The Dean River
Growing up as a steelhead angler in the northwest, I had always heard of the Dean River spoken in tones of total reverence. Now, having fished the Dean for a number of years, I can surely count it as one of my favorite fisheries in the world, and certainly my most revered. Words can hardly describe how beautiful, rugged, remote and, did I say, beautiful the Dean River is. It is not so much the fishery, which can best be described as awesome, as it is the entire experience. From the incredible flight in, to the stunning mountain walls that contain the river, to the unbelievably savage takes of the torpedoes that come home each summer, the Dean is a trip to put on that bucket-list all fly anglers create.
Whitey’s Favorite Run
When you do make that trip to the Dean, I’m sure you’ll find my favorite run one to cover over and over again. I call it “Instant Backing to Upper Tidal”. Actually, it’s two runs that I blend into one and I fish down through it for hours.
I like to start in the lower part of “Instant Backing”, which is a very apt description. Here, when you hook a fish, it’s all you can do to hold on as the fish catapults, flips and rips its way back to the Dean Channel less than a half mile away. I usually end up landing the chrome in the bottom of Upper Tidal, so it’s quite the sprint downriver to maintain connection to the fish. If I don’t hook anything in lower “Instant backing” I will find myself wading through some heavy choppy water that is the tail-out of IB into the head of another run called “Upper Tidal”.
Upper Tidal is a perfect looking run. It starts with juicy boulder-strewn fast water in which only the strongest fish hold, before it slows just enough to create a classic tail-out. Picking my way through the seams, boulders and creases of Upper Tidal is always an adventure and there are so many times I know my fly is swimming in the juice. Thankfully, more often than not, I am rewarded with a savage take followed by the sing of the reel as another fish flips its way back to the Channel. I rarely make it out of the fast water into the tail-out before I find myself heading back upriver to start the process over again.
It’s a tough wader, but one I can’t resist. When I’m on the Dean, more often than not you’ll find me in this run plying that water for that fish in the less than obvious places. After all, that’s the challenge right?