Date: July, 2023
Source: Jim Bailey
Target Species: Rainbow trout
Location: Trail, Sunningdale, Waneta
Temperature: Hot 25-38C
Fishing the Columbia River has been literally up and down in the month of July.
Excessive heat and fluctuating river levels has made for tough wading during the day, and reluctant takes in the morning and evening. But first the good news.
The Columbia River is exempt from the recent restrictions put on Kootenay streams. The Ministry of Forests has imposed a no fishing ban on all streams in the MU 4-3 to 4-9 between the hours of 2 p.m. and midnight starting Aug. 2.
Those include the Salmo River, Beaver Creek and the Pend d’Oreille River, but not the Columbia River or the Kootenay River in the West Kootenay due to their size and depths, which afford refuge for fish during the heat of day.
As for the fishing, it was great in the first week or so, challenging after that, but getting better.
In early July, I was still having luck with walleye in the evening and landed several rainbow trout on dry flies and caddisfly emergers.
I also landed two rainbows midday on a large streamer pattern, although again I was targeting walleye. I did manage three walleye that afternoon, the biggest just over 20-inches.
In mid-July, I went out in the evening often, and did okay with a caddis pattern at dusk and into the night. One particularly good evening I landed four trout on a hopper pattern in a big eddy in Sunningdale.
However, it has become challenging with the heat. I went out Monday evening, and landed one rainbow on the fly and caught no walleye. The river lacked the prolific rises one becomes used to, but persistence does eventually pay off.
Casting in the darkness, an 18-inch bow smashed my caddis pattern and took me for a long run. I fought it and brought it to the net. Tired, and eminently satisfied, it was time to call it a night.
Reports from other anglers have yielded mixed results as well.
If you check out social media pages, Scott Beauchamp has done better than most, casting rooster tails into eddies, and landing some very nice rainbows. He also helped his friend Dan land a beautiful four-pound rainbow, the best fight and biggest bow he has landed on the river.
For fly anglers, Hopper patterns have also yielded good results, with guide Graham Cloutier sharing his success with small hopper patterns.
His recent catch of walleye indicates they are plentiful and as big as ever out in Robson.
Similarly, another friend landed four rainbows and lost two on the surface one evening casting a purple Chubby Chernobyl – a large foam fly tied on number-6 hook that imitates hoppers and large adult stoneflies.
He is convinced that it is not so much the fly pattern as it is about profile and presentation. Who can argue with results?
Trout, like humans, can be averse to hot sun, so finding cooler water by fishing deeper, or casting at the mouths of streams, or in the early morning and later in the evening can increase your chances of success.
I have always looked forward to fishing the Columbia in August. It has been a productive month for walleye, rainbows, and even bass. Hopefully temperatures will ease, and the river levels be more consistent.
The key to fishing anywhere is to be vigilant and creative. Try something new, fish outside the box.
And for inspiration, become part of the fishing community and source advice and tactics from local anglers who are knowledgeable and generous with their information.
Wesportfish.com will try to help pass that information on so you too can find success fishing the unclassified, open, and wild Columbia River.