Meet NE Washington Fly Fishing

The secretive American Reach of the Upper Columbia River
                                             2017 Trip Itinerary
Upper Columbia Spey Trout

Swing wetflies, streamers & muddlers from the bank for big UC redband & cutthroat trout. The UC offers miles of great swinging water in early Spring – water holding trout that are a suitable match for two-handed tackle. Wild UC redband rainbows average 19”, with fish to 30” not uncommon. And UC trout fight like pissed-off loggers on a Saturday night. The ancestors of these fish were steelhead, & this is very much like steelhead fishing – without the crowds, & generally with more action. If you are interested in spey trout fishing, we speak its unique language, & consider the UC the greatest river in the lower 48 to practice it. 

NE Washington Lakes

Most upper Columbia River trout are spawning in May, so we leave them alone while concentrating on some excellent local lakes. Our lakes – hosting native redband; cutthroat; brookies; browns; mackinaw; & kokanee – are pristine & secretive. Pressure is sparse on the NE corner’s fertile trout lakes. Spring redbands caught from the lakes average 16” in May, with plenty of larger fish in the mix, taken on the standard lake offerings of dragon/damsel, leech, & midge patterns. May also affords the opportunity for ‘Maine-style’ streamer trolling for multi-pound brown, rainbow, & mackinaw – a tradition from the Northeast that we’ve adapted to our local deep-water lakes. Mackinaw & brown trout are holding shallow right after ice-out, & early May is the best time to meet the big boys with fly tackle. We love the lakes, & offer stillwater fishing May through October.

Upper Columbia Sedge, PMD, & Drake Hatches

Many consider June/July to be the best period to fish the American Reach of the upper Columbia River in NE Washington. UC trout are looking up, & swung soft-hackles or drifted dries turn the trick on rising trout. Grannom Sedge, March Brown, PMD, Green Drake, & Yellow Drake through June give way to the prolific Black Quill ‘UC Drake’ (Leptophlebia), usually appearing about the third week of June & continuing through July, & sometimes into August. The #8-#10 Black Quill is the crown of UC mayfly hatches. This is the hatch UC regulars look forward to every year.

Upper Columbia Hoppers

To be frank, August is the dog days in our region. But that doesn’t mean it’s altogether dead. UC trout are very light sensitive in August, so typically the bite period shrinks down to late-afternoon/evening. For that reason, we only offer ½-day river trips in August. Or, for those still wanting to fish all day, morning at one of the local lakes; lunch/siesta; then evening on the river, where trout will take hoppers & other large dryflies. Evening fishing is short, though sweet, in August.      

Upper Columbia October Caddis – Skykomish Humpies

Generally, October Caddis begin to appear from the UC around the 1st of September, with daily emergence occurring through September & October, creating an epic dryfly season. The giant sedges bring up some of the best trout of the year. Those who like fishing big dries for large, wild trout, will appreciate the UC October Caddis season. World class dryfly fishing; world class wild trout; world class scenery.

Roderick Haig-Brown said: “I am a trout and salmon fisher.” And, in an age when it’s popular to label oneself, solely, a ‘steelheader’ we find Haig-Brown’s definition refreshing & liberating, allowing more opportunity for sport & fun. And even a salmon or two for the table. Pink salmon (humpies) return to northern Washington rivers in great numbers on odd years. 2017 is a ‘pink year’. Fresh pinks, averaging about 4 pounds, hit the swung fly very well, & they are incredibly strong fighters. And there is no anadromous salmonid more beautiful than a fresh hen pink splashed with autumn colors – or none more unusual than a humpbacked buck. The Skykomish receives heavy pink salmon runs in September. The river is low at that time, allowing for good walk & wade fishing, the perfect opportunity to exercise spey rods & practice swinging flies over a good number of fish. Though pink salmon are our main focus on September 2017 Skykomish trips, steelhead, coho, bull trout & sea-run cutthroat are present in the river at that time & will take the same flies, so these are a possibility as well. Skykomish trips are a minimum of two days. Call Steve for info.

For those who love stillwater, NE Washington lakes are at their best in September/October; autumn giving up the best Stillwater fishing of the year.

Skykomish Coho, Chum, Steelhead

We love the Sky at this time, as there is the greatest variety of sea-runs present in the river, including chum salmon, in our opinion the strongest fighter of all sea-runs. And storied as it is, the Skykomish is still rated one of the top four salmon/steelhead streams in Washington.

Let us tailor a quality trout or salmon trip for you.    

Welcome to Northeast Washington & the Upper Columbia ~ The largest tailwater native trout fishery in the world. 

"No country for sane men. And these trout are gravity."      ~Scott Sadil

This is a new take on the classic game.

Though we gladly host buddies & couples, you might want to come alone. This is a relatively secret place & you may want to keep it to yourself. Our goal is to provide an undiluted, singular experience. Our view of the American Reach is intimate & so is our approach. The river breaks down to manageable components for those who are observant & appreciate the challenges & technical aspects of hunting big trout on big water using (mostly) small flies – & it breaks down for those who seek to deepen their game. We combine drift & bank fishing. The pace is natural, not frenetic. The rewards can be very satisfying.

Wild UC redband average 16-19 inches, with trout to 28 inches fairly common on flies. We have caught 10-pound trout on dryflies. (Rainbow trout in the Columbia are known to reach 25 pounds.) Our beat also holds native West Slope cutthroat, bull trout, kokanee, & the occasional  brook or brown trout. 

UC trout have classic tastes, responding well to soft-hackle & hairwing wetflies, & also Wulff-style hairwing dryflies. I can think of no other river I’ve fished where trout like the swing & dangle better than UC fish do. This is a place ideal for swinging flies with the long rod. A 10-foot 6wt is a good stick here. And the UC is the perfect water to cover with Spey or switch rods.       

Heard about NE Washington lakes? We fish several of the prime lakes in our neighborhood, including this one, only ten minutes from our fish camp beside the Columbia.

Upper Columbia/American Reach Seasonal Overview

Cold, dead of winter in the region. Not a good time to travel far to fish here, though trout will actively feed for a short bite period, generally late afternoon during the warmest portion of the day. Sculpin, streamers & attractor wetflies fished deep & slow get the nod. Combinations of red, black, yellow & copper are good. Also, for those inclined, a red San Juan Worm fished under an indicator might take some fish.

In the later part of February pre-spawn fish begin to concentrate, staging on certain portions of the mainstem before moving up the creeks. Skwala stoneflies & Blue Winged Olives are on the menu in March. The river is at its lowest during this period & it is a good time to work down the banks with a two-handed rod swinging sculpins, streamers & wets. 

Sculpin, streamers & hairwing wets produce through the early Spring period; also, be prepared for hatches of Skwala stoneflies, blue winged olive, March brown & PMD mayflies – & grannom sedge during the later half of the period. Warm days in late May can bring hatches & falls of #8 black carpenter ants – a lot of them end up in the water & trout love them.

Grannom & baetis (PMD, red quill) dominate June fishing, with the prolific & dependable spotted sedge hatches taking over from grannom through the latter half of the month. Larger mayflies are sporadic but around, & trout feed opportunistically on them. A #14 Adams, #10-#12 Green Drake, & large hairwing dries like Royal Wulff will take fish up top all day.

By July, UC trout & insects become light sensitive, & though cloudy days might be good all day, for the most part, the active feeding period arranges toward late-afternoon/evening. The first black quill (leptophlebia) mayflies appear around the 1st of July, the hatch peaking about the 2nd & 3rd week in July & continuing into August. Black quill are the famed ‘drake hatch’ of the UC. Trout will digress from the nightly blitz of spotted sedge to take a black quill imitation, nymph or dry, throughout the hatch period. Black quill get the big boys looking up, & this hatch is what July is all about.

August is the dog days I won’t lie, but that’s not to say there isn’t good fishing, because there is, though it is concentrated right up against dusk, with trout feeding on nightly sedges, black quill & small mayflies. Grasshopper & yellowjacket patterns work well at this time too.

The October caddis hatch season begins around the 1st of September & continues through October. These are prolific & one of the most important insects to anglers meeting the UC. Both dry & wet patterns produce some of the biggest fish of the year. As the light begins to slant toward the last half of September, trout & insects become active throughout the day. As the October caddis hatch winds down at the end of October & the weather turns blustery, expect sporadic hatches of BWO, but also an attractor wetfly & streamer hatch that continues through November.

If you like tying & swinging soft-hackle flies, catching big trout on large hairwing dries, spey casting for wild trout that are a match for your gear, or are interested in the approach, we think you might like our fishing.  

Live Big.