"It’s late winter. It’s cold. Rivers are low and clear. Fish are lethargic. And it’s my day off, so I’m gonna fish."
My name is Clint Goyette, and I’ve spent the last 20 plus years guiding anglers from around the world on the waters around Squamish, British Columbia. Squamish, nestled halfway between Vancouver and Whistler, is home to five rivers within 30 minutes of town and offers great year-round trout fishing opportunities. While these rivers have returns of four species of Pacific Salmon and winter steelhead, the wild trout fisheries supply a continuous opportunity for making connections on the water.
Every Fall and Spring, the high-water events move large amounts of gravel and wood, creating new channels that didn’t exist previously. It’s like someone is rewriting some of my favorite books and I get to read them all over again. As a guide, I feel it is essential to make time to walk the rivers two or three times every week in the winter. This allows me to cover lots of ground and see features that are normally not visible in higher water.
On this day, it started early under what I would call classic late-winter and early-spring conditions. It was cold with a light drizzle and some snow moving through the mountains. The snow line remained low, a clear sign that it was still very cold at just a few hundred meters above the river. I could barely catch a glimpse of the snow capped peaks hiding just behind the clouds.
Rainbows, cutthroat trout, and my favorite... the bull trout - Salvelinus confluentus, were my target. With no new snow melt, and no recent rain, the river was going to be very low, very clear, and very cold. The local forecast was calling for clearing conditions later in the day. For me, these conditions were perfect. Considering the conditions, I opted for a stealthy approach. And when it comes to stealth, the Euro-nymph is my method of choice. The all new 10’ 3wt SENSE 3100-4 was the perfect stealthy tool to pull from my quiver.
"Pulling the rod out of the bag, there it is... Beautiful and all black right down to the logo. The matte finish prevents any unwanted sun reflections when fishing under these stealthy conditions."
As I fold the fly line, it passes through the single-foot guides on the rod. I rig up the RIO Technical Euro Nymph leader with integrated black and white sighter material. The black and white sighter provides excellent contrast when fishing Euro-style. I reached into my waders and pull out a spool of 5X tippet. Fresh tippet is best! Holding the spool in one hand, I grab the end of the tippet and I unroll six feet or so, or “one of me and a bit”. After a quick snip, I attach the fresh tippet to the tippet ring with a clinch knot, give it a nice strong tug to ensure it’s strength, and proceeded to open my box of flies. The SENSE was ready to rock.
My late winter and early spring box includes flies that represent mayflies, small salmon fry, stoneflies, midges and caddis. In my experience, custom flies that represent many food items, but not one specific food item tend to perform best when there isn't a distinct hatch occurring. Some of my flies are tied with gold and silver beads and others more drab in black and copper. Beads in hot orange and pinks are always worth a dip. One thing is common with all of my patterns… they are heavy, due to our local BC regulations being barbless single-fly only. I tie on a non-specific fly. Heavy and bright.
Starting at the top of the first pool, I proceed to fish through, getting a feel for the technical setup. I felt that the rod was fast and I could really feel the power in the butt section. Casting was accurate and holding the rod high for presentation felt natural. I fished through without a touch and started back at the top with a smaller fly. Within a few more casts I had my first solid grab. The fish was heavy! Sadly, the tippet snapped almost immediately. When I examined the breakage point, it was clear that the tippet broke where the line wrapped the eye of the hook. Tooth or rock damage was a likely cause. Unlucky. Having covered the pool twice, it was time to move.
My toes warmed as I walked across the floodplain, heading for the next probable trout hiding spot. Elk, deer and wolf tracks reminded me that I was not alone. Winter stoneflies crawled on the rocks, birds started chirping, and a mix of sun and clouds now filled the sky. I could feel that the bite was about to start. Just then, I came upon a nice riffle dumping into a four foot deep hole flowing at just the right speed. Not a big piece of water, but big enough to hold a fish. I peeled some line off the rod for an inquisitorial cast. Two casts and I'm on. A beautiful dark resident bull still full of colour from last years’ spawn. After a quick release, keeping the fish wet, I’m to the next run.
Here in British Columbia, bull trout are a top predator. They are as beautiful as they are powerful. Having come from Ontario, I always looked at bull trout as the “Wolf of the Water”, or the Northern Pike (Esox lucius) of BC. Their bodies are designed to stay low to the river bottom, relaxed and ready to strike at unsuspecting prey. Pure predator awesomeness.
This is where the fishing starts to get a bit silly. From here on, I went “catching”. I think over the next hour and a half I managed to net something like half a dozen more bulls... A couple of 16’s (the new recruits, I like to call them), followed by a few more average 18-22" bulls. Nice fish, but I was on the hunt for a good one to end the day.
Finally, after a quick pause in the drift, I struck. Solid. I waited for movement and a slow, dull pull is all I got. I knew I was hooked into a heavy. Putting the rod butt under my forearm, I had to prevent my wrist from tiring on this fish. I was curling my arm to keep the rod between me and my opponent. The rod was in full view with the tip up and angled slightly down to my side of the river. In this moment, the SENSE was fully flexed and bent to the cork.
I couldn’t budge him, but I could feel the big, slow tail thrusts and head shakes. Just then, he used his broad pectoral fins, stiff underwater wings, to steer to the deeps. A classic big fish maneuver. The beast was peeling the line off the ESN reel, having turned into the heavier current. At this point, I had to follow along. I knew I wasn’t about to pull him back upstream to me on 5X tippet! This battle ensued as I chased him downriver until I was able to get more leverage. Eventually, I managed to get downstream of the fish and put him in the net. In this moment, there he was... Showing off the bright white leading edge of his pectoral fin screaming “Behold - I am Char!” right next to this sleek, all black, matte 3100 SENSE. Unreal.
The SENSE is an awesome stick. The stealthy all-black design is undoubtedly sweet. When you combine that look with a lightweight package that delivers all the technical power needed to cast nymphs with accuracy and also control big fish, all I have to ask is: can I have another?
Check Out Clint's All-Purpose Euro Nymph Setup :
"With no new snow melt, and no recent rain, the river was going to be very low, very clear, and very cold. The local forecast was calling for clearing conditions later in the day. For me, these conditions were perfect. Considering the conditions, I opted for a stealthy approach. And when it comes to stealth, the Euro-nymph is my method of choice. And the 10’ 3wt SENSE 3100-4 was the perfect stealthy tool to pull from my quiver. Paired with an ESN Reel and RIO FIPS Euro Nymph Line, this setup is ready to tackle a multitude of Euro-Nymphing situations."
— Clint Goyette, Owner/Head Guide of Valley Fishing Guides in Squamish, BCRod: SENSE 3100-4 Reel: ESN Reel Line: RIO FIPS Euro Nymph
FISH WITH CLINT
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Words & Photography
Editor / Writer Clint Goyette is the Owner and Head Guide at Valley Fishing Guides located in Squamish, BC. Clint is dedicated to providing all of his clients with the best possible service, knowledge, standards, and safety available from a Professional Angling Guide. Clint holds a degree in biology from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and has additional training in Fish and Wildlife Technology from Sir Sandford Fleming College in Lindsay, Ontario. He is a Certified Fly Casting Instructor through the Federation of Fly Fishers and in addition to CPR, his first aid training consists of Outdoor Emergency Care, Wilderness First Responder, and Swiftwater Rescue. His boat handling skills and safety have been approved by Transport Canada. These credentials have earned him the recognition as a Professional Angling Guide by the Canadian Human Tourism Resource Commission (CHTRC). He lives in Squamish with his wife, three children and numerous pets.
Photographer Chase White is a commercial and editorial outdoor photographer, producer, and designer based in Squamish, British Columbia. Often documenting the places and experiences that define The British Columbia experience, he draws his creative inspiration from nature and the outdoor pursuits that make people feel thrilled to be alive. His work has been featured in publications, films, and brands around the world. As an avid fly angler himself, when Chase is not working, you can likely find him on his home river with his wife Lindsay and their pup Ted on the hunt for an encounter with wild fish. You can follow Chase on Instagram @anadromous and see more of his work at chasewhite.com