The weather is going to be a big focus over the next few weeks. Why? Typically, this is a time of transition, a time when things start getting warmer and fisheries pick up. When we look at the weekend forecast, the 14-day forecast and even into the 30-day forecast the outlook is not good. Historically, we see average temperatures hit double digits by early March. Right now, the weatherman is predicting low single digits till the end of the month and well into March.
Though it is early, and the weather predictions are not something to bet the farm on, if this cold trend carries into March expect the spring river fisheries to be delayed and it might even push out some of the early lake fishing in the interior back a few weeks.
There are still options to get out. Steelhead are not as affected by cold as cutthroat, bulltrout and resident rainbows. On the river front, this is where we would focus. We have updates on the Chilliwack, the Squamish and a little report on the Stave River because it is time to start looking at the other systems around the Lower Mainland if you want a break from the C/V and Sea to Sky.
The other fishery that isn’t as affected by the cold is the saltwater chinook fishery. Obviously, weather and snow are something to keep in mind on a safety level, but the fish don’t care. As long as it’s safe, the reports we have been hearing continue to be excellent. Jason has a saltwater update at the end of the report.
If you are stuck at home and want to geek out a little on fishing gear or you are thinking about a new fishing pack for the 2023 season Matt finally released his pack video. Matt has a pack problem, but he is on a quest for the perfect fishing pack. In this video he takes a deep dive on all the fishing packs that he has tried over the years. He then looks at packs on the market right now and then shows you the pack he is going to run for this season.
Check the Fishing Pack Deep Dive Video here if you want to geek out on fishing packs:
Introduction to Fly Fishing
This course is specifically designed to give the new fly fisher the basic knowledge, casting skills and fly fishing strategies to effectively fish our local BC waters. This course is comprised of two sessions; 3hr evening seminar and a 3hr casting session. The dates below show the seminar date first and casting date second.
Dates: (Mar 1 & 5), (May 9 & 13), (Jun 14 & 17), (July 11 & 15), (Sept 19 & 23) All dates are 2023 dates.
Seminar Time: 6:30pm – 9:30pm
Casting Time(s): 10am – 1pm or 1:30pm -4:30pm
Tying Game Changer Patterns
This course is an introduction to tying Gamechangers, a style of streamer that features multiple articulations and is productive for any fish that eats smaller fish. We will dive into tying techniques, materials, and design decisions for tying gamechangers. Students are required to supply their own vise, tools and materials. A 10% discount is available on materials and tools purchased for the course.
This course is suitable for intermediate to advanced tyers.
Date: Mar 7, 2023
Time: 6:30pm – 9:30pm
Winter Steelhead On The Fly
Fishing for winter steelhead on the fly (single hand or spey) is arguably one of the most challenging and rewarding fisheries in BC. Let our steelhead gurus help you unlock the mysteries of these magical fish with their decades of steelhead guiding knowledge. This course consists of a 3hr evening seminar and 1 full day of guided fishing on the water. In the seminar we will go over rods, reels, lines, sink tips, flies and reading water and swung fly techniques. The fully guided day on the water we will be work on casting, reading water and swinging the fly.
Seminar Only: Mar 29, 2023
Guided: Apr 1 or 2, 2023 – SOLD OUT
Seminar Cost: $60.00+GST
Seminar Time: 6:30pm – 9:30pm
Guided: Full Day – SOLD OUT
INDUSTRY EVENTS AND UPDATES
Fly Tying Jam Session – Stillwater Edition
Our Stillwater Jam Session is coming up next Tuesday night! There are still a couple of tickets left so if you’re interested in coming grab them before they are gone. You can get your free tickets here! If it’s sold out, don’t hesitate to sign up for the waitlist as tickets often become available closer to the date as peoples’ schedules change.
FRESHWATER FISHING REPORTS
Chilliwack/Vedder River Fishing Report
The Chilliwack/Vedder River continues to be fishing well this week. There was a slight bump in water levels earlier in the week due to rain, with a cold snap starting late this week going into the weekend. Expect next week to be cold and wet and the river to hold at a relatively low level. The river is currently sitting at a 2.15m, which does not really incentivize fish to move around too much, especially with the colder weather. We need some warmer days and some rain to stir things up a bit.
Float fishing worms, beads, jigs and bait have all been effective as of late. As we progress into spring, I generally dull down my presentations due to clearer water. 8mm beads, natural-coloured jigs or a juicy dew worm are my favourites.
As always, covering water efficiently is critical to putting yourself in front of willing biters on this river. However, if you see a fish roll in an area a lot of people have fished through, don’t be afraid to sit down, let people respectfully pass and rest that fish. Often pressured fish will turn on when conditions change, even seemingly insignificant changes. Sunlight reaching/disappearing from a specific spot where the fish is, sudden halt in fishing pressure or even rain. While you wait, pay attention to what anglers are throwing in. Once the moment arises where you feel that a certain condition has changed, try something completely different; go small, go big or go bright.
This is my preferred time to run hardware as well; often times we see quite a few high sun days in Feb-Mar. A spoon or spinner flashing like a club underwater can piss off fish as they start to become territorial.
Make sure you are well prepared and dressed before heading out to the water this week,
Squamish River Fishing Report
The reports we are hearing from the Squamish are as expected – it is a grind. With snow in the forecast and colder nighttime temps, we can expect it to continue for the next bit. We have actually heard of some salmon fry popping out of the gravel but until we see consistently warmer overnight temperatures, we don’t expect fish to key in on them. It might be worth dead drifting an Alevin pattern but dead drifting eggs or swinging sculpin style pattens is still the best bet.
While it is still early, and you are heading out, running some brighter steelhead patterns or smaller pink worms on a float rig might be worth a try right now.
We will update next week on road conditions if the snow predicted for this weekend arrives.
Stave River Fishing Report
For those of you who want a change up from the C/V system, the Stave River offers some good opportunities for steelhead, cutthroat trout and whitefish that are often overlooked. The river is heavily enhanced with a strong hatchery program for steelhead; the whitefish are residents, and the cutthroat are typically of the sea-run variety. There used to be a very strong hatchery program for cutthroat as well, but that has been discontinued as of 2019. The Stave is also great for steelhead anglers who only have a few hours to get some fishing in as it is a short system that is very easy to cover quickly. I can usually fish all of the water that I like in under an hour and a half.
The steelhead fishing is often quite hit-or-miss; the fish are either there, or they aren’t. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the fish will move into the system when conditions are favorable and drop back down to the Fraser when things get low; this is not a hard thing to do when the river is barely 3km long. As such, the Stave is not a great place for those who are looking for consistent action, but it can be very productive if you time it right and happen to be there when the fish are around.
The cutthroat fishery is also very hit-or-miss, but for different reasons – food. Anadromous cutthroat are highly migratory and will go wherever the food is. If there’s no food around, you can safely assume there won’t be any cutthroat around either. Of course, when I say food, I mean the products of the salmon spawn – eggs/flesh in the fall-winter, and alevins/fry in the spring. If you time your trips for the peak of when either food source is available, there will be cutthroat around; the big question is where. Cutties are like wolves, they move around a lot and never seem to be in the same place twice… but, if you can find the pack, there will be no shortage of fish for you to cast at. I haven’t heard many reports of active salmon fry yet, probably due to the colder winter we’ve had, but I’m expecting the fry to start popping en masse in the next two weeks. When that happens, the cutties will move in, and the wolf packs will be much easier to find.
The whitefish are the probably the most overlooked and beleaguered Salmonid in the province. They’re not exactly a stunning looking fish, bearing a superficial similarity to several species of minnow- such as the peamouth chub or northern pikeminnow, and they have unfortunately been saddled with the same undesirable label of “egg eating varmint” as the above cyprinids. Truthfully, the desirable “game fish” species- cutthroat, bulltrout and rainbows- eat a lot more eggs and fry than any whitefish, so why we look down on the humble whitefish but praise the trout/char is a bit of an irritating double standard, but I digress.
Whitefish are present in the Stave 24/7 and are almost always very willing biters. No luck finding steelhead or cutties, but you still want to catch a fish? Just drift a small nymph or egg pattern under a float or indicator, and you’ve got a w whitefish. They’re plentiful, fairly easy to catch, and can attain very respectable sizes- perfect for younger anglers, newer anglers, or those with an open mind.
Note that every single back and side channel had chum and coho spawning in them last year, so please try to avoid wading in these areas if at all possible. There will be millions of eggs and freshly hatched alevin in the gravel and stepping on babies is not advisable. Also remember that the Stave is a dam-controlled river, so water levels can change quickly and without warning. As such, you should always pay attention to your surroundings and have a rapid exit plan in mind if things get sketchy.
SALTWATER FISHING REPORTS
Vancouver Saltwater Salmon Fishing Report
Cold sums up this weekend’s conditions! The winds don’t look too bad but be on the watch for the snow later Saturday afternoon and into Sunday morning. I don’t expect it will be too busy out there given the cold temperatures and snow in the forecast.
Speaking of cold, the fishing did cool off a bit this past week and a half. There were some days with plenty of action, but all undersize. Also, some days of abundance with 6 fish in the boat. Overall, the fishing this winter has been very good, so really nothing to complain about. I think we got a bit spoiled the last 2 months and were expecting 4 fish or more on every trip, so a few trips to bring us back to reality are nothing to worry about.
Fishing for the last week of February and into the first week of March should remain consistent. The next thing on the horizon will be the algae bloom and when that decides to kick off. It will depend on temperature and sun, but usually mid-March. This can make the fishing a bit tougher to figure out as you have suspended fish as the bait comes up a bit but you also have fish on the bottom still. It seems to take the chinook a week or two to adjust to the algae as well and they can be a bit stubborn. You can see them on the sonar but they don’t seem to be feeding heavily. We will just have to wait and see how this March plays out.
On the fisheries politics front, there is a proposal in place to have portions of Howe Sound open for 1 hatchery chinook a day from 62-80 cm from April 1 to May 31. I have been working on this via the SFAB process and will let you know how things progress in the coming weeks. So far, I would say things have been positive, but at the end of the day it will be the Minister’s decision.
See you in the shop or on the water,