Clouds, and wonderful cloudy weather. Weeks and weeks of hot, dry, sunny days will make you welcome the first rainy, heavy gray day that finally shifts us out of the summer season. I opened the windows to listen as the rain soaked everything outside and had to actually put on a fleece as I got things done around the house this week. Bring on more of these cooler days, please.
We need the rain, and we need more of it. The river has been incredibly low for most of this summer season and the Spokane Riverkeeper sums it up nicely in their most recent newsletter:
This year has been a tough one for river flow protection in the Spokane River Basin. We had 110% of normal snowpack so we had high hopes that contributions from Coeur D’Alene Lake would carry the river through the season without going below the 1000 CFS Level Drought Response Measures inside the Spokane City limits and below 850 CFS, the in-stream flow level at downtown Spokane. Unfortunately, flows are below the Level II measures to protect the river. In fact, flows have dropped at times, below 800 CFS. See the water conservation measures here.
Please be kind to your river and reduce water waste in irrigation – Conservation is the key to maintaining flows.
If there is a sliver of a bright side to these low flows, it's that the water has been staying cool on the lower Spokane. I've been checking the water temps around the Spokane Falls and downstream to the Water Treatment Plant, and it's been consistently in the upper 50s and low 60s due to the aquifer recharging the river. The less we (as a city) pull up from the aquifer the more it can keep our river, and its inhabitants, in a healthier state during the summer months.
Low water has also given us unprecedented opportunities to wet wade around the river to explore sections you'd normally be swept away in. Right now is the best chance to more easily wade the river, but be sure to have felt boots because the rocks are always super slick.
The other unique opportunity you have right now is to also check out the substrate along your favorite stretch of the river. With low flows you can easily see rocks, boulders, and other structure that is normally under feet of heavy current. It's pretty cool being able to wade over to a boulder you've tried to catch trout around and actually see what it looks like, and also see where trout could potentially hold around it when the water rises back up. And since the Spokane is an urban river, you can discover some interesting urban debris, like concrete slabs, pylons, parts to a metal truss bridge, and so on. All of these things create holding water for trout, whitefish, and northern pikeminnow, so observing where these things are at in the river right now is useful information for later on.
Dry-dropper fishing in the pocket water and riffles is a best bet for this weekend. No need to go super long with the length of tippet from the dry fly to the nymph when fishing this kind of water, around 24" should be enough. Using wet flies can also work in the pocket water and riffles. You can start upstream of a section of pocket water/riffles and then slowly wade downstream with one or two wet flies swinging in the current ahead of you. Move slowly and allow the wet fly to drift around in one spot before continuing on. Keep a higher rod tip and let the trout set the hook on themselves.
It will be probably another few more weeks before the river levels start coming back up again. One of my favorite tactics to use to close out the season on the Spokane River is to streamer fish from the raft with a euro nymphing rod, yes a euro nymphing rod. It's addicting, it's effective, it's downright good ol' fashion fun (well, maybe not ol' fashion since euro nymphing is still pretty new to fly fishing, and euro streamer fishing even newer). There isn't much literature on how to go about euro streamer fishing from a boat, so I typed up an article to capture some of the lessons and insights I've learned while guiding on the Spokane, you can check out that article here: Euro Nymphing with Streamers, from a Boat.
There are lots of ways to fly fish the Spokane, and lots of frustration that goes along with it. If you are looking to improve your fly fishing, or want to start fly fishing, call or email us and we'll get you and your friends/family members out on the water before the season is over. There's so much to learn, and so many ways we can help you to enjoy your time fly fishing on the Spokane River.
Lastly, be sure to carry a plastic bag with you and fill it up on your way out after you're done fishing, Negative Trace is better than Leave No Trace when fly fishing an urban river. Also, a big thank you to everyone that has picked up garbage along the river whether on your own or during one of the clean-ups hosted by the Spokane Riverkeeper and Spokane River Forum. Again, from the Riverkeeper's newsletter:
With the help of 1,264 volunteers we have removed a record breaking 26,534 lb. of litter from the Spokane River so far this year. This number will only grow through the remainder of the year with the predicted total for 2023 being over 30,000 lb. For more information on our upcoming public cleanup or to do a DIY Cleanup visit our website here.
Conservation and Community Events
The Fly Project will be hosting a Spey fishing event September 30th. This is an event I
would be sure not to miss. Click here to see more information.
Spokane Riverkeeper Rights of Nature, Indigenous and Advocacy Perspectives, September 19th, 6:00pm, Hemmingson Auditorium Gonzaga
This presentation will be a panel discussion that focuses on working to protect water & landscapes through advocacy and indigenous perspectives. Speakers will discuss the indigenous value systems that provide a foundation for affording natural, living systems rights to exist and advocacy approaches to protecting these natural systems. Learn more and register here.
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:
September 16th - Public Cleanup Event - Join the Spokane Riverkeeper for a day of river cleanup. This is a family friendly event, grab a friend and help keep the river clean. Learn more and register here.
Washington Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA):
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 September 27th, 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.