This is the premier steelhead river on the Queen Charlotte Islands and receives an excellent and consistent run of steelhead. It has on average the largest steelhead to be found on Haida Gwaii. Twenty-pound steelhead are caught here with regularity. It is the longest watershed on the Queen Charlottes with its headwaters starting at Yakoun Lake. The upper section of river is closed to fishing to allow the fish to spawn in peace. The Yakoun is made up of many different sections from slow froggy-type water to fast canyons. Most of the good water is wide (80 feet) and has a good clean bottom. It has plenty of backcast space and is ideal for swinging flies with a short Skagit-type fly rod. Fishing the runs, riffles, and seams of the Yakoun is a steelhead angler's paradise. It is a unique river in that it is a small, coastal rainforest stream; however, it is picture-perfect for swinging flies for winter steelhead. Yakoun steelhead are as big and aggressive as any winter fish you will find on the west coast. The strength of a fresh Yakoun Steelhead can only be found in such infamous rivers as the Thompson, and to be able to target fish this big and strong in such a small, intimate river is an experience you will dream about for years to come. Yakoun fishes very well from mid-November through March. To fish the Yakoun, we take a 20-minute ferry to Graham Island and drive 45 minutes to the river. We drift it or walk and wade it, depending on the preference of our guests.
This is the closest river to the lodge with only a five-minute drive time to its outflow into the ocean. This is our home water and we love this little stream like no other. What's not to love while fishing fresh steelhead in the tidal waters of Haida Gwaii? If you have ever wanted to try winter B.C. steelhead, this river is a must. A small coastal stream that runs through a rainforest, it has little backcast space due to thick trees, but it is a small river that can be covered very well with roll casts.
The Copper, like all the steelhead rivers we fish on Haida Gwaii, is a classified river. British Columbia has designated our rivers as world-class angling opportunities, just like the Bulkley, Kispiox, Dean, Babine and the other much more famous rivers.
The Copper is a very difficult stream to read and explore and one where you will have a huge advantage in being guided by Copper Bay Lodge. We know where all the best fly water lies, and we know the spots where the steelhead like to stop on their migration upstream. We are lucky enough to have this river all to ourselves 90 percent of the time as it is a difficult one to access for most fisherman. For the beginner, fishing a river like this may seem daunting, but the challenges are fun to explore and the fish make it well worth the effort. We have some very good tricks up our sleeve to fish our home water and you will quickly fall in love with this unique steelhead stream as we have.
We start fishing this river in December and continue through April. It can be downright scary to see a 15- to 20-pound B.C. steelhead erupt from shallow, tea-colored water, ripping line off your reel like a freight train. We catch fish on the Copper that have been breathing freshwater for only a few minutes. Having this stream all to ourselves, we can fish it in the morning and come back to the main lodge for lunch. From there we can decide if we want to fish it again in the afternoon or try one of our other local rivers. With no competition we can be assured to get the best water to suit the tide and water levels, and not be in any rush to do so.
The Haida flows into Cumshewa Inlet at Moresby Camp and is a 35-minute drive from the lodge, and only 20 minutes from the upper Copper River. This allows us to pop over to the Haida for a few runs and head back to the Copper to see which is holding the most fish. This is a beautiful little stream that flows through stretches of canyon and steep gradients. This is our guides' favorite water as it is crystal clear, allowing us to sight-cast to big steelhead. There are some perfect beats for the fly fisherman, and you can often stalk and sight-cast to fresh chrome steelhead. It is made up of canyon water and a few open gravel runs. There are some easy-access sections of the river offering beautiful fly water. There are also some very difficult hikes that bring you into remote reaches that never see a fly. You will see some of the most beautiful stands of old-growth rainforest while fishing the Haida Creeks pristine waters. This creek usually has fish to be caught from December until April. It seldom blows out because it is lake-headed, and always runs crystal clear. It is unlike any other stream on the Queen Charlottes.
This river flows north from the Pontoons to the ocean on Graham Island in the town of Tlell. The Tlell is another tea-colored river similar in size to the Copper River. It is a difficult river to fly fish because it has very little backcast space and is deep right to the banks. However, due to its small size a well-placed roll cast can be very effective. Fishing on the Tlell starts in February and goes into April. Ten- to 12-pounders are the norm with some fish pushing 20 pounds. We don't spend much time fishing this river and prefer our streams closer to home.
QCI Streams: our well-kept secrets
We have a few other streams very close to the lodge that we keep to ourselves. We are the only operation that knows when to fish them to consistently catch steelhead. We don't describe them on our site as very few people have ever had the luxury of catching a steelhead on them. Working with our new operation is Bill Quaas, a Sandspit local and legendary Queen Charlottes fisherman. With over 40 years experience fishing every piece of moving water on the islands, Bill holds the secrets that unlock many a door leading to Queen Charlottes steelhead. He pioneered the Yakoun River, naming many of the runs that are used to this day. His son Evan, who guides for Copper Bay Lodge, continues the legacy, and brings local knowledge that would take a lifetime to learn. Although the Yakoun can see a fair amount of traffic over a season (and has enough water to withstand it), our local rivers see little to none. This means you will go several days without seeing a fisherman, and you will have all the water to yourself. With such a variety of rivers to select from, we can always find fresh fish in decent water conditions over your week's stay, even under the most difficult weather patterns. These are rivers where your guide will make all the difference in the world and show you a week's adventure that you will never forget!