Spring has not quite sprung yet, but consistent temperatures have resulted in stable water levels and good fishing here on the Coeur d'Alene River. It's a great time to head out to the river and conquer cabin fever while having some of the prime spots all to yourself. I personally was out fishing 3 times this past week. Although the midge hatches and nymph fishing were a little slow for me, it is prime time for swinging, stripping and jerking streamers around. I was able to get into some good sized native Cutthroat using an articulated olive sculpin of my own variation.
I suggest bringing a streamer box stocked with a wide range of colors. Work through your color progression starting with your darkest fly, followed by a lighter fly and working your way into the more moderate colors until you find what the fish are keying in on. Remember, persistence pays off and streamers are always your best bet if it's big trout you're after!
It's also a good idea to keep your eye out for midges, stonefly nymphs, and maybe even some blue winged olives. When in doubt, try the always reliable San Juan worm behind a Golden Stone or a Purple Lightning Bug. As always with nymphing, make sure your flies are getting deep enough in the water column. If you aren't ticking bottom or picking up fish every fourth or fifth cast, add more split shot until you do. Aside from the technical facts, it really is beautiful out on the river right now in its pre-runoff state. There are plenty of waterfowl around, and on Friday, I was lucky enough to share a spot on the river with a small herd of elk. If you're an avid fly-tier like myself and maybe tired of spending so much time at the tying desk, it's a great opportunity to get out and put your new flies to the test! For me, chasing native trout on flies I have tied myself is truly the pinnacle of fly fishing. There's nothing like watching a big trout emerge from the deep to chase down a streamer that you tied up a few days earlier.
A later runoff this year combined with a more significant snowfall and cooler spring temps should make for outstanding fishing well into the summer and fall! Now is the time to get out there and see how the river has changed over the winter, and pick out your favorite spots. Just make sure you bring plenty of warm layers for standing out in the cold water. Every time I pull my waders on I think of my fishing with my dad, dressed in jeans and tennis shoes, knee deep in a small mountain stream in early April, having refused to spend any money on fishing "accessories." To him, anything that isn't a rod, reel, line or fly is an "accessory." Like I said, persistence pays off, and often in a big way. I caught the cutthroat pictured above just a few seconds after telling myself, "Okay, last cast. For real this time."