4 Tips for Euro-Nymphing on the Spokane River
Updated: Jun 4
Euro-nymphing (aka tight line nymphing) is an incredibly effective fly fishing technique to use on the Spokane River. If you have not tried euro-nymphing, or do not know how, you really could be missing out on some exciting fishing, and at times this technique works on the Spokane when other methods fail to produce results. If you know how to euro-nymph then the good news is that the Spokane is a pretty straightforward river to employ this technique, but we will discuss several euro-nymphing tips below that we particularly like to use on the Spokane. If are looking to learn how to euro-nymph, or are wanting to improve your skills, then check out either our guided trips on the Spokane River or our fly fishing instructional classes and contact us to set up a personalized trip.
Tip #1: Tight Line Nymphing Gear for the Spokane River
First and foremost, a longer fly rod is a necessity for euro-nymphing on the Spokane, think 10-11ft rods. These longer rods will help you to reach further out into a prime seam of water in order to properly present your flies. When the Spokane is running high and swift (late spring through mid-summer) we like a longer fly rod that is 10.5ft or even 11ft. As the season progresses and the currents subside a bit, a 10ft rod is a great option. For whichever length of fly rod, we prefer a 3-weight since most nymph patterns we are using are heavy and large and you would be under-gunned with a 2-weight rod.
Two great fly rod options are the Echo Shadow II and the Orvis Clearwater. Both of these rods have a soft action but quick rod tips which accurately load the rod during an oval cast. They are also sensitive enough to feel your flies ticking river bottom or to sense a trout taking the fly.
The other piece of fly fishing gear we prefer to use on the Spokane is a fly line designed specifically for nymph fishing. These fly lines have a thin diameter which helps to prevent it from sagging and thus pulling your flies off of their drift. A lot of anglers new to euro-nymphing thumb their noses to needing a euro-nymphing fly line. But once they are on the river, they quickly realize just how much a regular floating line sags and disrupts any chance of achieving a dead-drift. Orvis makes the Hydros Tactical Nymph line and Cortland also makes a euro nymph fly line which are two good options.
Tip #2: What Flies to Use on the Spokane River
When deciding on which nymph patterns you should bring the Spokane River, never show up without a selection of stoneflies, preferably large and heavy stonefly patterns. When we tight line nymph on the Spokane, we typically like to have these large stoneflies as our point fly with a smaller tag end fly 20-24 inches up from it. Stoneflies have a decent population on certain stretches of the Spokane and the trout can key in on them. We can use this to our advantage by deploying heavy stonefly patterns which will get our rigs down deeper into the water column. A Pat's Rubber Leg Stone and a Kaufmann Rubberleg Stonefly can both be tied with heavy lead-free wire and a hefty bead. The rubber legs on both patterns also provide movement underwater which the trout prefer at times.
When we are trying to get the flies down into the water column quickly, we reach for patterns that lack any rubber legs, excess dubbing, hackle, etc. A large (size 6-12) all black Copper John is ideal for this situation. Also, a jig head modified wooly bugger has the both the weight and a little bit of movement, and this pattern keeps the hook point ridding up so as to help prevent snags.
For the tag end fly, we can use smaller and lighter patterns that either match active aquatic insects or attractor patterns with bright colors. Olive-green patterns or flies that have a purple, red, or orange bead are good places to start. Also, using a pattern that incorporates some soft hackle can be killer on the Spokane especially when you let the fly swing through the current at the end of drift (which we will discuss further down). A Soft Hackle Carrot, but tied in green, is an effective pattern as a tag end fly.
Tip #3: Where to Fly Fish on the Spokane River
When euro-nymphing on the Spokane River, the stretch of river to focus on is below the Spokane Falls all the way to within a mile of Plese Flats. The reason for this is that this stretch of the Spokane has numerous bends, runs, boulders, and riffles that all create characteristic places to tight line nymph. Along this stretch of river, look for where the current is constricted by any islands or groupings of rocks. Multiple seams will form in these areas and where there is more than a foot of water depth to it is where you should be nymphing.
The outside bends are another zone to target. Watch for water that is slowing down to around walking pace, has some depth to it (2-5ft), and maybe some overhead cover. These areas can be tough to wade fish in so you might have to stay on the bank in order to properly fish it.
Lastly, as summer heats up the trout move into faster water which provides better oxygen levels. Numerous anglers will float or wade past these turbulent stretches of water, but the trout will hold in small pockets tight to boulders or logs. This is where having a heavy stonefly pattern can really come into play as it will help you to get the flies to depth and in front of the trout.
Tip #4: Modified Euro-Nymphing on the Spokane River
As stated above, there are times when we like to have a smaller weighted or un-weighted nymph pattern as our tag end fly. The reason for this is that the trout on the Spokane like to take flies that swing up through the water column. After we drift our nymphs through a seam we will simply follow the flies with the rod tip, allow them to continue to drift, and once they are downstream they will begin to rise up towards the surface.
Essentially, this is how many anglers will fish wet flies, but when the technique is combined with euro-nymphing then you are incorporating two effective methods. This can be particularly useful when you are nymphing a seam of water that shallows out downstream or ends at a boulder. Trout may sit in the shallower water or in front of the boulder and when you flies drift up in front of their faces it is hard for them to resist swiping at the flies.
You may also want to look into using drop shot rigs while euro nymphing. The additional weight below the flies is an effective way to get the nymphs close to the bottom without actually scrapping and snagging along the bottom.
Hopefully these tips will convince you to try euro-nymphing on the Spokane or will help to improve your skills if you are already using this technique on the river. Again, if you want to advance your euro-nymphing skills or would like to try this method out with one of our guides then please feel free to contact us. Our guides can provide further in-depth instructions on gear, euro-nymphing leaders, other useful fly patterns, improving techniques, etc. For the Spokane, if there is one skill set to work on, it is euro-nymphing.