Friday, April 17, 2015

Bella Coola River: British Columbia DIY Fly Fishing

The purpose of this post is to share DIY fishing information about the Bella Coola River, located in Bella Coola, British Columbia.

When I think of all the DIY trips I have taken, this was my best.  Why? In the early A.M. I fished for salmon on the Bella Coola River and during the evening, I fished for trout on the Atnarko River. The animal life was amazing; I saw eagles, bears, wolves, and moose. I visited the salmon hatchery and they allowed me to participate in fertilization of salmon eggs. I saw some of the most scenic mountains I have ever seen in my life.  Each night, I slept in my rental van, next to the river, and no one ever bothered me or asked me to move. The town of Bella Coola and Hagensborg are extremely small, and offer enough to live a very simple, yet fulfilling life.  Most importantly, the ability to fish for wild fish, both in the Bella Coola and Atnarko rivers (the other local river), is amazing.

Chum Salmon: When I tell you do not let the fish swim out into the main current it's because these fish are big, strong and the current is moving fast = even in slow water, this is a hell of a fight.

River Facts    

  • Length:   43.5 miles, draining an area of 1,934 square miles.
  • Origin: Atnarko and Telchako Rivers join to form the Bella Coola River.
  • Termination: Pacific Ocean (fjord).
  • Location: Bella Coola, British Columbia.  
  • How to get there: Between 13-20 hours driving time from Seattle, WA., USA.  You can fly from Vancouver (south terminal airport) on  On Vancouver Island, at Port Hardy, you can take a passenger/auto ferry,
  • Fishing Season: Best fished during the spring, summer and fall.  Please review regulations at
  • Licensed Required: Yes. Contact
  • Dangerous Animals:  Be prepared to encounter BEARS!
  • Species: Sean run Cutthroat, Dolly Varden, King Salmon, Pink Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, Chum Salmon, Coho Salmon.  According the BC Parks, Steelhead are in the river.
  • Float: Yes. Local guides drift the river.
  • Walk-Wade Difficulty:  Water is cold.  Fish from shore and wade into water, where conditions are safe!
  • Fly Rods: Depends on target specie, but single hand 8wt - 10wt.  Two handed rods (switch-spey) 7wt - 9wt.
  • Fly Lines: Come prepared with a variety of sinking lines (full and sink tips).  The use of various grain weights depends on the flow and depth of the water. You can expect to use 300 grain up to 600 grain sinking line.  
  • Weights:  If you don't use sinking lines, you could bounce weight off the bottom.  This is only done is fast currents. 
  • Technical Trout Fishing:  Oddly enough, the fish are generally very-very close to shore. Cast across and swing line downstream and hang on (I am dead serious... do not let the salmon run into the main current). 
  • Leaders-Tippets: 2ft - 4ft section of15lbs - 30lbs mono (no leaders). 
  • Flies: Salmon hooks for each specie, and pink yarn.  Snell the yarn to the hook and start fishing.

A great group of locals who have fished this river for +20 years.  They shared helpful tactics and best locations.  It looks crowded, but these were the only anglers I saw in 7 days.  Plus,  angling ethics are the rule, not the exception.  In other words, we fished on a rotation system and everyone caught fish.   

Anadromous Runs

  • April - May: Sean Run Cutthroat
  • May - July: King Salmon
  • July - August: Pink Salmon
  • July - August: Sockeye Salmon
  • August - October: Chum Salmon
  • September - October: Coho Salmon

DIY Global Fishing Trips

At FCFF, I am running a business, but sometimes I love DIY fishing with friends. If you want to fish with me on one of my personal DIY trips, let's talk.

Final Word

I spent seven days in Bella Coola and enjoyed every second. I will return some day and spend more time on the river.  Lodging options vary from DIY camping, paid camp sites, cabins, B&B's, lodges and small family run hotels.  Small grocery stores and a few restaurants will provide plenty of food to keep the DIY angler alive.

If you travel to Bella Coola and would like information on fishing spots, give me a shout or contact Markus Schieck at Tweedsmuir Travel  Markus is an avid fly fisherman and will gladly provided you with local river information.  (also, he's the booking agent for the BC Ferry system and can assist your with local lodging options).  Bella Coola is not what I would call family friendly (i.e. no water-parks, ice cream stands, movie theaters, video arcades, playgrounds, etc).  But, if I had to choose a place to live and DIY fish for salmon and trout, it would be on the top of my list.

Hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for reading.