Where to Go Fly Fishing in Washington in April

Updated:  April 5, 2022

March was pretty cool this year and April is off to a cool (and windy) start too.  Later this week, it looks like we could get some warm weather and fly fishing anglers may want to take advantage for more active fish, better hatches, and nicer weather to be outside!  Here are some good ideas for fly anglers looking to hit the water in April in the greater Washington area.

Steelhead

We've had another tough year for steelhead and most steelhead rivers are closed right now.  There are a few indicators that we could have a better year next year, but for the month of April this year, steelheading in our region is limited to places like the Cowlitz or some rivers in Oregon.  If you're anxious to swing the fly to some anadromous giants, consider joining us on our June 11-18, 2022 trip to the Skeena system in B.C. for chinook salmon.  Last year was a good year for these big kings up there where 20 to 30 lb. fish are normal and fish over 40 lbs are common.  Contact us if you are interested.  Seven nights of beautiful accommodations and meals.  Six days guided fishing.  $4490 USD.

Trout Lakes

April is the time you've been waiting for if you enjoy some solid trout fly fishing on lakes.  Most of these popular fly fishing lakes are open all year long or opened on March 1st so lakes like Lenice, Nunnally, Dry Falls, Dusty, Lone Lake, and many others should be on your radar for April.

A local favorite, Pass Lake, has limited parking right now due to a sink hole in the main parking lot.  Some parking is usually available along the road (you still need your Discover Pass) so Pass Lake is still doable unless you're the unlucky guy that can't find a parking spot!

Another local favorite, Lone Lake on Whidbey Island, has fished fairly well this spring.  Don't go on April 7th because a couple clubs will be there and you would have a LOT of company.  Otherwise, Lone is a great fishery that will typically fish well through June and then fire up again around the beginning of October.

The bulk of the other great fly fishing lakes in our region open on the 4th Saturday in April (4/23/22).  Many lakes are stocked this time of year and offer good opportunities to keep some fish for the dinner table as well.  Check out this list of trout plant reports for some ideas on where to go in your area.  

Conditions for fishing chironomids is in prime shape when water temperatures reach the 50-degree mark, which is right about now on most lakes.  Rig up a 4wt or 5wt with a floating line, use a RIO Indicator Leader, add an appropriate amount of 5X fluorocarbon tippet, peg on a Quick Release Chironomid Indicator, and tie your chironomid fly on.  Set your indicator so that the fly suspends 2-3 feet off of the bottom.  Change flies until you hit the one the fish want.  Keep an eye out for hatching naturals to choose the size of your fly.  

Another technique which is growing in popularity is to use the same setup as described for the chironomid, but up the tippet size to 3X or 4X and tie on a balanced leech pattern.  The balanced leech is designed to hang below an indicator and suspend with the fly positioned horizontally in the water column.  A little chop on the surface of the water keeps the fly under motion while you watch the indicator for the strike.  Vary the depth of the fly and the fly color to find what the fish want.  

The other important technique for fishing trout lakes is using a full-sinking fly line.  Generally, a type 3 to type 5 sink rate is a good all-purpose sink rate for your line.  A 5wt or 6wt rod is best for sinking line fishing.  Add a short fluorocarbon leader and add your fly.  Leech patterns are a good bet in April and olive, black, white or brown will usually have you in the action. The trick to success with sinking lines is to keep the fly close to the bottom throughout the retrieve as long as possible.  Whether you are casting or trolling, try to keep the fly fishing close to the bottom, especially on bright, sunny days.  If you aren't pulling weeds back every once in a while, you aren't deep enough.

Trout Rivers

The Yakima River has fished really well this spring and cool temperatures have kept the river at prime levels for much of the season so far.  Skwalas, BWO's and March Brown mayflies should all be on the docket.  Streamers and the sneaky worm patterns can also be great this time of year.  In April, look for Skwala dry flies to begin getting much of the attention on the Yak.  If that's not working, try a Skwala nymph or put a small BWO nymph below your Skwala dry as something to try.

Good old, reliable Rocky Ford usually doesn't have much change in water levels.  We have heard some reports of unusually low water this year, however.  We've also heard reports of lots of pelicans, which can't be a good thing.  Generally, Rocky Ford is a great spring location.  Streamers in white or black are often a great choice.  If those aren't working for you, nymphing small scuds and tiny mayfly nymphs will usually get you into fish.  Callibaetis and BWO hatches are also possible, as are damsels if it is a really warm month.  At Rocky Ford, the use of weight on your leader is illegal so fish a second dropper fly with a small tungsten bead to get your flies down.  The Ford is typically great in April.  Remember that no wading is allowed on Rocky Ford and it is a good place to take along a landing net.

Sea-Run Cutthroat - Saltwater

Sea-run cutthroat trout fly fishing in Puget Sound can be good all year long.  The southern portion of the Sound is a better bet this time of year but the central and northern portions of the Sound will still produce both sea-runs and resident coho.  In April, consider keeping an eye out in shallow water near creek mouths for fish looking for a meal of chum salmon smolt.  These little smolt are more like salmon fry because chum fry typically migrate directly to marine areas soon after hatching.  The usual techniques and baitfish patterns should have you in the game but maybe put a bit of emphasis on smaller patterns like the Chum Body's Baby for April. 

Fishing an intermediate sinking line with a 5- to 6-weight rod will have you setup.  The RIO Coastal Quickshooter fly line was developed for this fishery at the request of PFF’s Ben Zander and is the line to get for Puget Sound beaches. Put a 3X leader on your line, add a fly, and you're fishing.  Look for beaches with oyster beds, cobblestone, or eel grass bottoms and cover water to locate the fish.

Bass

With another cool March this year, the first good week-long warm weather trend will get fish moving up in to shallow water.  The warmer days of April will probably be the best days to be out there and finding the fish will be the number one goal of the day.  On the larger lakes like Sammamish, Whatcom, Goodwin, and Washington, look for smallmouth and largemouth around docks and isolated structure in the warmer areas of the lake... like shallow bays, canals, and flats.  If they aren't there, look for them off of points that lead into these shallow water areas or on a dropoff close to that shallower water.  Smaller lakes will warm much faster and often only have largemouth.  On these smaller lakes, look for shallow spawning areas that are close to deeper water and don't be afraid to fish super shallow.  Weedless flies may be necessary to get your fly into the junk without constantly hanging up.

Have floating lines, medium sinking lines, and super-fast sinking lines ready to go.  A fly like the EP Everglades Special would be great on a floating line with a slow sinking PolyLeader while fishing shallow for largemouth.  The Jawbreaker is a good bet on a sinking line for deeper water in either Orange or Olive.  Fish with slower retrieves but cover water fast to try and locate fish... and keep an open mind as to the depth where they may be located.  

Summary

Give us a call if we can help with further advice or equipment, flies, etc.  Hope you get out and take advantage of Washington's year-round fly fishing season and remember to check back for the May report.

-- Michael

Pacific Fly Fishers
Ph:  425-742-2402
Email:  Info@PacificFlyFishers.com

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