Our Man In Canada
May 7th, 2001

Downtown Fly Fisher, Vancouver
Part 2

By D.C. Reid


Sadly, summer and winter steelhead have suffered civilization's culverting, asphalting and strip mall building as much or more than other species. However, Vancouver has good highway access to more than one fabled run. Two-and-a-half to three hours to the east leaves the fly fisher at one of BC's big three for summer steelhead: the South Thompson River in the arid interior plateau beyond the coast range. You will not be disappointed – with the desert like the austere beauty of the yellow, pine hills and with the 20 - 25 pound summer steelhead home to the Spence's Bridge and Lytton areas.

Steelhead and Chum Flies

For wet fly adventurers, try the gaudy Popsicle, or any number of large General Practitioners or Spratley spey flies in low water dressings as December approaches. While temperatures remain higher in October, waked Waller dries receive very aggressive bites from the silver bullets of autumn. So strong are these fish that they migrate up the Fraser at rates of 24 km per day. Prefered gear is a 12 - 15', 8 - 10 weight spey rod—and don't forget wading cleats for the broad boulder-choked waters and slippery algae-coated bottoms.

After Christmas, the Squamish and Vedder rivers come into their own for winter steelhead until the native cherry and dogwood blossom in March and April. The key is to get right to the bottom with high density sink tips carrying flies based on orange, such as the Squamish Poacher or General Practitioner. Alternatively, try a pink and simple Davie Street Hooker or a black Spey fly.


Just about the time your last dry fly swirls down with the first yellow sails of foot wide maple leaves, it is time to consider once again the fall cycle of the lower mainland. In odd numbered years, ie. 2001, the Indian and Harrison rivers host fall runs of pink salmon, which can produce days of 20 fish or more.

Spring 2001 issue

Pink season is the time for fly fishers to learn their salmon fishing for these more than eager 3 - 8 pound fish. The weather is warm, the water low and wadable and the pinks willing to comply. Pink flies, shrimp patterns in flashabou and hot pink, or the aptly named Crazy Charlie (a low water offering with a bead eye to get down to suspended, staging fish) will connect.

Learn one little trick that George Vancouver could not have known—that jumping pink seldom bite. Keep those Polaroids trained on the blue-grey glow that indicates a shoal of pinks holding deep, and sink that fly for the swing toward their eager mouths.


Higher up the Fraser River valley, the Skagit River flows west from the mountains near Hope through a carefully preserved wilderness until it enters Ross Lake and crosses the border into Washington State. Its July-October fishery for rainbows and Dolly Vardens is excllent.

The river offers exceptional dry fly fishing and good nymphing. In July, try stonefly nymphs in gold or black. In the heat of summer mayflies begin their hatch. Try a Hare's Ear nymph, Zug Bug, Pheasant Tail, or Lafontaine Nymph in sizes 12 - 16. Dry fly addicts should speckle their boxes with Adams, Grey Wulffs and Green Drakes. Take along your 5 weight and enjoy the pleasantness of needing only 25 – 40' casts to reach all the runs in this sweet river.


Lovely Vancouver
Having the foresight to set aside a greenbelt running through the city, the city of Surrey recently constructed Green Timber Lake by excavating 15 feet of soil, flooding the depression with a nearby creek, and stocking it with rainbow trout. This is the perfect place (there's a local bus service to the site) for the beginner to sharpen up his or her skills, or to try out that new float tube.

Located on the west slope of the coastal mountains, the Chilliwack River Valley traps and holds moist Pacific breezes. The valley virtually bulges with moss and drips with water. A series of small alpine lakes here receive little fishing attention, and this is a pity.

Greater Vancouver

The largest among them, Cultus Lake, is home to Dolly Varden and cutthroat weighing several pounds, as well as rainbows and whitefish. Fly fishers use baitfish patterns in the spring or fall off-season periods near Main Beach and Maple Bay, as well as at the mouths of inlet streams. For the serious hiker, other lakes provide virtually untouched fishing. For example, Flora and Pierce lakes offer spectacular rainbow at the end of a rigorous trek. Almost any dry fly pattern receives a quick smack and double-digit days are the norm.

George Vancouver might have had neither the time nor the inclination to sample the superb angling opportunities in the waters in and around the city which today bears his name. But those who came after him have more than made up for his omission. ~ D.C. Reid

We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!

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