Fishing Report, Eastern Washington Lakes, March 22nd 2022
Pruning the trees and bushes this week, I kicked up some leaves and noticed the first green sprouts of spring. Our chive plant was ambitiously inching its tender shoots skyward encouraged by the rain and growing daylight. I plucked just a couple, after months of winter they tasted so fresh and sweet.
Now, I wish I could say that the fly fishing has been just as sweet this past week, but it has been spotty at best. As we fished several lakes, spring looks poised to permeate the landscape, and the dusky brown hillsides are ready to be awash in green new growth. Even the turkeys are out doing their thing, the toms are strutting around open fields with their tail feathers fanned out and the hens are working out the pecking order. For the most part, Eastern Washington's lakes are just about to take part in spring as well.
We casted flies along ice-free banks while bundled up against the wind. The water temperature read around 39F (which is the temperature where water is at its densest) throughout much of the water column (especially Medical and Amber Lakes). Organic matter floated around the lakes, and the water was slightly off-color. There was also very little insect activity. What this all means is that the lakes are going through turnover and the fishing is sluggish during this time.
Spring turnover is a vital time for lakes to recharge themselves after depleting their oxygen levels while they were iced over during winter. Turnover can last a few days to a couple weeks depending on the size, depth, structure, etc. of any given lake. During this time, oxygen levels can actually decrease, and turbidity increase. Nutrients are also distributed throughout the lake in a churning process, and insect activity is a bit stagnant.
(For more info on turnover, read our blog article: What is Lake Turnover?)
Okay, but even during this brief and challenging event, trout can be caught and we were happy enough to land a couple hefty ones. Medical Lake fished best along the shoreline using leech patterns under an indicator, and the takes were very subtle. Trolling with full sinking lines at Rock Lake produced lackluster results with limited action. At Rock Lake, we noticed on the fish finder that most fish were holding deep (30-50ft), and there were not many fish that popped up on the finder. Amber was slow, but anglers were catching some rainbows along the bank using chironomids held right off the lake bottom.
It looks like we have another warm front coming through this week, and that can help to progress spring turnover and begin to shape the lakes up. Focus on mid-morning to afternoon fishing, work your flies slowly, and be ready to fish different lake structures (shorelines, drop-offs, trolling deeper water, etc.). As for fly patterns, chironomids (sizes 14-18), leeches, and blood worms (size 12) should be a decent place to start. The fishing should only be getting better as turnover recedes and we head further into spring.
Even though the trout are lethargic right now, it is a welcomed feeling being out on the water amongst the cool blues and grays of the lake and clouds. Winter is fading, steadily replaced by the calls of mallards, American Coots, and red-wing blackbirds. Just casting the fly line and watching it land on the surface is enough to re-center yourself, take delight in springtime, and look forward to a wonderful season of fly fishing.
Also, 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.