Photo Credit: Brian Smith
The Morice River
The Morice River is a favourite destination for many steelhead anglers. It’s a short freestone river that flows roughly 70 kilometres northeast from its outlet at Morice Lake to meet the Bulkley River at Houston, which in turn runs northwest to mix with the Skeena at Hazelton. The Morice is named after Father Adrien-Gabriel Morice (1859-1938), a Catholic missionary who pioneered his faith in the Bulkley Valley during the early 1900s.
The Morice is accessed by the Morice West Forest Service Road on the west side of Houston’s city limits. It’s a good, gravel logging road suitable for any type of vehicle, but best travelled by pick-up or SUV 4-wheel-drive, especially in the wet conditions of late fall and early winter when the fish arrive. Logging trucks are active along this route, so use caution.
There are several forestry campsites along the route: Bymac is a user-pay site and boat launch accessed by the Walcott-Quick-Telkwa FSR several kms south along the Morice West Road; Aspen Rec Site at km 17 has a good campsite but rough boat launch; Owen Flats “A” and “B” Rec Sites are near km 28 and have a good boat launch; Lamprey Creek Rec Site is near km 45. All have pit toilets and organized camping spots.
The middle river points are only a 30-minute drive from Houston, so motel accommodation is another option, especially in the poor and wet weather conditions that seems to be part of fall steelhead fishing. You can split a room with a buddy, put in a full day of fishing, come back and get warm and well-fed in your room, and in the morning climb into dry waders for another day of fishing!
And, if you prefer lodge accommodation and a guided service, Frontier Farwest Lodge are the people to call, offering a full package for the Morice and Bulkley Rivers.
Steelheads and Cohos begin to enter the Morice system during late August and September, and will continue to migrate into the system until November/December. Cohos spawn and die; steelheads hold in over-wintering pools until early spring, and then spawn. Many steelheads will return to the ocean during the Morice’s spring freshet; the strongest will return to spawn several more times during their lifetimes.
The chance for dry-fly action is what brings seasoned steelheaders to the Morice. The best opportunities for floating-line fishing are usually in September, when the water is still warm and the fish active. I like to see fish happy, showing themselves, moving through the runs as if on a mission. We call them “players,” prime targets for a well-presented, waking dry fly. Fish will often follow and take the fly on the swing, after the drift is finished and the fly is skating along the surface—the take can be heart-stopping.
Dry-fly patterns that work for steelhead are Steelhead Bombers, Beetles and Caddis imitations, all tied on hook sizes 4 through 10 on 2X-strong dry fly hooks. Wet-fly patterns include the Intruder styles, Deceivers and egg-flies tied on strong hooks in colours pink, black, blue and purple. Rabbit strips work well and are available in all of these colours; adding glitter by using Krystal Flash and UV dubbings can often make a difference in your hooking success.
The Morice and its tributaries is Classified Water, requiring a CW license. Please check the regulations for additional restrictions, and enjoy this special river!