Fly Fishing on the Spokane River

Fly fishing on the Spokane River is one of the less-known activities on the river but not one you want to miss out on. The Spokane River flows out of Lake Couer d’Alene in Idaho travels through Spokane Valley, downtown Spokane and eventually joins the Columbia River. The Spokane River is a dam-controlled river that changes the flow often throughout the year. The river also changes shape as you progress through Spokane, some sections look like traditional trout streams, while others are even deep enough to waterski on.

Best Time To Go Fishing in Spokane

The best time to fishing on the Spokane River is from the beginning of summer all through the fall. The river is also fishable in the late months of the winter but the river usually closes on March 15th and reopens the first Saturday before Memorial Day (usually around the end of May or the first week of June.) This closure is in place to protect the native Redband trout during the peak of their spawning season when they are laying eggs and sitting on spawning grounds known as redds.

River Safety

With the river being controlled by dams, this can cause the flows to be very powerful and change without notice. Keep this in mind when wade fishing and always use caution in the early months of spring when the river is running at its highest. Always check the flows before you go and if you’re unsure about the current being too strong, or water levels being too high, it’s always best not to proceed further.

Top 3 Places to Fish on the Spokane River

The best places to fish the Spokane River are the lower part of Riverside State Park, the access point near Sullivan Street bridge, and the Washington and Idaho state line.

One of my favorite locations to fish on the Spokane River is in Riverside State Park on the lower part. The park has many river access points and all offer great chances of catching Redband trout. Look for sections on the river right after rapids where the currents meet and you’re sure to find fish. If you’re lucky, you might even stumble upon Brown trout. You will need to have a Discover Pass to fish in Riverside State Park so make sure to pick one up prior to getting there or you can purchase one at the Ranger Station on-site.

Another favorite location of mine is mid-river around the Sullivan Street bridge in Spokane Valley. Both upstream and downstream of the bridge offer great chances to find fish. This section of the river offers large boulder fields that fish love to feed both in front of and behind. This area also has banks that are easy to cast off of without worrying about getting hung up on bushes or trees behind you.

The last location I recommend fly fishing in Spokane is right at the state line on the Washington side. There is a large parking area and it’s a great location for walking the bank. On this section of the river, you will want to look for sections above and below rapids. Anything that has current dumping into it are great places to look for fish.

Types of Fish in the Spokane River

The Spokane River is home to the native Redband trout. Redband trout are a strain of the Rainbow trout and are known for their beautiful red streak down the entire body and vibrant black spots. The Spokane River is also home to the occasional Cutthroat and Brown trout as well as plenty of Smallmouth Bass. You’ll tend to find more trout where the water temps are cooler and more Smallmouth as the temps warm up. The most common type of fish you’ll find in the Spokane River most of the year are Redband trout. When the water temps of the river begin to rise in the peak summer months, the trout tend to be less active and hang out in the deeper, cooler waters and the Smallmouth Bass tend to dominate populations in the river. The lower river also has a higher density of trout and far fewer Smallmouth bass as opposed to the upper river where it is about a 50/50 split.

What Gear To Use

Like most trout fisheries, the Spokane River fishes very similar in the fact that the fish eat stoneflies and caddisflies primarily. Any type of fly that imitates either a large stonefly nymph or caddis is a great choice to go with.

A favorite of the locals is a large Pat’s Rubber Legs in a size 8 or 10 with a smaller soft hackle around a size 12-16 dropped below it and fished under an indicator. In the warmer months, you can find fish sipping caddis flies off the surface and they will take a dry fly if you stay persistent with it, but nymphing under an indicator is usually one of the most productive methods for finding fish in the Spokane River.

In terms of a rod and reel, most fly fishermen prefer a 5 or 6-weight 9’0 trout rod paired with a 5 or 6-weight reel. This will be the same setup that you would fish on most other trout streams. I’d recommend consulting with the local fly shops for the best flies and tactics to find fish.

Local Fly Shops

About the Author

Nicolas James

Adventure & Lifestyle Photographer

Nick is an adventure and lifestyle photographer whose work heavily focuses on the outdoor and tourism realm. He is an avid mountain biker, skier, wake surfer, fly fisherman and huckleberry milkshake enthusiast. He currently resides in Liberty Lake, WA, with his wife Alexis and their German Shepherd, Vena.