Fly fishing for Steelhead on the Quinsam River

The Quinsam River on Vancouver Island

Fabisch Fly Fish Blog

How to get to the Quinsam River


As the Quinsam is a tributary to the Campbell River, the way to get there is the same as the Campbell River. Like the Campbell, the Quinsam is one of the first rivers I have ever fished in Canada.

Until about the year 2000, the Quinsam used to be one of the most productive rivers for Steelhead in British Columbia. Some decisions by the government have led to a rapid decline of the Steelhead population. The modern hatchery on the Quinsam does no longer breed Steelhead. Also, the stocking program for summer run Steelhead has been canceled. Thus the total population of Steelhead in the Quinsam dropped sharply. Whereas you had a hard time a couple of years ago finding an unoccupied pool to flyfish for trout, you can now fish all day long without hardly ever bumping into another angler.

high traffic at the Quinsam river
older salmon

Upper left: Unfortunately these pools are almost inaccessible to flyfishers, as they´re occupied by bait casters. Upper right: Recent research proves how important salmon are for the fertilization of forests


Researchers conclude that the Pacific Rainforest would never have reached its size and density without the fish carcasses dragged into the woods by bears and other predators. If you look at the size of the West Coast, this equals millions of tons of fertilizer.

Unfortunately, the regional logging industry doesn´t let those forests grow sky high any more. In some instances, logging permits have even been issued inside Provincial Parks.

Fly fisher close to the wood at the Quinsam river
blanker frischer Silberlach

In the bush you shouldn´t hike unaccompanied! Anyone who has been walking through the coastal rainforests of North America know the wonderful feeling the forest floor conveys. Giant tree trunks rotting away may turn into a deadly trap when they cave in, and you sink in up to your head.

With some endurance and the right nymph, you might even catch a silvery Coho fresh in from the Sea. The nymph I use for Coho is rather unusual. The color might be considered normal if you compare it to what the locals are fishing. Hooksize #10 however is quite different. Whereas the locals snag over two thirds of their fish, we get almost 100% correct hookups on nymphs.


Anyone wanting to flyfish in the rivers of Vancouver Island should really be a seasoned fly fisherman. Except in the few fly-only areas, you will find yourself surrounded by anglers who are avid for a hookup, no matter how. Casting across your neighbor´s flyline will be commented by a grin at the most. Don´t be surprised if your fly line sinks very quickly; this may be due to the old sparkplug your neighbor uses for weight. The situation gets really bad after the beginning of October, because Cohos without adipose fin may be killed then.


The Quinsam used to be a great river for winter run Steelhead. Recently there have been some activities aiming at bringing the Steelhead population back up. Let´s wait and see if they will be fruitful!


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  • Wolfgang Fabisch
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  • Phone 011 49 9126 288640
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