Our Man In Canada
August 16th, 1999
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Corral Creek Run, Part 2


By Charlie Kroll

Early the following morning I jointed my fly rod, attached a new eight pound test leader to the line, tied on a size 6 Skykomish Sunrise fly and headed for the river. The Corral Creek cabins were situated on a high bank overlooking the river, 200 yards below. To get there all I had to do was step out the front door and half-skid, half-stumble, down the steep blackberry-thicketed slope to the river's edge, then walk up to where it shallowed enough to permit a cautious thigh-deep crossing. Below the tumbling riffles of the crossing, and on the camp side of the river, was a smooth, waist-deep run, a hundred yards in length, tailing out in another bolder-strewn riffle before entering a hugh jam-piled U bend where Correl Creek entered. The run appeared to be an ideal holding area for steelhead.

The morning was dull and overcast which is why I had chosen the Skykomish Sunrise. I had previously found fish to be more selective about fly patterns on such a day, perhaps because the colors of flies are less distinct below in bright light and more easily seen in weak light. I used the same greased line method that I prefer for Atlantic salmon. Casting the floating line up and across-stream I let the wet fly dead drift about six inches under the surface as it swung down and eventually across the midrun currents, mending line as necessary to prevent undue drag.

I had systematically fished down nearly the entire run with no sign of fish. As the swimming fly arced across the hastening current just upstream of the outlet riffle, the forward progress of line and fly stopped short and I instinctively reared back in a hard strike. A huge boil welled to the surface and the Hardy reel began its fitful song.

During the ensueing sturggle I was very fortunate that the fish chose to stay in the long run..If he had turned downstream through the boulders and into the 15 foot depths under the jam piles, I doubt I could have held him. At one point the line suddenly slackened as he turned toward me. I frantically stripped in line but was unable to match the fish's speed. When I managed to tighten up the line once more I was considerably relieved to find him still hooked.

Kispiox River steelhead, taken from the run in the background

For a half hour the steelhead took advantage of the long line and heavy current to fight deep and strong. He did not jump or porpoise and I had no sight of him until the very end, as he slowly came up into the gravelly shallows, his curved jaw open and the fly showing bright in the angle of his jaw. Lord, he was big! A magnificent fresh run male fish, perfectly formed and highly colored, he weighed in at 26 1/2 pounds. Stuffed and baked by Jack's wife, Francis, it was the basis of a memorable meal.

Addenda:

Steelhead runs in the great tributaries of the Skeena watershed are presently all endangered due to a combination of over-exploitation by commercial salmon fishermen, Indians, sport fishermen and riverine habitat destruction through clearcut logging and road building. There is now a new, improved highway up the length of the Kispiox valley. Grizzlies are gone from the area where we hunted, having been forced farther north into the mountains by human encroachment.

Forest cover in the high hills is the basic protector of game fish waters. The clearcutting of timber as presently being practiced both on the Pacific slopes and inland watersheds is immensely destructive. It removes the shade and soil-holding ability of the watersheds, causing siltation of spawning-beds, warming water temperature, winter floods and summer droughts.

The Skeena has been exploited as a commercial salmon fishery since the late 1800s. The Department of Fisheries in British Columbia estimates that 50 percent of the steelhead runs are depleted in this process through purse seining and gill netting in the Pacific estuaries.

Commercial fishermen seem to think that hatcheries are the answer to dwindling anadromous fish stocks. Up to now, a proliferation of west coast hatcheries has caused more problems than they've solved. Modern runs are a fraction of historic runs. It has been shown that of more than three million young hatchery raised steelhead dumpted into Pacific feeders, fewer than one in 300 ever returns as an adult.

It took a collapse of the Atlantic salmon fishery in the Northeast before any real action was taken to limit the catch and to protect the habitat. Such history will probably be repeated concerning the anadromous stocks of the Northwest. It is one thing to voice concern, quite another to instigate proper controls. For here, as in every conservation issue where bested interests are concerned, the powerful, monied exploiters always seem to win which means, in the end, we all lose. ~ Charlie Kroll

Excerpt from: Pools of Memory (1994)
Published by: Frank Amato Publications, Inc.
P.O. Box 82112, Portland Oregon 97282 Phone: 503-653-8108,
email Frank Amato Publications

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