The fly fishing in Canada is world class. Canada is filled with unbelievable fly fishing opportunities and is one of the best fly fishing destinations on Earth.
Having pride in the quality of your country’s fisheries is natural. Anglers from all over the world claim their country has the best fly fishing. The United States has beautiful blue-ribbon trout water, New Zealand is known for its wild and monstrous fish, while Norway is filled with picture-perfect scenery.
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If anglers are honest with themselves, however, they’d struggle to defend their country’s fishing opportunities against those in Canada. Any sort of angling you desire is available for you throughout the country.
I had the honor of fulfilling my dream of chasing salmon in northern British Columbia this past year. The experience blew my mind and made me question why I ever fish anywhere else. The amount of fish combined with the natural beauty makes it a must-visit for any angler.
But British Columbia is only one province in this massive country. My fly fishing expeditions to the east and center of the country have also brought mind-blowing experiences: big brown trout in the Waterton River, hungry bass in Lake Nipissing, and monster muskie in Lac Seul.
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Why Go Fly Fishing in Canada?
There’s a massive amount of fishable water throughout Canada. You can chase after sea-run fish and fish in secluded lakes that are rarely visited. You’ll be able to find all of the peace and quiet you desire and rarely run into private land that prevents you from fishing certain areas.
Canada will test your fishing abilities. You’ll have to brave the elements and be willing to make mistakes. The payoff is more than worth it. To stand amongst the country’s beauty is enough of a reason to visit, and it’s one of the main reasons I keep going back for more fly fishing in Canada.
What to Pack for a Canadian Fly Fishing Trip
If you’re planning on heading to Canada for a fly fishing adventure, then you better pack the right fly fishing gear for the trip! Below is just some of the most important gear that I make sure to bring along when I head up north.
- Your best fly rod overall or a decent fly rod combo
- 3 weight fly rod
- 4 weight fly rod
- 5 weight fly rod
- 6 weight fly rod
- 7 weight fly rod
- 8 weight fly rod
- A saltwater fly rod
- Your best fly reel to match each rod
- A saltwater fly reel
- A fly fishing vest
- A fly fishing box
- Fly fishing polarized sunglasses
- A fly fishing net
- A fly fishing pack
- Fly fishing waders
- Your best wading boots
- Flies to bring: Bullhead Leeches, Neo Skagit Leeches, Kriller flies, Spey flies, Woolly Buggers, Egg Sucking Leeches, Ally’s Shrimp, Hex Nymphs, Pheasant Tails, Clouser Minnows, crayfish patterns, Prince Nymphs, gnat patterns, Streamers, Deceivers, topwater poppers, Pike Slayers, Reelflies Minnows, and Yellow Perch Flies.
Canada Fly Fishing: Fish Species
In Canada, there’s every sort of sea-run and traditional freshwater fish you could want. The coasts are known for legendary steelhead and salmon runs, and the rest of the country has some of the best bass and muskie fishing in the world.
The steelhead fishing in Canada attracts anglers from all portions of the globe. These 10-20 pound beasts swim through the waters of many west coast rivers. The Dean, Skeena, and Squamish rivers are all home to these large fish.
I always bring heavy equipment when fishing for steelhead in Canada. Spey or switch rods combined with 0 or 1x tippet and shooting tip line are necessary. These rivers are wide and require quality equipment.
Bring Bullhead Leeches, Neo Skagit Leeches and Kriller flies on your Canadian steelhead trip. You’ll have success dead drifting and swinging these flies in the slower portions of the rivers.
Salmon are held in a similar regard to steelhead. I’ve caught these fish over 10 pounds in rivers along both the east and west coast. I’ve also done some salmon fishing in Ontario due to the population of Great Lakes salmon.
Some great rivers to visit are the Kalum, Capilano, Fraser, and the Exploits. They hold a variety of salmon including Atlantic, king, and coho. When targeting these fish, you’ll need your 8-10 weight rods.
Also, be sure to bring sinking tip line along with 0 or 1x leader. These fish are known for their strong head shakes and acrobatic fights, so it’s best to stay patient and let them tire themselves out.
Use Spey flies, Woolly Buggers, Egg Sucking Leeches, and Ally’s Shrimp for your flies. I’ve had success with all of them dead drifting and swinging.
Rainbow trout are found all over Canada in both the lakes and the rivers. I’ve caught rainbows upwards of 10 to 15 pounds in some of these bodies of water. They’re a beautiful fish that are a blast to catch.
You can find rainbow trout in the Bow River, Crowsnest River, and Bulkley River. They’ll require your 6-weight rod with 2 or 3x leader. Western Canada receives quite a bit of precipitation, so you’re better off fishing with darker nymphs and streamers.
In my experience, Woolly Buggers, Hex Nymphs, and Pheasant Tails are all great options to use when you’re targeting rainbows.
Brown trout grow massive in Canada. These fish live both in the lakes and rivers across the country and are often caught around 2 or 3 pounds. You can catch browns in the Waterton River and any Lake Ontario tributary. Canada is well known for its massive brown trout.
When targeting these large fish, be sure to use your 6 or 7-weight. They love to eat streamers swung through pools. Woolly Buggers, Clouser Minnows, and crayfish patterns always seem to work well.
Ontario has an impressive brook trout population. These fish thrive in the lakes and rivers in Northern Ontario, and I’ve sometimes caught ones weighing 7 or 8 pounds.
You can find them in Kwagama Lake, the Winisk River, and the Sutton River. There are few places in the world with large brook trout, and Canada is one of them.
These fish are naturally spooky, so be sure to bring 4 or 5x fluorocarbon tippet when targeting them. Prince Nymphs, gnat patterns, and smaller Woolly Buggers will always help land these fish.
Fly anglers in Canada need to try their hand at catching bass. The large and smallmouth bass populations are massive, and these are some of the best fighting fish in the world.
You can find bass in the majority of lakes in Canada, but Ontario is the best known for these fish. I’ve found them in the Seine River, the Kawartha Lakes, and Lake Nipissing.
Bring your 7 weight fly rod or 8-weight fly rod when fishing for bass. They’re strong fighters and respond well to deep diving streamers. Woolly Buggers, Deceivers, and a variety of topwater poppers will always work.
No Canadian fishing trip is complete without an attempt to catch a muskie. You’ll find them in Lac Seul, Kaby Lake and Rowan Lake. They’re amazing fighters and will take all of the energy you have.
Muskie need to be targeted on a 10-weight rod. These fish are easily strong enough to snap a 7 or 8-weight. Use sinking tip line with 0 or 1x leader. Their sharp teeth are known to slice into anything that comes their way.
Pike Slayers, Reelflies Minnows, and Yellow Perch Flies work well when you’re fishing for muskie. Give these flies as much action as you possibly can. You never know when a muskie will strike, so be ready.
Best Fly Fishing Spots in Canada
Canada has thousands of rivers and lakes that are wonderful places for fly anglers to wet a line. Depending on your target species or desired scenery, you can easily narrow down your choices.
The beauty of fly fishing in Canada is you can’t go wrong. I never have on my many fly fishing trips there. The waters are full of fish waiting to be caught.
Fly Fishing Rivers in Canada
Canada has some of the best fly fishing rivers in the entire world. When I’ve fished these beautiful blue bodies of water, I’ve hooked into trophy fish that aren’t found anywhere else. Plus, the countless mountain streams hold beautiful wild rainbow trout that rarely see flies.
Directions: Skeena River, British Columbia
The Skeena River is just one of many world-class rivers in northern British Columbia. This river receives both salmon and steelhead runs every single year. The steelhead run from March until May and the salmon are found from July to October.
Upper British Columbia receives quite a bit of precipitation, so be prepared for fluctuating water levels. The Skeena is best fished with a guide for the first time. They have a strong knowledge of the river and can give you enough tips to make it on your own during future trips.
Bring your 8-10 weight rods when fishing the Skeena. It’s best if you have switch or spey rods because you’ll need to cover a large amount of water. Focus on the seams and pools up along the banks.
Dead drift Egg Sucking Leeches, King’s Candy, Snow Runners, and large Woolly Buggers through the slower moving water. Be sure to have 0 or 1x tippet and be prepared for a wet and rainy day.
Directions: Bow River, Alberta
The Bow River is some of the best rainbow and brown trout water in all of Canada. The Bow flows out of Banff National Park and right through Calgary. It’s best fished from May to October when the flies are hatching and water levels are manageable.
You’ll want your 5 or 6-weight when targeting the trout in the Bow River. Be equipped with sinking, floating, and weight forward line. Depending on the time of day, the fish may want to see flies in different places in the water column.
March Browns, Leeches, Gnats, and BWOs are all great options on the Bow. You can wade or drift fish in this river depending on your preferences. If it’s trout you’re after, the Bow River is the place for you.
Sault Ste. Marie (St. Marys River)
Directions: St. Marys River, Ontario
St. Marys River is a beautiful place to catch salmon, steelhead and trout. It’s been voted one of the 10 best trout fisheries in Ontario and in my experience always lives up to its accolades.
You can both drift and wade this river, but it’s best fished via a drift boat. You’re able to target more species as a result. The “Rapids” is a 3/4 mile long portion that holds all of the fish you could ever want. Located right on the border of Michigan and Canada, it’s a must-visit for anyone close.
Bring your 7 or 8-weight if you’re targeting the steelhead or salmon. If it’s trout you’re after, a 5 or 6-weight will do just fine.
These fish love to see streamers. Woolly Buggers, Egg Sucking Leeches, Deceiver patterns and crayfish flies will all do the trick. Dead drift or swing these flies through the pools and you’ll be pleased with the results.
The Morell River is located on Prince Edward Island and holds a nice population or speckled and brook trout. It also receives a run of Atlantic salmon on a yearly basis.
This is a beautiful river with deep cut banks and amazing pools. Bring your 5 or 6-weight and see if you can entice some of these fish to strike from the depths of the crystal clear water. You’ll want to be equipped with 4 or 5x fluorocarbon tippet to keep yourself as hidden as possible.
I’ve had success using the Red Butt Butterfly, Black Leeches, Green Machines, and mosquito patterns on the Morell. This is a fantastic river to wade and bring the family. It’s tough to beat a day on the Morell River.
Directions: Margaree River, Nova Scotia
The Margaree River is a beautiful river in Nova Scotia that holds a great population of Atlantic salmon. It’s also home to brown and brook trout. This river is public and offers plenty of access. You’ll want your spey or switch handed rod when fishing the Margaree.
These fish are used to seeing flies, so a natural presentation is extremely important. You’ll need your Egg Sucking Leeches, Deceivers, Woolly Buggers, and Hex Nymphs. All of these must be fished with barbless hooks.
The Margaree is a legendary river for Canadian fly anglers. There are plenty of fly shops and information available for those interested in landing some of these fish.
Fly Fishing Lakes in Canada
The lakes in Canada hold monster fish. Whether I’ve been after trout, bass or muskie, I’ve always been able to find a giant in these Canadian lakes. It’s a good idea to bring your heavy equipment because as soon as one of these fish is hooked, it’s go time.
Directions: Hatheume Lake, British Columbia
Hatheume Lake is located a few hours north of Vancouver and is a fly fishing-only lake. I’ve caught rainbow trout in this lake around three pounds on average. I’ve done well fishing this lake from a kayak, canoe, and even from the shore.
There are amazing chironomid and caddisfly hatches on Hatheume Lake throughout the summer. Be sure to take advantage of these with your 6 or 7-weight rod. You’ll also need floating and sinking tip line to find these fish.
British Columbia is much better known for its rivers, so any stillwater fishing you do on the fly will be successful. Don’t hesitate to try leech pattern streamers in Hatheume Lake as well. They’ll find just as many fish as the dry flies.
Directions: Lake Minnewanka, Alberta
Lake Minnewanka is located within Banff National Park. Banff is a must-visit on any Canadian tour, and it just so happens that the fishing in Lake Minnewanka is top-notch.
You’ll find lake trout and Rocky Mountain whitefish in these waters. Targeting these fish requires heavy equipment. You’ll want your 8 or 9-weight with sinking tip line. These fish feed at all levels of the water column, but it takes some experimenting to find them.
You’ll want large baitfish streamers when fishing Lake Minnewanka. Plus, 0 or 1x leader is a necessity. Enjoy the beautiful views of the Canadian Rockies while targeting some monstrous fish.
Hatchet Lake in Saskatchewan is a massive lake with lake trout, walleye, pike, and grayling. It covers nearly 5,000 square miles and is best fished from a boat. There are countless places that hold large fish in this lake.
When fishing this lake, be sure your fly box is equipped with a variety of flies. These fish can be picky and you may have to try quite a few different patterns before you find one that sticks.
There are several guides that work on Hatchet Lake. They will give you a great idea of what it takes to be successful on these waters. Bring your 7 or 8-weight with both sinking and floating line.
Lac Seul is a premier muskie fishing lake in Ontario. These fish are known for being tricky to land, but also massive. Lac Seul muskie will strike at any time and it’s important to always be ready.
Lac Seul has several fishing lodges located near it. It’s not a bad idea to book a guided trip with one of these lodges during your first visit to the lake. They’ll give you information on how to best land these fish on the fly.
If you’re fishing it on your own, work to find drop-offs and locations with a variety of baitfish. Also, bring your 10-weight rod with sinking tip line and extra strong leader. You can fish for muskie on the fly in a similar way that you would on a traditional spin rod.
Strong strips, figure eights, and aggressiveness are the name of the game when you’re fishing for muskie on the fly. Don’t get discouraged if they aren’t biting. These fish are smart and not always willing to eat your flies. Patience is key.
Bras d’Or Lake
Directions: Bras D’Or Lake, Nova Scotia
Bras d’Or Lake is found in Nova Scotia and is home to some wonderfully sized rainbow trout. The lake covers 424 square miles and can be fished both from a boat and from shore.
If you’re wade fishing, you’ll want to give yourself as much room to cast as you possibly can. The heavy vegetation on shore makes it difficult to find the proper casting lanes.
Bring your 8-weight with both floating and weight-forward sinking tip lines. These will help you cover all of the necessary portions of the water column. Use 3 or 4x leader with light fluorocarbon tippet if at all possible.
Leech, crayfish, shrimp and baitfish patterns are the way to go on the Bras d’Or. Gordie’s Shrimp and the Bras d’Or Creeper are two successful flies that are sold in bait shops near the lake.
Canada Fishing Season
Fly fishing is possible all year round, but the official fishing season in Canada depends on the region you’re in. The rivers mentioned above never freeze, but almost all of the lakes do. As a result, you should stay on the rivers all year round until the runoff season (May and June) and then hit the lakes.
Canada weather can be brutal so always be prepared with more than enough gear.
Canada Fly Fishing in April
Steelhead can be found throughout Canada in April. They’re on their spring runs and ready to be caught. Remember, these fish are caught on reaction flies. Dead drift and swing these streamers if at all possible.
April in Canada can be rainy. Be sure you have your waders along with a waterproof jacket and warm gloves. You never know what type of weather will hit, so it’s best to be prepared.
Canada Fly Fishing in May
The ice is just starting to go out on many of the above-mentioned lakes and the rivers are starting to fill with runoff. The steelhead are finishing up their runs, so it’s best to start targeting the trout.
Use midge, leech, and baitfish patterns in May. Fish these close to the banks where the fish are likely holding. It takes patience, but May fly fishing in Canada can be great.
Canada Fly Fishing in June
June is prime runoff time and one of my favorite times of year for fly fishing in Canada. Fly fish the lakes during this month and give the rivers a chance to recover. The fish will be extremely hungry on the lakes. You can land these fish by throwing large streamers.
Canada Fly Fishing in July
By July, the temperatures begin to warm and the fish are starting to feast. You can find early runs of salmon, but the trout and muskie are most active.
Take advantage of these nice weather days in Canada. You won’t find yourself getting too wet and have a chance to land impressive fish.
Canada Fly Fishing in August
In August, the salmon start running even more, but the trout and muskie fishing is still wonderful. You can stay warm and mostly dry during August.
The rivers begin filling up with tourists during August, so get to your spots early in the day. The first person in the honey hole usually catches the fish.
Canada Fly Fishing in September
By September, the salmon are fully running and fish are being caught in large numbers. Your Egg Sucking Leeches, Woolly Buggers, and Deceiver patterns will be your best friends in September.
It’s starting to get rainy again, so be prepared!
Canada Fly Fishing in October
The salmon run is nearing its end in October, but salmon are still able to be caught in many of the above-mentioned rivers. Continue to take advantage of the open water on the lakes because it won’t be long until they freeze.
Fly Fishing Lodges & Outfitters in Canada
Canada is filled with fishing lodges. Many people across the country make their living off of anglers visiting the country throughout the year. Here’s a list of a few of the best fly fishing lodges in Canada.
Alpine Meadows Resort, BC
Set along Hallamore Lake, the Alpine Meadows Resort is about a 35-minute drive outside of the town of Clearwater in BC, right at the entrance to the famous Wells Gray Provincial Park.
There are plenty of accommodations here including log suites and log homes. Or you can pitch a tent, park your RV or stay in one of their glamping tents. The best part is that they can help arrange fishing trips and the resort is very close to many great spots.
Kalum River Lodge, BC
Located in northern British Columbia, the Kalum River Lodge is a well-known fly fishing lodge that provides anglers with amazing opportunities to land salmon and steelhead. A three-day, three-night all-inclusive package will cost around $2,300 per person.
Moutcha Bay Resort, BC
Set out in the middle of nowhere, this is one of Canada’s premier fly fishing lodges. The accommodation here ranges from luxury suites to funky yurts.
You can also park your camper van or RV out front or pitch a tent (for a fee).
The fly fishing from Nootka Sound is phenomenal, and you can either organize a trip through the resort or come with your own boat and kit and head out on your own.
Banff Fishing Unlimited, AB
Banff Fishing Unlimited is one of the highest-rated fishing tour outfitters in Canada. They have experienced and patient guides that can take you out to the breathtaking rivers and lakes in the Rocky Mountains of Canada.
The Fly Shop Eastslope Adventures
Located on the Waterton River a few hours south of Calgary, The Fly Shop offers all-inclusive fly fishing packages that are great for anglers of all abilities. A four-day, three-night all-inclusive fishing package will cost you around $2,300 per person.
The Caverhill Lodge gives you access to 15 lakes filled with wild rainbow trout. Boats are provided and you can access all of the lakes via hiking trails. An all-inclusive three-night stay is around $900 per person.
Fly fishing in Canada is best experienced through a lifetime of visits to the thousands of fishable rivers and lakes. The vast beauty is found in few other places throughout the world. The country is teeming with wildlife and areas for you to explore.
I realize now that my many trips for fly fishing in Canada have barely scratched the surface of what this enormous country offers. A wide variety of fish, plentiful water, and stunning scenery puts Canada near the top of any list of world-class fly fishing destinations.
Do yourself a favor and schedule a vacation to fly fish in Canada. These waters will engrain themselves within you and give you the opportunity to land a fish of a lifetime.
Some images in this post are courtesy of Shutterstock.com.
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