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Fly Fishing in British Columbia
John Gregg
Watsonville, Ca.- If you are in search of a little slice of Paradise this summer, may we suggest British Columbia.

If you are a fly fisherman, well, BC represents a little bit of heaven here on earth. Pristine waters, stunning scenery, and salmon runs that can induce a trance-like splendor in even the most seasoned anglers. 

Rick Baerg runs the BC Fly Fisher Guide Service, which amounts to a once in a lifetime experience for fishermen. Located in the scenic Fraser Valley about 60 minutes and a world away from downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, the BC Fly Fisher Guide Service has several rivers and streams that they fish, which includes five species of salmon, steelhead and trout. 

At 31, Baerg has been fishing BC waters since he can first remember. Baerg was born in Salmon Arm, which is a small town in the Okanagan region of British Columbia. Baerg's family moved to Terrace, on the north coast of BC, when he was six. The Skeena River was very close to where he was raised, so fishing was a daily activity for the youngster. When he was fourteen, his family moved to Williams Lake, in the Chilcotin area of interior BC. Rick spent a great deal of his time over the next few years on the area's rivers and trophy trout lakes fishing for Rainbow and Brook trout. He has lived in the Fraser Valley area for almost ten years now, and spent countless hours on the rivers in the surrounding areas of southwestern British Columbia. 

It was Rick's Uncle Jim, who is actually a close family friend, who first taught the boy how to tie flies when he was around twelve. His parents bought him a fly rod for a birthday present and Baerg's love for the art of fly fishing has never wavered. He remains as ardent about the sport and tying flies as when he was 12. The hobby became a passion, the passion became a business, and as always, the business remains magic.
JG: What is your fondest childhood memory of fishing?

RB: My fondest memory of fishing comes from an activity I repeated many times: Getting up at three in the morning with my dad and brother to go fishing. We'd head out to get our favorite spot while it was still dark, rain or shine, and stay out all day.

JG: How long have you been running this business and what do you offer people who use your services?

RB: Being a fishing guide has been a life long dream of mine. I started out part time in 1998 and went full time the following year. As I became more experienced, I realized that fly fishing is my specialty, so I changed my business name from Reel Fishing BC to BC Fly Fisher Guide Service to reflect that.
Focusing solely on fly fishing allows me to provide my clients with expertly guided trips for all five species of salmon, steelhead and trout throughout southwestern BC. We offer a variety of fly fishing trips, ranging from day trips with local accommodations if needed, to remote wilderness packages. All clients are outfitted with high quality fly fishing gear and hand tied flies.

JG: Where in BC are you located and what waters do you fish? How difficult is it to find your establishment?

RB: BC Fly Fisher Guide Service is located in Chilliwack, which is in the Fraser Valley and just sixty minutes east of Vancouver. Chilliwack is right on the Trans Canada Highway, which runs through to Vancouver, so we are very accessible and easy to find. Our primary rivers include Fraser, Harrison, Pitt, Chehalis and Vedder, all of which are in the Lower Mainland area.
JG: Tell me about the different species of salmon that people will be fishing for if they visit you in British Columbia.

RB: There are five species of salmon in BC: Coho, Chinook, Chum, Pink and Sockeye. 

Coho Salmon, also known as silvers, are one of the favorites here in the Fraser Valley, and are a great sport fish. There is nothing like the take of a Coho, you can sometimes see them follow it in, grab it and explode on the surface. They hit hard, rip line and jump and roll all over the place. This is a fall fishery and goes from the middle of September to the middle of November. Coho salmon average in size from six to ten pounds but records from the last couple of years indicate that the size is increasing due to the decrease in commercial fishing.

There are two runs of Chinook in the Fraser Valley. The summer run starts in the middle of July and goes through to the end of August. The fall run is from September to November. The summer run of Chinook is available to fly anglers from July until the second week of August. Chinook salmon, also known as King, Tyee and Spring and are the largest of the salmon family. They average 15-25 lbs., but it's not uncommon to see 40 to 50 pounders swim by.

Chum salmon are the second largest of the salmon family, reaching up to twenty pounds. They are so plentiful that they are sometimes hard to avoid, and multiple fish days are the norm. Chum salmon are becoming one of the more preferred sport fish by fly anglers, with their sheer power and acrobatic jumps. They are terrific fighters that will take you into your backing every time. Peak time for the dog salmon is from October to the middle of November.

Pink salmon migrate on odd years (2001, 2003 etc.). They start their journey up the Fraser River to find their spawning grounds in the middle of August and continue through to the end of September. These fish are very aggressive biters and can be taken readily. As a result, 20 fish days are very common. They are probably the easiest of the salmon family to catch, with millions of pink salmon returning up the Fraser River every odd year. Pinks can make a trip very exciting and memorable.

The Fraser River has some of the largest runs of Sockeye salmon in the world. On a good year, there are upwards of 10-20 million Sockeye migrating up the Fraser River, making for some exciting fly fishing action. These fish are super fighters, line pullers and flashy dancers. Our Sockeye are very silver, and have only been out of the ocean two to five days before they are caught by anglers. Peak time for this fishery is August 1 to the second week of September, depending on a variety of conditions. Great action!

JG: How is the steelhead and trout fishing in your area?

Steelhead and trout fishing in our location is fantastic. Wild and hatchery steelhead, averaging ten to twelve pounds, are available from December until May. Cutthroat trout are available year round, with prime time in the winter and spring months. Dolly Varden, averaging seven to eight pounds, are also available year round.

RB: If guests are novice fishermen, what should they bring with them?

Anglers of all levels are provided with high quality fly fishing gear, flies and a shore lunch. If clients feel more comfortable using their own gear, they are more than welcome. Rain gear, extra layers and socks are good ideas for all clients, especially during our mild winter months.

JG: Do you offer any lessons for folks who are new to the sport?

RB: Our goal at BC Fly Fisher is to provide the best fly fishing experience possible, so instruction is an integral part of our trips if it is needed.

JG: I am sure that you have a number of guests who are experienced anglers, what type of gear do you suggest they bring with them?

RB: As with novice anglers, we recommend that our experienced clients bring rain gear and extra clothing. Fishing gear and flies are provided unless clients are more comfortable with their own gear. If a client indicates that he or she would like to use their own gear, specifics, depending on the type of fishing and time of year, can be provided.

JG: What can you tell me about the salmon runs on the Fraser River, Harrison River, Pitt River, Vedder River, Chilliwack River, and the Chehalis River?

RB: The Fraser River is the largest salmon producing river in the world. All of the rivers you listed flow into the Fraser, so they are all part of the same system. 

JG: How is the fishing right now and what's the best time of year to head to BC for fly fishing?

RB: We are approaching our busiest fly fishing season as the Sockeye and Chinook have started to run. Right now, Chinook and Sockeye salmon are both accessible on the fly. The best thing about southwestern BC is that the fly fishing is good year round. Peak season is August through November.

JG: What are the three biggest tips you could pass on to aspiring fly fishermen?

RB: The number one tip I can give to aspiring fly anglers for fly fishing in BC, is to practice their fly casting to achieve greater distance. The second tip is to learn to tie their own flies. There's nothing like being the only one on a river catching any fish because you've tied the only fly that works. The third tip? Get out on the water as much as possible.

JG: What are the three most common mistakes that fly fisher's make?

RB: The three most common mistakes are wading too far out into the river, losing patience too quickly, and not knowing how to release a fish properly.

JG: Ever since Robert Redford's movie "A River Runs Through It" came out, there has been a new emphasis placed on fly fishing. Has that helped or hurt your sport?

RB: I haven't noticed an increase in fly anglers in my area, but many of my clients do bring the movie to my attention when we're out on the water. I'm not sure why it comes up. Maybe our scenic mountains and clean rivers trigger memories of the movie. I think anything that draws positive attention to the sport is good, especially if respect for the fish and their environment is emphasized. 

In the mean time keeping working on your presentation, your catch and release, and it goes without saying, practice tying your Ausable Caddis, Ally Shrimp Orange Sparkle, and possibly your Silver Stoats Tail.

If you're interested in contacting Rick or the great folks at BC Fly Fisher Guide Services you can write them at 46192 Brooks Ave, Chilliwack, B.C V2P 1C2
Or Email at: info@bcflyfisher.com | Tel: 604-835-3451 | Fax: 604-795-3347
If you're interested in contacting Rick or the great folks at BC Fly Fisher Guide Services you can write them at 46192 Brooks Ave, Chilliwack, B.C V2P 1C2
Or Email at: info@bcflyfisher.com | Tel: 604-835-3451 | Fax: 604-795-3347

Stay comfortable and organized while fishing, check out West Marine's selection of lightweight shirts including the keep cool Columbia Bonehead Fishing Shirt. Take a look at some of the fishing accessories West Marine offers for inland river and lake fishing as well as books and videos.