Vancouver Island is home to some fantastic river fly fishing. Anglers from around the world travel to the island’s fruitful waters to catch trout and salmon in abundance. Unfortunately, although there is still plenty of great fishing, many runs have been badly damaged by logging, pollution, and overfishing. PEETZ has been supporting the Pacific Salmon Foundation for many years, and efforts across the island have been making headway towards repairing the damage done. The island’s fishing is still fantastic, but some places have lost the quantities they’ve been previously known for, and in most rivers the fishing is restricted.
Because of how many rivers provide quality fly fishing, everyone’s top spots are going to end up different. So use this list as more of a rough guide than anything else. These spots are reputable as some of the best fly fishing rivers on Vancouver Island, but they are in no way the be-all-to-end-all. These are some legendary locations, without a doubt, but discovery is half the fun.
For many, fly fishing tends more to be about the experience than the number of fish caught, so this list isn’t numbered. While one river may land you more fish, or larger fish, another may be more beautiful, or more tranquil. There’s no real way to know how you’ll feel until you get out there. So, in no particular order, here’s our top 10 list:
The Top 10 Fly Fishing Rivers on Vancouver Island
Flowing from Lake Cowichan to Duncan, the Cowichan River is one of the world’s best fishing spots, hands down. Chinook, coho, chum, and steelhead all run this river. Fly fishing is particularly good in the summer, peaking in June. For anglers around the world, Cowichan is a name well known.
Flowing from Great Central Lake through Port Alberni, the Stamp River is one of Vancouver Island’s largest and most popular fishing rivers. Although summer and winter salmon run this river, the fly fishing is best in the summer and fall.
Flowing from Campbell Lake and out through the city of Campbell River, Campbell River is one of Vancouver Island’s most famous salmon fishing spots. Although the river is very large, and flows very deep in parts, certain areas of the Campbell are world-renown salmon fishing spots, with anglers from all over travelling for this river’s fishing experience. There are fly fishing restrictions in place, check out the BC government’s fishing regulations on page 15 here. Also make sure to check out the Quinsam River, a high-producing tributary of the Campbell River.
Big Qualicum River
Flowing from Horne Lake out through Qualicum Bay, the Big Qualicum River is a popular fly fishing river that offers year-round salmon fishing and trout fishing in the fall. Despite the name, the Big Qualicum is one of the little rivers for fishing. Make sure to check regulations, as there are a number in place throughout the year that help to aid conservation efforts.
Flowing from Mount Arrowsmith Region Park and out past Parksville, Englishman River is a very long and abundant, plenty with spots to cast. All the way up to Englishman River Falls Regional Park (where fish isn’t allowed) there’s quality fishing to be found.
Flowing from Mount Alston, through Nimpkish Lake, and out into Alert Bay, the Nimpkish River is the longest river on Vancouver Island. Being the island’s longest river, you can easily spend days fishing its salmon-packed waters.
Flowing from Elkhorn Mountain out into Upper Campbell Lake, the Elk River is one of Vancouver Island’s premier rivers for trout fishing. Fly only, the river features plenty of spots for casting and holds plenty of cutthroat.
Flowing from the Gold and Muchalet Lakes, through the town of Gold River, and out into the Muchalet Inlet, the Gold River is home to summer and winter salmon runs. It’s one of the better producing rivers on the island.
Flowing from the mountains further inland and out into Kelsey Bay, past Sayward, the Salmon River is host to the island’s biggest steelhead salmon run, by far. The issue with the Salmon River is its consistency, as it has suffered from the island’s damaged fishing stocks. Conservation and restoration efforts are in place, but the damage has been done. If you are hunting for size rather than quantity, the Salmon River is right up your alley. Otherwise, do your research about the health of the river’s yearly run (in March) before you head out.
Flowing from the Mount Washington area, through the town of Oyster River, and out Vancouver Island’s eastern coast, Oyster River is home to some of Vancouver Island’s best trout fishing. Every year, anglers flock to the lower miles of the river for an endless amount of trout.
If you’re looking for some new gear to take with you out on one of these spots, we offer handmade, high-quality fly fishing reels as well as rods and fly fishing combos.
Are there any spots you think deserve to be on this list that we missed? If so, please let us know by leaving a comment below!