Email Address

The Canadian Sturgeon & Salmon Experience - 25/09/15

One of the items that has always been on my bucket list is fishing for Sturgeon in British Columbia. A friend put me in touch with BC Sportfishing (BCSF) in Harrison on the West Coast of Canada and it was recommended that I chose an odd numbered year so that I could catch pink salmon too, possibly on the fly. I have caught several salmon in the past on baits as diverse as spinners, corn and spam, but had never one on a fly.


The destination was especially good because we were located in a spa hotel which meant Sandy could tag along and enjoy the experience. She booked the flights and discovered that if we flew from Exeter to Edinburgh and then Edinburgh to Heathrow with a connecting flight to Vancouver the saving was huge - £300 per person and we used that saving to spend some time with our son, Lee, who lives in Edinburgh and was travelling with us.


So, Saturday 12th September finally arrived. We checked in, booking our bags all the way through to Vancouver. The flight from Edinburgh was short, just over an hour, but then we began the tedious leg of the journey – London to Vancouver which took approximately 9 hours 20 minutes. Economy class is not great for me as I am just over 6’ 2” and weigh 17 stones. The British Airways steward suggested I book World Traveller Plus next time.


On arriving at YVR (Vancouver Airport) we were met by BCSF’s chauffeur at the airport who drove us for two hours to the hotel. He gave us a running commentary about Vancouver so we were able to relax and enjoy the journey.



The spa hotel was on the shoreline of Lake Harrison, a pristine lake which varies from about 3-4’ at the end by the hotel to over 900 feet at the far end which we couldn’t even see. There are swimming pools heated by natural hot springs, a gym, a bar with outdoor seating, a restaurant overlooking the beautiful lake and mountains in the near distance, and a fine dining restaurant within the hotel. The office of BCSF is located in the hotel so that you can talk with friendly staff about your trip, find out about your guides, pick-up-point, collect your permit and schedule for the week.

We didn’t eat that first evening – there is an 8 hour time difference so we crashed out and were ready for breakfast at 7 am the next morning. This is great – buffet presentation in the restaurant with omelettes freshly cooked by a very chatty and precise chef!


As the stay went on we learned to eat quickly and be on the jetty a little earlier than most so that we could get away to the best fishing spots first.


Our guide on the first morning was Chris who was very welcoming. We headed just a few yards down Harrison Lake and turned into the Harrison River which is clear and blue and flows roughly 11 miles into the Fraser River which was highly coloured. The boat ride didn’t take long as Chris’s boat is capable of 48 mph. However, it was breezy that day and this boat was a little smaller than the others and flat bottomed and the ride was like a speedboat hitting the water hard. It did mean that we reached our fishing spot quickly and we couldn’t wait to start catching.


First stop was at Junction Pool to start fly fishing for pink salmon, but Chris saw few moving so we headed up the Fraser until we saw more fish moving and anchored up.  The cross wind was a little more fierce than we thought which was a problem for my fly casting with the large weighted fly necessary to enable it to sink. I had two salmon and lost the first when it tried to get to the anchor rope and I pulled to hard on the line. The second fish was lost because I was too gentle after losing the first. Lee managed a hen fish which we stripped for the eggs to use as bait for the sturgeon.  I tried jig fishing, caught a cock fish and managed to lose 5 others!!! It was just one of those days.



At just after midday we switched to sturgeon fishing. The eggs were tied in small golf-ball sized packets using tights (panti-hose) to keep them in place. These could be readily hooked.



After the first two stops we hadn’t had any takes as the wind and current were fighting each other so Chris headed to a more sheltered spot where there was a much stronger flow and our luck changed. We quickly had four sturgeon (two each as we took it in turn). We then moved a few yards upstream to another spot and had another four. The best went to Lee at 5’ 2”, my best was 4’ 11”.  Quite an end to the day, and a reward for Chris’s perseverance.


All fish up to 5’ are lifted into a cradle on the boat where they are scanned for micro-chips and the number, length and girth recorded. If there isn’t a chip, the guide gently inserts one and records that number with its vital statistics. All fish over 5’ are taken to the shore where they can have the same data taken without removing them from the water, lessening the risk of distress or damage to these fantastic fish. That’s when you get to take your photographs provided that the fish isn’t lifted too far out of the river. What a great first day.


Tired and happy, we returned to the jetty at about 4pm in time to shower and sample the local retaurants. Dinner that night was at Morgan’s on the Esplanade; looking out from the terrace over the lake, we enjoyed probably the best meal of our stay.


The rest of the four days' fishing was with Jeff Sayewich in his slightly larger boat.




The wind had dropped – all the skippers said that wind (not gas!) was the angler’s biggest enemy on the river. The journey this time was so smooth as we stopped at the confluence and anchored by some weed.  You could see the salmon in the water, and they travelled through in waves. Each time a wave went through and you cast, you quickly got a hit. Thanks to Jeff’s guiding my luck had changed and I had 9 salmon including 5 females to be stripped for bait, the males were returned – Lee had 5 males and lost a few as I had the previous day.