What species of fish can be found on Vancouver Island and what time of year is best to fish them?
The island can be divided into 3 sections, with east and west coasts for each. There are easily 50 streams of note worthy fishing. The following is a list of the species and general angling periods.
- Winter Steelhead (Dec.- May, usually Jan.- Mar.)
- Summer Steelhead (May - Oct.)
- Chinook (Aug. - Sept)
- Coho (Sept. - Nov.)
- Pink (July - Aug.)
- Chum (Oct.- Nov.)
- Dolly Varden
- Rainbow Trout (All year, but limited to a few river systems or lakes.)
- Brown Trout (All year, but limited to a few rivers systems or lakes.)
- Sea Run Cutts (All year, but locating them can be a challenge without a guide.)
- Small Mouth Bass (Spring and Fall)
What equipment should I bring for steelhead fishing on Vancouver Island?
It all depends on what type of steelhead fishing you are doing. There are summer and winter steelhead on the island. Some of the rivers are larger, so spey and 8 and 9 conventional rods are fine.
Usually a 7 or 8 weight rod is fine. A lighter rod, such as a 6, is not a good fish fighting tool, as it tends to stress the fish more. A dry line is good, and a few 6 or 9 foot sink tips of varying sink rates.
An 8 or 9 weight rod is the choice for many anglers. Spey rods are used on the larger rivers. Sinking lines are necessary in most circumstances. Heavy type 4 sink tips or sections of 850 grain attached to running line can help to get the fly down in full river conditions.
Is a guide necessary for fishing the island?
No and yes. A guide can offer the wisdom of time and conditions. A guide will have a wealth of knowledge to share regarding fly patterns, stream techniques, and most important, where to find the fish. Any competent fly angler with steelhead or salmon experience can find fish, given a period of time to do it. So, what is important to successful fishing on the island for competent anglers is time to explore. Like most fly fishing situations, the more time you have the more experience you gain, and therefore the more success.
How long on the island should I plan on spending, if summer steelhead is my goal?
If you are fishing without a guide, plan on 3 to 5 days. This will give you time to explore one or two rivers. The success rate for such a trip will depend on reliable information. If you are searching on your own, the success rate is a crap shoot. Even seasoned anglers can miss the mark when searching for steelhead.
How difficult is winter steelhead fishing on the island?
Winter steelhead fishing is challenging anywhere. Weather and river conditions can blow out a trip. The fish can be very stubborn and finicky. Fly fishing for winter steelhead takes patience and perseverance. Reading water and knowing the fish lies can make all the difference. Having a good guide will help to make a trip more successful, but it won't guarantee success.
What is the trout fishing like on Vancouver Island?
Vancouver Island is not a trout angler paradise. There are only a few streams that produce reasonable trout fishing. The Cowichan River is a fine large brown trout fishery, and the rainbow fishing can be good, but not for large fish. Generally the streams of Vancouver Island are not nutrient rich, so the trout fishing suffers. Lake fishing is passable, but not in the same league as the Kamloops region.
What about smallmouth bass?
Smallmouth bass can be found in a few of the lakes on the island. They are a fun diversion from the trout. For anglers looking for a quick fix, smallmouth are just fine.
Is there a part of the island that produces better fishing?
The three sections of Vancouver Island have excellent opportunities. As is often the case much depends on the species, time of year and experience of the angler. Steelhead fishing is an option available most months in any island section, but finding the fish is the challenge. If an angler is willing to travel from one end of the island to the other then there are many options.
What about saltwater fly fishing?
Vancouver Island has a number of options available for consideration. Salmon fishing from small ocean boats can be one of the most pleasurable experiences in fly fishing. Coho are of course one of the most sought after prices, but there are other options. Estuary searun cutthroat fishing is worth pursuing from small skiff or wading. There are a several very good guides that can put anglers on to fishing experiences worth writing about.
What is a good amount of time to spend fishing on Vancouver Island?
This question is one of the most frequently asked, and the answer depends on many variables. Generally you will want 5 to 7 days. The beauty of the island can capture your heart and mind. You can find yourself wanting to look at more than fish. The capital city, Victoria, offers many diversions and opportunities that will tug at your interest. But if fishing is your desire, and you have steelhead on your mind, then 5 to 7 days will help to quench your thirst.