The Harrison River attracts avid fly fishing enthusiasts year-round, but the region draws special appeal during two distinct fishing seasons. Anglers can expect tremendous springtime action for cutthroat trout migrating from the Fraser River and Harrison Lake, up the Harrison River for one of their first major feeding periods of the year. As soon as water temperatures begin to warm in the spring, alevin salmon fry emerge from their spawning beds. Trout key in on alevins as they deplete their food sack two to three days after hatching, and emerge as fry from the gravel beds in search of food and protection. Schools of feeding cutthroat trout become their most dangerous predators during this vulnerable stage in their life cycles. Some of the best cutthroat fishing occurs during this springtime fry emergence and migration period. Once hatched, the fry migrate into the Fraser River estuaries, located 60 miles downstream. Eagles and other birds of prey, as well as seals, sea gulls and the otherwise elusive cutthroat trout all key in on the salmon fry during this migration, with some of the best fishing action occurring from late February to late April.
Salmon enter the Harrison as early as June, which is not the best time for fly fishing. The first species to arrive and one of the most challenging to hook on a fly are sockeye salmon, which number in the hundreds of thousands during an eight-week period on the river. Once these fish begin to pair up the males become very aggressive towards predators, such as other fish, spinners, lures and flies. Prime fishing occurs during late August through to late September, and the best fly fishing is usually the last three weeks of September.
The largest of the salmon species enter the Harrison River next - the mighty king or Chinook salmon, which are also difficult to catch on the fly, but well worth the effort. King salmon can weigh as much as 60 pounds, with many fish in the 30- to 50-pound range. All king salmon are native to the river, making them a true prize indeed, for the Harrison River is one of the last remaining rivers in the Fraser Valley that does not enhance its salmon stocks.
During odd-numbered years like 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2003, pink salmon enter the Harrison River in the millions. During an intense six-week period the confluence of the Harrison River is an amazing site to behold, looking ironically like a trout hatchery pond, with fish boiling and finning in every inch of the river. For those fly fishers who dream of hooking a fish a cast all day long, this is the fishery for you. Pink salmon are some of the easiest fish to catch on flies and lures, making them a great catch for both beginner and expert fly fishers. Be sure to plan ahead to experience this great fishery. The best fishing is anticipated between Sept 7 and October 7, 2003.
The last two species and probably the most popular for fly fishers include Coho or silver salmon and chum salmon. Anglers from around the world converge on the Harrison River each year to experience some of the best fly water in British Columbia. Coho are known for spectacular jumps and runs while chum salmon are known for their tackle-breaking hits and bull-dog attitudes. In fact, chum salmon have gained a reputation for being pound for pound the hardest-fighting salmon of all. October 1 to November 21 is prime fishing time, but good fishing lasts well into December.
For most anglers choosing the best time to fish can be a difficult task, especially when having to choose from so many great fisheries. The most consistent fishing takes place between mid-September and late November, so choosing a date within that window is recommended. Although the temperatures drop during late fall, the scenery and wildlife make up for the cold ten-fold. Be sure to read about the bald eagle migration that begins in late October.
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