For the past couple weeks I've been away from the river, my wife and I did our yearly trip back to Michigan spending time at the family's cottage (I have come to accept that cabins in Michigan are to be called cottages). It was warm days spent catching and cooking bluegill out on the lake while watching a red sun set underneath a layer of smoke and haze, and it is just crazy to think that I had to travel back west to escape the wildfire smoke.
While in Michigan, we also committed a moonless night to fishing the hex hatch using size 6-8 mayfly dry fly patterns and glow-in-the-dark fly lines to hook into large brown trout surface feeding on the bugs. It's the kind of fly fishing where the dry flies are so big that they need to be stored in a box meant for streamers, though that size doesn't matter since your headlamp is off and you can't see much of anything. Casting a glowing fly line into the pitch black, towards a trout whose location is only known by the sound of it gulping down gigantic mayflies, places you into a unique, sensory-deprived fly fishing experience that tests your sixth sense as a fly fisher. If you ever have the chance to fly fish the hex, and the stars align, take that opportunity.
Eventually, had to leave the bluegill and big ol' browns and return to Spokane where the weeds have overtaken our yard and the mayflies are a few sizes smaller. Yesterday, I was back on the Spokane floating the river and prepping for some upcoming trips, and it was enjoyable being on our homewater amongst the swift current and boulders, and the fact that the redband (and even a cutthroat) were rising to dry flies was a nice welcome home.
Water levels, below the falls, are still sitting low at about 2300cfs which is under the average for this time of year. These low water levels do make for great pocket water and dry-dropper fishing, which is an absolute blast on the Spokane. Unless we get some magical surge of rain, this summer is going to be a low water scenario where you will need to focus your time on the pocket water, riffles, and the necessity to know how to fish with a dry-dropper. The good news is that this tactic is one of my favorite ways to fly fish and it is a thrilling way to spend a couple hours coxing trout from bubbling, churning water.
If you want a crash course in this fly fishing style, give us a call and we'll get you out on the river. Also, if you just need a primer or quick refresher on reading and fishing pocket water as well as how to rig up a dry-dropper, check out some of my articles I have over on my blog:
Water temperatures are also something to keep an eye on throughout the summer. Luckily the Spokane River, below the falls, is recharged by our aquifer so it can stay cool even during the hottest months. However, you should have a small thermometer on-hand and check the temps before and during your fishing. I did a check at Redband Park and TJ Meenach and it was sitting at 63 and 64F which is the sweet spot for these trout. Having that thermometer in-hand will also tell you when you should hang the fly up and consider just taking a swim in the river instead, because once temps are at 68F it's best to leave the trout alone.
Need a thermometer? Then head over to the North 40 Fly Shop (9646 U.S. Rte 2, Spokane, WA 99224) and Caden and the team can help you out.
With water temps in mind, most of your fishing should be in the morning hours because that's when the river will be cool enough to cast for trout. When you reach the river in the morning, take note of the bugs fluttering about, most will be caddis (size 14-16), some midges (size 18 and smaller), maybe some PMDs (size 16), and maybe some blue winged olives (BWO, size 16-18). A caddis dry fly pattern with a suspended nymph can be a good way to prospect the water. Large dry fly patterns that can mimic hoppers, moths, and stoneflies are also a good option and we had a decent number of dry fly takes on that style of fly yesterday.
Wading the river, although always very challenging, is easier now that the flows have come down. Besides using a dry-dropper, you can also explore the pocket water and riffles using a euro nymphing rod and even streamers. We actually had some redband pursue streamers yesterday and it was just plain fun changing up the tactics and watching the trout chase small baitfish patterns.
Lastly, are you needing a new fly line? Well, Fly Project is having an awesome deal where if you purchase a Model OC Reel you can receive a free fly line of your choosing. I mean that's just a great deal and will get you on the water with a slick new fly line. We use OC Reels in our boats and I have been really impressed with the smooth sealed drag, how they have held up, and of course the look of the reel. A great line to pair with the reel would be Scientific Anglers Anadro line, it's my go-to fly line for the Spokane and other large western rivers.
The offer is running through July 9th and is available in the shop (9646 U.S. Rte 2, Spokane, WA 99224) or online (https://flyproject.us/)
Conservation and Community Events
Trout Unlimited CX3, September 27 - October 1, 2023:
Trout Unlimited will be hosting their national CX3 event (Community, Coldwater, Conservation) right here in Spokane! This week-long event Cx3 is Trout Unlimited’s biggest family-and-friends focused gathering featuring outdoor adventures, epic excursions, and hands-on activities with family and friends. There will be all sorts of family fishing events, women-led angling trips, kids activities, tours, conservation films, presentations, and Q&A sessions.
There is going to be a lot to see and do, and it is exciting that TU has picked Spokane to host this event, so mark down September 27th to October 1st on your calendar and check out the event's website for more information as well as ticket purchasing options.
Spokane River Forum and Spokane Riverkeeper:
Upcoming public clean-up events on the Spokane River:
August 19 - Location TBD
September 16 - Stateline to Spokane Valley Locations
September 16 - City of Spokane Locations (Lands Council)
More info and registration for these clean-up events can be found on their website here.
Washington Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA):
BHA will be hosting a clean-up on the Spokane River on July 15th, starting at 10:00am. They are partnering up with the Spokane Riverkeeper, and the meet-up location is at Upriver Park: 1667 E Upriver Dr, Spokane, WA 99252. It's a great opportunity to give back to the river. Those with watercraft (kayak, canoe, etc.) are encouraged to bring them in order to access more difficult pieces of litter, and you can also consider bringing waders if you want to wade around and collect garbage along the shoreline. If you don't have waders or a watercraft, no worries because there is plenty of trash for everyone to pick up amongst the trees! More info available here.
Every month, the local Washington chapter of BHA meets at the restaurant Hunt in downtown Spokane (225 W Riverside Ave STE C, Spokane, WA 99201) and invites a biologist to provide a presentation and discussion on any number of wildlife, conservation, and/or habitat topics. It's a great time to meet other anglers/hunters, learn something about our local wildlife and how we can be more engaged with looking after angling and hunting opportunities within the state.
The next upcoming event is on July 26th, 2023 at 6:00pm - 8pm, more info here.
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.