Location: Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Hottest spot: Bucket Run
Why we chose it:
In 2012, ranked #40 in all-time hot spots
Vancouver Island’s Stamp River doesn’t have the biggest salmon or the most salmon, but starting in mid-September, it may well have the most big ones. And it’s the Stamp’s pools, boiling with 20-pound-class fish, that have made it a regular hot spot since 2005. We’ve also tagged the Stamp-Somass system as a top producer of big runs of steelhead—from November to April, they’ll suicidally attach popsicle-style flies, or even tufts of bright wool, under floats.
In 2011, Best river fishing for chinook salmon
As far as B.C.’s rivers go, the Stamp sets no records for sizes or numbers of fish. Nevertheless, this unimposing Vancouver Island river is host to chinook salmon that tend to be bigger on average than many other coastal rivers, especially those accessible by road.
One look at the cauldron of seething fish in the huge pool below Stamp Falls is evidence enough the river has a high proportion of football springs. The reason? It seems the river’s chinook like to spend a minimum of four winters at sea putting on the pork while many other populations return after three. As a result, the Stamp has more 20-pound-class fish than elsewhere.
This is an intimate river, never so large you can’t easily address the lies. On many runs you can actually sight-fish, though you’ll need to poke along riverside trails to find undisturbed fish. Most anglers root themselves on popular spots such as the Gun Club Run, while smaller, less popular runs require a 15-minute to half-hour hike upstream. Pontoon boats are a good option for exploring the middle river below the falls.
If for some strange reason you don’t get hooked on the Stamp’s chinook, there’s also great fishing for coho, along with steelheading from November to April. Just mind the black bears come fall; you will encounter them, but I’ve yet to have a problem.