Washington Rivers


What to Expect in March

Note: This What-To-Expect is from Westfly's Legacy pages and may not accurately reflect the current fishing at this venue.

Steelhead anglers should watch the river levels carefully. The adage is, "When rivers are high, fish high. When rivers are low, fish low." That means that when the flows are unseasonably low your best opportunities are farther down the river, near the mouth, where there is more water and steelhead are stacked up waiting to come in at the first sign of increased flows.

At this time, you're at least as likely to encounter a spawned-out "downstreamer" as a fresh fish. Downstreamers favor slow water, so you can improve your odds of hooking bright, unspawned steelhead by keeping your fly out of those areas. Some prime downstreamer waters are: just past a drop-off where a run starts, the slow water on the inside of current seams, and the slow water on the inside of riffle corners; avoid those areas and you'll avoid the downstreamers.

Blue-winged olives will hatch throughout the month. Size18-22 Baetis Cripples work well during hatches, as do Parachute Baetis. My personal favorite--a Sparkle Dun--seems to work most anywhere. In general, the best blue-winged olive action will be midday: 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. (standard time). Generally, cool, drippy days prolong and intensify the hatch, bringing more trout to the surface. Sometimes the best hatches occur when the weather is warming up after a couple of cold days.

If you want to fish outside the blue-winged olive hatch, tie on a size18 Gold-Ribbed Hares Ear or a Pheasant Tail and drift it near the bottom during the pre-noon hours. The best way to get these small flies down on the bottom is to pinch a splitshot onto the leader or to use a tandem fly rig with a heavy fly such as a Rubber Legs on the point and the small fly on a dropper rig about 12 inches above it.

Runs of slow to moderate speed are best for the blue-winged olive nymphs, but the dry flies work best in backeddies (they work in slow runs, too, but they're better in backeddies). Post-hatch, try a Diving Baetis to pick up trout feeding on egg-laying females

March browns will join the blue-wings on some rivers. A size12-14 brown-bodied Comparadun or CDC Cripple is a good dry fly choice. During March brown hatches, look for feeding fish in the slow-to-moderate runs that are within about a hundred yards (upstream or downstream) of a good-sized riffle.

The larvae of spotted caddis and green caddis continue to be on the trout menu. A Zug Bug or Prince nymph works. Look for current seams and slow water just below a riffle or drop-off, and dead drift your nymph through those spots.

Midges are another staple of a trout's diet at this time of year. Look for midday hatches and use a midge pupa pattern or an adult pattern such as a Sprout Midge or Griffiths Gnat.

On some eastside rivers, such as the Yakima, Skwala stoneflies are hatching this month. That's an excellent dry fly event, as well as a good nymphing opportunity.

No matter where you pursue your trout, be sure to carry some size14-16 Parachute Adams with you. They have saved my bacon on many rivers at this time of year. They will often take trout when there is no hatch. Another generic pattern to carry is a size 16 brown Soft Hackle, which can pick up trout when presented with a surface swing.


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