Stamp River Steelhead can be broken down into a few distinctly different runs, timing, and fishing techniques (gear types).
Summer & Fall Steelhead
Summer and fall Steelhead continually enter the river from July until November. These Steelhead move quickly through the lower portion of the river and take up residency in the upper part of the river, for up to six months before spawning.
These Steelhead forage like trout before the middle of October and then completely switch to eating eggs when the Chinook salmon start to spawn. From this point on they are all about getting eggs off the bottom and their focus keeps them glued to the spawning salmon areas. After every rain event, heavier currents will wash out the unfertilized eggs that naturally float out of the gravel.
Steelhead will get very aggressive during this period with their noses in the gravel. They will take a fly under a strike indicator, but won't come to a fly on the swing. The big days are on gear rods fishing with a float. For fish numbers this is actually the best Steelhead fishing of the year. The numbers are consistently better than winter Steelhead but the bullet Chrome fish are few and far between. Not to say there are none, but the bulk of the fish have a bit of color with pink rosey cheeks, classic Steelhead. The best fishing is from October 15 to Dec 1 and it has various peaks on every significant rainfall.
"Sminter Runs" - This is not typo. Over the past ten years brood stock capture has been done in the upper part of the river where it is often hard tell what fish is which. Over time a mix of summer/fall fish have been mixed in with the winter brood stock program. We now have a new run that we call sminter runs, which are a cross between the two distinct steelhead returns to the Stamp. These fish show up in late November and early December. We catch these fish in both the lower and upper river depending where the food source is, when they arrive into the river.
The large chum population that spawns in late October and November, leaves a lot of eggs floating around the lower part of the river and many of these "Sminters" will locate themselves around the confluence of the Sproat and Stamp Rivers. They are mint bright and generally called early winter Steelhead. These fish are caught best on a roe bag with Chum or Chinook eggs.
The first true winter runs will start to appear around the second week of December and continue entering the river right to the end of March. The peak is generally in January but they can be early or late depending on water conditions and temperature.
The best fishing for winter runs is in the lower to mid river. Winter runs are genetically different than summer runs, in that they generally inhabit the lower portions of their home stream. Our river has an obstruction called the bucket, which only a handful of guides are capable of navigating. We spend a lot of our time in this area. The trend has been that most of the winter Steelhead are now heading straight for this portion of the river and can make it through the lower part of the river in just a few hours. This is a newer trend that has been appearing the last 5 years. Another anomaly in the last 5 years is that we are seeing winter hatchery fish in big numbers in the upper river. Great scenery, no people and you can keep a fish. Great for fishermen, but not the best for wild spawning Steelhead.
Steelhead are complicated creatures and one of the best game fish British Columbia has. It's roots run as deep as fishing itself in British Columbia and with a bit of luck it will be passed on to many generations after us.