Updated: April 1, 2023
Like last year, March was super cold and April is starting off a very chilly as well. For this first week of April, it looks like the end of this week is supposed to warm up slightly. This should really get some of our fishing locations rolling. So, with that, here are some ideas for where to cast a fly in the month of April in Washington state area.
This year has certainly been better for winter steelhead than the last two. Unfortunately, however, a very cautious approach to managing sport anglers has cut our seasons pretty short again this year, but there is good news. The Skagit/Sauk are open right now through the month of April. The current rain and, hopefully, warmer weather later this week should equate to a good time to be on those rivers as they are pretty low and clear right now. Anglers are catching some fish, but it was better before getting so low/clear. Warmer temps will equate to snow melt and rising rivers so that could be a great time for possibly better fishing, new fish moving in, and warmer for us anglers too!
The Olympic Peninsula rivers closed as of April 1st. It was a pretty good year out there this year in the opinion of most anglers who got some time on the water.
April is the beginning of peak season on many of our local trout 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.
We have had really good reports coming out of Pass Lake. Dark colored chironomids or the ever-important leech patterns have been getting it done. A number of anglers have been doing well there over the last couple weeks and catching really good numbers.
Another local favorite, Lone Lake on Whidbey Island, usually fishes really well in early spring. It has been a little finicky but is producing fish. Most guys are doing well on small black chironomids or small bloodworms but this can change quickly. A blob on a sinking line will catch fish as well. Leeches have been slow. Damsel nymphs will fire up here soon as the water warms up.
The bulk of the other great fly fishing lakes in our region open on the 4th Saturday in April (4/23/23). 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 rod 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.
We’ve heard good reports from the Yakima lately and cool temperatures have kept the river at prime levels for much of the season so far. Skwala stoneflies, BWO's, March Browns and midge are all important in April. 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. The warmer and less windy days will likely be the important dry fly days. Those BWO’s tend to be most important on a calm, overcast or rainy day compared to a bright, sunny day.
Good old, reliable Rocky Ford usually doesn't have much change in water levels. We have heard good reports for the Ford lately and haven’t heard of any issues with water levels or pelicans, so that is good! 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, midge larva 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 isn’t going to be available from RIO anymore so our line recommendation is the RIO Premier Outbound Short – Intermediate. 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.
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 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.
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.
Pacific Fly Fishers