Jon Macarthur

Guide Profile: Jon Macarthur

The Vancouver fly fishing scene is pretty tight knit and Chromer Sport Fishing has always prided itself on having the most knowledgeable fly fishing guides in the area. I sat down with Jon MacArthur, the newest addition to the Chromer Vancouver fly fishing guide team, to chat fishing, find out if he likes guiding and learn a little bit more about what drives him.

Our latest guide profile starts now…

Vancouver Fly Fishing Guide


I grew up spending my summers at my grandmother’s log cabin, away from any luxuries, tucked away in some smaller mountains a couple hours or so outside of Montreal. We’d catch frogs, build forts in the woods, and of course fish – obsessively. My uncle would fly fish for Atlantic salmon, but I was never exposed to fly fishing until I saw him casting for rising bass one evening off the dock. It blew me away. He taught me how to cast and gifted me a cheap rod. Soon I was stealing cheesy Christmas ornaments off the tree and cutting them apart to tie onto hooks I had in the bottom of my Old Pal tackle box.

The teenage years came and went, and skateboarding and girls were more important than fishing. Then college. Then working in advertising. Before long I was pushing 30, highly stressed out living downtown Toronto, and hadn’t fished in a decade. I picked up a rod again in my late 20’s and it reignited the magic I felt as a kid. When the opportunity came up to relocate to the coast for work, I had to jump on it. Before long I was checking sunset times and cutting out early just to get a few casts in.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jon MacArthur (@jonmacarthur) on


When I first started fly fishing as an adult, I had no idea what I was doing. A friend from high school had moved to Squamish with his family. He told me I had to meet up with his dad, Ol’ Allan Chamberlain. Al was a retired professor, having taught Fish and Wildlife for over 35 years. 

We met in a parking lot and he asked me to follow him. When we parked he said “if you tell anyone about this spot, I won’t fish with you again.” That’s the closest thing to a death threat you’d get from Al. He helped tune up my cast, taught me the importance of presentation, how the fish behave, where they sit, and what they eat. It was like having a private tutor. I’d been to the river 8 times and hadn’t got a sniff. After an hour fishing with Al, I landed my first wild rainbow trout.


I started out with single-hander rods but when I picked up my first two-hander, I couldn’t turn back. I am a big fan of using the right tools for the job, and since we spend a lot of time chasing chrome-fresh fish close to the ocean, I like the longer rods that have enough power to feel the fish but land them quickly so we can release them quickly. For my personal fishing, I tend to like a more medium rod that matches better with my slow casting style so I can really feel the rod load. For steelhead I typically use a Temple Fork Outfitters Deer Creek 7/8 weight with a 510 grain skagit head or one of the new Bridge Wintertide spey lines if I need to make longer casts and cover more water. For me, steelhead are always better on a clicker, so I use a Hardy Classic. 

For salmon, I like a slightly stiffer rod like the Redington Chromer or Sage Pulse in 13’ or 13’6” 8wt with appropriate skagit heads. In case the fishing is really good, you’ll want to leave the clicker reels at home and let a good drag reel do the work for you. The Sage Classic Spey is a personal favourite.


I love the Skeena region in northern BC. Like our local flows, at certain times of the year you have no idea what type of fish is going to bite your line. But unlike our local flows, that fish could be a record-breaking monster – you just don’t know. 

I think the other part of it that speaks to me is the scale. When the water is high the mainstem Skeena can be a football field across to the other side. It’s huge and intimidating. You could catch a fish at your feet, or at the end of a hero cast with the wind at your back. It’s also a good teacher of how to read water, because learning where fish sit in a river that big makes coming back to a smaller river seem more obvious.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jon MacArthur (@jonmacarthur) on


Lately I’ve been into flies that are minimal, trying to tie patterns quickly with fewer materials that still fish great. If I had to choose one, I’d say that all fish hate sculpins. I have my own recipe, but I think I’ll leave it at that.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jon MacArthur (@jonmacarthur) on


I hope you don’t like sleeping. No, but seriously. Realize that the fishing portion is only 50% of your job as a guide. The other 50% is is everything else: driver, tour guide, casting instructor, conservationist, fly tyer, pack mule, storyteller, and most importantly – good with people. Being able to connect with and read how people are feeling plays a big role in this job. Your guests could be care-free on vacation or stressed out from a high-pressure business trip, and you have to figure out  how to connect with them. After all, when someone’s casting falls apart, they might not need more instruction, they might just need lunch and a laugh.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jon MacArthur (@jonmacarthur) on


We can get used to how beautiful our office is, but some of my favourite moments are being able to see how people react to experiencing it for the first time. It’s always a good reminder of how fortunate we are work and play here. Recently, I had a young guy who had never been fishing in his life. Seeing his reaction catching the first fish ever was really cool. A couple days later, his dad emailed us to say he got the bug and they were buying gear to get out again. It’s a good feeling to play a small part in that.

On the other hand, a memorable one that sticks out for me was a client who just couldn’t reel forward. He’d just keep reeling backward letting line out. He lost a lot of fish that day. We prioritize safety above everything else, so fortunately there’s hasn’t been anything we weren’t prepared for, or able to walk away from after a good laugh.


The rivers are getting busier. That’s a good thing because fish need friends, but I’ve also seen the fish numbers slowly decline over the years, and it’s worrying. I think more than ever it’s important to do the little things like picking up trash others have left behind on the banks. But it’s also important to try to speak up and stay connected with the organizations that are looking out for the well-being of the fish in your area. As anglers, we are the ones who see the changes directly, and it’s on all of us to speak up for people and wildlife that don’t have a voice.


Life moves quickly. Remember to slow down, set your anchor, and protect the resources you love.

Vancouver fly fishing guide


Vancouver fly fishing guide

About the Author

Austin Heffelfinger is a full time fly fishing guide with Chromer Sport Fishing, a guiding company and booking agency based in British Columbia. He is also an accomplished photographer with works published in many notable fly fishing publications. You can follow him at the links below.

Instagram | Facebook | Email