Spring Cutthroat Fly Fishing 101 - The Salmon Fry Hatch

Spring Cutthroat Fly Fishing 101 - The Salmon Fry Hatch

One of the more underrated fisheries in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, the Spring Salmon Fry Hatch fishery for Coastal Cutthroat can be absolutely spectacular.

This fishery starts in March but is best throughout the month of April as more consistent warm weather is generally in the forecast and this is when most fry have hatched.

Two methods work successfully for this fishery; fly fishing and casting lures. This is a great transitional angling opportunity if you want a break during the tail-end of the Winter Steelhead Season and want some practice for the upcoming interior lake fisheries.

These are gorgeous fish and some can reach large proportions. The average fish is about 12-14 inches, but it is not impossible to get fish over 24”. If you are looking for a good number of fish, and big ones at that, this is the time of year to catch them.

Where to Fish

Areas to target these fish will depend on the type of Salmon run that is in the river you are fishing. River systems with Fall run returning salmon will fish the best in the Spring due to the correlating Spring salmon fry hatch.

Major areas to fish include the Harrison River system (tributaries included), the Stave River and Pitt River. Many other rivers and streams will host good Cutthroat fishing, even in sections of saltwater such as creek mouths and suitable beaches.

The main thing to remember about this fishery is that the fish will generally not come to you. They will have to be hunted down which is always exciting. You get to see different scenery and water types during a day on the water.

These fish are very transient and are usually constantly on the move finding their next meal. The only real way to locate these fish is to consistently cast and look for rising fish.

Fly Lines

For Cutthroat fishing we only need two types of fly lines, either a floating line or a clear intermediate (slow sink) line. Cutthroat are surface-oriented feeders. In fact, it’s quite common to locate them visually so keep your eyes peeled.

Fly Lines

Some of our favourite floating fly lines for cutthroat trout are: 

Fly line

For the intermediate or slow sinking lines, the RIO Aqualux II Sinking Line or the Scientific Angler Sonar Stillwater Camo Clear Fly Line are recommended.  A very useful accessory to consider, especially with the full slow sinking lines, is a stripping basket. This serves as a place to collect your fly line when stripping in. 

Fly Fishing Lines

This is helpful when making the next cast, especially with a sinking line, as the line will not be underwater making shooting any line impossible.  We offer a custom locally made Sea-Run Stripping Basket that is perfect for minimizing tangles while casting and retrieving.  

    Fly Line Basket


    Unlike other months of the season where a wide variety of flies can be used, this particular time of year calls for particular fly patterns. A good majority of your flies will be specifically imitating hatched salmon fry.

    This is the time of year that Cutthroat will really key in on this food source, and it’s not the easiest to try and persuade them to try other things when there are balls of salmon fry swimming around everywhere.

    There are a variety of fry imitations to use and they will vary in size, colour and style. Matching these attributes will be critical throughout the time of year. Earlier in the season, the fry will be smaller and as the season progresses the fry will get larger.

    Matching the species of fry can be critical as well. For example, Chum Salmon fry will have a spotless shiny side with an olive back, while Coho Salmon fry can develop “parr” marks on their sides as they get larger, and will develop transparent orange fins.

    Cutthroat Flies

    Fly Pattern Choices

    • Ball of Fry
    • Kelly’s Coho Bugger
    • Tied Down Minnow
    • Chum Fry
    • Bead Head Rolled Muddler
    • Joe’s Minnow
    • Gummy Minnow

    Leader Materials

    Keep it simple on the leader front. Standard tapered leaders in the 9-12’ range in a 5-8lb test range are sufficient, with fluorocarbon tippet being the suggested material over monofilament as it provides more invisibility.

    Tapered Leaders for Cutthroat

    RIO Powerflex Trout Tapered Leader or RIO Powerflex Plus Tapered Leader, Scientific Anglers Absolute Trout or Dragonfly leaders are all great options.

    Leader materials

    For a couple of feet of fluorocarbon tippet, Seaguar is our brand of choice with Blue Label being the most popular. That being said, STS, Invisx, Red Label and Basix will not disappoint.

    Fly Rods

    Fly Rods should be quite specific in length and weight class. This can be a finesse fishery at times and giving an accurate and quality cast can be an absolute must. Below we have listed the specifics of the rods you will want to use. We carry a wide range of brands and price ranges. Popular choices are RedingtonFenwickSageEchoGrey’s and Dragonfly.


    • 9’6” Single Hand
    • 10’ Single Hand
    • 10’6-11’6” Switch Rods

      Cutthroat Trout

      The salmon fry hatch fishery for Coastal Cutthroat can be a fun, exciting and rewarding fishery. See our Late Winter and Early Spring Bull Trout Fly Fishing blog post for another good local fly fishing option.

      If you’d like more information about fly fishing for Spring cutthroat trout please feel free to email us at, call us at 604-931-5044 or stop by the shop at #110-1140 Austin Avenue, Coquitlam, BC.

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