Imagine navigating through kilometres upon kilometres of a winding, ice-cold, rapid-strewn river system, and doing it all in a souped-up, rip-roaring jet boat. Even better, what if the system runs through a gorgeous, tree-lined valley amid some of the most stunning mountain scenery in all of Canada? Welcome to B.C.’s Pitt River, which is also home to one of the best bull trout fisheries on the planet.
During my trip up the Pitt, I was targeting sea-run trout that spend most of their life cycle in the estuary of the Fraser River. In mid- to late May, they begin their migration up the Fraser and into the Lower Pitt River, then through Pitt Lake (North America’s largest tidal lake) to their natal stream, the Upper Pitt. The larger males enter the system first, then the smaller females.
The best time to fish for sea-run bulls in the Upper Pitt is between June 1 and July 15, when you can also catch rainbow trout and salmon. All fishing is catch and release, making for a quality fishery. Interestingly, bull trout were historically thought to be Dolly Varden trout, but they were reclassified as a separate species in 1980. The confusion existed because of the overlapping ranges and similar appearances of both species.
Joining me on my Pitt River adventure was veteran local guide Vic Carrao, a bull-trout fanatic. I fished Vic’s favourite presentation all day, a 3/8-ounce hammered brass and fire stripe-coloured Gibbs Croc from Delta, B.C.’s Gibbs Delta Tackle. The technique was to cast out the spoon and let it flutter in the riffles and rapids, waiting for a bull to rocket out and smash it. The tactic worked like magic!
If you’re a fly angler, on the other hand, Carrao recommends swinging large streamer patterns. Whatever the case, he advises, just be ready for a tussle worthy of the brawny bull trout’s name.