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Well I knew it'd be low, but not THAT low ! Pounded it hard from first light til 12:30, threw an arsenal of presentations and aside from a very subtle take first run fished, came up with nothing for the first time in a loooong time. The water was low to the point I could wade in places I'd never waded before. A good solid 2-3 day rain should make a difference.
 

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I know for a fact that there are fish in the lower river. this past weekend our group landed the two most impressive fish that I have seen on the Stamp, next to your hog of course. one was 18# and the other a good solid 15#. of course , I was skunked both days! worse, I was skunked fishing with Rolley on Friday, and it was he who landed both fish on Sunday. as I mentioned in an earlier post, my experience on the upper river on Saturday was great, and come on, haven't we all tagged our yearly limit???? P.S. our party did hook fish just above Murphy's, and just below the bucket, in the frothy stuff.
 

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Nice, glad to hear your party landed some hogs. I pounded from the shake mill to the canoe run and hammered the slide pool as well. Its not always in the books all the time ! But thats right, no complaints here, my log book has a count of 37 steelies in 9 outings so I am a very happy guy :D
 

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For quite some time now, I have been planning a trip to Vancouver Island to fish the Stamp for winter steelhead. Now that the Central Okanagan school district I work for has a two-week Spring Break, I seized the opportunity, loaded up the family and made the drive to Qualicum Beach, where my wife and kids would be entertained and I could slip out for a couple of days to fish guilt free!

I decided to bite the bullet and hire a guide for my first trip to the Stamp for winter steelhead and I am sure glad I did. It was money well spent. My cousin Marla married Chris, a steelhead junkie from Northern California, and they moved to Nanaimo a few years back. I invited him to come along. Between him and the guide, Bladen (one of Nick Hennyj’s boys), I received a first rate education in steelheading. I was actually overwhelmed with the amount of knowledge these two guys have and as I sit here back home and reflect on the entire experience, it is difficult to remember it all but I’ll give it a go.

We arrived in Qualicum on Saturday and since I had to wait until the following Thursday for the big guided trip, I decided to make the drive over the hump to Port Alberni on Sunday afternoon to explore the river on foot and do some float fishing from the bank. I parked the truck at a nice camping spot right on the river in the Stamp River Falls Provincial Park and hiked down to the pool below the falls.



I fished for a couple of hours there with no success. The fellow next to me bonked a beautiful 15-pound hatchery buck for his barbeque dinner that night. The pool there is very deep so I tried drift fishing it without a float and just before 4:00 pm, I had a fish on for a brief moment but lost it. I walked back to the campground and fished a couple more hours with nothing too exciting happening so I decided to head back to Qualicum. I called my cousin Chris that night and we finalized our plans for the guided trip on Thursday.

On Thursday, Chris picked me up and we drove to Port Alberni. Our guide Bladen met us at the marina for the drive up river. On the drive up, we listened to Lemmy from Motorhead sing the lyrics “The Chase is Better Than the Catch.” I don’t know about you folks, but this song set the stage perfectly for a day of slaying steel. We arrived at our put-in at the Robertson Creek Hatchery on the upper river. What a great facility! Kudos to the staff there and the people who have contributed to the hatchery’s success. Without it, the sportfishing community would definitely be hurting.

We put the Willie drift boat in just below the hatchery and drifted down to the confluence of the Ash and Stamp Rivers. We saw quite a few fish as we drifted downstream which was obviously a good sign. At the first run below the Ash, Bladen suggested we back troll some plugs. I tied on a green metallic Hot Shot 30 (aka The Green Manaleeshi with the One Pronged Crown) and Chris went with the same in metallic blue. For the plug fishing, I was using a standard Calcutta bait caster reel and 11-foot rod but Chris, always looking for ways to make things more interesting, was using a small bait caster reel attached to a six-foot trout rod rated for 4 to 6 pound test. It didn’t take long for my first fish of the trip to slam the plug, and slam it hard he did. After a short, aggressive battle, I quickly lifted the fish out of the water for a photo and gently released it. In the next run, Bladen pointed to a fish hugging the bank and suggested throwing a pink Marabou jig at it. For this I switched to my Abu Garcia Cardinal spinning reel attached to a 10-foot rod rated for 4 to 12 pounds. The reel is spooled up with 12-pound Maxima Perfexion line. If you have not yet had a chance to cast and then land an aggressive fish on this brand of line with light tackle, you are missing out! I cast the jig slightly upstream and as it floated past the fish’s snout, BANG! FISH ON! 12-pound wild buck gently released. Moving to our next run, Bladen suggested we up the ante. He handed Chris a mooching reel attached to a noodle rod. What???? He said, “try this for a little fun.” Now, Chris is used to his single action center-pin with a left hand retrieve but Bladen thought it would be fun to see Chris land a fish with this outfit and a right hand retrieve. Chris, always up to a challenge, agreed and as he was drifting a Gooey-bob with some wool, a large fish was hooked in the tail-out of the run. After a really, unusually short battle, our largest fish of the day was brought to the boat. As Bladen went to remove the hook, this is where the fun began. The fish went ballistic! He peeled off line, went under the boat, jumped several times and tried his hardest to spit that hook. After 10 minutes, Chris had the fish spent and we were able to remove the hook. Afterwards we couldn’t help think that Bladen did something to that fish to make it so angry when it came to the boat for the first time. Hmmmm.

At Money’s Pool, we again tried jigs, Gooey-bobs with wool and even Jensen Eggs and puffballs/fish pills tied up in a spawn sac. After I “farmed” a couple of fish (losing them for whatever reason), we went back to the plugs and again Chris and I pounded out a couple more beautiful fish. By this time, we had been fishing for quite some time. I was surprised how much “fishy looking” water there is on this section of the river. From the Ash River confluence to the takeout at the campground, is approximately 8 kilometers and if you were floating without stopping to fish it would not take very long. However, we stopped at as many runs and holes as we could, being mindful of our time. In some places that looked unbelievable, Bladen would say, “Nope. There’s only a 50% chance of getting one here and we need to hit the ones with a higher percentage because we have limited time.” In fact, after fishing a couple of runs below Moneys, we found ourselves running out of daylight and we had to skip several runs in order to fish the runs that Bladen knew were holding fish. As we approached the second to last run, Bladen said, “I’m calling a fish here for sure. But first, let me tell you a story.” This is how it went for the entire day. When I was not picking their brains for steelhead knowledge, or playing a fish, I was laughing my ass off at Chris and Bladen’s stories. Nearing the end of his story, I caught another beauty on the pink jig.

After an hour and a bit without any action, we drifted into the campground, our last run. I was not optimistic, as I had fished here earlier in the week without any luck. The sun was setting, the rain started pounding and the water colored up. It almost looked like a clay bank had collapsed upstream as the visibility was about one foot. Bladen got that look in his eye – PLUG water! Out went the Green Manaleeshi and Chris released the power and the glory of his almighty “Bloody Mary” Tadpolly plug. Bladen jokingly said that “Bloody Mary” was not going to catch anything. Chris just smiled and said that “Bloody Mary” was legendary in Northern California and it was about to lose its virginity in the Stamp. However, it was the Green Manaleesh that got slammed first. BANG! The fish set his own hook (nice thing about trolling plugs) and rocketed out of the water and walked on it’s tail about 50 feet downriver. I jumped up and both Bladen and I started hootin’ and hollering! Fish On! Yaaahooo! Another 10 pound hatchery to the boat and released. 10 minutes later, Chris’ rod tip bent over and he too had fun bringing in another fish! At the end of the day, we had played 12 fish and had 9 to the boat!

The next day, Chris and I decided to hike into some holes on foot. Obviously we could not cover as much water but we had another double-digit day! The trip exceeded my expectations and the memories will no doubt keep me going until I have the privilege off going there again next year. Here's some photos of the trip.







 

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Discussion Starter #5
Good essay and photos, sounds like the trip over was well worth it and paid off. Congrats.
The upper river does have an abundance of fishable water, and stacks up quite nicely with fish this late in the season.
How was the water level ? I'm hoping the last couple days rain brought it up a bit so I can get out again.
 

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Excellent post!

What a blast, I have never steelhead fished before in me life but I am going to after hearing this.
 

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Sounds and looks like you guy's had a great trip
Nice job on the post as well
Your story brought back many great memories on that pretty little jewel of a river
]
 

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Thanks, for taking the time to post this most interesting and informative read. I'm sure Hotrod will be reliving all the action in his mind as he has spent plenty of time on the river as well. Your story & pictures bring back a lot of good memories for me. Pulling plugs for steel is pretty exciting, isn't it" When a fish hits a plug on light gear, you sure don't have do worry about "subtle takes" do you? Good work, man!.........Ortho
 

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You know it Ortho!

:D :D :D :D :D



Hotrod
 

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Pulling plugs for steel is pretty exciting, isn't it"
You bet! After drift fishing from the bank (which is great too), for a couple of hours, it's nice to sit down and relax in the boat, rod in your hand waiting for that BANG!!!!
 
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Anyone been out?

Looking to go out tomorrow on the Stamp or one of the other rivers on the East side. Any news. I assume steelies are over. What about Taylor? Big Q?
 

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Are you glad you brought the 11-footer? Imagine what it would have been like in high water conditions.
DP, Yes! and thanks for the advice. My shortest rod was my spinning setup - 9.6 feet and it worked well for the jig fishing nut I'm glad I had my 11 footer to drift around the boulders in some spots.
 

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I assume steelies are over. What about Taylor? Big Q?
Hi Brian,

Steelies are not over on the Stamp. Lots of agressive kelts coming back to the chuck.

Big Q - hatchey workers estimate fewer than 100 fish returning to spawn.
 

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Kelts?? :shock:

Ya gotta be kidding right? Why would anyone want to TARGET on spawned out fish?? Their fight is anything but spectacular, nothing at all compared to fresh fish, they have survived the rigours of the spawn, and now are running back to the sea to hopefully get fit enough to run the freshwater gauntlet again. You do realize that the sequential (multi-year) returners are our largest fish aren't you? Repeated C&R angling can indeed have a negative effect on the chances of these fish surviving to do so, so in a way is robbing from the future...

IMHO, once they're coloured and are ready to spawn, they should be left to do what nature intended (including the spawned out stage), and HOPEFULLY survive to show again another season.

And of course, the large trout of the local lakes are ravenous right now, chowin' down on the sockeye "hatch". Plenty of action, and a reel hoot on light or fly gear!

Nog
 

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Iron Noggin,

I agree with you. I don't "target" kelts....just trying to point out that there are still fish there. Are you suggesting that steelhead fishing in April should be closed because of the higher numbers of colored fish and kelts? Are there not fresh ones coming into the system too?

Repeated C&R angling can indeed have a negative effect on the chances of these fish surviving to do so, so in a way is robbing from the future...
Again, I agree. Perhaps it would be better to keep your quota of hatchery fish? I have fished the Stamp for steelhead twice in my life and I will go back once a year so I am not sure I am robbing from the future as much as some other people.
 

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Iron noggin

How long have fresh fish been coming into the system you are speaking of? Do all the fish spawn at the same time?

No of course not, so therefore there is always that chance of hooking a spawned out fish heading back to the ocean! Kelts that are on the mend feed aggressively and hit just about anything, they are obviously not fish of choice but incedental catch! Much prefer a fat chromer than a colored skinny fish!!

Most serious steelheaders dont target fish on reds and know bettter!(I would hope) actually I know thats not true!

I do know a few dumb asses that fish bait in rivers where there is bait bans, and they are the same people that fish steelhead staging to spawn in rivers that are closed! Ya but they faught pretty hard and they werent in that bad of shape!!! Quality fish!!!

its too bad !!! I for one dont care for peolpe with no ethics!
 

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for all of the fishing that I've done on the Stamp this year, I've only hooked one kelt, and yes it was skinny, but it was as shiny as the chrome on a 57 chevy! I don't think she suffered any ill effects of the short battle, unless she hurt herself jumping 3 or 4 feet straight out of the water!
 
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