Thompson River Steelhead | Save WILD

This is a plea to take action, to save a run of fish that literally defines the term wild steelhead.

We all throw around the words “last cast” to close out a trip or our day on the river, but this is now the last cast for wild steelhead on the Thompson River. Nearly two years ago to the date, made my last cast, launching my GP style fly as far as I could manage with my 9140. This last cast was a lucky one, it connected with a big buck that absolutely freight trained me on the hang down in the Grease Hole. After that fish, I reeled in for the day, soaked in the fading light, and reflected on the journey the fish had made before it found its way into my hands for a moment of connection. Who knew that this might be my last cast ever in a place that forged lasting friendships, created memories, all in a place that defines the words WILD. This year only 200 fish are set to return to the Mighty T and we will likely loose angling opportunity to make another cast, but what is really scary, we are now at risk of watching these fish go extinct and loose this native run.

For those who have never been the Thompson River, these unique steelhead hold a place in the hearts of those that walk the endless banks. Trey Combs sums up the experience ... “The Thompson runs bigger than life, always a collection of superlatives when comparing steelhead stories. Certainly the vistas are grander, the river larger, and the currents more powerful than any of the other rivers in my experience except Idaho’s Snake. The Pools would seem too large to cover properly, too larger to affect a personality and develop a following among fly fishers, but this is not so.”

“One lazy fall afternoon I sat beside the river to soak up some sun while Harry Lemire tried to put the river’s steelhead into perspective.
‘When I’m on the Dean, I think its steelhead are the strongest,’ he said, ‘but when I’m on the Thompson, I think its steelhead are the strongest.’
‘Ah yes’ I said, ‘but Thompson steelhead are larger, and Harry, wasn’t your largest steelhead from this river a buck of thirty-seven pounds that took you a half-mile downriver?’
I recalled two friends of ours, Jimmy Hunnicutt and Sean Gallagher, had both taken huge Thomson steelhead on dry flies.”
~Trey Combs from his book Steelhead Fly Fishing

For most it is hard to comprehend a thirty-seven pound steelhead, now try to imagine that fish rising through the mixing currents to a waking dry fly. To think that human impact might forever erase these creatures from our planet is devastating. Simply put, there is no place on earth like the Thompson and no fish that embody the fitness, size, and wild tendencies as these fish do. The decrease in numbers is derived from human impact and the gauntlet of nets that get strung up along the Fraser. These summer steelhead return along side both Sockeye and Chum salmon which have high commercial value. Gill nets are non selective, absorbing many of these wild steelhead as bi-catch. It is estimated that only one in five steelhead that enters the Fraser makes it back to the river of its birth, the Thompson.

So this is a plea to take action. To save a run of fish that literally defines the term wild steelhead. It does not matter if you never plan on fishing for steelhead, what matters is that a race of wild fish in a wild landscape are at risk of disappearing forever. These ghosts in the river have no voice to scream for help and we must shout for them. The petition below aims to ban non-selective gill netting on the Fraser to give these fish chance spawn in their home gravel so we don't loose more wild in a changing world.

Sign now

For more options you can link up with the following organizations:

Steehead Society of BC

Steelhead Voices


Memories from the Thompson


An angler takes a long walk with hope in his steps.


An overlook of Martel Island with a little rain moving in across the desert landscape. The sounds of trains are always present in the background and anglers dream of coming tight to a fish as the train comes around the bend.


Your biggest cast will fall short of where you dream it will land. This is a casters river, varsity league in every definition.


A group of friends take a moment to relax and share stories while others finish fishing through the run. It is moments like this were we forge relationships centered around a place and fish.


Releasing a ghost with as much care and respect as possible. You can feel the power in each fish, but also how fragile these fish are in the same moment.


Memories of past fish and friends all coming together around this place. Each of these flies have a story, a memory, and a wild fish behind each of them.


Last cast on the Thompson River in the fading light. Perhaps one day, if we act now, we can have fishable populations of wild steelhead again. Loosing wild steelhead in the Thompson is beyond comprehension, we must act to protect these fish.


Words and photos by Russell Miller @millerrp
Russell is the Director of Marketing at Fishpond who is endlessly in awe of the wild.

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