- Marc Fryt
Fishing Report, Spokane River, February 21st 2023
These previous few days were a good time to break out the fly rods and enjoy some of the warmer weather that rolled through during President's Day weekend. When the first cool temps slide in after summer, 50 degrees feels downright frigid, but in the middle of winter it seems like the perfect chance to hit the water!
The lower Spokane River, from below the Spokane Falls to 7 Mile Road, has been flowing at around 3000cfs and the water temps were just barely above 40 degrees by midday. Water clarity was a bit off-color below the falls due to snowmelt and it only worsened below the confluence with Hangman Creek. However, even with this off-color water we were able to have some success including landing a nice redband trout that was stationed in a slower glide next to a run.
The upper Spokane River, from the state line to Harvard Road, is around 2500cfs with water temps also in the lower 40s/upper 30s. Water clarity was about the same as the lower river (from the falls to just above Hangman Creek), and there are plenty of pools and glides with nicely sized redband, cutthroat, and cutbows lurking around. These redband and cutthroat are also getting colored up beautifully ahead of the upcoming spawn.
Speaking of spawning, the Spokane Riverkeepers posted a great video on Instagram the other day of redband trout getting their redds ready in the river. The Spokane River closes to fishing (here in Washington) starting March 15th to help protect the redband during the spawn (and even though the river is closed to fishing after March 15th, we still provide guided fly fishing trips on several Eastern Washington lakes). This is critical to ensure the continuance of these trout (and they need every bit of protection they can get). Fishing is open until March 15th, however if you do come across trout that are sitting out in the open (like in the video) and seem like easy targets, please avoid fishing for them and let them prep their redds and spawn in peace.
If you see a trout in the water and are not sure if it is spawning or getting ready to spawn (i.e. building its redd), here are some signs to look for:
Spawning trout will seek out water that flows more calmly over river bottoms that have smaller sized gravel, and this is in shallower water (typically anywhere from less than a foot to a couple feet). These are different areas than when you spot trout chilling out in those deep pools (they congregate there during the winter to conserve energy).
There may be several trout within the vicinity and they may swipe at one another to stake out their territory. You may also seem them tilt onto their sides and use their body and tail to brush away grit, sand, and algae in order to build their redd (a redd is the term for a spawning nest).
Once a redd is made, it is usually easier to spot it in the river. It will be oval shaped and "cleaner" looking or lighter in color than the surrounding river bottom.
As the spawning season progresses, you will begin to spot trout in pairs as the female lays her eggs and the male fertilizes them.
Even after the trout deposit and fertilize the eggs, it is best to avoid wading over the area (or dropping an anchor) because the eggs need to be left alone in order to hatch. Wading and stepping on the redds can destroy the eggs or cover them up with gravel/sand which lowers the chance that the fry will hatch.
Now, with all of this in mind, do go out and fish the Spokane River until March 15th. The pools and glides that are mentioned at the start of this fishing report are much deeper (several feet) than areas where trout seek out to spawn. If we do float over a zone and see trout that look like they are stationing to spawn then we just hold our flies and enjoy observing these fish.
To help a little more with getting you onto some fish (and not spawning trout), consider nymphing the slower glides and pools that are located immediately next to any run (look for deep water, 4 feet or more). Double nymph rigs with long leaders (around 8-10ft of tippet from the indicator to the first fly) is the way to go. Use heavy nymphs (3.0-4.5mm tungsten beads) in order to get the flies down to depth and to stay at depth. Cast this rig into those pools/glides and the pace of your indicator should be slower than walking speed. Takes by the trout will be slow and subtle so be ready to strip in any excess line and raise the rod high to set the hook. Euro nymphing with a long leader (at least 6 feet to your first fly) is another good tactic to use, but only if the wind doesn't pick up.
Larger dark bodied nymphs (sizes 10-12), colorful perdigons (like orange, wink), prickly pears (tied by our guide Ethan) and squirmy wormies (with tungsten weight) all produced. Again, use double nymph rigs to increase your chances of hooking into a fish, and be ready to loose flies to the river bottom (if you are losing a couple flies during your day then you are fishing deep enough).
The weather for the rest of week looks crummy and will dampen the fishing again. Yet, once we get another nice spurt of sunny and warm weather, get your waders on and get back out there.
Also, come see us at the Spokane Great Outdoors Expo! The expo will be held at the Spokane Convention Center Saturday (9-5) and Sunday (10-4), February 25th and 26th. We’ll be booking guided trips, instructional lessons, selling custom tied flies, and doing free casting lessons. It’ll be a great expo to check out!
More info at: https://spokaneoutdoorexpo.com/
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.