With the onset of the winter season we change our focus to Lower Fraser tributaries like the Vedder River in search of winter steelhead. The Vedder sees healthy returns of steelhead each season and offers dedicated anglers a good opportunity to encounter winter steelhead on the fly.
Here at Fly Gal, we are all absolutely crazy for steelhead. Each of us tend to get a little starry eyed when we speak of these beauties and most of us have a good story to tell…..
For many anglers, catching a steelhead on a fly is the ultimate dream. These fish are classic and highly respected throughout the sport…fly-fishing for them enhances an already incredible experience.
Note that fishing for steelhead is not for everyone….braving the cold and damp weather that these months tend to bring may not be the ideal trip for the fair weather angler.
Steelhead fishing is not best-known as a quantity fishery but it is absolutely renowned as a ‘quality, must try’ fishery. Be warned…once you’re hooked, there is no turning back.
British Columbia’s Lower Mainland Canada
Run Time: February to early May
Location(s): Chilliwack/Vedder River and Fraser River Tributaries
British Columbia’s lower mainland is home to some of the province’s finest winter-run steelhead fishing.
Within two hours of Vancouver, there are a multitude of Fraser River tributaries, such as the Vedder River, that see healthy returns of steelhead every winter. We also frequent several other smaller, more pristine streams to cleanse ourselves from the daily stresses of traffic, people and noise in general.
These trips are primarily walk and wade trips and the scenery is sure to blow your mind!
Location: Vedder River, British Columbia
Season: February - Early May
Target Species: Steelhead
Closest Major City: Chilliwack, British Columbia [Map]
Closest Air Hub: Vancouver International Airport (CYVR)
When you decide to book a trip with Fly Gal you’re choosing to do business with a trusted name in the fly fishing travel industry. Our services are always offered 100% FREE to you and are designed to help make your dream fly fishing trip a reality.
We only work with lodges and guides that we know and trust. We’ve been to each location, which allows us to offer meaningful, first-hand knowledge of the fishery and area. From licenses and gear selection to flight planning we’re here to help at all stages of the process.
Additionally, Fly Gal Ventures is a member and supporter of 1% For The Planet; at least 1% of our profits are pledged to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment.
Book with confidence…we’ll take care of the rest!
1 angler: $399.99 CND (plus GST)
2 anglers: $499.99 CDN (plus GST)
*Your guide provides lunch, flies and tackle at no additional fee.
**Gratuities and fishing licenses not included in listed price.
For more information, or to reserve your space click here or call 1.888.359.4259
Steelhead are an ocean-run rainbow trout and, as would be expected, they bear a striking resemblance, sporting a stunning blushed cheek and distinctive spots.
Steelhead migrate to the sea to live part of their life cycle and return to the freshwater where they bless us with aggressive takes and epic battles.
Their large square tails help them jump fiercely and allow them to clear incredible obstacles and canyons.
There are two different runs of Steelhead that frequent the West Coast of North America.
There are Summer-run steelhead that enter the rivers from May to October, and Winter-run steelhead that enter from December to April.
Winter-run steelhead are a little less aggressive than the Summer-runs and typically have to be fished for with patience, sink tips and obnoxious flies. Caught on a swung fly, these fish rip line and weigh up to 20 pounds!
Winter Steelhead Essential Items
Many of our rivers are wide and at times require a fairly lengthy cast (though not always).
For ease and distance, local anglers tend to primarily use Spey rods, requiring very little back-casting room or arm strength. This enables the angler to cover more water as well as use heavier sink tips and weighted flies.
This method is commonly used to fish for Winter-run Steelhead on our fast flowing West Coast rivers.
Rods in the 8 to 10 weight range are the most common; and Rio Spey lines make casting easy and relatively simple for the beginning Spey fisher.
There are a multitude of flies to use while steelhead fishing.
Flies tied with materials that seem to pulsate in the water appear to move and tend to hook their fair share of fish.
Most any color will work, with bright colors being particularly productive.
Clothing for the River
A trip to the coastal rain forest of the Northwest is always exciting and can be extremely enjoyable, providing you are prepared.
Being a coastal climate, the locals always say “If you don’t like the weather, just wait ten minutes”.
The climate varies between being wet, overcast, sunny, cloudy, rainy, snowfall, hail and wind.
The layered approach is the best way to ensure comfort on the river.
Layer 1: Next to the skin use a wicking material that allows your skin to breathe while removing moisture at the same time. Many of the outdoor companies provide this performance material as it is truly the best way to optimize comfort throughout the day. These articles are worn in the form of long sleeved shirts and long underwear.
Layer 2: A mid layer long sleeved shirt made of either wool, down, fleece, polyester, flannel or a blend of synthetic and natural materials (Polar-Tec, etc.)
Layer 3: A Polar Fleece sweater or something of the sort. We recommend that you bring a lighter weight and a medium weight fleece at the very least. If you are fishing early spring or late fall you may prefer a heavier polar fleece sweater.
For your legs you can also use a polar fleece pant of varying weights depending on the river’s water temperature. Obviously if you are using a Gortex Wader in the late fall you will want a heavy fleece pant. If you are using neoprene waders then a lighter fleece may work better.
Layer 4: Gortex Fishing Jacket (Patagonia, Simms, etc.) with hoods.
We do not recommend fishing vests since they tend to get really wet in continuous rain. Gortex jackets all have pockets and storage for fly boxes, tippets, leaders, etc.
Waders: We recommend a Gortex Wader with a built in Neoprene Sock and separate wading boots without cleats (or with screw in cleats for hiking).
If you are using Gortex waders then polar fleece pants worn under them in the spring and fall will be required. Gortex is very light weight and does not limit flexibility. It also breathes to keep you cool during those warm summer days.
Hat and Polarized Sun Glasses
Make sure you have both a hat and sunglasses, not only for protection from the sun, but also for safety from barbless flies that may accidentally find themselves headed towards your face.
Either a baseball style hat or full rim hat works best.
For sunglasses use high quality polarized lenses so your eyes do not get fatigued while glaring into the river all day.
Polar Fleece Fingerless Gloves
For those cold spring and fall days you may want to use polar fleece gloves with the finger ends cut off.
Most of the fly fishing gear manufacturers make them and they work excellent. If you are fishing in March or early April, late October or November, you may want to bring a pair of full polar fleece mittens with you so you can warm your hands on the side of the river. Additionally, a polar fleece hat that covers your ears may not be such a bad idea as well.
Clothing for the Lodge
We are very informal at the lodge so bring comfortable clothes to lounge around in when you get up in the morning and after you get back from the river.
The lodge provides fresh towels everyday and fresh sheets on the day of your arrival. Soap and shampoo is provided, however, you’ll have to bring the rest of your toiletries.
Most of our customers bring their own fly rods and fly lines, however we do have complete equipment for both the fly fisher and the conventional fisher if you do not have your own preferred equipment.
We suggest the following:
- 7-9 Weight Single Hand Rods with a weight forward steelhead taper
– 7-9 Weight Spey Rods (two handed rods) with line of choice, though we suggest Rio Skagit lines to help turn over heavy sink tips and weighted flies. Dry lines are also nice to have in the event that the fish are taking dry flies.
Each of our guides bring a digital camera to the river to photograph that trophy fish of yours, however we advise customers to also bring their own.
It is always a good idea to have protection from mosquitoes and black flies in the event that they’re out and biting.
A good sun block, SPF30 or better should be brought along.
Items that are useful to bring along on your trip are as follows:
- A knapsack to carry your personal stuff (camera, sunscreen etc.)
– Hook Sharpener, you don’t want to lose the big one because of a dull hook.
– Various lengths of sink tips, from 5’ to 20’.
– Spools of tippet in various sizes.
– Your favorite flies that you would like to try out on these BC fish. You never know…you may just have the secret weapon in your fly box!
British Columbia, Canada
While steelhead hold a special place in her heart, Adrienne just loves casting a fly and is happy to target anything willing to be fooled by some feathers on a hook. Adrienne has spent time on many of BC’s most well known steelhead waters and trout lakes, and is a sucker for sea run dollies and bull trout. She began Spey casting within two years of picking up a fly rod, and has become extremely proficient with both the single and double handed rod. She also has a passion for fly tying and particularly enjoys crafting elaborate intruder style patterns.
Adrienne has worked in flyfishing for over 10 years, in fly shops and guiding in the lower mainland and Alberta. She teaches fly fishing, single and double hand casting, tying courses, sells custom steelhead flies, and has given seminars on steelhead fishing and fly tying. She has also had articles and photos published in various fly fishing publications. She has had the opportunity to fly fish in Russia, Alaska and the Florida Keys, and is pro staff for G Loomis Canada, Hatch Reels, and Fishbum Outfitters.
British Columbia, Canada
British Columbia, Canada
April Vokey lives in British Columbia and is an avid angler and steelhead, salmon and trout guide. She was born with an unexplainable passion for fishing. As a young girl she coaxed her father into going fishing and by the age of sixteen, when she was old enough to drive, she was devoting all of her free time to her local rivers.
She is passionate about Spey casting to wild steelhead, the environment and tying Atlantic Salmon/Steelhead flies. She has made it her mission to encourage and introduce aspiring anglers to the sport, in hopes that it will bring them as much pleasure as it has brought her. She takes pride in being an eternal student of fly-fishing.
April is a Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructor and fly-fishing columnist. She is the Steelhead columnist for Fly Fusion magazine and the Canadian field editor for Chasing Silver magazine. Her works and photos can also be found in Salmon Trout Steelheader (STS), Field and Stream, Fly Fisherman, Flyfishing and Tying Journal and several other international publications.
She is a lead angler for Fly Max Films where she travels around the world, fly-fishing for every species of fish imaginable.