Fly Fishing British Columbia Tips
British Columbia is one of the worlds best places for fly fishing. The scenery, everything from spectacular mountain ranges, Pacific Ocean coast lines, forests, mountain lakes and rivers, and the near tropical landscape of the lower mainland make this province in Canada a must see. When it comes to fly fishing, the different species of fish here make the experience next to none. BC offers both saltwater and freshwater fly fishing, so regardless of what type you prefer, you will be covered.
I have been fly fishing lakes, rivers, and streams in BC for years and it is by far my most favorite place to fish. If you are into the standard types of fishing, BC has the famous Fraser River where you can catch massive white sturgeon. This blog will cover fly fishing tips, places to fish, and what you can expect from a BC fly fishing adventure.
Let’s jump into it!
Do I need a fishing guide in BC?
If you are visiting BC or a specific area for your first time, you can’t go wrong with hiring a guide service. BC is a massive province with endless amounts of water bodies, so either do a boat load of research on a specific area or hire a guide.
I have always had good luck when using guide services as they know where the fish are. I find that if I only have a day or two to go fishing, I prefer a guide as they pretty much guarantee me that I’ll catch fish. If I have more time on my fishing trip to explore the area, then I normally opt out of the guide services.
If you are planning on saltwater fishing, I would hire a guide. Saltwater fishing is an entirely different beast than freshwater fishing.
Guides can be great as they give out tips and tricks to catch whatever fish you are targeting. They operate the boat in a manner that also helps you to catch fish and of course they bypass all the areas in the water where the fish don’t like to hang out, thus saving you time.
What fishing gear do I need for fishing in BC?
Let’s assume you will be freshwater fly fishing. There are some massive fish that you can target on a fly rod in BC, so you should be aware of what you are going after. Then you will be able to decide what rod, reel, line, leaders, etc. that you will need.
For most of the trout fishing, a 5-6 weight rod and reel is ideal.
If you are going after steelhead and salmon, a 7-10 weight rod and reel is best.
The reason that your rod weight will need to go up with the larger fish is because of the poundage of the line and the larger size of hooks that you will need to use.
Types of fish in BC and where to target them
- Steelhead – BC is famous for its beautiful steelhead. They can be found in the Skeena River that runs for 350 miles. Anglers fish this river year-round, but winter fishing is amazing in it. The Kalum River, Copper River, and Kitimat River are also great choices when targeting steelhead.
- Salmon – Campbell River is known as the world’s top spot for salmon fishing. I went on a fishing trip here 2 months ago, it was amazing! You can fish these salmon all year round due to the nice climate, but the best fishing is from May to November. Steelhead and cutthroat trout are also abundant here year long. Campbell River is home to saltwater salmon fishing if you would like to try your hand at it!
- Sturgeon – If you are in search for North America’s largest freshwater fish, then look no further then the Fraser River. April to November are the best months to fish for these massive fish that can get up to 12 feet long. I would suggest using a guide service if you are sturgeon fishing. The Fraser River also is great for salmon and trout fishing.
- Halibut – I figured I would throw in a saltwater fish into the list. They can be found just off the coast of Victoria. They are some of the best tasting fish next to salmon which are also caught in droves in the areas of Ogden Point Breakwater, Oak Bay, Pedder Bay Marinas, and Victoria’s Inner Harbor.
- Trout – I figured I would save the best for last. Elk River in southeastern BC is a top spot for fly fishing anglers. Cutthroat trout and bull trout are breathtaking in this river. June to October are the best months to target the Elk River trout and the scenery in the area will leave you completely amazed.
If you are looking for a great fishing river close to Vancouver, then the Pitt River and Fraser River would be my top recommendations.
What fly patterns to use for BC fly fishing?
Different fly patterns will be required for different rivers or lakes that you are fly fishing. The same goes for the size of the hook. Size #14 hooks are usually my go to for dries when I am targeting trout, but if I am heading out salmon fishing, I may need a size 8 or 10 minimum.
Zinger Fishing offers a few fly fishing assortment kits that have some of the world’s most used flies in them. They are a great place to start if you are building a fly collection that will help you to get more fish in your landing net. The kits were designed for fishing in BC waters. If you are planning on river fishing, the nymph kit will be the best option as fish love to eat nymphs.
With big river fly fishing, streamer fishing is my favorite. The bigger the streamer, the bigger the fish! If I am fishing the interior mountain lakes of BC, then I like to use dry flies and chironomids. For small to mid sized rivers, nymphs and midges are king.
Make sure to know the local fishing regulations
Like anywhere else, BC has its own fishing regulations that you will need to check out.
Stay safe out there
British Columbia has quite a few extreme elements that always need to be addressed when planning a fishing trip.
- Time of year – The lower mainland and Vancouver Island are quite nice weather wise all year round, but the eastern and northern parts of the province can get very cold during the winter months. We’re talking -30 or worse! May to September are usually the best months.
- Terrain – BC has mountains and all sorts of rough and rocky terrain. Proper footwear and hiking gear may be required depending on where you are going.
- Wildlife – Unless you are in the city of Vancouver, don’t be surprised if you see wildlife on your travels. BC is home to some pretty dangerous wildlife, such as grizzly bears, black and brown bears, cougars, wolves, and many other types of wildlife. Carrying bear spray and other wildlife deterrents is smart, and fishing with a friend instead of alone is best.
- Let a friend know – Before venturing out on your trip, its best practice to let a friend or family member know where you plan on fishing and when you will be back. BC doesn’t have phone service in most areas outside the cities and major roadways. If you plan on fishing a river, let them know if you are heading upstream or downstream of where you park the truck.
Prepare for all weather conditions
Weather can change in BC quite quickly. It may be decently warm when you leave the truck, but that can change in a hurry. If you are fishing in the spring or fall months, snow blizzards can quickly move in with freezing temperatures.
The water in most places is extremely cold, so you may want to wear warm socks and clothes under your waders. It is always best to have too much clothing than not enough when fishing in BC.
Overall experience fly fishing BC waters
Every fishing trip that I have been on in British Columbia has been amazing, not only because of the fish caught, but because of the amazing scenery. Seeing different nature views that BC has to offer makes it an unforgettable experience. That paired with catching a beautiful bull trout or a nice salmon is sure to get you going back again and again.
If you like reading about fly fishing, our Zinger Fishing blog has a wide variety of different articles. We cover places to fish, what patterns to use, techniques, gear, and everything else to help fellow anglers land more fish in their nets.