BC, British Columbia offers over 12,000 miles of coastline, thousands of fly fishing lakes, and a ton of fly fishing rivers too. British Columbia fly fishing is nirvana for fly fishermen.
Many a fly fisherman from all over the world have visited the province to experience its many fly fishing opportunities.
What brings fly fishermen to BC every year, is the chances to land Salmon, Trout and Steelhead, or one of its many other fish species.
Although there are many BC fly fishing hot spots, we will only focus on the best that fly fishing British Columbia has to offer.
12 Best Places for Fly Fishing in British Columbia
1. Skeena River
Sitting in the Rocky Mountains, the Skeena River is the second largest river system in British Columbia and it’s one of the wild rivers of BC fly fishing that everyone has to cast a line on. It is one of the best coastal rivers for fly fishing for both steelhead and five species of salmon over the summer months.
Late summer from August to October is definitely the best time to visit the Skeena to fly fish if your target is salmon. If you’re more interested in the large steelhead runs the Skeena sees, then being on the river between March and May is best.
Fish over 20 lbs are caught every year here.
It can be a real challenge to catch a Steelhead, they are known as the fish of a thousand casts after all, but the feeling of landing one on the gravel bars is very rewarding. The rainbow trout fishing on this river is also great if you want a break from swinging flies.
Besides its wild excellent fishing, the Skeena area is covered in beautiful mountains and it’s home to some of the prettiest river fishing on the planet.
You’ll find plenty of accommodation along the river and there are multiple fishing lodges including both the Skeena Spey Lodge and Kalum Lodge.
Where To Fish On The Skeena
If you’re looking for salmon and steelhead, fishing closer to the sea gives you a better chance, and the Skeena around the town of Terrace, British Columbia is a good place to start -see the map below.
If you’re looking for some more remote British Columbia fly fishing, then head further upstream into the mountains.
Recommended Flies For The Skeena
- Hoh Bo Spey
- The Undertaker
- Wake and Bake
- SRL Pattegrisen
- SRL Leeches
- SRL Prom Dress
2. Quesnel Lake
Quesnel Lake is located among the Cariboo Mountains and it is one of the deepest fjord lakes in the world, so bring your sinking line.
The lake offers some of the most beautiful BC fly fishing scenery. It has three arms, each offering different fly fishing opportunities, and is home to rainbow and bull trout, and the rainbows can push 20 lbs, so be prepared.
Before you plan any fly fishing trips to Quesnel Lake, you need to understand that the lake has four seasons, and each season is suitable for a different type of fishing. So check the season is appropriate for your preferred style before you book.
The locals advise that the best time of the year to plan a fly fishing trip to Quesnel Lake is around May. This is because the area is less crowded with other anglers compared to other months and it’s also when the rainbow and bull trout start feeding hard.
The fewer the anglers, the hungrier the fish, so if you time it right, it can be quite easy to reel in an incredible catch.
There are plenty of lodges and resorts in the area that can provide you with accommodation, flies, and guided tours, and access is hard without staying at one of them.
Where To Fish On The Quesnel Lake
If you are in the mood for trout fishing in British Columbia, you can head over to the bay in the West Arm to fish bull trout and rainbow trout and work the tributaries where mountain streams enter the lake.
Recommended Flies For the Quesnel Lake
- Big streamers
- Big leeches
- Big wooly buggers
3. Upper Pitt River
If you want to go fly fishing around Vancouver Island, the Upper Pitt River should be at the top of your itinerary. The Upper Pitt is without a doubt one of the best BC fly fishing spots. Many seasoned fly fishermen classify it in the top 10 fly fishing destinations in North America.
This British Columbia fly fishing destination isn’t only scenic but also very productive. The glacier-capped mountains, coupled with the old-growth rain forest offer spectacular views. Just be sure to bring some gear that is perfect for fly fishing in the rain.
The scenery is amazing but the river fishing better with chances of catching rainbow trout up to 15 lbs year-round and huge Bull Trout and Dolly Varden are caught between May & July.
Since they start their journey towards the river around May through mid-June, the prime time of the year to visit the Upper Pitt River for fly fishing would be during late spring to mid-summer.
Where To Fish On The Upper Pitt
You can access the Upper Pitt via a jet boat or a helicopter, whichever works best for you. It’s only about 70 minutes away from Vancouver Island and you should fish from where the lake joins the river and up.
Recommended Flies For the Upper Pitt
- Small dry flies to match the hatch
- Midges, Adams, BOW, March Browns
- Large streamers
4. Squamish River
If you want to go fly fishing on the Squamish River, you have to drive for about 60 minutes via the scenic Sea to Sky Highway to get there. Squamish is a typical British Columbia West Coast fly fishing river.
The fly fishing area is surrounded by dense rain forests and glacier-capped mountains that rise over 7,000 feet. Local wildlife includes black bears, deer, and elk. The surroundings are breath-taking, there is plenty to look at as you wait for the trout or salmons to strike.
Fly fishing in these parts is relatively easy, you just have to cast your fly and watch the Pink Salmons jump at the opportunity. The Pinks in the area are huge in numbers and you can keep fishing for them for hours on end. The Squamish is popular worldwide for its incredible opportunities for fly fishing for salmon.
If you want to catch Pinks the best time of the year to visit this fly fishing destination is from July 15 to September 7. If you want to fish for some Chum salmon and Coho, plan your fly fishing trip for October through November. At this time of year populations of trout are also common.
Where To Fish On The Squamish
There is great access to the Squamish and the easiest place to park your car is near the airport and you can then hike up and fish down, or fish down and hike back up.
Recommended Flies For The Squamish
- Egg sucking leeches
- Wooly buggers
5. Fraser River Valley
The Fraser River Valley, British Columbia, offers a variety of incredible fly fishing destinations near Vancouver.
It has many different fish types to fly fish for including westslope cutthroat trout, Pacific Salmon, Coho, Chum, Steelhead, Sockeye, and Chinook salmon, however, the last two are quite challenging to catch.
You can also try some Sturgeon fishing from March through late November.
The best time of the year to experience the British Columbia fly fishing thrills of Fraser is October through early November.
This is the time when salmon are migrating upriver from the Pacific Ocean to spawn. In some odd years, you can get Pink Salmon as early as September.
Since there are so many different varieties of fish here, fly fishing can be a bit tricky. Make sure that you sharpen your skills as you prepare for the upcoming fly fishing trips to these regions.
Where To Fish On The Fraser
This is another of the BC rivers that have a ton of access and it runs for miles, pick a spot closer to the sea with deep pools for these migrator fish to hold up in.
Or headway upriver to look for the westslope cutthroat trout in smaller water.
Recommended Flies For The Fraser
- Copper John
- Pheasant tail
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Wooly bugger
- Egg patterns
- Egg sucking leeches
6. Haida Gwaii
The Haida Gwaii is a relatively remote archipelago for fly fishing in BC and is home to some of the wild rivers that have to be fished by all fly fishermen once
It is known for its large population of Salmon and Steelhead. There are also trophy Chinook Salmon, which are a very popular target for fly fishermen.
Many professional fly fishermen recommend that visitors try out Langara Island, located to the south of Alaska since this is where the most salmon migrate upriver.
You can also find good populations of Sockeye, Red Snapper, Rockfish, and Halibut as you enjoy the first-class BC fly fishing experience. You can also seek accommodation at a nearby lodge at affordable rates.
Where To Fish On The Haida Gwaii
This area is very remote and you’ll want to stay at a lodge for the best access opportunities. The Masset Inlet is a great spot to fish if you can get there.
Recommended Flies For the Haida Gwaii
- Hoh Bo Spey
- The Undertaker
- Wake and Bake
- SRL Pattegrisen
- SRL Leeches
- SRL Prom Dress
7. Campbell River
For over a century, the Campbell River has been one of the rivers enjoying very high salmon populations with millions of salmon migrating annually through the Discovery Passage as they head home to spawn.
Although the river has four fishing seasons, salmon fly fishing is the most popular from May through November.
If you want to fly fish some Steelhead or Cutthroat trout, the best time to visit Campbell would be during winter. The cutthroat trout fishing can be amazing!
The area is also home to the Discovery Pier – the first-ever Canadian saltwater fishing pier. If you are an eager fly angler you can join the Tyee Club and become a legendary member as you try your luck at reeling in some of the biggest Chinook.
8. Thompson – Nicola
The Thompson – Nicola isn’t your typical fly fishing river scene but it is a destination you should plan to visit on your fly fishing trip to British Columbia.
Situated in the Merritt area, the region is about two and a half hours east of Vancouver and offers plenty of lakes for fly fishing.
The area is full of lakes, presenting anglers with plentiful opportunities to take advantage of. It can be quite difficult to tell which lake has the best populations of fish in these regions because all of them are worthwhile spots, with Rainbow Trout being the most popular target.
The best way to fly fish for trout in these parts is by fishing deep. All you need to do is anchor your boat, cast your fly line, and let it sink, retrieve, and wait patiently for the Rainbow Trout to strike.
If you want to know more different types of trout, see our Trout Species post here.
You will only enjoy not only the fly fishing but also the amazing scenery that comes with Thompson – Nicola. The whole area is a rolling plateau with plenty of Ponderosa and Lodgepole Pine trees. You can also see bunches of free-range cattle grazing.
9. Elk River
The Elk River is among the best world-class fly fishing rivers and offers incredible opportunities to dry fly fish.
The Canadian Rockies surround the Elk River giving it a picturesque appeal. The river is nicknamed ‘Trout Town’ because it has huge populations of trout including Bull Trout and Cutthroat trout and it’s one of the wild BC rivers you have to fish.
If you are planning fly fishing trips for trout to this region near Vancouver, then you better plan them from July through October. According to the local fly anglers, the best way to fly fish here is by using floating lines on a 4 wt fly rod and dry fly fishing.
Choose your equipment correctly so that you don’t have to go back to the shop.
10. Dean River
The Dean is a treasure. It is one of the most well-managed rivers in the world. Located in Central BC, the Dean is popular for its population of Steelhead. Many anglers looking to catch Steelhead during their fly fishing trips end up here.
It also has many other fish varieties apart from Steelhead. These include Rainbow Trout, Salmon, and in the estuary – Ling Cod, and Halibut.
If you want to go on a fly fishing trip to Dean to catch Steelhead, plan it for later in the spring because at this time the Steelhead population will be passing through, with their second run happening just weeks later.
11. Williston Lake
This is the largest lake in BC, situated to the south of the province. It is a man-made lake that intercepts three rivers – the Parsnip, Finlay, and the Peace.
The Peace River offers great opportunities for fly fishing Kokanee salmon, Sockeye, Northern Pike, and Rainbow Trout. For accommodation, there is a lodge just by the lake that offers you guided trips.
Focus your casting effort around the tributaries and rivers that flow in for success and enjoy the lodge.
If you are looking for fly fishing access to some of the best British Columbian salmon waters on the Pacific Ocean, Victoria is the best place to start. There are several other fish species around Victoria, including Halibut, Rockfish, and shellfish.
For some of the best fly fishing in Victoria, you should head over to Pedder Bay Marina or Oak Bay, Victoria’s Inner Harbour, and Ogden Point Breakwater.
British Columbia Fishing Licenses & Regulations
You will need a freshwater fishing license to fish in BC and then an additional tidal license to fish in any tidal area. The licenses can be bought as annual licenses or day licenses and are not expensive. You can buy them online or from a lodge or fly shop.
You will also need to buy the appropriate supplementary licenses and stamps depending on where you are fishing so be sure to check the specific regulations.
Recommended British Columbia Fly Shops
If you need some advice, want to stock up before going to a lodge, or just like talking fishing, here are some great fly shops in BC.
- Skeena River Fly Supply
- Waters West Fly Fishing Outfitters
- Nile Creek Fly Shop
- Trout Waters Fly & Tackle
Recommended British Columbia Fly Guides
If you’re new to BC or new to swinging flies for salmon and steelhead then fishing with a guide will make all the difference. Below are some great guides who will get you on fish.