Your Guide to Fly Fishing in Whistler, Canada
While it may be best known for its boundless ski area, and it’s serious downhill biking credentials, Whistler is fast becoming famous for its fly fishing too. And when you look at the landscapes we’re surrounded by, it’s hardly a surprise. From the saltwater of the Howe Sound in Squamish, where the sea meets the mountains, to the secluded high alpine lakes surrounding Whistler and Pemberton, there’s a huge variety of fishing available here. And, despite what you might think, fishing is a year-round activity in Whistler. With access to so many diverse fishing spots, we don’t let a little thing like winter stop us up here.
If you’re a seasoned fisherman (or fisherwoman, or fisher person), there’s plenty of fly-fishing in Whistler to keep you occupied for a long while. And if you’ve never tried fly-fishing before, well, there’s hardly a better place to start. With loads of experienced guides available to show you the ropes and a great chance you’ll make your first big catch, fishing in Whistler often turns out to be the surprise highlight of a trip. If you’re looking to step it up to the next level, then Whistler also offers some once-in-a-lifetimes fishing trips, like heli-fishing and floatplane-fishing.
Whether you’re looking to use your well-practiced skills in some of the best waters in the world, or fancy trying a new sport, there are plenty of fly-fishing options in Whistler for you. So here’s our guide to the best fishing spots, tours, and seasons in Whistler.
What Makes Whistler a Fly-Fishing Mecca?
There’s a reason the main road to Whistler is called the Sea to Sky Highway. As you drive from Vancouver to Whistler, you’ll notice the dramatic changes in the terrain around you. And this proximity of the coastal rainforest to the secluded high alpine is good news for Whistler’s fishing. It means we get high-quality fish from the ocean, and it means the rivers and lakes are always changing, with glacial streams running into lakes, rivers and the ocean. So while the salmon run in the fall might be the most famous fishing opportunity here, you can guarantee you won’t ever get bored fishing in Whistler. Regardless of the season, an experienced guide will be able to find you a great catch.
This huge diversity in our waters means you can expect to catch all sorts of species in Whistler. Most of the fishing here is for salmon or trout, with plenty of species of both around depending on the time of year. Expect Rainbow trout and Bull Trout in the summer, as well as plenty of salmon and whitefish. In the winter there’s coastal cutthroat, Chinook and Steelhead salmon (if you’re up for a challenge). Every other year, the rivers around nearby Squamish turn bright pink with the Pink Salmon run, a true natural spectacle that even non-fishers have got to see.
Top Whistler Fly-Fishing Rivers and Lakes
Thinking of heading out on a fly-fishing adventure of your own? There are tons of accessible (and not-so-accessible) lakes and rivers in Whistler and the surrounding area. Some of within walking distance of the village, while others will require a 4×4 to reach, but will reward you with true solitude and rewarding fishing. Remember that everybody over 16 requires a licence to fish in BC. You can purchase a fishing licence for just $20 per day for foreign visitors, or $10 for residents. And make sure to read up on the relevant restrictions and rules, so you don’t make enemies of the local fishermen!
Once you’ve got that out of the way, here’s a few of Forged’s favourite local lakes and rivers to fish.
One of the most accessible, and also one of the most beautiful, of Whistler’s fishing lakes is Green Lake. Glacier-fed and always freezing cold, it dominates the Whistler valley with its perfect turquoise colour in the summer months. You can find Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden Char and Kokanee here, and the whole lake is catch and release. We’d recommend taking a boat out into the middle of the lake for the best fish, and the best views. It’s hard to believe you’re just a 10-minute drive from the middle of Whistler village.
If you’re looking for a more intimate and quiet fishing trip, we love Showh Lakes. These little-known alpine lakes seem to escape the biggest of Whistler’s crowds, probably put off by the short but very bumpy road to get you there. We’ve seen it done without a 4×4, but we wouldn’t recommend it! You can fish Showh Lakes from June onwards throughout the summer, and they have a large population of Rainbow Trout. Hidden from the rest of the world on Cougar mountain, you might also get to spot some other local wildlife while fishing here, although hopefully not the eponymous cougars!
Any list of Whistler fishing spots wouldn’t be complete without the Squamish River. For the experts among you, fishing the Steelhead of the Squamish is surely a bucket-list item. But there’s also a grand total of four Pacific salmon species to fish here, as well as several species of trout. And despite its status as one of the best rivers in BC, the Squamish is easily accessible with a 50-minute drive from Whistler. Anyone who plans a full day excursion to the Squamish River is likely to come home feeling very pleased with themselves.
The Best Whistler Fly-Fishing Excursions
If you’d rather take advantage of the extensive knowledge of a local guide (and why wouldn’t you), there’s plenty of options to choose from. These are a few of our favourite local tour guides offering a huge range of fishing experiences, for beginners to life-long fishing fans.
Whistler Fishing Guides
Whether you’re looking for a introduction to fishing in the Whistler valley, or an unforgettable heli-fishing experience, Whistler Fishing Guides can help. They offer full-day (9-hour) or half-day (5-hour) trips, including pick up from your accommodation in Whistler. Their small team of local guides have all dedicated a huge portion of their lives to fishing, and have plenty of expert knowledge to pass on to you. They’ve been running tours here for over 30 years! You’ll benefit from all the instruction you want, as well as their access to a huge range of remote wilderness lakes. Full-day trips cost $295 pp (for two people or more), and $226 for half-day trips.
Whistler Fishing Guides also have access to Spruce Lake, a wild and rarely-fished lake at 5000’ elevation. Book their floatplane tour to experience some of the best lake fishing in BC, and breathe in the true mountain wilderness.
Owned by the extremely experienced and highly qualified Clint Goyette, Valley Fishing offer a huge range of remote and memorable fly-fishing experiences. As well as half-day and full-day trips, they also offer more remote excursions via boat, float plane or helicopter. And if you want to fish in style, their multi-day trips include accommodation in a riverside cabin and breakfast at the famous Fergie’s restaurant. Half-day trips start at $495 for 4+ hours fishing, with a certified guide, high-quality gear, transportation and lunch included. Full day trips are $595 for groups of two or more.
For beginners, Valley Fishing offers affordable and accessible casting workshops. For only $65 you can take advantage of the professionally qualified guides to hone your technique before you head out on your own adventure.
Whistler Fly Fishing
Offering a huge range of fishing trips, gear and services, Whistler Fly Fishing really know their stuff. With a shop in downtown Squamish, just a 40-minute drive south of Whistler, they’re a great first stop for anyone interested in fishing the Whistler area. You can pick up any gear you need, pick their brains about the season so far, and even take part in their Fly Fishing School if you want a better chance at a catch. They also offer river fishing in winter when the lakes are frozen, so you can find a trip with Whistler Fly Fishing whenever you’re in town. Whether you want to wade, take a float or even a jet boat up the river, they will have a trip for you. A jet boat fishing tour for two costs $900, or $375 for a full-day walk and wade trip.
Pemberton Fish Finder
If you head north of Whistler, to neighbouring Pemberton, you’ll find the incredibly affordable and varied guided trips offered by Pemberton Fish Finder. They’re proud to operate all year-round and have over 100 years combined experience fishing this area among their guides. They also have a huge range of different trips available. A full-day fishing tour starts at only $239 per person, with a half-day at $179. All their tours are fully private for your group of up to four people (or more, they do plenty of bachelor parties too).
They also have some unique options available, like the super accessible late evening Birkenhead river trip for only $129, perfect for a relaxed evening after a day of adventure. And in winter you can try your hand at the truly Canadian sport of ice fishing, again from only $129 per person.
Where to Get the Gear
If you’re regretting arriving in Whistler without your fishing gear, don’t worry. As well as the guides above, there are a few places to pick up fishing gear in Whistler, or close by. Whistler Hardware Store in the centre of the village may well have what you’re looking for: they stock rods, reels and tackle. If you’re looking for something more specialized, then Spud Valley in Pemberton is a good place to start. Just a 25-minute drive from Whistler, the family who own Spud Valley are true locals, with lifetimes of fishing this area between them. Hit them up for gear, and their insider tips.
Whether you’re a first-time fisherman or a lifelong addict, flyfishing in Whistler is sure to be an unforgettable day. Take a break from the hectic pace of life in the village and up the mountain, and enjoy the peace and solitude of these stunning landscapes and the unparalleled satisfaction of making a great catch.