Fly fishing has yet to gain traction in the wide world of Olympic-caliber “sports”—trampoline, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming, curling, ping pong, to name a few of our favorites—but that has not deterred Whistler Flyfishing owner Brian Niska from reaping rewards with the 2010 Games touching down on his home turf this week.
“The Olympic Medals Plaza is located about 100 meters from the shop,” Niska says. “They’ll be handing out gold medals and showing nightly concerts right here. After the games, this massive outdoors facility will become a park, which we’ll incorporate into our beginner fly-casting classes this summer.”
Niska first came to Whistler to teach skiing, but quickly discovered there was more to the area than powder days and an epic bar scene; namely, untapped steelheading potential. Soon after, Whistler Flyfishing was born as a seasonal outfit holed away in a small ski-tuning workshop. It moved to its current, year-round location at the north end of Whistler Village seven years ago.
“What most people don’t realize is that we have year-round fishing opportunities in Whistler,” Niska says. “Even though we’re in a ‘ski town’, Whistler Village sits at about 2,000 feet, and many of our winter steelhead fisheries around Squamish remain temperate enough for comfortable fishing throughout the year.”
In addition to good lake fishing right in town, including catch-and-release lakes Green and Alta, located five minutes from the shop, the Whistler and Squamish area holds wild steelhead, trout, char, and salmon on a variety of standout rivers such as the Squamish, Cheakamus, Lillooet, and Birkenhead, as well as Ashlu Creek.
Rivers like the Squamish and Cheakamus provide a perfect, big-water playground for traditional Spey techniques, which the shop’s guides and instructors specialize in. Niska is a certified FFF casting instructor and, together with his seasoned shop staff, also operates the Whistler Flyfishing School. Destination schools are based on some of B.C.’s best rivers, such as the Dean, Skeena, Bulkley and Kalum, as well as exotic locales like the Bahamas. Locally, the shop runs grassroots school programs, hourly casting lessons, a “Learn To Flyfish in a Day” class, and steelhead/Spey-fishing schools.
Stepping inside this Spey specialty shop you’ll find “a great place to relax and swap stories with the local guides,” Niska says, as it’s become a regular hangout for both. The shop carries a variety of brands, including Spey sticks from Loop and Echo, reels from Waterworks/Lamson and Islander, and waders from Patagonia and Simms. Custom flies by Mike Orlowski, tying materials, and travel and casting schools make up the remainder of the Whistler Flyfishing’s top services.
With Whistler’s Medals Plaza destined to become a podium for teaching the basics of fly-fishing, the shop is also gearing up for the Games with logo wear—including hats, t-shirts, and custom pins—big sellers during any Olympic event. But Niska doesn’t expect to see a huge increase in flyfishing traffic until after the Games depart, when the business of good fishing returns to the center stage.
“Whistler is an exciting town to live in,” Niska says. “We’ve got lots going on including Canada’s best nightlife and a great arts community. It’s also the perfect place to connect with clients who enjoy outdoor recreation and appreciate wild fish in wild rivers.”
See whistlerflyfishing.com for more details.
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Geoff Mueller is senior editor at The Drake. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado. Follow him: @thedrakemagazine, @geoffmonline.