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Stamp River, Port Alberni

The Stamp River is a very large island river that drains from Great Central Lake and runs through the town of Port Alberni. This is probably one of the most recognized rivers on Vancouver Island, renowned for its large returns of both winter and summer steelhead, along with most species of pacific salmon (excluding pinks). Being so well advertised, it does get quite busy with guide boats and bank fisherman alike during peak seasons, but with that being said it is still nothing compared to many lower mainland flows. Along with the multiple salmon and steelhead opportunities are fairly good numbers of rainbows that grow to a fairly large size, along with some monster cutthroat trout that are caught every year as by-catch. Adding to the wonderful return of fish is some beautiful scenery in the upper river, and sight fishing is a common practice in the aquarium like runs.

The Stamp River, being on the West Coast, has not experienced large declines in any of its runs besides the Chinook salmon. Some years a large number of fish will return, but during those times overharvesting and poor forecasts generally mean an early closure. Many people will even say that these fish should be left alone entirely, and released even if there is an opening due to poor numbers. The river does have a hatchery in the upper, just below Great Central Lake, and puts out a number of summer and winter steelhead, coho, and Chinook.

The fishable section of the Stamp is very large, and spans the entire river up until the end of December when the upper river above the confluence with the Ash closes to protect staging and spawning summer run steelhead. Above the Ash is very hard to access on foot and a severe amount of bush-whacking is needed; fishing this section is best done with a sort of boat. Much of the river besides above the Ash is lined with trails, especially on the Beaver Creek Road side of the river (East side).

How to Get There?

Most of the access points for the Stamp are located along Beaver Creek Road off of Hwy 4. The first main access point to the lower river is located at the gun club. To get here take the signs off beaver creek road to the Port Alberni fish and game club (Left hand turn onto McKenzie Road). At the end of McKenzie road turn right and park at the fish and game club, remember to sign to book (mandatory) and leave a donation if you're so inclined. From here there are multiple trails leading both up and down river. The next main place to fish is the Stamp River falls. There is a pullout before the actual Stamp River Falls day use area, but it is easily passable. From the Stamp Falls day use area you can walk downriver below the falls or walk up above the falls and fish the lower section of the upper. The other main fishing area is known as Money's pool which is just below the Ash confluence. To get here you must go down Beaver Creek road until the road has a major fork. Take the left fork and drive down the gravel road. Watch carefully on the left side of the road for signs saying "Angler's trail." You will take two left turns before reaching the parking lot at the end. From the parking lot you can walk upriver to fish Money's or downriver to fish some really nice boulder runs. A word of caution is needed here as the road to the anglers trail is rough, and a vehicle with clearance will be needed, and possibly 4X4 if there has been recent rain or snow.

For guided fishing trips from a jet boat on the Stamp River, please contact Murphy Sportfishing. Day trip starts at $210/person!

Fishing Season

The fishing season on the Stamp River practically runs all year long. Winter steelhead move into the river starting in January, and will be in the river with decent numbers right up until the end of April. At the beginning of May the summer run steelhead will start showing up in small numbers. A sockeye run is also present in the river in July and August, and sometimes there are recreational openings in the Somass River much like the ones in the Fraser. Once August hits the summer steelhead will be in full swing and Chinook will be entering the system. September up until November is prime time, with good amounts of coho, Chinook, chum and summer run steelhead around for the fishing enthusiast.

Fishing is best done in this river after the first rains in fall like most rivers. Generally however, the river is large enough to allow movement of fish even during low water periods, and knowing run timing is the biggest key to catching fish. If the river is low, it is best to time your fishing (in the lower river especially) with the tides. Once in the mid and upper river, fish will tend to stack up in some of the well known deep holes waiting for some rain to continue moving. It should be mentioned also, that during low water periods the fish will stack up below the falls, but during the fall this section is closed, and during winter steelhead fishing this section is generally very busy.

Fishing Techniques

The Stamp River is one of the only Island Rivers that allows the use of bait, but this is restricted to a small area (below Girl Guide Falls near the Gun Club) and only to a certain time of year. The time of year can change based on returns, so one should consult the regulations before heading out. If bait is allowed, it is obviously a good idea to use roe or prawns for those picky steelhead, coho and Chinook. In the upper parts of the river where bait is not allowed, most of the normal terminal tackle is used. This would consist of a float, some split shot or sliding weight and your choice of an attractor. These attractors can include pink worms for steelhead, right down to small pieces of peach, pink, or orange wool for salmon. Roe imitations are always a good bet for any fish that are running in the river as well.

Being such a large river, a very effective way to cover it is using spoons. The Stamp is one of those rivers (especially in the upper portion above the falls) with the classic walking speed, 4+ foot deep runs that are perfect for chucking hardware. Most of the runs have the same structure throughout, so the fish may be right within the first 10 feet of shore or out in the middle of the river. Swinging spoons through these areas can be super effective, especially for Chinook, coho and both summer and winter run steelhead. Take one cast and then move 5 steps down and repeat, and you can cover a lot of kilometers of water in a day. Make sure you swing your spoons right to the side and let them hang for a second, as the fish will follow the spoon right in close many times and hit it as soon as it stops moving away from them. Some effective spoons on the stamp are a variety of colors of little cleo spoons in 2/5 size, koho spoons in size 35-45, and crocs in the 3/16 to 3/4 size. Similar spoons such as rvrfshr spoons and kwobblers will work as well. A few favourite colours include orange, blue and green.

With the nice classic runs, the stamp is also a very appealing river to fly fish. The summer runs in this river are known to be well responsive to dry flies, and any large intruder pattern or typical stonefly nymph will get the job done if they aren't looking up. The river is much easier to fly fish in the summer and fall when the water is low, as during the winter it is quite wide with little or no back cast room.

The other fish worth targeting on the fly would be the coho, Chinook and chum. Any of the typical flies will work, with big intruders working for the Chinook, and sparse mickey finns, flash flies, muddler minnows and wolly bugger patterns working for the coho. The chum are much like they are anywhere else, get something big and green or pink in front of them and you'll be sure to get into a few.

Important Notes

Before your first fishing trip to Stamp River, please make sure you know the following information:

  • You must have a valid British Columbia freshwater fishing license for the upper river and aBritish Columbia tidal fishing licence for the lower river.
  • Stamp River is located in Region 1 in the British Columbia freshwater fishing regulations, and the regulations on bait, closures and the like are constantly changing. It is a good idea to check up on regulations and retention limits before you head out each time.
  • Please refrain from flossing or snagging fish on this river. The fish are more than willing to bite given the chance.
  • Much of the river is lined with private property, especially on the Airport side (West Side). You may be asked to leave if you walk through someone's land, even if you are down on the water.