At BC West, we fish two sections of river during our steelhead season. They’re separated by the Dean River Canyon – that steep half-mile stretch of drops and small pools that has a lot to do with the strength, power and stamina of our anadromous species.
We call the river below the canyon the ‘Lower Dean’ and our piece of water from the canyon to 5 Mile the ‘Upper Dean’ (even though our Upper Dean is much closer to the salt that the water above that many anglers spend time on).
Today we learn a bit about the Lower Dean.
Below the canyon, the Dean is big! It’s characterized by long, broad runs– it takes an hour or two to fish through most of named runs on the Lower Dean.
In general, fish below the canyon aren’t holding– they’re moving through That means a couple of things. First, the fishing can be streaky, mostly to the positive. Fish tend to enter the river in pods, so after a quiet few hours, you might hit a group of fish pushing through and experience some pretty fast-paced action. Second, since the fish tend to be moving, there’s no harm in fishing a good piece of water multiple times – your second time through, you may just be showing your fly to a new batch of fish.
The runs are big and broad, but there’s a fair amount of variety. Eagle’s Nest is a slow, deep run filled with boulders. Bill’s Run is the inside bend of a big gravel bar– hundreds of yards of classic swinging water. The legendary Tony’s Run (gone for a few years, back as of 2008) is so fast that you might overlook it if not told it was there, and it’s one of the most productive pieces of water on the river. Archaeological is slow. Instant Backing was named for good reason– another ripping fast piece of water that spits fish. On Lower Tidal you’re swinging your fly right out of the mouth of the Dean. Get the picture? Lots of different types of runs, and they all hold fish.
Anglers head to the Dean for hot, bright fish, and you’re more likely to find them on the Lower Dean below the canyon, less than a couple miles from the salt, than anywhere else on the river.