Fishing Report, Eastern Washington Lakes, April 1st 2022
Standing in the raft, I made a cast and straightened the line out over the glassy surface of the lake. It was calm out and high overhead a huey helicopter made orbits in the clear sky. A few parachutes appeared beneath it and they calmly floated their way back down to earth and Fairchild Air Force Base. I stayed looking up at the parachutes and the troops underneath their canopies, all the while slowly retrieving the fly line in my hand.
Then the fly came to a solid stop and I stripped set the hook. The fly line strung tight, I knew it was a hefty trout. It pulled line, I reeled in line, it pulled more, so I kept pressure on the rod. The trout kept diving out to the deeper water, fine by me because I did not want it going near the bank and risk getting tangled.
The parachutes were almost to the ground by the time I raised the rod and stretched out my other arm with the net. I held the net just under the surface and watched the trout hover in space. Red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds zipped around the shoreline sending their calls out into the air. Yes, it was finally springtime.
The warm weather this last week has definitely spurred the lakes to start cycling out of turnover. Water temps in Medical and Amber were reading around 47F at the surface and 44-45F to about 12-15ft. Water clarity has improved, and there is less organic matter floating around in the lakes.
(Read: What is Lake Turnover)
Surface activity on the lakes was seen late-morning and well into the evenings. The trout were picky at times, so we stomach pumped a couple trout and found that they were mostly full of daphnia (zooplankton) with a some chironomids and mayfly nymphs mixed in.
Casting our flies right up to the bank was very successful, and when that cooled down we would suspend flies along the drop-offs for a couple more takes. Trolling with a sinking line and streamers also paid off as we traveled from spot to spot.
Going into this weekend, the weather looks to remain much the same, somewhat warm, sunny, mild-moderate winds. I would focus on late-morning and into the evening and continue to work the shorelines and drop-offs.
A decent amount of damselfly nymphs were seen swimming in the upper water column so that could be a worthwhile pattern to use. Most damselflies were size 8-10 and tan in color. Suspend the nymph(s) a couple feet under the surface and gently retrieve them back to you. While you are out on the water, take note of damselflies swimming in the water, they have a distinct snakelike swimming motion with the occasional pause. A fun pattern that matches close to this movement is this an articulated damselfly.
Other patterns to try out include mayfly nymphs (sizes 16-18 in brown or olive), chironomids (sizes 16-18), and leech patterns.
If you feel so inclined, you could also tie on a daphnia cluster fly pattern (in pink or orange) to mimic the daphnia. Daphnia (zooplankton) are prolific in the lakes but they are incredibly small, so trying to imitate just a single one is impractical. They are translucent for the most part with shades of pink, orange, olive, etc. that becomes more noticeable when they congregate together.
A cluster pattern, such as a Blob, is good way to mimic a cloud of daphnia floating around in the water. Trout will swim around in filter daphnia through their gill rakers, but a cluster of them could be just enough to get a trout's attention. You can use a daphnia pattern in conjunction with some other fly, just note that daphnia are typically lower in the water column rather than at the surface during sunlight hours. If nothing else is working, then tie on a daphnia pattern and see if that can do the trick.
With any of these flies, focus on a slower retrieval. Hand twist retrieves of the fly line worked best this last week due to the water temps still hovering around the 40's. When using a leech or baitfish pattern, you can also vary the retrieval with a couple short jerk strips to mimic struggling prey.
Oh, and when you head out to fish, consider brining a bag to pick up some garbage on your way out. Some of the boat launches and shorelines need some extra care and attention this spring.
Lastly, be sure to check out a can't-miss event hosted by Trout Unlimited. TU, and TU's President and CEO Chris Wood, will be talking about plans to save Snake River steelhead and salmon...big deal stuff! It is a free event and will be held right here in Spokane at Gonzaga on April 26th. More info (including registering for the event) can be found here or on TU Spokane Fall's Facebook Page.
If you are interested in learning more from our guides while getting some on-the-water experience, check out our guided fly fishing trips on Eastern Washington's lakes and our Instructional Lessons. Contact us to set up a trip or instructional lesson for this spring.