Spring Cutthroat Fly Fishing 101

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“The Salmon Fry Hatch”

One of the more underrated fisheries in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, the Spring salmon fry hatch fishery for Coastal Cutthroat can be absolutely spectacular at times. This fishery starts in March but is best throughout the month of April as more consistent warm weather is generally in the forecast, and this is when most fry have hatched. Regardless of your method choice, two methods work successfully; fly fishing and casting lures. This is a great transitional angling opportunity if you want a break during the tail-end of the Winter Steelhead Season, and want some practice for the upcoming interior lake fisheries. These are gorgeous fish and some can reach large proportions. The average fish is about 12-14 inches, but it is not impossible to get fish over the 24” range. If you are looking for good number of fish, and big ones at that, this is the time of year to catch them.

Where to Fish

Areas to target these fish will all depend on the type of Salmon run that is in the river you are fishing. River systems with Fall run returning salmon will fish the best in the Spring time due to the correlating Spring salmon fry hatch. Major areas to fish include the Harrison River system, (Tributaries included), and the Stave River system. Many other rivers and streams will host good Cutthroat fishing, even in sections of saltwater such as creek mouths and suitable beaches. The one main thing to remember about this fishery is that the fish will generally not come to you. You will have to find them yourself. These fish are very transient and are usually constantly on the move finding their next meal. The only real way to locate these fish is to consistently cast and look for rising fish.

Fly Lines

Fly line selection is a lot more critical than you may think. You will want to stick to a couple main fly lines depending on where you are fishing. The two main types of line you will be using will be a Floating and Intermediate Clear/Camo line. You will want your presentation to sub surface in most cases, and if you want your fly deeper, fish a weighted fly. The average depth of water these fish are feeding in is quite shallow.

Some Fly Line Selections

  • Rio Aqualux
  • Rio Camolux
  • Rio Outbound (Clear Intermediate)
  • Airflo Ridge Clear (Slow Intermediate)
  • Rio Gold

Flies

Unlike other months of the season where a wide variety of flies can be used, this particular time of year calls for particular fly patterns. A good majority of your flies will be specifically imitating hatched salmon fry. This is the time of year that Cutthroat will really key in on this food source, and it’s not the easiest to try and persuade them for other things when there are balls of salmon fry swimming around everywhere. There are a variety of fry imitations to use and they will all vary in size, colour, and style. Matching these attributes will be critical throughout the time of year. Earlier in the season, the fry will be smaller and as the season progresses the fry will get larger. Matching the species of fry can be critical as well. For example, Chum Salmon fry will have a spotless shiny side with an olive back, while Coho Salmon fry can develop “parr” marks on their sides as they get larger, and will develop transparent orange fins.

Fly Pattern Choices

  • Joe’s Minnow
  • Ron’s Winter Minnow
  • Tied-Down Minnow
  • Flash Alevin
  • Park’s Epoxy Fry
  • Chum Fry
  • Gummy Minnow
  • Ball of Fry

Leader Materials

Keep it simple on the leader front. Standard tapered leaders in the 9-12’ range in a 5-8lb test range are sufficient, with fluorocarbon tippet being the suggested material over monofilament. What we like to do is cut the first 2 feet off of a purchased tapered leader and attach a short section of fluorocarbon to the end. If you like to go extra stealthy, you can purchase full fluorocarbon tapered leaders. When fishing fluorocarbon, we highly recommend Seaguar.

Rods

Rods should be quite specific in length and weight class. This can be a finesse fishery at times and giving an accurate and quality cast can be an absolute must. Below we have listed the specifics of the rods you will want to use.

Length

  • 9’6” Single Hand
  • 10’ Single Hand
  • 10’6-11’6” Switch Rods

Rod Weight

  • 4 weight
  • 5 weight
  • 6 weight

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