Fishing BC – Pitt River Fly Fishing
Fishing in BC is as diverse as the huge number of lakes and rivers themselves. The Upper Pitt River is our area’s local gem, and is a favorite of many local guides and clients alike. Spilling from the Coast Mountains, the Upper Pitt River tumbles through lush, dense forests and across gravel bars for a relatively short distance before flowing into the Pitt Lake. An urban oasis, Pitt Lake is the largest tidal lake on earth and is only a short distance away the large metropolis of Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. The boat launch is an hour’s drive from Vancouver and only minutes from the city of Maple Ridge. With boat access, vacation homes dot the shoreline and water skiers, wind surfers, and canoeists play in its waters for most of the summer. The Lower Pitt River bears no resemblance to the Upper Pitt River and flows lazily from the lake into the Fraser River.Access to the Upper Pitt River is limited to helicopter or boat across the large temperamental lake. The shallow water and unpredictable changes in the river channels throughout the season make this the realm of jet boats and rafts. Classic runs that can be fished with either single or double-handed rods are everywhere, and few anglers are encountered on any given day. Only experienced jet boat operators dare to frequent this river. For this reason, the Upper Pitt River receives little angling pressure all year. Our guides have explored this river thoroughly and regularly keep each other updated regarding in-season channel changes and water levels. Safety is key when planning a Pitt River fishing trip. One day the river may flow through a certain channel, the next it may have changed course due to a log jam.
Resident Cutthroat, Char and Rainbows are present year round on the Upper Pitt River, and a run of Winter Steelhead returns between January and April. The big draw, though, comes during early summer. When freshet raises most of the rivers in the Fraser Valley to unfishable levels, the Upper Pitt River comes into shape. Large Sea-run Bull trout enter the river in May to dine on Salmon fry while awaiting the return of the Salmon themselves. These fish reach impressive sizes, some into the mid -teens, and devour everything in their path. Large patterns swung through the pools, back eddies and tail-outs, are crushed by these big brutes. Locally referred to as “Pitt Bulls”, these sea-run bullies are the most picture perfect of the Char species and are sought after by fly fishers worldwide. These fish continue to stick around for the summer, feasting on a smorgasbord of salmon eggs and flesh.
The first of the Chinook (King) and Sockeye (Red) Salmon arrive in mid-June and the river is thick with them in July and August. Kings are off limits to sports fishers but the Sockeye are fair game. Pitt River Sockeye Salmon are considered to be the largest on average in the entire world. A 10-pound fish is not uncommon and these fish are bright and full of fight. These Sockeye strike flies hard and fight like they’re possessed. For some this is the most fun you can have in fresh water. As these runs peter out, the Coho (Silver) Salmon arrive. October can be great fishing for nickel bright Silvers. These fish reach impressive sizes and are a real test on light fly rods. Access can be limited by the low water levels common at this time of year and few people take the journey.
If you plan on fishing in BC, the Pitt River is a must fish for fly anglers coming to the Lower Mainland. It remains on the bucket list of even those who live and fish here. Few get to experience this, one of the best fly-fishing rivers in southern British Columbia.