I find myself seemingly content with the current season, but slowly becoming more and more for the one coming up next as it will be another refreshing start to a whole new form of fishing. British Columbia offers an incredible array of angling options, perhaps one of the most versatile places in the world. We have everything from all 5 species of Pacific salmon and massive winter run steelhead to pike, walleye and sturgeon fishing. Calling ourselves lucky would be an understatement, there is always something new and exciting to try your hand at on any given month of the year. Everyone’s will vary a bit, but here’s exactly what I get excited for each month.
January: January is the darkest, coldest & most depressing month of the year but that doesn’t mean it has to be spent indoors. Fresh winter run steelhead are entering in solid months during January, rarely will you hit dark or coloured up fish but it comes at a cost. Generally speaking January is the coldest water month, making it very hard to make fish move to a swung fly. The rewards are there, and if you fish hard enough you will eventually hit a fish but don’t expect to put a licking on them every time out (unless you get really dirty and resort to float fishing like myself). January is a grind, but the chance to make some incredible memories on the water is there.
February: February is just a slightly warmer, slightly less depressing month than January. The latter end of February usually yields the first decent warm spell of the year, but don’t get yourself thinking that winter is over just yet because it will come back to prove you wrong in mid-April. February offers excellent winter steelhead, cutthroat & char fishing in coastal rivers along with a few other options for trout fishing with a swung fly in the interior. I have seen lakes ice off in February, but don’t count on it. This is a time of year I recently fell in love with flats fishing. You can grind it out in the cold here, or you can get a relatively cheap flight somewhere warm and spend a couple weeks chasing bonefish, permit & resident tarpon. Do yourself a favour and go, there is nothing quite like it.
March: March is my favourite month for winter steelhead fishing. Water is fairly warm, fish are in good numbers and very willing to eat a swung fly. Tons of fresh fish still enter the systems in March, and angling pressure seems to decline quite a bit. March also brings the first of the ice-off on some low elevation lakes. Don’t expect fishing to be lights out, but on a warm year it can be quite good towards late March.
April: April continues to be a great month to catch a winter run steelhead on the fly, it is also when a lot of stillwater fishing begins to take off. Especially on a warm year, low elevation lakes will be in full swing by the middle of April. Good chironomid hatches, steady numbers of happy fish and slightly steadier weather than March.
May: Recently we covered what to expect in each month of stillwater fishing, and May was listed as the prime of the stillwater season for good reason. May offers steadier weather, less crowds due to angling pressure beginning to disperse itself throughout new lake options, and great hatches. If you were to travel to BC for one month of lake fishing, it would be May. Some higher elevation lakes will just be icing off in early May, but by the end of the month expect just about anywhere to be fishing well in one way or another.
June: June continues to be a great month for stillwater fishing. Lakes will all be turned and the higher elevation lakes (3,500+ feet) will begin to really shine. Chironomids will be in full swing on those rivers, while some lower elevation lakes will begin to cook off. Most rivers are closed or in full freshet, but some clean up better than others and can offer some great dry fly fishing.
July: July is when the boat gets tucked away for the most part and other territories are explored. Before guiding took over my summers, I would spend most of July fishing Chinooks or chasing the stonefly hatch on interior rivers. Lots of stillwater options are still available, especially “bomber” (extra large chironomid) hatches in certain lakes.
August: August can be a really tricky month thanks to a combination of heat & lack of precipitation. Most lakes enter doldrum mode, where the water becomes too warm for any solid hatches and fish don’t have a whole lot to key in on for the most part. It is a heavy suggestion to leave most lakes alone in August due to high mortality rate in very warm water. Some very high elevation lakes will fish well in August, but there are so many options for river fishing that I wouldn’t go out of my way to lake fish in August. On odd years the Fraser River drainage receives an abundant run of pink salmon that are a great time on a 6 weight fly rod for those that have never salmon fished before. Easy fishing, decent size (3-8lb) fish and tons of fish in a day makes it a great way to ease the learning curve of catching salmon on a fly.
September: September is when everything starts to happen again. We begin to see our first frost, fall Chinook & Coho begin entering the river in better numbers and summer run steelhead are in full swing in all sorts of magical places. September also offers many opportunities for stillwater fishing as the temps begin to drop overnight. September can also offer the first of opportunities for “beading” (more on that another day) for rainbows and bull trout that are following spawning salmon in search of eggs.
October: If I could pick one month per year to fly fish in BC, it would be October. Stillwater fishing is back in full swing, coastal rivers are loaded with big bright salmon and summer/fall run steelhead, bead fishing for gargantuan sized rainbows is in it’s prime, October is truly magical. You could theoretically have great chironomid fishing, catch a steelhead on a dry and land all 5 species of salmon in one week during October.
November: November would be a close 2nd behind October. Most stillwater fisheries are wrapped up or will be (usually) quite spotty in November, but there are so many other things to keep you busy. Steelhead fishing is amazing in November, salmon fishing continues to be really good especially for coho & fresh chums.
December: Salmon die off, all lakes are frozen and we experience our first really good cold snap of the year. I used to love spending my Decembers on the Thompson, but there are plenty of opportunities around the province. The first of the winter run steelhead begin to make their way into freshwater in the month of December, and the beautiful process begins all over.
This article is written from a personal point of view. By no means did I showcase each and every fishery that is available each month, this is just a list of where I choose to spend my time fishing around the province.