Dean River Chinook

6 comments / Posted on / by


By Jeff Hickman

 It’s time for the big boys.

With the rapidly increasing popularity of Spey fishing, targeting Chinook salmon has also recently become hot. These large powerful anadromous fish have always been attractive to fly fishers in areas with strong populations. But with modern spey rods and Skagit heads they have become much more accessible to fly anglers. The old myth that they don’t eat flies is far from the truth! These Kings of the river are as good as freshwater gamefish fish get. When they are fresh-from-the-salt and in the mood, they will attack flies every bit as aggressively as steelhead do!

I had heard the old timers’ stories of the good ol’ days when the Chinook were thick in west coast rivers and fly anglers could catch as many as they wanted. While at times we do still have some good Chinook fishing in Oregon, I wanted a full immersion to experience them. So years ago I got a job guiding fly fishing on the Kanektok River for Alaska West and I headed north to cut my teeth on Chinook fishing. I had heard in western Alaska, Chinook were plentiful and they were like Winter steelhead on steroids. It was true and it was there that I fell in love with these leviathans. I spent nine seasons on the Kanektok guiding and swinging flies for Chinook and I learned a lot about them in the process.

50+The recent scuttlebutt among Chinook anglers is over the emergency Chinook fishing closures in the last two years in Western Alaska. In western Alaska, King salmon stocks are experiencing a period of low productivity. Run forecasts have been too low for ADF&G to allow any commercial or sport Chinook fisheries in the entire Kuskokwim River drainage including all Kuskokwim Bay tributaries. Among the closures again this year are the Kanektok and Goodnews Rivers. Both are legendary rivers for having robust healthy runs of these amazing fish. This is very tough news for everybody that has a connection to this area and these fish. I hope that these robust runs are able to recover quickly to the sustainable fishable levels of the past.

But Alaska isn’t the only destination to catch Chinook on the fly consistently. I now spend the early part of my Summers chasing Chinook in British Columbia. When the two words “Dean” and “River” are placed together, it elicits a unique response among steelhead fishermen. The Dean River is the world’s top destination for steelhead. The river is beautiful beyond imagination and its steelhead are incredibly aggressive.

They are truly wild and evolution has them built for speed and power.

They must each navigate a fierce canyon and leap multiple waterfalls to get to their prime spawning grounds. But the Chinook of the Dean are even more respectable. Those brave enough to chase these large and powerful fish are testing tackle and challenging the edge of what is land-able in freshwater. The Chinook here eat swung flies aggressively near the surface, run hard, jump often and they hold in steelhead water which makes them easily targeted with flies.

Tavender_0711_3010Kimsquit Bay Lodge, near the mouth of the Dean River, is my newest project. My wife and I bought the lodge last Summer from the Blackwell family. We are making many improvements to the lodge and building upon the high level of customer service that the Blackwell family established 20 years ago. The lodge sits overlooking the saltwater of the Dean Channel and we concentrate our fishing in the lower river below the turbid waters of the canyon to the saltwater. The fish in this stretch of river are at their peak fitness. Sea lice, clear fins and empty reels are what you will find here. We run a short season and cater to only 6 guests per week. With two excellent guides offering an intimate knowledge of the river, help and instruction.

Kimsquit Bay Lodge has recently had a cancelation and is now offering a $1000 discount for the week of June 26th – July 3rd. Price is now $5150 for a full week of guided fishing. That price includes a floatplane charter flight from Smithers, BC. Do yourself a favor and book this trip. Discounted spots on the Dean are unheard of. This is the bucket list trip!

Contact: Jeff Hickman –


Jeff Hickman
Gink & Gasoline
Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!

Follow Gink & Gasoline on Facebook:

6 thoughts on “Dean River Chinook

  1. People pay upwards of $6,000 for a week of fishing. The sign should read, “Welcome top 1%, you’ve “earned” the right to fish here. #ElitestToTheCore

    • …to be fair it’s the right to fish with Jeff Hickman and stay at his lodge. The right to fish the river is probably less than 50 bucks for a fishing license from B.C.

    • Gary, it’s not what you think. I have a lot of friends in the lodge business. They drive old pickups not Benz. If you’ve never been to the Dean I can see how it sounds outrageous but running any kind of business there is an epic undertaking. It starts with putting a tractor and a chain saw on a barge, milling lumber from drift wood and building from scratch. Everything, I mean everything has to come by boat (several days) or helicopter. It’s as remote and challenging a place as you will find on earth. Everything about it is expensive. Lodges barely keep their doors open.

      For that money, they offer an amazing experience where anyone is welcome. Sure, you meet a lot of rich guys but you meet a lot of guys who save their money for years to go. One of the coolest guys I’ve ever fished with is a barber in BC who saved his tip money. He quit smoking and put away what he’d spent on smokes for a year. Hell! I do it and I’m nobody’s one percent. I’m broke but I work for my trip.

      All I’m saying is it’s not some crazy inflated price. There’s way more involved than you can imagine. And it’s defiantly not just for the one percent. It’s for folks who see the value in it and are willing to make a plan and often sacrifice to see it through. It may not be for you, but don’t bash the folks who do it.

      • Very Well Said Louis,

        There is not a guide or lodge owner I know that does this for just the money. They provide an opportunity and experience for the rest of us that will be with us forever.

        On my death bed I will not be able to tell you the names of all the people that I have worked with but my guess is that I will be able to tell you the names of all the people I fished with.

        God Bless Them!

  2. it would cost you well over $6000 to fish the Dean on your own. You need to chopper in, you need all your food, you need bear protection, you need a boat to travel the lower river, and the out-of-province license is over $200- and as a non BC resident you get 8 consecutive days only per year.
    Is $6000 expensive- absolutely! Is it worth it- absolutely.

  3. Am I the only one weirded out by a non-canadian owning a lodge on one of the most highly regulated pieces of water in BC? Will he be abiding by the 8 day limit (let alone doing the draw) for the class I section?

    Jeff’s very talented, and obviously loves the resource… Doesn’t make it any less strange

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...