This British Columbian jewel has been declared so rare and valuable by the Canadian Government that a special classified waters angling license is necessary for all anglers that fish the river.
These magnificent sea-going trout enter their natal Skeena drainage in late July, and move upstream into the clear headwaters of the Bulkley River by middle of August. Fresh fish continue to accumulate in the river right through the end of October and into November.
The Average annual return to the Bulkley River is between 25,000 and 45,000 steelhead, which represents approximately 50% of all steelhead returning to Skeena watershed! Fly fishing for these native steelhead can be fantastic from the 1st of September right through the beginning of November.
Floating lines and dry flies, or very light sink tips with small unweighted wet flies are the order of the day for the better part of September and into October, due to the fact that the Bulkley is one of the warmest of the Skeena tributaries. Heavier tips and weighted flies seem to be more productive through the later part of the season when the water temperatures become increasingly cooler and fish are more reluctant to move long distances to a hit a fly. While many who visit the Bulkley year after year do so strictly for the top water action, one mustn’t over look the late season potential this river possesses.
The Bulkley flows west from its head waters well above Houston, where it is joined by the Morice and nearly doubles in size. This magnificent river eventually winds its way west for approximately 100 km and empties into the main stem steelhead artery: The Skeena. One major advantage of selecting the Bulkley as your destination of choice is the amount of time the river takes to clear and drop after a big storm, which is common in the fall in British Columbia. The Morice runs pure and clear in even the heaviest of rains and the Bulkley generally remains fishable in all but the worst of weather. It is also one of the fastest dropping and quickest clearing of all other rivers in the Skeena region, so anglers do not need to feel threatened by the thought of traveling all this way and not being able to fish. The river can virtually be blown out one day and fishable the next. Frontier Steelhead Experience Lodge is strategically located near the mouth of the Telkwa River, (54.41.44 N and 127.03.00 W on Google Earth) which makes for minimal travel time to the various boat launches, whether you are fishing the upper or lower river. FFW is one of only 2 full service fly fishing lodges located on the Bulkley and has been operating successfully for over 25 years.
Accommodations at Frontier Steelhead Experience are very comfortable. The rooms are private (shared by 2 anglers) with in-room toilet/shower facilities, and comfortable beds and linens. The lodge itself is very warm and inviting, sporting a comfortable array of fly-fishing decor, photos and antiques of yester year. Guests can expect delicious hearty meals both in the lodge and on the river. More importantly however, the fishing is 1st class!
What truly sets Frontier Steelhead Experience apart from other operations on the Bulkey are the two overnight float trips that anglers have the opportunity to experience while staying at the lodge. These very comfortable, well equipped, canvas wall-style tent camps are located at approximately the mid point of two spectacular 20+ mile float trips that meander through the magnificent canyons of the lower Bulkley. There is nothing better than waking up on the rivers edge at first light to witness the steam rising from a beautiful steelhead run, knowing that the first fly those beautiful creatures will see is yours!
As with all steelhead angling, if you’re looking to catch obscene numbers of fish, this trip probably isn’t for you! Frontier Steelhead Experience clients generally average 1-3 hook ups per angler per day, but keep in mind this is not always the case! There are many days that accomplished anglers and good students will grossly exceed these numbers, and other days when even the best effort won’t come close to putting a fish up. Steelhead fishing is not a numbers game, it is about catching the most prized freshwater game fish that swims. Anglers willing to fish hard, listen to their guides, and put in a long day, will have the best potential of landing a trophy.
Steelhead on the Bulkley average 8-12 lbs, with chromers up to and exceeding 20 lbs caught on a regular basis. The first fish arrive in August, and by the 1st of September, top quality fly fishing is in full swing. The big bucks are usually in the river by the 2nd week of September and fish continue to accumulate in prime holding water right through the end of November. So when is the best time to visit the Bulkley? The answer is; when you have time to come!
These strict regulations translate into a very limited amount of guided rod days available to lodges and outfitters on the Skeena and her tributaries, So if you are seriously considering a trip to the Bulkley, we recommend making your reservations as early as possible to avoid disappointment!
2020 Reservations & Rates
The cost of the week-long Frontier Steelhead Experience package is $7,750.00 USD per person (double occupancy) plus a voluntary $100 donation to FFW’s Conservation Trust
Included in your angling package at the Frontier Steelhead Experience is meet and greet at the airport, round trip transportation to and from the lodge, daily guided fishing in drift boats/rafts, accommodations, meals, and alcohol.
The Fly Shop® is not in the insurance business, but we recommend Travel Guard coverage as a service with a desire to see your best interests protected. It is impossible to know when an unfortunate situation (loss of luggage, fly rods, illness in the family, or an accident) may occur. However, such things can and do happen, and this insurance can provide a means of recourse against non-refundable financial losses.
• Travel Insurance Information
Seasons at Frontier Steelhead Experience
The main steelhead season on the Bulkley River starts in mid to late August and builds through October and the first part of November.
If skating a surface fly to raise a steelhead to a fly is your dream or favorite method of pursuing them, you'll want to reserve dates at the beginning of the season through the middle of September. The warmer waters keep the steelhead active and looking up! The dry line action is
continued through September into the first part of October with sink tips working when the fish won't move to the surface. Mid September through mid October is a very popular time because the river is generally loaded with fish and while the waters are cooling, the fish are still very active. From Mid October into November the waters definitely get cooler, as autumn gives way to early winter conditions. The trees on the mountainsides are in beautiful coloration or may even get a dusting of snow. This is an exciting time to be there and it is the time for truly big steelhead.
Getting to Frontier Steelhead Experience
Air Canada offers departures from Vancouver in the morning, midday and evening.
Frontier Steelhead Experience offers a half day of fishing on your arrival day, Saturday. In order to take advantage of this you'll want to arrive into Smithers on Friday and overnight at one of the town's many fine hotels.
If you'd prefer to sacrifice the 1/2 day of fishing on Saturday, it should be possible to leave home and make same day connections into and out of Vancouver to arrive in Smithers on Saturday night. This eliminates overnights en route to the lodge.
If you opt to arrive on Friday, you will need to coordinate transportation from the airport to your hotel. Most Smithers hotels offer airport shuttles which you can arrange with a simple phone call from the airport. If you arrive on Saturday, you well be met at the airport by Frontier Steelhead Experience staff and head straight to the lodge, with plenty of time to settle in before enjoying a wonderful home cooked meal. The remainder of the evening can be spent preparing your gear for your first morning on the water!Schedule your departure from Smithers for the early morning. After breakfast, Frontier Steelhead Experience will deliver you to the airport to catch your departing flight to Vancouver, usually departing at 8:30 am, arriving 9:37 am (weather depending).
Lodging at Frontier Steelhead Experience
Frontier Steelhead Experience is located in the sleepy village of Telkwa, B.C. only steps away from the majestic Bulkley River.
The main lodge has a very comfortable, warm, and inviting atmosphere. It sports a unique array of fly-fishing décor and photos that exemplify the legacy Frontier Steelhead Experience has established in the Bulkley valley.
The capacity is 12 guests, but really 2 groups of 6, so it is never overcrowded. 6 guests will fish the Morice while the other 6 fish the Bulkley, then the groups flip flop. The rooms are private with in-room shower facilities, and comfortable beds & linens.
Your days start with a wakeup tray of juice and hot drinks served in your room. You may order the breakfast of your choice, cooked to order. Lunch is served on the river accompanied by hot homemade soups, and your selection of drinks.
After a full day of fishing, enjoy our sauna, a hot shower, and relax. Fishing tales are told at the open bar while we serve you delicious hors d'oeuvres . Our gourmet food will leave nothing to be desired. Wine, beer, bread, fresh fish, succulent steaks, desserts and more – our famous luxurious dinners have it all.
Our daily schedule is flexible. If you want to wake up at first light and fish until dark, our eager guides will gladly accommodate. However you can also sleep in and have a leisurely outing if that is what you desire. Our staff will work hard to accommodate all your needs.
The lodge is equipped with wireless internet and telephone access for your use. The guides carry satellite telephones on all overnight trips to ensure your safety.
Fishing at Frontier Steelhead Experience
Frontier Steelhead Experience offers a half day of fishing on your arrival day, Saturday.
In order to take advantage of this you'll want to arrive into Smithers on Friday and overnight at one of the town's many fine hotels. All of Frontier Steelhead Experience's guided trips are conducted with high sided, dory style drift boats and rafts, which offer anglers peaceful access to the very best runs, riffles, and tail outs the river has to offer. Fishing on the
Bulkley is strictly catch-and-release. There are literally hundreds of runs on the Bulkley and with minimal pressure from the general public and other lodges, anglers enjoy a rare opportunity to fish relatively untouched water every day of the week.
Each day anglers are rotated on different sections of the river so that every day is a fresh exciting new adventure. Days are long at Frontier Steelhead Experience, as the guides understand the importance of taking the time to fish each piece of prime water as thoroughly as possible in order to maximize your steelhead catching potential. Frontier Steelhead Experience prides itself on having assembled an elite guide staff that possesses the instructional skills and knowledge of the Bulkley River to ensure a memorable experience!
Six (6) full days of fully guided fishing the Bulkley River... Your week will consist of floating and fishing the Bulkley River by drift boat with your guide on a daily basis, enjoying excellent streamside shore lunches and casting to pure Bulkley Chrome! Two nights will be spent in our remote outpost river camps. All necessary equipment for the float trips - including bedding - is provided. Anglers also have the option to visit the lovely, intimate Morice River for a day.
What Makes This Destination Special and Unique?
• The Bulkley and Morice Rivers offers one of the finest steelhead fisheries on earth – with a run that exceeds 40,000 fish on average each and every season – Mid August through October. That translates into hundreds of steelhead in every pool you swing your fly through, looking for the “grab”. There is no better river system with the potential to hook as many steelhead in a week in the entire Pacific Northwest.
• The Bulkley’s steelhead average and honest 12 pounds and always has the potential to have the highest fish count in BC. If you are looking to get some of the best action in swinging, and fast track your learning curve with the swing method, the Bulkley and Morice drainage is the spot. There is no finer fishery to cut your teeth in swinging flies for steelhead. Or, if you are just used to much lower catch rates in the lower 48.
• The Bulkley is a massive drainage with many options to adjust for conditions. In most weather, even rain events, the guides are able to find fishing conditions in the system to keep you in the game. This much access helps make sure you will be swinging your fly over sea-run missiles, each and every fishing session, when others will be blown out.
• Frontier Steelhead Experience’s Lodge very well may be the nicest Lodge on the planet. This brand new structure was completed in 2010 and is an absolutely magnificent building, built for luxury on the banks of one of the finest steelhead rivers on Earth. The main lodge is massive, with raw log pillars supporting a 50 foot ceiling at the apex of the A-frame design. A massive fireplace and chimney run up the center, creating a cozy atmosphere in the forests of northern BC. You will be given a single occupancy room in one of the 6 duplex cabins surrounding the main lodge. Each room has a king sized bed, amazingly comfortable mattresses and fresh linens and comforters, and a private bathroom with shower and a heated floor… It is over the top luxury that you will never grow tired of.
• Frontier Steelhead Experience is located just upstream from the town of Smithers, near Telkwa, only a 15 minute drive from the airport. Easy access to the lodge insures you are never delayed in starting or ending your steelhead adventure.
• No outfitter on the river knows the water better than Frontier Steelhead Experience! These guys know every inch of the Bulkley, from the top of the Morice, to the mouth at the Skeena, including the 2 difficulty accessed canyons. When fishing with these guys, you know they have you in the bucket, where they have seen hundreds of steelhead landed before. You are never in the dead water that looks good.