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Fishing in British Columbia’s Sea to Sky Corridor is An Adventure for Novice & Advanced Anglers Alike

Saltwater Fishing

Experienced and novice anglers alike will find plenty of opportunities to go fishing in British Columbia’s Sea to Sky Corridor. Read my top tips for this region:

In This Fishing Article You Will Discover:

  • Where to Fish in the Whistler & Squamish Area
  • How to Catch Tons of Fish
  • Where to Rent a Boat & Hire A Guide
  • What To Expect When You Hit the Water!

It is a chilly morning on the waters of Howe Sound, north of Vancouver, British Columbia. The imposing shadow of Coast Mountains denies us the sunrise a few minutes more. The air smells of salt and seaweed — with a tinge of motor exhaust for effect, from the mumbling four-stroke as it pushes our boat along at a snail’s pace. Aside from the burble of the engine, the only other sound is the endless lap-lapping of waves against the fiberglass hull as we push along. If you’d like to research into what lines you’d have to bring for these waters you may want to look at https://fishinglinepursuit.com/ to help guide you in what lines would be the best for the fish you want to catch.

Two of us silently sip black coffee from Thermos cups, staring backwards at the water’s surface as it’s carved by the fishing line that spools off our reels, runs the length of our stiff fishing rods and stabs downwards into the green-blackness of the Sound below. Manning the wheel, my hand on the throttle, I’m ready at any moment to kick it out of gear should a rod jerk to indicate the three of us had, in fact, outsmarted a fish.

We wait, we fish — and eventually, we do.

Sea to Sky Fishing

British Columbians, as well as those who visit the province from afar, are spoiled for choice when it comes to outdoor pursuits, and nowhere is this more evident than the Sea to Sky Corridor (perhaps one reason the 2010 Olympic Winter Games was lured to this area).

West Vancouver’s Whytecliff Park is renowned for scuba diving, Squamish is a rock climbing mecca, Garibaldi Park welcomes hikers and mountaineers from around the world, and what can be said about ski resort Whistler/Blackcomb that hasn’t been said before? There is one pursuit, however, that ties the area together (with an improved clinch knot) — sport fishing.

Longtime residents of the Whistler-area know that early developers envisioned this skiers’ paradise as a fishing destination. And guess what? It still is. Howe Sound, which puts the “sea” in Sea to Sky, is packed to the proverbial gills with salmon of all five species, and the rivers, streams of lakes inland hold trout galore. While these fish run strong for four seasons a year, it only takes a day under the summer sun to discover why the lure of angling remains essentially unchanged — hook and line versus natural instinct, man versus fish. And as the sport continues to prove time and time again, it’s a fair match.

Saltwater Salmon Fishing

Saltwater Fishing

Coho salmon provide delicious table fare, or you can choose to catch-and-release.

A purist’s pursuit of saltwater salmon kicks off in Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver. As travellers from Vancouver to Whistler know, Howe Sound parallels Highway 99 North from Horseshoe Bay to the town of Squamish. And as anglers know, the entire 45-km stretch is prime territory for fishing these treasures of the Pacific. Massive chinook salmon (seven to 15 kilograms or more!) dwell in the deep waters year-round and are reeled in with regularity during August and December. Coho salmon are fished from April until October, followed by a fantastic chum salmon fishery.

During odd years — such as 2011 — autumn brings tens of millions of pink salmon (and usually ample stocks of sockeye) back to their natal streams in the region — fishers can usually look forward to ample catches during this time. These fish offer anglers double-digit catch days and great table fare.

The largest boat rental and fishing guide operator in the area, Sewell’s Marina, has been hooking people on fishing for three-quarters of a century. Today, the operation, located right beside the BC Ferries terminal in Horseshoe Bay, has the largest fleet of self-drive rental boats in the country, offering access to all of Howe Sound.

Eric Sewell — the fourth generation of Sewell’s to operate the marina — explains the attraction to this area.

“Salmon fishing [here] is exciting, beautiful, close to Vancouver — it’s very accessible,” says Sewell. “The dramatic backdrop, from the Lions at 4,000 feet, right down to sea level, is impressive.”

Sewell sees a real “mixed bag” of customers during the summer months.

“We get about a 50/50 mix of tourists and locals — and a lot of repeat business.”

While many of his customers have previous fishing experience, he recommends aspiring anglers hire one of his experienced guides for a fishing charter.

With the whole Howe Sound to explore, however, visitors can even have fun without wetting a line. “There is a bird sanctuary, marine wildlife to view, great scenery and you can even stop in to Snug Cove on Bowen Island for lunch,” he says. “Although we’ve recently expanded into the ecotourism market, the root of our business is fishing.”

In the late summer and early fall, Sewell’s guides will take scores of fishermen to the north end of Howe Sound, near Porteau Cove and on to the Squamish River estuary in pursuit of salmon. He also takes visitors along the West Vancouver and Bowen Island shorelines, popular spots where chinook and coho lurk year-round.

Fly Fishing Adventures

Fly Fishing in BC

If you’re looking for a fly fishing adventure, look no further than Whistler (and area), British Columbia.

In a culture sensitively portrayed by Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It, the fly fisherman is said to exude the qualities revered in humankind: patience, focus, dedication, humility and grace. There is poetry in the motion of angling with flies, and the men and women enthralled by it have been known to fish from first light to nightfall, then spend their downtime winding threads and feathers around a hook in an attempt to fashion their unique lure. In their vernacular, the word “fly” is replaced by terms like callibaetis, chironomid and caddisfly, and to be a fly fisher is to become genuinely excited by the arrival of a new insect hatch.

Brian Niska, owner and head guide at Whistler Fly Fishing, a Whistler-based fly shop and guiding instruction service, may just typify this archetype. A certified master fly casting instructor, Niska has spent the last 15 years of his life guiding fishermen in locations as far away as Chile, in addition to stellar locations all across British Columbia. After moving to Whistler from Port Coquitlam, east of Vancouver, in the late 1990s — for the skiing — Niska saw the opportunity for the fly fishing of trout and steelhead in the area. Although there were many established guides in the market at the time, Niska, “Saw how it could be done better.” So, in 2000, he started up his own fly shop — seasonally for the first four years, and year-round since 2000.

With a staff of Federation of Fly Fishers certified casting instructors, Whistler Fly Fishing attracts fishers from the US and United Kingdom, but the lesser known, more important detail for visitors to the region is that the operation also caters many of its services to the novice.

“For the beginner, we recommend the ‘Learn to Fly Fish’ program,” says Niska. “We teach knot-tying and bug identification then we take them out to cast on the grass where they won’t spook the fish. By the afternoon, we head out to the Upper Cheakamus River where there are lots of [rainbow trout] to catch.” Niska prefers this teaching style, as opposed to simply taking novices out on a guide trip. “They get a lot more out of it. They learn to be self-sufficient on the water,” he says.

But just where are these waters? Niska knows best:

“I love the Squamish [River] for steelhead in the fall, the Lilloett in the spring. Birkenhead [Lake] in the summer is great. Alta Lake in the late spring is good too,” he says, rattling off names with lightning pace. In fact, within the confines of the Sea to Sky Corridor, there are many lakes and river of folklore status. Aside from Niska’s favourites, Whistler’s aptly named Green Lake, as well as Cougar Mountain’s Showh and Cougar Lakes are other trout filled waters within casting distance of main roads.

Clear Water

Gaze into the crystal-clear mountain streams and you’ll get an up-close-and-personal look at the occupants below!

For the more adventurous (and less frugal), Niska and his fellow guides will even take you by helicopter to fish the pristine backcountry lakes and streams of the Corridor — where, in actual fact, few have fished before. It’s a memorable experience for purist anglers, especially those who tie flies and don waders in their dreams.

Whether engrossed in the rhythm of fly casting or motoring through the scenic marine environs, fishing the Sea to Sky Corridor provides and angler with a profound and primal sense of connection between a person and the natural landscape. It’s a pastime that has been shared with kings and weekend warriors alike.

Even if you return home after a full day of angling with nothing but a sunburn, remember to ponder the immortal words of fishing’s prophet scribe, Izaak Walton, as written in his 17th century classic, The Compleat Angler, “’Tis not all of fishing to fish.”

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

7 comments… add one
  • Helena Nov 3, 2015 Link

    Hi cheers for this. Excellent write-up. I’m a new reader to your blog and
    so I thought I’d just drop a quick thanks.

  • johson insurance Oct 14, 2010 Link

    Could be the GREATEST page I have read ever?!?

  • college loans Jun 1, 2010 Link

    Valuable info. Lucky me I found your site by accident, I bookmarked it.

  • Bridie Jun 1, 2010 Link

    Hi:It’s possible you could catch a pink salmon in Howe Sound this year, but they return in huge numbers every odd year. 2009-2011-2013 and so on. That’s when it’s really fun!

  • David Webb May 25, 2010 Link

    It’s possible you could catch a pink salmon in Howe Sound this year, but they return in huge numbers every odd year. 2009-2011-2013 and so on. That’s when it’s really fun!

  • Rodman May 25, 2010 Link

    What do you mean “odd years”?? Are there no pink salmon for catching this year?

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