Winter fly fishing often brings thoughts of frozen waters, icy guides, and numb toes. While this can certainly be true for winter here in the Spokane region, there are generally some days during the winter that are actually quite pleasant to fish. When the forecast calls for air temperatures in the upper 30's or around 40 it's time to shake the winter blues and string a fly rod.
The first river on the list of winter fisheries is the Spokane River. The Spokane has some major pluses going for it to make it on the list of winter fly fisheries. Here are just a few…
- Never freezes - Aquifer recharge not only cools the river in the summer, but keeps the river warmer during the winter.
- It's close to home - Toes went numb? Winter storm setting in? Well reel up your line and you are back home in 15 mins.
- Rainbows don't mind the cold - While this is definitely not a scientific fact, it seems to me that rivers that are predominately rainbow trout fish well in the winter. Cutthroat tend to be a little less receptive to the cold.
Other random thoughts on Spokane winter fly fishing
- Water levels tend to be a little higher in the winter. They draw down Lake Coeur d'Alene during the winter to make room for spring runoff. Even if the water is up higher than what you are use to in the summer just focus on those slow soft pockets near the shore.
- If we get a massive dump of snow or rain Latah can color up the water on that South / West bank... it takes a lot of snow melt though for this to happen... usually closer to March.
- The Redband rainbows migrate back up river above Sullivan Bridge to Barker, Harvard, and Stateline. While not in the numbers that you see closer to the Silver Bow, they're definitely up there more than they were August.
- Streamers can work well when fished slow on certain days (typically when it's a little warmer)
- Any chance of a dry fly hatch doesn't usually happen until sometime in February or March.
Top winter flies for the Spokane
- BH Prince (try tying some with an orange bead for fun) - Any size
- BH Pheasant Tail - Smaller sizes, think 16-20
- San Juan's
- Pat's Rubber Leg - Brown, Olive, Black - Any size really
- Copper Johns - Smaller sizes, 16-18 - Red, Blue, Black
- Lead Eye Marabou Leech - I love this guy, black.
- Big Bird Bugger - Size 4 or 6
- Glow Bugs or Small Trout beads (6mm) - orange colors
Pat's Rubber Leg are probably the best patterns year round on the Spokane. They represent stonefly nymphs that inhabit the river. Photo by Wayne Jordan.
Christmas Eve streamer fishing. Slow moved streamers in the slower water proved successful.
Joria Gilbertz giving the Spokane Redband a little love.