American Fly Fishing

By Duane Radford

British Columbia’s Pitt River stands apart as a bull trout fishery, and it also offers excellent fishing for cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and steelhead, along with all five species of salmon native to North America: coho (silver), sockeye, chum, pink, and chinook (king). All fishing is catch-and-release.
   This large, freestone river rushes through scenic mountains to 15-mile-long Pitt Lake, and then, upon departing the lake, heads southwest to meet the Fraser River east of the Vancouver area.
   The river is nestled between Garibaldi Provincial Park, Pinecone Burke Provincial Park, and Golden Ears Provincial Park in a region billed as Sea to Sky Country by Tourism British Columbia, but do-it-yourself access to the fishery is challenging, to say the least. That’s where Pitt River Lodge,, comes into play. Last October, I visited the lodge at the beginning of the coho run. I first flew into the Abbotsford International Airport and then traveled by car to Grant Narrows Regional Park on the shore of Pitt Lake. There I met up with lodge owner Danny Gerak and my guide, Nick Didlick. We traveled by boat across the lake, and then drove to the lodge on a logging road.
   The lodge hosts anglers from around the world. On this trip, I was paired with Sven-Olaf Rahband-Dula, from Frankfurt, Germany, who fished exclusively with a Spey rod, while I used a single-handed 8-weight rod; both styles—Spey casting and single-handed casting—proved effective. A go-to fly was the Christmas Tree, which was ideal for the fast water. I also took bull trout on a Bow River Bugger. The primary method was to cast a sinking-tip line down and across the stream, let the fly swing, then strip-retrieve after the swing. Didlick suggested stepping along methodically (and fairly quickly) through holding water, much as you would when targeting steelhead, and cautioned that strikes might often be subtle in the cold water.
River flows were up from recent rains, but the
water levels continued to drop throughout our stay, and Rahband-Dula and I enjoyed great fly fishing—especially for bull trout, as well as cutthroat, rainbows, and coho.
   Pitt River Lodge uses inflatable rafts, while most other Pitt River outfitters use jet boats. Guided jet boat trips on the Pitt are provided by Double Header Sport Fishing (, BC Sportfishing Group (, Great River Fishing (, and Fraser River Lodge ( There are daily flights into Abbotsford and Vancouver. From Vancouver, you can also charter a floatplane to reach Pitt River Lodge, or drive to Pitt Lake, as I did.


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