Tips and Tech: Springtime River Fishing

Advantage of Forgotten Waters

For most fishermen in this province the harsh weather and cold fronts can be a real deterrent during the winter months. Only truly die-hard anglers will brave the rain, sleet, snow and whatever else BC decides to throw at them. But spring is the time everybody has been waiting for; die-hards and fair-weather fans alike are all rushing to fish the favourite lakes they’ve been dreaming about all winter. With new flies tied, fresh line installed, reels greased, trucks packed and coolers filled, everyone is rushing to fish ice-off and the upcoming hatches of chironomids, mayflies and flying ants.


For me, this is my busiest time of year – the make it or break it time in the fishing industry. But things have changed for not-so-young an angler: bills need to be paid, my daughter needs a new pair of shoes, etc. I’m not able to fish every weekend like I used to. But I am able to take some day trips…

Because time is now more precious than ever I stay out of the rat race. I let everybody else line up in traffic, and I stay local. Now is the time I really enjoy river fishing; the crowds are thinned out drastically with the trout madness going on, and the awesome, abandoned rivers are just fine for me.


Famous rivers such as the Vedder become fly-fishing only, which eliminates most of those who fish it. As far as fly patterns go, the options are limitless – the water has warmed up and the fish are more aggressive. You don’t need a heavy sink tip in this area; go for the slower water in the legal boundaries and fish will come up for your presentations. I’ve had good luck using my smaller coho flies, like GCCKs and Christmas Trees tied on stout hooks capable of landing strong steelhead.

Another place for suburban anglers to target is the North Shore’s famous Capilano River. Since the 1980s fisheries has stocked a strain of blue-backed coho, a smaller species averaging about 3 to 6 lbs that bite aggressively. These fish can be fair game for anyone willing to accept the challenge. Just like most things it’s all about timing. Choose wisely when to fish this system. Expecting to catch one of these beauties midday is not an option – these fish are first light biters. I will have my limit of coho and still be able to open my shop by 9am. Furthermore, if you have an incoming high tide during the first light you will be pretty much guaranteed a catch. To fish this system use whatever tactics you prefer and remember that a coho is a sucker for a spoon or a spinner. Spinners such as silver Mepps in a number 3 or a Vibrax in the same size can produce fair numbers of fish. For the spoon fisherman my favourites are 3/16 oz crocs for slower water. Increase the weight of your spoon for faster water, but try not to exceed 3/8 oz.


For the float fisher, these coho are roe pigs. Suspending a piece of Pro-Cure’s Red Hot Double Stuff is the ticket. For folks who don’t like to get messy hands, try roe bags using water-hardened eggs. The most productive that I make are dog or spring singles, toughened up by a curing process in sodium sulphite and glycerine to prevent mold. You can colour your eggs accordingly by adding small amounts of dye in separate containers, or just leave them natural and tie in different colours of spawn net to get the desired effect. Don’t puncture the eggs – simply place your hook through the spawn net, avoiding contact with them.

Every piece of water on the Capilano fishes differently, with plenty of pools, riffles and tailouts to explore. Fly-fishing can also be very productive as well. Remember that coho love a pattern to be worked, and will sometimes grab at the last second of your retrieve, almost yanking the rod out of your hand. Fly patterns should be sparsely tied and have some flash to them. Some successful patterns include muddlers, olive buggers with gold beadheads, and a different assortment of flash flies.

BC hosts a number of fishable rivers and streams scattered throughout the mountain regions that contain populations of Dolly Varden, cutthroat, rainbow, steelhead and whitefish, and yet many of these are void of pressure right now because of lake fishing. This time is a small window of opportunity for the river fisherman, as water levels and colouring are converted into fishable conditions. Most of these places I hold close, especially during this precious time.