It’s the grizzlies that live in British Columbia’s interior that give Kate Watson (@katywat on Instagram) pause.
“The interior grizzlies hunt mammals like deer and moose,” she says. “But the coastal bears are just fishing like me. I’ve had a mama bear with cubs come out out of the brush not 15 feet from where I was fishing and just walk past me into the water. I just moved slowly out of the way. I’ve seen hundreds of bears on the coast, and they’ve never bothered me.”
And that’s probably because Kate guides in some of the most productive and beautiful fisheries in North America — there are plenty of fish for her clients and the bears, alike.
Growing up in British Columbia, the outdoors came pretty naturally to Kate. She was raised in a lodge and hunting camp that her parents owned. While her sister ultimately exhibited more interest in hunting, Kate’s love of the water caused her to gravitate toward fishing.
She would go out with her dad and by herself, just using “spoons and worms.” But when Kate was a teenager, her dad taught her fly fishing. At first, she struggled with single-hand casting.
“I just couldn’t get the rhythm right, my casts were off,” she says.
Later, she worked with her uncle and learned the two-handed Spey casting method. Once she was comfortable with Spey casting, Kate gave single-handed fly fishing another shot.
“Everything just clicked,” she says. Now she fly fishes almost exclusively, although if a client insists on using spinning or baitcasting tackle, Kate will accommodate them.
“But I always encourage them to try fly fishing,” she says. “I say, why not try just a few casts and see if you can’t catch a fish. They usually end up enjoying it.”
Although she most often uses single-handed casting when fishing or guiding, Kate still keeps her Spey casting skills sharp. This year she competed for the second time in the Golden Gate Angling Club’s “Spey-O-Rama” — The World Championship of Spey Casting.
How’d she do?
“I came in fourth place, which I am really happy with,” Kate says. “My overall distance was 473 feet.”
Clearly, Kate does much more than just cast for distance. She is a fly fishing instructor, ties flies and even writes for The Fly Lords, a site dedicated to the art and sport of fly fishing and passion for the outdoors.
She also chases fish.
Kate is now in her fourth year as a professional guide on her own, but she’s worked in camps for nine years. She spends much of the season — the summer months — putting her clients on salmon in some of the Skeena River’s tributaries.
In the spring, when the ice starts coming off, Kate guides anglers to the rainbow trout that teem in the smaller rivers of the interior, closer to her home in Prince George.
And late summer/early fall means the bull trout (char) start running. To reach the bulls, Kate and her clients often have to “heli in” to remote streams.
A big part of what drives Kate to keep fishing is where it takes her.
“Trout live in beautiful places,” she says. “You can be out there, in nature — sometimes by yourself, vulnerable to the elements, the weather, nature itself — and it’s just beautiful, so peaceful.”
“There’s just something different about fly fishing… all fishing really,” Kate says. “It brings you so close to nature.”
Visit Kate’s website to book a guided trip, learn about the instruction she offers or to order hand-tied flies.