27 Feb Vancouver Fly Fishing Report 2020
We’re gearing up for another exciting year of our Vancouver fly fishing program, our 14th year of operations and our 20th year of guiding in the Sea to Sky region! Below you’ll find a 2020 Vancouver fly fishing report, to give you an idea of what to expect this year throughout the season.
It has been a cool wet start to the season which has been great. Milder conditions has allowed for good amounts of snow and rain, keeping the Squamish River system in ideal shape throughout the Winter months. The Spring forecast for Squamish River steelhead is better than average numbers returning to the Squamish and Cheakamus Rivers. We forecast with decent conditions on the Squamish River we should also enjoy solid bull trout fishing in 2020.
March and April are the two best months for fly fishing near Vancouver. During these months our Vancouver fly fishing program is focused on the Squamish River system, swinging flies for winter steelhead and resident bull trout. Steelhead numbers are not huge, maybe several hundred fish for the entire system, so if you’re looking for numbers then the Squamish River isn’t your program. Patience and persistence is key on the river system. Bull trout are more easily targeted, they are predators looking to capitalize on any and all protein opportunities. When fly fishing the Squamish River we use a variety of sculpin, fry and egg patterns to entice bulls to eat.
The Cheakamus River is also a system we spend a lot of time guiding on in March, April and May. The Cheakamus generally stays in better shape for longer into the season than the Squamish. In February the Cheakamus will see its first returning steelhead with the majority of the Cheakamus River steelhead run entering from mid March to mid April. This a beautiful little river to fish, with lots of unique sections to swing a fly through. In late April and early May the bull trout in the Cheakamus will become more active as salmon fry begin to emerge.
In May we will have the ice coming off the lakes in the Whistler area. We also offer a full Whistler fly fishing guide service and can get you out on some of the local lakes including Alta and Green lake. Alta Lake is a local favourite and offers good fly fishing for cutthroat and rainbow trout starting in May
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Summer is a popular time for fly fishing near Vancouver, but conditions can sometimes make for limited opportunities. On odd years we have a run of Pink Salmon on the Squamish River, but being as it is not an odd year that run of fish will not be in local waters. Or focus for the 2020 season will be on trout fishing local rivers in Squamish & Whistler. Our Vancouver fly fishing report and forecast for the Summer 2020 season is as follows.
Trout fishing on smaller tributaries is forecasted to be good for the Summer 2020 season. The Mamquam River and the Cheakamus River are the two main smaller tributaries that offer consistent fly fishing through the mid and late Summer months. Both are located about an hour north of Vancouver and are easily accessed on day trips from the city. A healthy population of resident rainbow trout and bull trout live in both systems. Fishing on the Cheakamus is mainly nymphing, presenting small stoneflies and caddis patterns to resident fish. The Mamquam offers some dry fly fishing for rainbow trout in the 8-12 inch range.
Other Summer fly fishing options include the streams and lakes around Whistler and beyond. Alta, Nita and Green lakes all have good fly fishing in the Summer months. There is typically decent numbers of rainbow and cutthroat trout throughout these systems. The Birkenhead River north of Whistler is a great Summer fly fishing option, with good nymph and dry fly fishing for rainbow trout and some resident bull trout.
The Squamish River is generally too high for quality fly fishing from late May to late July. We suspect usual conditions for 2020 and will head back to fish the Squamish for the Fall salmon runs, more on that below.
It was no secret 2019 wasn’t the best Fall for salmon returns on BC south coast. It is typically a time of year we can count on excellent fly fishing for wild salmon close to Vancouver. The forecast for Fall 2020 is significantly better Chum Salmon and Coho Salmon returns to the rivers near Vancouver.
The Squamish River and its tributaries will be offering the opportunities to fly fish for salmon starting in early October. There can be a trickle of earlier fish in September, but generally the majority of the chum and coho salmon runs enter the system starting in early October. On a solid year there can be 10’s of thousands of returning salmon.
In early October the best place to be fishing is on the lower Squamish River and the Cheakamus River. There are several areas, including Fisherman’s Park and the Mamquam Bar that give anglers first opportunity and fresh salmon coming off of the saltwater in Howe Sound. We can have some outstanding fishing at this time, on a good return year we can see multi fish days for long stretches into November.
November is also a great month for a Vancouver fly fishing trip. There will be good fishing usually until the third week of the month. November is a fun month as there is generally good bull trout fishing as well as salmon fishing. Bull trout are feeding heavily on the spawned salmon egg, fattening up before Winter sets in.
Hopefully we have another good Winter of fly fishing starting in late November. The 2019/20 Winter offered us a pile of great fishing, mainly for bull trout on the upper Squamish River. If we have mild conditions and some intermittent snow melt then we can expect good to moderate trout fishing from December 2020 through to February 2021.
Swinging egg patterns is the most effective method during the Winter months as resident rainbow and bull trout are feeding on the eggs spawned by salmon in the Fall. With good river conditions multiple fish days are the reality of Winter fly fishing. When temperatures drop so do river levels and fish become inactive in the cold water. Water clarity plays a huge factor in the success of Winter fly fishing, with low clear levels making angling opportunities more difficult.
I’ll update this post as the season goes on to give you an idea of how current Vancouver fly conditions are holding up. Thanks for the read, look forward to seeing you on the water this year.
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About the Author
Yos Gladstone is the owner operator of Chromer Sport Fishing, a guiding company and booking agency based in British Columbia, Canada. A full-time salmon & steelhead guide, Yos spends 200+ days a year on the water fishing, guiding and hosting trips.