Winter in Squamish means it is time to go fly fishing for Bull Trout which are often referred to as Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma) in these parts. Bulls and Dollies are almost impossible to distinguish visually from one another, however, some would argue that a bull trout has a flattened head compared to a Dolly. Maybe that is the case, but it is also known that fisheries biologists rely on Genetics to distinguish the two populations. Genetic analysis has confirmed that the species of char that lives in the Squamish River watershed is in fact bull trout, Salvelinus confluentus.
Bull trout eat just about anything and they are very aggressive and readily take flies!
Top Food Items for Bull Trout in the Squamish River
- sculpins (Cottids)
- salmon eggs, fry, smolts, and flesh
- small fishes
- insects – mayfly, caddis, stoneflies
Winter is a time between the spawn and fry emergence leaving no eggs and no fry available to bull trout. What remains of big food items are sculpins and the Squamish system is full of them.
Sculpins are a small fish in the family Cottidae often referred to as Cottids. CN spilled 40,000 liters of caustic soda into the Cheakamus River in August of 2005 which wiped out over 90% of the total fish population. More than half of the fish killed were Cottidae! Here is the full report: MoE Impact Assessment Report for 2005 CN Spill.
On average the sculpins killed were 3 inches long (76.9mm)! You may want to think about your fly selection when targeting these brutes!
Bull trout actively feed on sculpin patterns swung in slow to moderate speed water close to the bottom. Tailouts and runs between 1-4 ft in depth seem to be holding more fish. During the winter, water temperatures of the river will hover around 2 to 3 degrees Celcius so midday fly fishing is best. Good luck out there and always remember you can book a fly fishing trip with us here