

While I presented this as a budget piece, one thing I urge you not to scrimp on is a good guide. While peanut butter sandwiches are as good a fuel as any, all the money saved won’t count for squat unless you have a clue what you’re doing. As a steelheader from the West, I was stunned at the difference in fly speed when fishing for Atlantic Salmon. It’s so much faster that it’s almost unbelievable. You need someone to nudge you faster than you think could possibly be right. They’re also invaluable with showing you the ropes, where to get you day’s license, etc.

Tackle for salmon in Eastern Canada is very similar to what you have if you live in the PNW — twelve to thirteen foot spey rods in the seven to eight weight bracket fit the bill perfectly. I fished a 7127-4 almost exclusively and never felt under-gunned. Bringing a single-hander is advised, though I may be showing my age with that comment (hey kids get off my lawn).

Thanks to David and Charles for a great week and showing me the ropes. Contact the Burkheimer Rod shop ( for guide recommendations and accommodations.

Dean River British Columbia

Bucket List Trip! At a Discount…

The week is June 26th - July 3rd, hosted by Jason Hartwick of Steelhead on the Spey Guide Service. We have discounted it $1000 and is now priced at $5150. Price includes full week of guided fishing, all meals by our amazing chef, wine with dinner and our roundtrip floatplane charter flight from Smithers. We fish 6 anglers with two guides (Steve Morrow and Matt Moisley). We use a Dean style dory with jet drive outboard to get from spot to spot, all fishing is done while wading in the lower river below the canyon. Our lodge sits next to Grantham Falls overlooking the Dean Channel.

Primetime discounted week on the lower Dean River?

When the two words "Dean" and "River" are placed together, it elicits a unique response among steelhead fishermen. The Dean River is the world's top destination for steelhead. The river is beautiful beyond imagination and her steelhead are incredibly aggressive. They are truly wild and evolution has them built for speed and power. All of them must navigate a fierce canyon and leap multiple waterfalls to get to their prime spawning grounds. But the Chinook of the Dean are even more respectable. Those brave enough to chase these large and powerful fish are testing tackle and challenging the edge of what is land-able in freshwater. The Chinook here eat swung flies aggressively near the surface, run hard, jump often, and hold in steelhead water making them an easy target with flies.

Kimsquit Bay Lodge is owned and operated by Jeff and Kathryn Hickman. Jeff is a longtime friend of CF Burkheimer Rod Company and is a well-respected guide here in Oregon. Jeff and Kathryn bought the lodge last year from the Blackwell family. They are making many improvements to the lodge and maintaining the level of customer service that the Blackwell family established 20 years ago. They concentrate their fishing in the lower river below the falls and into tide water. Fish in this stretch of river are at their peak fitness! Sea lice, clear fins, and empty reels are what you’ll find here. They run a short season and cater to only 6 guests per week. With two excellent guides offering an intimate knowledge of the river, help and instruction.

Kimsquit Bay Lodge recently had a cancelation and is offering a $1000 discount for the week of June 26th - July 3rd. Price is now $5150 for a full week of guided fishing. Do yourself a favor and book this trip. Discounted spots on the Dean are unheard of.

Caaarp With Peter Gadd

When news of normalizing relations with Cuba broke headlines, many anglers began dreaming of direct flights to virgin turquoise Bonefish flats and the shimmer of tailing Permit. Of course when reality sets in, a delightful if somewhat more pedestrian alternative is just up the highway. You may not be able to afford Cuba but a corn dog and a tank of gas is all you need for an afternoon of tailing golden bonefish in the warm sun. That’s right, we’re talking about Carp.

The Carp in question, Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) first graced our fair Columbia River after the extremely wet spring of 1881 flooded a nursery pond in Troutdale and several thousand (!) genuine German specimens were liberated. These fish produce upwards of a million eggs a year, in no time one could buy piles of dead carp to fertilize your field for $5 a ton. But while they may be many, they are surprisingly clever and prove an exciting challenge to catch. You’ll never have to worry about other carp anglers encroaching on your bit of mud flat and you can pat yourself on the back for every one that you remove from the river’s ecosystem.

Precise casting to cruising carp is by no means easy. It’s an excellent way to hone your skills for that future trip to Cuba, Belize or the Yucatan — where you’ll also need to lay your fly very precisely with a whistling wind upping the challenge. You need a rod with oversize stripping guides, a reel seat the keeps your reel in, rods designed to cast in the windiest conditions, load quickly and cast with a high degree of accuracy.  I choose to fish the CF Burkheimer 690-4SW though not designed as a bugler rod, it does function perfectly with its quick loading and pinpoint accuracy.

If you don’t have time for Trout or Steelhead and you just need to get off your computer, or if you’re bound by obligations for dinner or daycare,  may I humbly recommend fly-fishing for Carp. Cuba will be there tomorrow, and you’ll be ready.

John Larison's Quiver the Burkheimer 9145-4

The following is an occasional series exploring the quiver of rods that John Larison fishes throughout his season.  Stay tuned for further installments.

John Larison’s Quiver The Burkheimer 9145-4

No rod quiver is complete without a big water, big wade, big fish canon.  How often have you been on a run that demanded a belly button wade and a long cast and found yourself struggling to deliver the fly?  A fourteen-foot nine weight is the solution; the extra length functionally lowers the river to your knees and the extra mass in the line effortlessly lifts even a heavy winter tip and bulky fly from the surface.  The Burkheimer 9145-4, unlike other fourteen-foot nine weights, preserves the grace found with the best thirteen-foot seven-weights, thanks to the optimal blend of deep-loading progressive taper and instantaneous recovery.

ROD: 9145-4

REEL:  Hardy Salmon Marquis 3; a heavier reel balances this rod well.

LINES: In Summer, I load my 9145-4 with Nextcast’s 55’ Fall Favorite 8/9.  In Winter, I prefer the dart-like precision of Nextcast’s 45’ Winter Authority 8/9 matched with 12.5 feet of T-11.  For heavy water King Salmon, I fall back on Airflo’s 660 Compact Skagit or, if I’m still not getting down, Airflo’s 630 Intermediate Skagit.  Both of these Skagit heads turn over T-14 like its nothing, and can be persuaded to turnover T-17 if the water demands it.  With Skagit heads, I loop to Airflo’s Miracle Braid.  With Nextcast heads, I loop to Airflo’s Ridge Running Line, as it offers the extra mass the Nextacast heads desire for turnover.

NOTES:  I first fell in love with the 9145-4 while fishing Kings in BC with Wally of the Spey Lodge.  The fishing frequently demanded waist-deep wading and long casts with heavy flies, and the 9145-4 got the job done with grace.  The next winter, I put the rod to use on my coastal rivers and discovered a whole new level of control; I could cast to the far side seam and steer the line with precision around a boulder or two before dropping the fly into the bucket.  The 9145 caught fish I otherwise would have missed.

But another reason I find myself reaching for the 9145-4 is that it allows me to cover water about 40% faster than I can with my conventional tip set-ups.

Often to catch Kings or Winter Steelhead, I find myself needing twelve feet of T-11 or T-14.  To turnover a tip of that mass, we need a heavy line, most anglers use a Skagit head.  However, if you’re casting long with a Skagit head all day, you pretty quickly get worn out stripping back the running line—then managing all that line in the current around your knees.

The 9145-4, when coupled with a Nextcast 45’ or 55’ “inter Authority 8/9, will gracefully single-spey T-11 all day long.  With each cast, you’ll strip in twenty of thirty less feet of running line—that’s four to six pulls of line!—and have that much less line to manage during the cast.  As a result, you’ll cover a run in less time, meaning you’ll have more daylight—and energy—remaining to try an extra few runs during the day and show your fly to that many more fish.

CF Burkheimer Week at the Spey Lodge

Another year of Steelhead fishing has passed and it’s time to start a new season of chasing silver.  Our Steelhead year always gets rolling with a Week at The Spey Lodge in Terrace, British Columbia.  While some believe the Fall fishing is the time of choice in the North country, those that are “in the know”, hands down feel that the Spring fishing is even better.  We agree, Spring Steelhead fishing in Skeena Country is the finest anywhere in the world.

A quote from Brian Styskal; “Through the course of each season, this is the place and time of year I dream about.  Being there, casting to these amazing wild fish hours from the salt.  It is the highlight of my year.  I have seen things on these rivers that will blow your mind.  The Spring is it, no question!”

Skeena Spring Steelhead are very unique, they will inhale a skater if the temperature is anywhere close to 40 degrees.  One could fish a floating line for the entire week and not miss a beat.  We have friends that stick to the dry line all season on these waters with epic results.

The Spey Lodge is located on the bank of the Skeena River, two sips of coffee from the Famous Copper River.  It’s the perfect setting for your stay.  Wally Faetz owns and operates The Spey Lodge and is one of the best Steelhead and Salmon guides we have ever met.  His work ethic and knowledge would crush most guides.  This man lives and breathes the rivers he fishes.  His exploration spent on less known rivers where Salmon & Steelhead have not been documented is even more impressive.  That’s sort of the kicker, it’s an added bonus in this trip as there is the opportunity to fish water where you won’t see another human foot print.  What you will see are Mountain Goats, amazing water falls, fantastic country, and of course Steelhead.

It’s difficult to describe the lower Skeena to someone that has not experienced it before.  Easily two times wider than most all of the other big water Steelhead Rivers.  The scenery is stunning, with snow-capped mountains and classic Steelhead pools that approach 400 yards in length.  It offers a gentle gradient that’s easy to wade and the fish hold from you boot laces out as far as a solid spey cast.  Fish come from any part of your swing so staying diligent pays dividends.  Skeena Country Spring Steelhead possess a third gear, maybe it’s just the sheer size and flow of the Skeena, but expect power like you’ve never felt before.

The true Silver Lining at The Spey Lodge is Chef Molly.  She is the most amazing chef we’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, truly a culinary artist.  After a long day on the river her cooking will warm your heart.

We truly hope you consider joining us for this amazing week of fishing.  You will never forget the Country, the Rivers, the Lodge, the Experience, but most of all, the Steelhead!

CF Burkheimer Spey Week

March 29th to April 5th, 2015


  • $5200.00, plus 2.5% tax, plus $100.00 for licensing per rod.  This is in Canadian funds.  Does not include gratuities.


  • Plan your arriving flight from Vancouver, BC to Terrace airport on March 29th, 2015.  We recommend contacting Debbie at Elan Travel (877-897-5071), she has extensive experience with setting up all your needed flights and connections.
  • Spey Lodge Staff will pick you up at the airport.  Look for The Spey Lodge sign in the terminal
  • Meet and greet back at the lodge and get settled into your private room
  • Introductions and orientation during appetizers before dinner.
  • Dinner at 7:00pm

Monday thru Saturday Fishing Program:

  • Morning wake up 6:00am
  • Breakfast at 6:30, at which time you will be paired with another angler and a guide
  • Depart for designated river at 7:30am
  • A 10 hour day with an hour break for lunch at 12:00pm
  • Return to the lodge at 6:00pm
  • Appetizers at 7:00pm
  • Dinner at 7:30pm


  • Plan your departing flight from Terrace to Vancouver for Sunday, April 5th, 2015

Other Details:

  • Alcohol, Spey Lodge does not provide hard liquor.  Please bring spirits with you
  • Wine, Spey Lodge will have wine available for dinners

For further details give us a shout at the CF Burkheimer Shop 360-835-1420.

Atlantic Salmon with Willy George

How I discovered the difference between an Atlantic Salmon and a Steelhead

by Willy George

 It was one of the few remaining species on my bucket list -- the Atlantic Salmon.  It’s funny how some of my fly fishing trips come together.  I met Ernie up on the Babine last Fall fishing for steelhead at the wonderful Babine Norlakes camp.  He had chosen a different week on a one-time basis due to a personal commitment.  We hit it off instantly and by the end of the week he was talking about coming back to the Babine during that same week next year and he had offered me a chance to fish for Atlantic Salmon in his home waters in Eastern Canada.  Sweet!

In the last week of June 2014, I flew from San Francisco through Montreal to Bathurst, New Brunswick arriving at midnight.  We drove 3 hours through pouring rain to the banks of the Restigouche River.  At three in the morning, I climbed into a 26 foot canoe and motored across the river to Downs Gulch camp.  Atlantic Salmon camps are a little different than the steelhead camps that I was used to in the Pacific Northwest.  Camps have their own private pools, which are rotated through the camp guests during the course of the week.  Wardens police the pools to avoid poaching.  On the Restigouche, most fishing is done out of an anchored canoe and the majority of fishermen use single handed rods.  I had my quiver of Burkheimer Spey rods and easily adapted my Spey moves to cast out of the boat.  Many of the guides are second or even third generation fishing guides.  They describe how they sometimes still cast the rod for their clients and even hook the fish for their “sports” before handing the rod to the client, just like in the old days.  The camp “oozed” with such traditions.  I ran into another Burkie devotee named Keith from Charlotte, North Carolina.  We fished some familiar steelhead-type flies like the Undertaker, but more often used local patterns like the Picasse (loosely translated, it means “anchor” in French).

The Restigouche River faces challenges like many of the other Maritime Province salmon rivers such as gill netting at its mouth and large scale commercial fishing off shore.  The local salmon experts were debating whether the run was going to be late this year or whether it was just going to be a low number return.  I couldn’t wait for the final decision since I was on my way to another famous Atlantic Salmon river up north.  I left the Restigouche after four days of fishing with no fish landed.

New Derreen Camp on the Grand Cascapedia River has hosted Atlantic Salmon fishermen for over 130 years -- Royalty and nobility, two U.S. presidents and celebrities galore.  The Cascapedia flows south across the Gaspe Peninsula in the Quebec Province.  I admit I needed to brush up on my North Atlantic geography before my trip.  The Gaspe Peninsula forms the southern bank of the St. Lawrence River.  Both the Restigouche and the Grand Cascapedia flow mostly through heavily timbered remote areas but each empties into Chaleur Bay, home to some of best lobsters and snow crab I have ever eaten.


Fishing in the dozen or so pools reserved for New Derreen guests was all walk and wade fishing.  The only time we used a canoe was to pole across the river to fish water on the right bank.  My education on how to fish for Atlantic Salmon began in earnest on the Cascapedia.  My steelhead habits needed to be quickly unlearned.  The time honored tradition of mending upstream to slow the swing of a steelhead fly was quickly replaced with either “no mend” or a more cross current cast to actually speed up the fly’s swing.  The guides and experienced Atlantic Salmon fly fishers had a specific “swing speed” that they were targeting.  The ideal swing speed changed in different types of water.  Once a fish swirled or rolled on the fly, the game was afoot.  Similar to steelheading, we worked these “players” with multiple casts slightly above and below the spot where we saw the swirl and often changed flies to try to entice a grab.

Besides learning to gauge the proper swing speed, the biggest change for me in Atlantic Salmon fishing was the hook set.  My respectable “hooking to landing ratio” in steelheading is largely due to letting the steelhead hook themselves.  I accomplish this by having a 30” coil of line between my rod hand and my reel which the fish peels off before coming tight to my anchor finger.  In Atlantic Salmon fishing, the guides all direct their clients to raise the rod to a vertical position, essentially a trout set (can you believe it?!?), as soon as you feel the weight of the fish.  I am big believer in trusting your guide and doing whatever he/she says.  I was having some second thoughts about my unwavering commitment to “doing it the guide’s way.”  But I stayed with it.

It was Day 3.  I was fishing on the upper section of the Cascapedia, on one of the two branches that eventually form the main stem.  I was using a Burkheimer CF-7134 lined with Ballistic Vector 7/8F 500 grain 52’ head on a Saracione Mark IV reel.  We had seen fish roll in the run as we were working our way downstream so we knew there were active fish in that section of the river.  The swing speed was perfect and an aggressive fish lunged for my fly.  I waited to feel the fish’s weight and when I did, I simply raised the rod (all 13’4” of it) to the vertical position.  Fish on!

Another thing different about Atlantic Salmon fishing: usually the angler stands his ground and fights the fish from where he hooked up.  This is a bit different from steelheading where often we work our way downstream to keep side pressure on the fish.  So I stood my ground and fought this beautiful fish into a stillwater area below a rock ledge where the guide netted her.  My first Atlantic Salmon was a gorgeous chrome bright 14 pound hen.


The fishing reports from other camps matched our own experiences; it was a low number year.  Each day fish were landed but it was not a banner year by any means.  But we had to keep our fly in the water.  The next swing could be the one.

It was Day 6.  A slow week without question.  Oh well, I had caught an Atlantic Salmon on a Spey rod and I was happy.  Not every angler had caught a fish that week.  We fished that last morning in a light but steady rain.  Back at the camp, our bags were already packed for the drive out after lunch.  We were fishing Caribou Pool, a new run for me.  I had my Burkie CF-8134 with a Hatch 11 Plus Finatic reel lined with a Ballistic Vector 8/9F 570 grain 55’ head.  During the course of the week I was really getting grooved on this rod/line combo.  As one of my fishing buddies remarked, “you can really hawk that thing out there.”  I think that is a technical term.  Anyway, I was swinging my fly, a Green Highlander, along a seam a long ways over on the far side of the river.  As I worked my way downstream, the guide reported that earlier he had seen a fish roll in that same far seam.  Sure enough, I saw a big boil, felt the weight, and set the hook straight up.  This was a big fish.  She jumped once and the guide screamed to his buddy, “big one.”  The fished made a sudden run downstream and while I stood my ground (as ordered), the fish was into my backing (I now recommend 250 yards, by the way).  I worked the fish in, got the fly line back onto the reel and felt in control.  Not so fast, the fish made a big cartwheel-like jump completely out of the water.  I would later describe the splash as sounding like a swimmer with swim fins jumping off a diving board.  Splat!  And off she went downstream into the backing for a second time.  By the time I reeled her in and guided her into the magnum salmon net, it had been a 20 minute battle.  The fish weighed 23 pounds on the net scale; the second largest fish caught that week.  Fresh from the ocean, shiny chrome in color, and as strong as any fish I had ever hooked.  What a thrill and what a way to end a memorable trip; lots of new learnings while fishing for this new species.  Glad my Burkie Spey rods were there with me.  Couldn’t have done it without them.


The author, Willy George, is an IFFF Certified Master Casting Instructor who teaches single hand and Spey casting at the world famous Golden Gate casting ponds in San Francisco, California.  He also co-founded the San Francisco School of Fly Fishing (website: and is a member of the Burkheimer Pro Staff.  Willy can be reached at his email address: