Fishing Report, Spokane River, July 29th 2022
When it's six in the morning and you're already staring into the current and thinking about plunging in, you know it's going to be a hot day. That's how this week has been with the triple digit temperatures that are battering us. Even with these hot temps, below the Spokane Falls the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer percolates up and recharges the river with cold water all summer long providing us with fishing opportunities mainly in the mornings and evenings.
On one morning float this week, after already dunking my hat several times into the river and squishing it back onto my head to cool off, we caught sight of a group of trout rising steadily near the bank. The current was slow enough to anchor the raft within casting range of their rises so we took station and observed.
There was a deeper slot of water carved between sunken and half-submerged boulders where several bubble lines highlighted their feeding lanes. The water's surface was seeded with midges and overlaid with bouncing caddis and a pinch of pale morning dun mayflies. It was about as complicated a hatch as they come on the Spokane, and taking the moment to anchor the raft, single out a trout, select a fly pattern, and time the rise, well that's another rarity on the Spokane.
Sitting there in the clear current, the morning sun barely inching up over skyline and commuters, we kept focus on the first trout we had in mind. The angler delicately sent a caddis dry fly floating down to it. No luck, not even a look. Maybe a smaller caddis. Nope. Now the game was on, we had picky rising trout.
Eventually, we figured they might actually be feeding on the midges and that proved to be the case. A small Parachute Adams closed the deal on a couple trout before the fly was effectively chewed apart, and it was an embarrassing situation as a guide because that was the only small midge-looking fly pattern I had in a box crammed with caddis, PMDs, hoppers, and plenty of other oversize dry flies. Lesson learned.
Beyond being humbled, those overlying hatches, selective trout, and casting a single dry fly really brought me to think about time spent on the AuSable River in Michigan. That river practically demands a PhD in entomology. It's a river where time is spent anchored in a single spot, watching the rise, thumbing through fly patterns, perfecting drifts, and either hitting or striking out on a particular trout. For a brief moment, we had a little bit of the AuSable on the Spokane.
Much of this week was impacted by a bit of a bump in river flows going from around 2000cfs to 2500cfs. That might not seem like much but its enough to change the dynamics of certain pocket water and riffle areas. However, dry-droppers were still center stage this week with a fair number of rises to the dry fly. Caddis, smaller hopper, and large buoyant dry flies all had trout surfacing for them. Size 12-14 dark bodied weighted nymphs also produced nicely.
At the tailout of this week, the flows have come back down to below 2000cfs, so the trout are probably feeling the minor whiplash like we are. However, the bite was still strong this morning with most takes on the dropper instead of the dry. We did have some rises to a large terrestrial pattern, but there were not many rising trout spotted.
One thing to keep in mind is where most of these trout are stationed right now. They are seeking out fast, turbulent areas where food and oxygen are both in high supply. Many of the trout that anglers caught this week had their noses pressed up against the white water.
With this upcoming weekend, it is going to be scorching. Fly fishing will be best in the early (early) morning hours and right before sunset. With the lower river flows, the pocket water will continue to shape up nicely. Also, always keep your eye out for any rises that may be happening this weekend (again, most likely first thing in the morning or right before sunset).
There are still a couple clean ups you can volunteer to do this year. Sign-up for these clean ups are over at the Spokane River Forum and the final two dates are August 6th and September 17th. Also, there are still dates available to take part in a crayfish study on the Spokane River. This is a really fun and informational event where you will help collect crayfish which will be sent to the University of Idaho to monitor mercury levels in the river. It's a great stewardship activity and kids also have a blast with it so bring the family. Sign up for that is over at the Spokane Riverkeepers, and available dates are August 7th, 18th, and 27th.
As many Spokane River anglers know, there is a history of damaging mining practices that played out in Northern Idaho. Up until the 1970's, mining companies had little to no responsibility to clean up or restore lands during or after mining operations. The South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene is one such river that was bombarded with toxic tailings that now sit at the bottom of Lake Coeur d'Alene and still flow into the Spokane River.
There is an excellent NY Times op-ed by Trout Unlimited's CEO Chris Wood and Senator Heinrich that discusses a much needed update to 150-year-old mining laws. We are really stuck in the past with the General Mining Law of 1872, and there is a legislative push right now to bring us into the 21st Century via the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2022. This bill would provide desperately needed support and liability protections to groups like Trout Unlimited that are trying to clean up old, abandoned mines that are still polluting rivers to this day.
As always, if you are interested in booking a guided fly fishing trip with us Contact Us, or check out our Spokane River Guided Trips pages for more information. We also offer Fly Fishing Instructional Lessons here in Spokane if you are interested in spending just a couple hours out on the water improving your fly fishing skills.