Updated: March 27, 2021
This year in 2021, March was pretty dang cool and rainy so April is looking especially good for hitting the water to me. Like most years, April offers great trout fishing on many lakes and continues to offer the tail end of our winter steelhead season. Here is a breakdown of some good fly fishing ideas in Washington in the month of April.
Steelheading continues on the Skagit and Sauk rivers through April 13th this year. The Skagit/Sauk season is catch-and-release only and anglers are only allowed to fish on Saturday through Tuesday of each week. If you haven't fished these rivers before, the Sauk is an easier river to walk and wade. Because of this, it also receives much more angling pressure. The Skagit's walk-in water is tougher to find but there are some nice walk-in spots. Floating both rivers is certainly an option but the Sauk can get pretty skinny for a drift boat if it is running low. Both rivers have fish in them but it seems that you have to work hard for them this year. On the bright side, the average fish size is definitely larger than normal.
The Olympic Peninsula rivers are closing early this year. We have a couple more days left in March but all the rivers (I believe... ) close as of April 1st to limit the impact on wild fish.
April is the time you've been waiting for if you enjoy some solid trout fly fishing on lakes. A number of lakes were still frozen during early March but most lakes are in full swing now. 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, Pass Lake, Lone Lake, and many others should be on your radar for April. The bulk of the other great fly fishing lakes open on the 4th Saturday in April (4/24/21). 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 will be in prime shape when water temperatures reach the 50-degree mark. 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 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 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.
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 get 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 doesn't care about water levels too much. This spring creek just keeps on fishing. 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 exiting 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.
It's getting to be that time of year already! With the cool weather in March, 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 Miller Time would be great on a floating line 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