Vancouver Island is one of the most fabled places in steelhead fly fishing lore, and for good reason. This place was and can still be an absolute fish factory. Roderick Haig-Brown wrote stories of the anadromous fish that poured into these rivers, painting images in anglers’ minds all over the country and the world of a fishing paradise. Hard-core stealheaders still whisper about the chrome bright missiles that swim up the remote and unpressured streams of the island.
Vancouver Island lies just off the southern coast of British Columbia, and in the northwestern dent in Washington State: the heart of the winter steelhead world. The short rivers that drain the island rainforest are home to an amazing strain of winter steelhead. This is your chance to get off the grid to chase dime bright missiles within sight of the ocean. The opportunity to hook fish this fresh, in rivers this beautiful, is a combination that is hard to duplicate elsewhere. With the popularity of winter steelhead growing right along with the sport of spey casting, it is getting harder and harder to ﬁnd productive systems with little to no angling pressure, but it is still possible here up here!
Vancouver island still maintains a cult following among hard-core winter steelheaders. The sections of old growth rainforest, the mystique of the rivers and the landscape, and the heart and soul of the people who live there make this one of the most unique locations to ﬁsh in North America. Fishing here has become a sanctuary for those who know it. For those that have connected with it, no other place can compare.
The weeklong trip will have you swinging ﬂies only a handful of miles at most from tide water every single day, hiking intimate walk and wade creeks, stalking wild steelhead with smaller spey rod setups and ﬂoating remote sections of the larger more famous rivers. Many of these rivers are lake fed ensuring that you will be out ﬁshing in all but the absolute worst conditions. Some of the creeks only ﬁsh well with huge amounts of rain, while others ﬁsh best at low water. Diversity is what truly makes this trip special for winter steelhead.
This flexible program puts the angler on the best water at the best time. With multiple rivers available it is important to use the weather conditions to choose the best available option. With so many options there is virtually always something in shape. The Salmon River is the home river, but you will also be in striking distance of the fabled Nimkish and Gold as well as other smaller, more secret, rivers on the island. Nootka Wilderness Lodge has great access to float their main rivers, but also have good walking access to some amazing runs as well.
Unlike Southeast Alaska, the rivers of Vancouver Island can have real trophy steelhead. The fish on the island average around 8 to 12 pounds, but true monsters are ever-present on every incoming tide. Fish over 15 pounds are relatively common and these rivers kick out 20 pounders every year. Hooking a fish like this, that has only been breathing fresh water for a couple days, if not a couple hours, is truly the peak of winter steelhead fishing.
Nootka Wilderness Lodge has made arrangements to accommodate guests in a quaint guest house in the town of Sayward, right on the banks of the Salmon River, just above the mouth. At a stone’s throw from the gravel bars of the Salmon river, this is the ideal location for a home base in the region. The guides can even take the boats out right at the cabin, if you float that drift that day. Guests will feel right at home in this relaxing facility while the cook prepares wonderful meals in the kitchen. You will be in a shared room with your fishing partner, private room options are available.
Reservations & Rates
The cost of the week-long (7 nights/6 days) NWL Chrome Adventures package is $4,995.00 USD per person plus a 5% Canada GST tax, based on double occupancy.
Included in your angling package at NWL Chrome Adventures are shuttle service to and from the Campbell River Airport; fully guided fishing; gourmet meals prepared by our personal chef to your specifications; beer and wine, along with non-alcoholic beverages and snacks are always available; hotel style accommodations, each room has a private bath.
Not included in your angling package at NWL Chrome Adventures are International Airfare to/from Campbell River; Gratuities; taxes; fishing tackle; equipment; flies; and a Canada fishing license.
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 Guard Insurance
Seasons at Chrome Adventures
Steelhead run up the rivers of Vancouver Island year around, but the best fishing and strongest runs are during the winter and spring, January through April. The rivers are too low and clear and warm in the summer and fall, making it very stressful on the fish. This can be some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest true winter steelhead fishing, but anglers must be prepared for what Mother Nature can deliver. Rain is required! If rain does not come, the fishing will be harder than if it does. Be prepared for wet and cold… And if a really cold storm comes, you will have the amazing experience of casting to winter steelhead in the silent falling snow, as it builds on the trees and banks of the rivers, and the beaches at their mouths. It is a surreal experience, that every winter steelheader loves, but it is not for the fair weather angler.
Getting to Chrome Adventures
The travel to Nootka Wilderness Lodge Chrome Adventures couldn’t be much easier, especially from West Coast departures. Vancouver (YVR) is an easily accessed airport, with direct flights from most major airline hubs.
Clearing customs and immigration is easy and quick, very efficient; everything is electronic with computer kiosks where you scan your passport, it takes your photo, and you walk right through. There’s a liquor store in the airport if you need to pick something up (though beer and wine is included in the lodge packages so it’s not necessary unless you want something specific).
Saturday – Fly from Vancouver (mainland) to the town of Cambpell River, British Columbia:
Please make your flight arrangements for arrival to Campbell River, British Columbia (airport code YBL) anytime in the afternoon. You will be met at the airport on your arrival to Campbell River by Nootka Wilderness Lodge staff. From there, you will be transferred to the lodge, about an hour’s drive from the airport. The lodge is conveniently located on the banks of the Salmon River, and there’s often time for a few hours of fishing in the camp water on the afternoon of arrival.
Saturday – Departure from the lodge for home:
On your final morning, you’ll get to sleep in a bit, waking up around 7:30 am and a leisurely breakfast and time to dry and pack your gear. The lodge requests that you make your return flights home out of Campbell River for departing no earlier than 1:00 pm, which allows ample time to get to the airport and check in for your flight home. There are plenty of connecting afternoon flights back home so most guests can be home that same day.
Some guests may opt to fly into either Vancouver or Campbell River the night before and overnight. There are some good hotel options in either place.
For those of you who like to overnight in Campbell River before and/or after your fishing trip:
Lodging in Campbell River: Coast Discovery Inn (250)-287-7155 Toll free – 1-800-663-1144
For those wishing to overnight in Vancouver, we recommend the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel. The hotel is conveniently located inside the airport and is completely soundproof. The hotel is properly equipped to store boxes of frozen fish during your stay. The Fairmont will offer you a considerable discount when you mention that you are fishing with us at Nootka Wilderness Lodge.
https://www.fairmont.com/vancouver-airport-richmond / 1-866-540-4441
Lodging at Chrome Adventures
Guests fishing with Nootka Wilderness Lodge Chrome Adventures are accommodated at the beautiful, historic Salmon River Guesthouse, located in the heart of the Sayward Valley on Northern Vancouver Island. Built in the 1930's as the residence of the general store, the house has been gently modernized and renovated but still maintains much of its original character and charm. The guesthouse is situated on 32 acres of pasture and over 1000 feet of riverfront along the fabled Salmon River.
Fishing at Chrome Adventures
6 Full Fishing Days:
The daily schedule at Nootka Wilderness Lodge Chrome Adventures typically starts with a wake-up call around 6:00 am and breakfast at the lodge. Groups will depart the lodge by 7:00 am to head to the river.
The fishing program here is based on flexibility, targeting the home water on the Salmon River, the nearby Nimpkish River, and a handful of smaller “secret” rivers. Each day’s trip will be determined with discussion with the guides based on weather and water conditions and your preferences for the day, and will be a combination of float and wade trips.
NWL Chrome Adventures daily guided trips will have a good variety throughout the week. The home river, the Salmon is larger and navigated by boat, either inflatable rafts or hard sided drift boats. This offers anglers the very best access to the runs the river has to offer. On the smaller streams, walk and wade fishing is the norm and allows the easiest and most efficient access. There are literally dozens of rivers and streams on the island, so you can be mobile based on conditions. And with minimal pressure from the general public, anglers enjoy a rare opportunity to fish relatively untouched water every day of the week.
Each day anglers will rotate on different water so that every day is a fresh and exciting new adventure. The outstanding guides of NWL will show you as much as possible, but also keep you in the best bets for the most action, so you may want to float the hotter drifts more than once.
While there is no such thing as an ordinary day on Vancouver Island, each one begins with breakfast at 7 a.m. After hot coffee, eggs, cereal, fresh fruit or whatever else you need to get going, you meet your guide and are off. Drives may range from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the river that is the best bet for the day.
You will fish until midday, then stop for a lunch streamside when ready. Lunch can be either hot or cold, and will include options like sandwiches, soups, and other typical lunch snacks you would expect on a guide day on the water.
After fishing through the afternoon, you would normally get off the water by 6 or 7 p.m. and then return to the guest house for happy hour. Drinks and hors d'oeuvres are served before dinner in front of the fireplace. Dinner is usually served between 7 and 8 o'clock, although these guys have been known to eat much later if the fish are grabbing and you just can't tear yourself away.
The guides and staff are very flexible when it comes to arranging your day. If you have a special request, just let them know and they will do our best to accommodate you and give you the best experience possible.
Steelhead on Vancouver Island average 8 - 12 lbs and fish up to and exceeding 20 lbs are caught every season. The first fish arrive in late November, and by the New Year, top quality fly fishing is in full swing. Big strong winter steelhead enter the rivers of the island throughout the winter season and right into spring, and late April.
Fishing for Steelhead is strictly catch-and-release.
What Makes This Destination Special and Unique?
• The winter/spring steelhead of Vancouver Island average around 8-12 pounds and have the potential to tip the scales over 20. If that wasn’t enough, remember that on the island all of the rivers are short and right next to the Ocean, giving you the opportunity to shake hands with some of the freshest and brightest steelhead you will ever encounter. If you are looking to hook up some of the highest quality steelhead in the Pacific, there is no better place to consider a winter steelhead trip.
• Vancouver Island has tons of rivers with healthy runs of wild steelhead and some of the most pristine and secluded are within 40 minutes of the guest house. With all of these amazing rivers in easy striking distance, there is usually something in shape, no matter the conditions. Having different rivers of different sizes and personalities gives you the flexibility to adapt during an unpredictable time of year in regards to weather.
• The guest house location could not be more ideal. It sits right on the banks of the Salmon River, just above tidewater. This gives you access to one of the islands greatest steelhead rivers, in an unbelievably beautiful setting, within a 5 minute drive from the mouth of the river and access to float above and take out right there on the front steps of your room!
• The guest house arrangement itself is cozy and intimate. With only 6 anglers max per week, each angler has the option to have their own single room accommodations. The small group size allows for maximum flexibility for you and the guides to choose the best fishing options every day. You won’t be crowded out and forced to fish assigned beats in a rotation. The flexibility in this fishing program is what will keep you in the right place at the right time, all the time.