Central BC Fly-Fishing: Prince George and Area

Central BC Fly-Fishing: Prince George and Area

Central BC’s interior is host to some world class fly-fishing. This part of the province boasts world-class rainbow trout fisheries, massive bull trout that can be taken on streamers, eager dry-fly smashing arctic grayling, and some stellar stillwater opportunities. Runs of Pacific salmon and steelhead infuse the landscape with nutrients each fall, and provide further angling opportunities for anadromous fish. The terrain is rugged, the rivers diverse, and the water is endless.

Welcome to Central British Columbia.

I moved to Prince George in 2021, to finish up my education in Fisheries Science. Part of the reason I chose Prince George was the promise of plentiful fly-fishing opportunities, and wild, untapped rivers. In the two years that have elapsed, I have taken every opportunity I’ve had to explore the regions trout streams, and what I’ve found has left me very happy with my decision to live here.

This article will focus primarily on stream fishing as opposed to stillwaters, as that is primarily the type of fishing I pursue. I have fished several of the lakes in the area, and I can assure you there is some good fishing to be had. Some options include Shane Lake (in Prince George), Eena Lake (25 mins), Vivian Lake (45 mins), Dragon Lake (1.5 hrs), but there are also larger lakes that hold trout including Quesnel Lake, Bear Lake, and Fraser Lake. The options are literally endless, so do some reseach and you should have good success.

Stream Fishing

The rivers and creeks are always what I enjoy fishing the most, and there are several to choose from. Some of the best places to wet a line include the Crooked River, Bowron River, Nechako River, Goat River, and the Stellako River. To the south, there is the Cottonwood River and the Blackwater River, along with the Horsefly River. Further west and closer to Smithers, there is the famous steelhead and salmon waters of the Skeena river system, with excellent rivers such as the Bulkley and the Babine.

There is great variety in the conditions in these streams. The Fraser River is the primary artery and most of these streams are tributaries of either the Fraser or the Nechako (save for the Crooked River and those in the Skeena system). These tributaries tend to be cold and have relatively low productivity. Rainbow trout are often small, but there are bull trout that grow quite large along with mountain whitefish that can exceed 18 “. The systems that have salmon runs (and their corresponding nutrients) tend to be the rivers with the larger rainbow trout. One thing that is universal is tough access and dense vegetation along the shorelines; expect bushwhacking to be difficult once you leave primary access points.

Keep reading below for stream specific information for many of these streams:

Crooked River

The Crooked River is one of the few streams in the area that isn’t part of the Fraser watershed. No, the Crooked flows north into the Parsnip system, which is part of the arctic watershed. It has different characteristics as well; while most of the Fraser tributaries are cold, mountain fed, freestone rivers, the Crooked River is fed by springs, and is interrupted by a series of lakes and ponds as it slowly bubbles its way north. Thus, the river has higher productivity and hosts an abundance of rainbow trout.

Most of the resident fish in the Crooked system are between 10″-14″, however, larger fish from the surrounding lakes are known to enter the river in the early spring to spawn and many stick around into the summer. Water levels can fluctuate slightly but tend to stay pretty fishable while other streams are in run-off conditions.

Dry fly fishing is usually the ticket here, and standard patterns work well. I would try patterns like a Light Cahill, PMD’s, Parachute Adams, and Elk Hair Caddis. Those are the only flies I have ever needed on the Crooked.

The Crooked flows into the Parsnip System after Bear Lake; the Parsnip system is known for good Bull Trout and Arctic Grayling fishing in it’s upper regions.

A rainbow trout from the Crooked River.

Nechako River

A nice run on the Nechako near Prince George.

The Nechako River goes directly through Prince George where it meets up with the Fraser. Good fishing can be had from the confluence with the Fraser upstream past Vanderhoof, for a great variety of species. There is good access to be found in the city of Prince George and the town of Vanderhoof. It is a large river that can be fished from shore, or using a jet boat. Look for areas with rapids, boulders, and logjams. Deep nymphs, minnows, leeches and small streamers work well but the rainbows can also be quite receptive to dry flies in the right conditions. There are rainbow trout, generally in the 10″-15″ range, along with lots of mountain whitefish, pike minnow, and the odd bull trout. There is also a unique sub-species of white sturgeon that call this watershed home.

There is large run of Sockeye Salmon in the watershed along with a smaller run of Chinook Salmon. There is the opportunity to retain Sockeye Salmon some years, depending on that years return. Please refer to the regulations if you intend to target anadromous fish, or head to our Salmon Page for more resources on Pacific Salmon.

Blackwater River

The Blackwater is one of the areas most notable fly-fishing rivers, and for good reason. There is very high densities of rainbows that love hammering dry flies, and endless fishy water- the majority of which is very difficult to access. The later is a significant problem for anglers, as most of the stream is only accessible by raft or canoe, and the river does have a few challenging rapids. There is good fishing to be had at some of the bridges in the lower river, but your progress will be stymied quickly by the dense bush. I’d recommend hiring a guide to maximize your experience on this river, as the largest fish tend to be in the most remote locations that a guide can help you get to. But if you only have your own two feet and limited time, rest assured you can catch fish anywhere along this river.

Rainbows average 12″-15″, but there is the odd fish over 16″. Expect to catch lots of fish, especially during the summer when the insects are hatching. These fish love to smash dry-flies aggressively and I would recommend an orange stimulator pattern sz 6-12, or else any high floating dry-fly that imitates caddisflies or mayflies. The blackwater is an excellent river that should be on every anglers bucket list.

Stellako River

The Stellako River is steeped in a long history of fly-fishing. Roderick Haig-Brown once listed the Stellako as one of his top 3 dry-fly fishing destinations in the world. Several generations later, not much has changed.

The Stellako is only 11 KM long, flowing from Francois Lake into Fraser Lake. It provides world class fly-fishing along it’s length. It is a perfect river to float in a raft or a kayak, pulling in at the best pools, all of which are named. It can also be accessed by foot in several locations.

There is a large run of sockeye salmon that spawn in the stream each fall, usually mid-september to mid-october. During this time, fish feast on salmon eggs, including large fish that migrate into the stream from Fraser and Francois Lakes for the feast. Egg patterns fish well during this time.

Patrons can check out this Patron-only article I wrote on the Stellako, one of my all-time favourite streams.

Spawning Sockeye in the Stellako River.

Other good rivers in the area worth fishing include the Willow River, the Bowron River, the Goat River, and the Cottonwood river and its tributaries.

Further afield, there is the famous 1 KM of stream known as Rainbow Alley, which is roughly 6 hours from Prince George. Paying at least $1 will unlock the patron-only article I wrote about this legendary location… (below)

Check out the Patron-only article I put together about Rainbow Alley, one of the coolest fly-fishing experiences I’ve ever had

Become a Patron to Read Feature Articles on Rainbow Alley and the Stellako River.

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Whatever experience you are looking for, this region has it. Just be prepared to put in the work and drive some hard miles. One of the best features of this region is the lack of people; compared to much of the fishing in the south, there is scarcely any people and very rarely do you encounter other anglers on the water. There is lots of excellent fishing for everyone- so what are you waiting for! Get after it!

Thanks for reading! Please email me if you have any further questions about fly fishing in this region, I’m always happy to talk fishing. Tight lines!

3 thoughts on “Central BC Fly-Fishing: Prince George and Area

  1. Thank you for the article on stream fishing in the Prince George area. We would love to come and fish [guided] some of the rivers you covered and wonder if you might recommend any fly fishing oriented lodges in the area.

    Many thanks

    1. Depends on the river, genenrally late summer (mid July onwards) throughout the fall is the best time. The crooked river is good in the early spring due to being spring fed.

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