Fishing Report: Spokane River Updates and Eastern Washington Lakes
Updated: Jun 2
Well, we jumped into summer quite quickly didn't we? And this is before we transition from La Niña to El Niño which will bring about dryer and warmer conditions. While this has snuffed out much of the trout lake fishing quicker than usual, it has also brought some other fishing opportunities with it, and we'll get into that below. But first, let's go over some updates on the Spokane River.
Fishing on the Spokane River will be opening this weekend (Saturday) and the weather is expected to be sunny, warm, with just a couple clouds. The river level has come down a lot over this week and might continue dropping ahead of Saturday. Current river flows are around 8100cfs:
8150cfs is runnable, however if you are an inexperienced rower or have never rafted the Spokane, then it would be a good idea to wait until it drops lower (around 5000cfs).
The snowpack levels in the mountains that feed into the Spokane watershed also took a huge hit with the warm spring weather we've had, and we're looking at about 40% below average for this time of year. This will most likely affect river levels going into mid to late summer, especially on the upper Spokane (from state line to downtown).
Speaking of the upper Spokane, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also conducted another round of smallmouth bass removal from state line down to Harvard Road (they also conducted a removal last summer and in 2021). This is in an effort to help recover redband trout numbers on the upper Spokane which have been devastated by the bass.
What this means is that the upper Spokane will still have trout to fish for (until it gets too warm and they retreat to cooler stretches of the river), but I would not go out anticipated getting into numbers of bass. You will still hook into smallmouth bass, but many of the larger ones will be out of the system due to WDFW's attempt to remove many of the larger, sexually mature bass.
So, for the weekend both the upper and lower Spokane will have good trout fishing opportunities. If you are wade fishing, just be careful of the stronger currents and focus on nymphing or spey fishing from the bank. This is actually a great time to spey fish to connect with some larger trout that have gone months without seeing a fly/lure.
If you are floating the river, then streamer fishing and nymphing will also be effective. For streamer fishing from the raft, you'll want to use a sink tip line in order to keep the fly at depth. Look for those bankside lies that have deeper troughs of calmer water compared to the surrounding water. For nymphing, since the flows are still up consider using a drop-shot rig to get your flies down deeper and out of the higher, swifter current. Use stoneflies (sizes 8-10) along with any cannon fodder nymphs that you wouldn't mind losing.
(Check out: How to Set Up A Drop Shot Rig)
For those going out to the lakes, there are numerous opportunities to be had with a fly rod. First, water temps have been warming up, but the trout are still active. Focus on early mornings and late evenings, and if you are fishing catch and release then use stout tippet (2-3x), and play the trout quickly to the boat. Most of the larger trout are deeper in the water column and can be found along drop-offs that are near shallower water. Chironomid pupa and emerger patterns (12-14) have still been working along with baitfish, leech patterns, and Blob patterns.
I also just got back from a few days of camping and fishing some of the sub-alpine lakes north of Spokane. The cutthroat and rainbow trout in those lakes are doing really well and this weekend is a good time to break out the camping gear and float tubes. Many of the campgrounds are also opening up this weekend which gives you a number of lakes to choose from (Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille Counties).
Lastly, the bass are continuing to move into the shallows for their spawn, and others (that are not spawning) are patrolling the shallow weed beds, drop-offs, and laying in ambush under docks. The water temps are still a little cool for them, so they are not overly aggressive (at least those not protecting any spawning beds). Longer leaders (10-12ft) will keep from lining these bass since they are a bit spooky right now. Try using lighter streamers around weed beds (and maybe paired with an intermediate line), and heaver jig head streamers for around the docks and drop-offs.
The sunfish are also getting out in full force and are a blast right now. If you just want to have a laid back, fun Memorial Day weekend of catching numbers of fish on the fly, then grab an elk hair caddis or small popper and hit any shallow, weedy areas along the lakes. This is also a great time to get kids to try out fly fishing for the first time.
Conservation and Community Events
Trout Unlimited/Spokane Women on the Fly:
Summer Suds Fishing Weekend, June 8-12
Spokane Women on the Fly and Spokane Falls TU Chapter are teaming up again in 2023 for their 7th annual Summer Suds Fishing Weekend. Make it a long weekend. The group campsite have been booked for Thursday 6/8/23 – Sunday 6/12/23. BWOs, PMDs, Drakes, Salmon Flies, Golden Stones and Yellow Sallies are the flies of choice during this time.
All information is listed at https://uwotf.com/swotf-summer-suds/. Registration Required if you will be camping at the group site. Please register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2023-summer-suds-camp-fish-and-hang-weekend-tickets-446335490467.
More info here.
Spokane River Forum:
Upcoming public clean-up events on the Spokane River:
June 10 - U District/Mission Park
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:
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 opportunities within the state.
The next upcoming event is on May 31, 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.