Lower Dean Chinook: Strongest Kings in the World?

Dean River King.

Dean River King


Time marches on, and my how it sprints on it seems. My dear friend Jeff Hickman is but a week from heading north to open Kimsquit Bay Lodge on the Lower Dean. Jeff knows the kings in BC and Alaska like I know the kings here in Oregon. It seems right that his king season on the Dean will be commencing just as my Chinook season is beginning to ramp up into the remainder of 2016. Jeff and I have had many a discussion about Chinook salmon around the world, and he enjoys teasing me with stories about the Dean’s kings.

While I know kings on the Oregon Coast, I’ve never fished the lower Dean, and have never had one of those magnificent salmon run me into the backing and head downstream through the rapids below.

Jeff and I talk about what makes a salmon strong – the genetics of energy reserves and pure potential fighting power. While I would rank Oregon coastal Chinook among the finest wild and hatchery fish on the planet – I have a strong hunch that Jeff might be right when he says that his Dean Kings are stronger than our Coastal River Kings.

On the genetics side of it, the Dean fish have evolved to make a longer migration and fight their way upriver through rapids and over falls. This environmental challenge alone could have produced a race of kings that are inherently stronger than our coastal Chinook, given the relative ease with which our kings can move upriver and the relatively short distance many of them migrate to reach spawning grounds.

I’d have to balk if Jeff tried to say that Dean kings are stronger than North Umpqua or Upper Rogue springers. These salmon make migrations of well over a hundred miles —  these salmon historically negotiated swift waters on their upstream migration too.

Of course, our debates are as usual fun and we end up with the highest regard for the salmon we each fish in our different waters.

Without trying to say one way or the other, I’ll say that —yes—I can well imagine that the Dean’s kings might be tougher than the kings in our short reach coastal rivers.

Might be. 

I’ll be seeing Jeff at the Sandy River Spey Clave this weekend and we will probably continue our discussion. Meanwhile, I asked him to shoot me a note regarding their season that is about to unfold. As usual, they were completely booked for the season, but two rods came open due to a cancellation.

June 24 through July 1st is the peak of the king season on the Lower Dean, and there are steelhead in the river then too.

Here is Jeff’s hastily penned note with a few teasers and reasons to jump on this opportunity of a lifetime.


____________This note from Jeff Hickman______________

Although Kathryn and I bought Kimsquit Bay Lodge in June of 2014 and spent that Summer at the lodge managing it. last Summer was our first full season start to finish. It was a whirlwind! We did all of the bookings, planning, barging and made many improvements to the lodge grounds and fishing program. Luckily for us we were full and for the most part the fishing was legendary! Large runs of both Chinook and Steelhead. The one issue we had last year was a very light snowpack which made for all time low water levels. We also had a lot of sunny and hot weather. This doesnt effect the steelhead much, but the Chinook don’t like sunny weather and low clear water.

We are all prepped up for another fun season up north on the Dean River. This time with one extra staff member on board, our newborn son Oly Dean Hickman arrived April 12th this Spring. We are anticipating a great year with large runs forecasted and this year we have a solid snowpack.

Jeff Hickman Dean River a

We have been booked solid but just recently had two spots open up for us. June 24th – July 1st. This is a unique opportunity as normally spots are sold out a year in advance. This is a primetime week for what could be the strongest Chinook in the world in one of the most beautiful places in the world to fish for them. There are always chrome bright steelhead in the river then as well.

Jeff Hickman Lower Dean Steelhead

Kimsquit Bay Lodge is the only lodge that fishes exclusively below the falls on the Dean River…These are the hottest and freshest of the hottest fish in the world. Don’t have a spey rod big enough to handle these mean Chinook? No problem, the lodge has a full assortment of excellent rigged spey rods for guests to use. The lodge sits overlooking the saltwater and amazing views of the Dean Channel near the mouth of the Dean River. Catering to only 6 guests per week, and maintaining six staff members the lodge has a very intimate feel. Each of the two guides takes three clients per day in the jet boat.

Jeff Hickman Lower Dean

With world class guides, friendly staff and an excellent chef; double occupancy cabins with private bathroom and flushing toilets, the best boats and equipment. This is the ultimate anadromous fly fishing trip. Treat yourself.

Jeff Hickman

Fish The Swing &
Kimsquit Bay Lodge
Cell: (971) 275-2269


Give Jeff and Kathryn a call if you’d like to join them the Dean this summer, for a fishing experience of a life time.

Jay Nicholas, May 11th, 2016

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2 Responses to Lower Dean Chinook: Strongest Kings in the World?

  1. Jeff Hickman says:

    Thanks for sharing Jay and Caddis crew! Cant wait to share the boat with you all again soon.

  2. Tom Purtzer says:

    I am writing to inquire about the steelhead fishing in 2016 overall and forecast for the steelhead fishing in 2017. I fished on the lower Dean last early August of 2016 and caught hundreds of pink salmon and 4 very nice steelhead over 8 days of fishing. I camped out solo and fished only one hole. I watched lots of people fishing including 3 men from Germany and they didn’t catch any steelhead! They were able to fish above the falls, they had been coming to the Dean for 30 years and said 2016 was the worst year ever. How was your success? What is your forecast for 2017 for the steelhead fishing? When do you think the best steelhead fishing week will be? How much does it cost to fish with you? Thanks for your time and effort, Tom Purtzer

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