Fishing Report, Eastern Washington Lakes, March 31st 2023
Updated: Apr 17
*Note- this is a report that focuses on lakes within an hour's drive of Spokane.
There's a lot of excitement with early spring stillwater fly fishing. One of the things that gets me jazzed is driving up to check on a particular lake thinking that it must be close to thawing. Seeing the lake at a distance, or through the trees, you spot open water! A new chance and a new season, along with plenty of time spent over winter thinking about the different strategies, fly patterns, or gear that you are going to employ through its waters. There's no lack of expectations, but however the day plays out it just feels good to be back out on open water after spending the colder months trudging a sled across its icy landscape and drilling holes to plunge jigs and maggots into its dark depths.
The first day back out on the lake, things can be a bit wonky. Those new strategies, fly patterns, or gear are getting in the way and trying to fit in amongst your old way of operating. Maybe you cover too much water too quickly, or that new pattern just doesn't have the look or movement you envisioned and its back to the drawing board, but if you're fortunate or tenacious enough you might just get that first hard pull of the line. Then the lake's inaugural trout for this season comes to net, and you feel like things are coming together.
There are hits and misses with early spring of course. Lots of misses, few hits, but those hits can be pretty massive. All those misses, however, are discouraging and its usually not for lack of trying, it's just because most of the crowd is still sulking around somewhere beneath the cold water. The good news, I think, is that in spring a few insights or tips can go a long way and end with very delightful results. One way I saw anglers, and myself, gain some knowledge was around a boat launch this week. It was just several fly fishers gathered around and sharing information or swapping ideas, we weren't closed lip nor rushing to get on the water. The conversation was enjoyable, and a great start to the day.
Most of this week, we had stable weather which kept the fishing consistent. Water temps are still in the lows 40s or upper 30s, and with those temps the bug activity is suppressed. Throat pump samples confirmed this, with trout mainly just sifting through the water collecting zooplankton. Zooplankton can be weird things like copepods and Daphnia, really teeny tiny stuff. I tried to get a close up of some these Daphnia, and it's actually a pretty cool minuscule crustacean just floating along with its blue eggs (just think about how many of these bounce off of you while swimming through a lake). Trying to imitate Daphnia is not so cool, however. In fly fishing, patterns are almost non-existent. What you can do is use blob flies (orange, pink, olive, or a mix) and try slowly retrieving it through deeper water. Yet, there's other strategies you can attempt before you have to employ something like that.
(Another fun fact about Daphnia: They are diurnal migrators, which just means that they migrate up to the lake's surface at night/low-light conditions and then descend when it gets bright out. Weather and conditions like cloud cover can entice Daphnia to venture nearer the surface).
Some of the larger trout are out hunting, and using leech or baitfish flies can bring hook-ups. Drop-offs near flatter, slimmer water, are places where these large trout can easily zip back down and out of sight and are good spots to target with a fly. If a fast or moderate retrieve isn't working, then really slow things down and maybe hang the fly under an indicator with an occasional long retrieve to re-animate the fly.
In some lakes, the larger rainbow trout have been staging in the shallows for their false spawn. What is a false spawn? Well, rainbow trout in landlocked lakes (i.e. no inflow or outflow of streams/tributaries) rarely reproduce successfully, but they will still go through the motions in an attempt to spawn. That's why the WDFW stocks many of our landlocked lakes, because without stocking the rainbow trout populations would just dwindle out.
The rainbow trout that move into the shallows searching for food will continuously be on the move actively hunting. On the other hand, what anglers typically see this time of year (in landlocked lakes) are large rainbow trout that are just milling around a particular spot trying to spawn because that's what they are genetically programmed to do. Whether you fish for them or not is up to you, just know that you won't be impacting the long-term rainbow trout populations in the lake (only other factors like stocking or not stocking can do that).
For the weekend, another minor cold front is coming through this evening and overnight which has a good chance of dampening the fishing on Saturday. If that's the only day you have to fish, then do it. The wind will be stronger so to cut your flies through the chop sinking lines are a good idea. Slow retrieves and use multiple flies like leeches, blobs, FABs, or other attractors. By Sunday, the trout should have had enough time to re-adjust, and the wind will be calmer so you can try hanging leech patterns and/or blobs (tied with a bead) under an indicator, and still start with targeting drop-offs. Leaders should be long, enough to get the flies down to 10-18ft of water. You can also remove the indicator, count down (30 seconds or more), then very slowly retrieve (like a crawling pace) the flies back to you and wait until you feel or see a strike.
Then the weather continues to improve becoming warmer into the week and next weekend, and that can shake things up.
Lastly, the lakes south/southwest are thawed out, including Medical Lake now. To the north, the lakes are still about 90% iced, but its thin and my guess is that they'll have enough open water by at least late in the week.
Conservation and Community Events-
Spokane River Forum Conference, April 26-27:
The Spokane River Forum is having their two day conference April 26-27, which is a great event to learn more information about conservation efforts on the Spokane. Some of the topics will include:
Water Quality: Stormwater, PCBs, PFAs, Non-Point Source Pollution
Water Quantity: Infrastructure Development, Planning, Conservation
Habitat: Riparian Restoration, Aerial Imagery Monitoring
Fisheries: Preparing Our Waters for Salmon, Redband Recovery, Invasive Species, Recreation
Stewardship: Cleanup, Restoration, Digital Media Messaging, Spokane River Water Trail
The conference will be a fantastic way for you to learn more about the river, become engaged in conservation/stewardship events, and connect with others on protecting and restoring the river and its fishery. More info and registration here: https://spokaneriver.net/events/spokane-river-forum-conference/
Trout Unlimited/Spokane Women on the Fly:
Trout Unlimited/Spokane Women on the Fly also have a lot of upcoming events (everyone is welcome to attend these events):
This Saturday, casting practice over a Audubon Park, 2-4pm: https://spokanefallstu.org/event/ffi-bronze-casting-challenge-hosted-by-swotf-2/
Hackle and Hops Fly Tying on April 23rd at Whistle Punk Brewery, 2-4pm. More info and registration here: https://spokanefallstu.org/event/march-hackle-hops-fly-tying-with-swotf-2/
More events listed here: https://spokanefallstu.org/events/
Earth Day River Clean Up! Saturday, April 22nd, 10:00am-1:00pm:
The Spokane Riverkeeper and Spokane River Forum will be hosting their first and biggest public river cleanup of the year on Earth Day 2023. Last year volunteers removed 4,900 pounds of litter from Hangman Creek and the Spokane River. They will provide gloves and bags, you bring solid walking shoes. Sign up here: https://www.spokaneriverkeeper.org/calendar/2023/4/22/earth-day-river-cleanup
For more information on our guided fly fishing trips and instructional fly fishing lessons here in Spokane, check out Our Services (including Spokane River fly fishing trips, and Eastern Washington lake fishing trips). Feel free to Contact Us to book a trip or to inquire more information.