Our Man In Canada
August 30th, 2004

Fishing the Dean River, BC
By Art Lingren

The Dean River's reputation is that of a fly-tosser's haven. Most of the early fishers chucked other gear, but from the earliest days of discovery some faithful to their sport fly-fished. Over the past four decades, fly-fishing became the way to catch the Dean's trout and steelhead. It is now a fly-fisher's haven and a river that produces ever-lasting fly-fishing memories.

Fresh Dean summer-run steelhead

I have journeyed to the Dean every season since my first in 1983 and can tell many stories about the river, its fish and the fly-fishers. However, some of the most exciting adventures are those experienced by first-timers to the Dean.

I had seen his colourful fish paintings and then met Loucas Raptis at the British Columbia Federation of Fly Fishers convention in Kamloops in May, 2000. When one of the fellows in my Totem Flyfisher's Dean River group canceled, I called Loucas in Victoria and asked if he would be interested in replacing our dropout. As soon as I made the offer I detected excitement in his voice, but he had to clear things with his wife and work. The next day he called me saying "yes, he could go" and through the next month or so we exchanged e-mails. Loucas arrived on the Dean with everything brand-newórod, reel, line, waders, wading boots, vest and rain jacket. He spent a fortune on new equipment. Although he was an avid and accomplished trout fly-fisher, he had never caught a steelhead on the fly. The steelhead runs on his home rivers on Vancouver Island had diminished to such an extent that Loucas felt guilty casting a line to them. Evident through his artwork talking with him, his passion for the sport and the fish runs deep indeed.

The Dean is a good steelhead producer but catching steelhead requires effort, albeit pleasant, it is still work. The first day all the group except Loucas managed to land a steelhead, but he had learned some of the basics and some of the waters to fish.

Enthusiasm is a grand asset and on the afternoon of the next day Loucas wandered off by himself. When he returned from the Victoria Run, Peter Broomhall asked, "Did you catch a fish and do you have a story for us?" Not one to gloat or brag, Loucas said as modestly as he could but with great pride, "Yes, I caught a 31-inch female on a Black GP from the Victoria Run." There are many things to learn and experience when fly-fishing for steelhead and Loucas learned quickly. I remember the day he came back from the Cottonwood Run mumbling something about violent fish. Steelhead can take a fly softly, sometimes the fly just stops and at first you think it's snagged bottom until it moves. Then there are some fish that see the fly coming, charge and grab it on the run, often with disastrous results. Loucas had just experienced his first violent attack. Visibly shaken by the experience, he didn't get that fish.

A steelhead river constantly changes and we had some rain that brought up the river, colouring it. A large bulky fly is often necessary in coloured water and Loucas had few so he put something together, a mongrel of a fly owing its origins to my Marabou Black GP and a Black Bunny Leech. Called the Dean River Cuss, a name derived from Peter Broomhall's "good natured cuss" expression repeated throughout Pete's storytelling. The new pattern worked well indeed for Loucas and Rob. Rob Williams took the largest of the trip, a 38 1/2-inch fish from the Camp Run on one of Loucas' Cusses.

Dean River Cuss

The days passed and Loucas connected with other fish. But some days not much moved through the river and you can work all day for a strike or two. Some days you draw blanks and Loucas experienced some blank days. Due to leave the next day, Loucas managed to hook five steelhead on Friday and landed a 34-inch male, his largest ever steelhead on the fly and the largest on any gear type. When we tallied the scores for the trip Loucas had hooked 18 steelhead, unfortunately he managed to land only four. But engraved in Loucas' mind are many rewarding memories from the famous Dean River and its magnificent summer-run steelhead. ~ Art Lingren

Credits: From Famous British Columbia Fly-Fishing Waters, published by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use permission.

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