Even though the snow is coming down right now, the last couple days felt like we really have broken out of winter. Going down and fly fishing the Spokane River, standing in the warm mid-afternoon sun was a real treat this week. Not freezing my butt off and seeing some trout rise just added more to the enjoyment.
Ethan and I were out yesterday, wading a productive stretch of river. Dry fly fishing, nymphing, streamers, take your pick it was all on the menu. Midges (size 20-22) and blue winged olives (BWOs, size 16-18) were hatching by mid-afternoon which meant those nymphs were up and moving through the water column by late morning/early afternoon. The best part was seeing consistently rising pods of trout.
Catching a Spokane trout on a dry fly is no easy feat, even during the summer months. If you can achieve it in winter, then that is something truly rewarding and a great way to put your dry fly fishing skills to the test. But, just because you find yourself standing in the river amongst a flurry of mayflies doesn't mean it'll be easy pickings from there.
Finding rising trout on the Spokane involves dedicating time to walking, watching, waiting, walking again, then some more watching, and so on. These rising trout are in specific types of water during cold winter months, and the more you observe, the more you will pick up on these subtle cues.
To help those of you that will be venturing out this weekend and looking to challenge yourself with catching a redband trout on a dry fly, here are some tips:
Focus on pools and large, gentle eddies that have a run right next to them/feeds into them.
Keep your eyes on bubble lines or where bubbles/foam gently circulate. These bubbles/foam are where the current collects winged insects and serves them up to the trout. Take a look at the image below for an example of this.
Use a parachute style fly (sizes 14-18) with a visible parachute post (like pink or orange), paired with a longer, thin leader (10-12ft, down to 5 or 6x). Some of these rising trout are in very soft currents and a heavy leader landing on the water will just spook them. The bright parachute post will also make it easier to see the fly amongst the bubbles/foam.
Focus your time on the mid-afternoon hours, and if you don't see any hatching BWOs, move to a different stretch of river.
Beyond dry fly fishing, traditional nymphing, euro nymphing, and drop-shot rigs should all produce this weekend. Squirmy wormies and dark-bodied nymphs (with a little flash or hot spot) are good choices. Streamer fishing some of those pools that have decent underwater structure could also land you a dandy of a trout. You can also take advantage of the pre-hatch emerging insects by using wet flies in the late morning and early afternoon.
The trout are still lethargic due to the cold temps, so whichever method you employ just dial it back and slow things down. When I am nymphing the river and stationed at a good winter-time pool, I am rigging and re-rigging a fair amount before I ever decide to pick up and move on. Change tippet length and diameter, switch up between colorful and dark nymphs on a tandem rig, add weight or swap out one indicator style/size for another. And finally, always watch for those faint indications of a trout taking your fly.
The weather for this weekend looks like it will provide some nice fishing for this time of year. Sunday is forecasted to be warmer with little to no wind, so a good time to get out there. Water temps, on the lower river (below the Spokane Falls), were in the low 40s by the afternoon. River levels also dropped a touch, and are now in the 2600cfs range. We also have a healthy snowpack this year and it is something to keep an eye on ahead of any fishing trips you have planned in May or June.
Be sure to enjoy these days on the Spokane River because it will be closed to fishing starting March 15th and won't open again until May 27th. And, if you are interested in improving your fly fishing skills and learning how to fly fish the Spokane River, reach out to us to book a trip for this upcoming summer. While we call ourselves guides, we are first and foremost instructors with the goal of helping you to develop your fly angling skills and techniques (which will be useful on any river you fly fish).
The approaching spring months will also bring some of the best stillwater trout fishing of the year, and if you aren't taking advantage of all of the lakes we have in our area, you're missing out! If you would like to book a guided stillwater fly fishing trip, and improve your understanding of how to fly fish our local lakes, be sure to contact us.
Just a reminder as well, if you are planning on fishing this weekend, please bring a bag with you and fill it up with some trash on your way out. All of the snowmelt is starting to expose collections of garbage that have accumulated over the winter. It's best to collect any trash you find now before it gets washed further downstream during runoff.
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):
Fly tying on March 19th over at Whistle Punk Brewery, 2-4pm: https://spokanefallstu.org/event/march-hackle-hops-fly-tying-with-swotf/
March Happy Hour Meet-Up over at 45 Degrees Brewhouse, 5-7pm: https://spokanefallstu.org/event/march-happy-hour-meet-up/
Casting practice on April 1st over a Audubon Park, 2-4pm: https://spokanefallstu.org/event/ffi-bronze-casting-challenge-hosted-by-swotf-2/
More events listed here: https://spokanefallstu.org/events/
Join the Spokane Riverkeeper for a panel discussion on the Rights of Nature:
Join us for a panel discussion and learn more about Rights of Nature and why this legal framework, and cultural way of framing the world is the next horizon of protecting the natural places we care about. FREE and open to the public. 6:30-8:00 PM, March 21 at the Moot Court Room, GU Law School.
More info can be found here: https://www.spokaneriverkeeper.org/calendar/2023/2/22/dod3m2jfb2yqnxireskihdw8q6zy13
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.