With the cooling water, dry fly fishing is just about over on Idaho and Montana rivers.
The Clark Fork continues to be the favorite fall option for guide shops out of Missoula. The Missoulian Angler on Wednesday reported Baetis hatches were still strong on the river below Missoula.
But observations on the rivers from Clark Fork to the Missouri near Craig indicate that many anglers are working streamers, often with a cast and fast-strip retrieve.
Close to home, the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene are still providing fishing opportunities and you needn’t get up too early.
Sprague Lake fished pretty well Thursday for fly-tying guru John Newbury of Chewelah.
“We started trolling flies at 10 a.m. and pulled off the lake at 2 p.m. and had six fish to show for our efforts,” Newbury said, noting that he and his partner lost three other nice ones at the boat.
“Four of the fish were 19 inches long, and the other two were 15 and 16 inches long and heavy. Only three other boats on the water. I was surprised the lake still was showing signs of a bloom. Apparently the cold weather is just starting to clear up the lake.”
The Grande Ronde River is still a good bet for a steelhead. Small patterns are working best.
Amber Lake is kicking out good-sized cutthroat for float-tubers throwing nymphs. A friend reported good nymphing recently on the east end of Sprague Lake.
Clark Fork Trout and Tackle in St. Regis has wrapped up its guiding season. When the outfit reopens in March, the retail portion of the shop will be moved nearby to the Stang’s Food Center, where shop owner Brooks Sanford plans to meet his guided clients.
Steelhead and salmon
Steelhead fishermen say numbers of fish near Bridgeport on the Columbia River are building, but they are still catching more triploids than anything. Some of these are up to 10 pounds.
Steelhead anglers are successfully backtrolling plugs above Heller Bar, but the majority of fish have been wild. Purples and hot reds are working. The bite at the mouth of the Grande Ronde at Heller Bar has slowed some as more fish leave the Snake to start their spawning run up the tributary.
Trout and kokanee
Rufus Woods triploids are active near the net pens if there is some current in the reservoir. Without current, Rufus is difficult to figure out. Anglers dropping small purple jigs have done well recently in deeper water.
Lake Roosevelt rainbow seem to be getting active again on the surface. Try a Rippin’ Minnow behind monofilament. A lot of the fish caught this week have been in the 20-inch range.
Rock Lake is picking up again. Trollers are doing well against the walls, with some large brown trout reported.
Curlew Lake is kicking out some big rainbow for the few anglers trying for them. A trolled fly and flasher just under the surface will get action.
Waitts Lake produced this week for fly-fishers, who could see brown trout trying to spawn.
Sprague Lake is an excellent bet for huge rainbow. Trolling the middle of the lake is effective, but just lobbing Power Bait from shore is sometimes even better.
The Pend Oreille River still has good, green weed beds and the pike action remains steady. Spoons seem to be working better than anything. On Coeur d’Alene Lake pike are still hitting, as are the largemouth. Plastics in shallow water do well.
Smallmouth bass will still hit aggressively on Lake Roosevelt, but they are in deeper water and prefer either jigs or plastic worms and grubs. Roosevelt walleye are also deep. Anglers jigging and blade baiting down river from Spring Canyon did well this week.
With the low water, Banks Lake fishing is erratic. Anglers say that some days walleye and bass fishing is so simple it’s ridiculous, and the next day you can’t buy a bite. Coulee Playland still has a usable ramp.
Outdoors editor Rich Landers – email@example.com - contributed to this column.Contact Alan Liere by email at firstname.lastname@example.org