Fly Fishing the Capilano River for Spring and Summer Coho Salmon
The Capilano River offers a unique fishery in the Spring and Summer for Coho Salmon. Most runs of Coho Salmon enter their natal rivers in the Fall. However, a few rivers throughout the province do see some of these fish return in Spring and Summer. The Capilano happens to be one of these rivers.
Fly fishing for these fish can be quite productive, especially when the river level starts to drop and the deep canyon pools slow. Not only is this fishery unique in the timing, but it's also unique in how we set up our tackle compared to how we normally would for Coho Fly Fishing.
An 8-weight fly rod is the most common size of fly rod for river salmon fishing. This size is perfectly acceptable for Capilano Coho. There are a few reasons for using lighter rods, such as 7 weights or 6 weights, for this fishery. Capilano Coho are generally not large salmon. A 6lb fish in the Spring or Summer is usually about as big as they come, so the backbone of an 8 weight rod is not required.
Another motivation for using an 8 weight rod when fly fishing salmon in the Fall is the presence of Chum Salmon. These large salmon can be commonly encountered even when not specifically targeting them. These encounters can put a lighter-weight rod at risk of breaking. Additionally, a light rod lacks the power to handle a larger fish such as a Chum. The Capilano does not have these fish present in the Spring and Summer.
Another consideration when choosing a rod weight is how often you will face windy angling conditions. Fortunately, the wind typically isn’t an issue when fishing in the Capilano River canyon. This is yet another reason why we can get away with lighter-weight rods.
A rod that is 9' in length is the most recommended but a 10' rod can also be used. A shorter rod is just a little more comfortable to cast in tight situations and more comfortable when casting and retrieving your fly. Some fly rods to consider are the Sage Foundation, Greys GR80 Streamflex (read our review) Redington Vice, Fenwick Aetos and the Echo Lift.
Reels should be sized to match the rod. If your reel is too small you might not have adequate backing. If it’s too large the setup won't be balanced and will feel awkward when casting. As mentioned, these fish are not the largest salmon, so the most expensive high-performance reel is not a necessity.
A fly reel with a disc drag is nice. Even though these may not be monsters, they're incredibly feisty fish. Some reels to consider are the Galvan Rush LT, Lamson Remix, Lamson Liquid (read our review), Redington Behemoth (read our review), Redington iD and Echo Base.
Fly Line Selection
Usually, when we are targeting Coho in rivers, we are looking for slow "lakey" water that's not more than 15' deep. Using clear, slow-sinking lines such as the RIO Aqualux II or the Scientific Anglers Stillwater Clear Camo are the norm. We often cast our flies and retrieve them in slow-moving water. These clear lines are the “go-to” as they don't spook fish in this shallower slow-moving water.
In the Capilano River, we are fishing deep canyon pools. Slow-sinking fly lines don't get down to the fish fast enough. We prefer faster sinking fly lines such as the RIO Premier Fathom (check out our review of this line), RIO Mainstream, Scientific Angler Sonar Stillwater Seamless Density or Scientific Anglers Frequency Full Sink.
All the mentioned fly lines are available in a variety of sink rates. For the Capilano River, we recommend the faster type 5 (5ips), type 6 (6ips) or the type 7 (7ips) sink rates to get your fly down to the fish.
We like to set up our leaders for the Capilano using the RIO Steelhead/Salmon 6' Tapered Leaders in 12lb or 16lb. Adding 3' - 4' of Seaguar Blue Label or STS Fluorocarbon in 10lb or 12lb can give you a stealthier approach because it disappears more in the water than a regular monofilament.
If you do not want to use a fluorocarbon, then Maxima Ultragreen in 8lb or 10lb would be the way to go.
Small, sparse and a little flash is the name of the game for these fish. Capilano Coho like a small presentation and prefer flies that are olive, chartreuse and sometimes blue. Good fly patterns can be rolled muddlers, woolly buggers (Pop's Bugger), California Neil type flies and, believe it or not, damselfly nymphs!
Having an assortment of flies is always a good idea, especially when trying to crack the code of what their preference of the day might be.
A short varied strip is the way to go when retrieving your fly. We recommend starting slow and then increasing your strip as the fly gets closer to you. Don't be afraid to experiment with faster or slower retrieves if your fly is not being eaten.
We hope this write-up helps with your success in fly fishing for Capilano River Coho. If you have any questions, please call us at the shop at 604-931-5044, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by and see us at
Sea-Run Fly & Tackle 110-1140 Austin Ave, Coquitlam BC.