Spokane at center of good fly-fishing

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Anglers in Spokane relish living in the best fly fishing town never mentioned in fly-fishing circles.

A lot of serious fly casters live here with no intention of leaving a city with all the amenities – yet no crowds to detour convenient pursuit of fish.

Months ago, after the Federation of Fly Fishers chose Spokane as the 2012 site for its International Fly Fishing Fair, I was asked to write a synopsis of Inland Northwest fly fishing opportunities.

I had plenty of ideas, but queried a few hundred fly fishers by email. I asked what they would tell the 600-700 out-of-towners coming here for the big gathering of fly tiers, casters and fisheries experts at the Spokane Convention Center July 12-14.

Only a few anglers replied. Several said they’d rather not spread word about their fishing hot spots.

A few were generous with their experiences. For example:

• Dan Wight of the Spokane Fly Fishers highly recommended float trips on the Kootenai River downstream from Libby Dam.

“There are at least half a dozen good day floats on the Kootenai from the dam to the Yaak River,” he said, noting the dam helps maintain good water quality and numerous camping spots are available.

• Chet Allison, president of the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club, noted that Browns Lake northeast of Cusick offers a good stillwater fly-fishing experience even after the summer heat bears down.

Of course, this is just a hint of what’s around.

The hook that distinguishes Spokane is the year-round diversity available to anglers within a two- or three-hour drive. The options will make a fly-caster’s head spin.

Fishing licenses for Washington, Idaho and Montana are as common in a Spokane angler’s wallet as photos of the family.

South of Spokane is the Snake River and tributaries with premier steelhead fishing.

Go north to apply dry-fly finesse on the chunky, kick-your-butt wild rainbows of the upper Columbia River.

Drive east on Interstate 90 to wade into more options than you can shake a five-weight rod at, including the native westslope cutthroats in Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe rivers, and the cutts, rainbows and browns in Montana’s Clark Fork River.

One angling friend bribed me with promises of dark beer and said “Don’t talk about the Thompson River.” So I won’t.

West of Spokane is an assortment of flowing and stillwater fisheries shaped by the great Ice Age Floods.

The landscape scoured by the floods left “scablands” of basalt outcroppings, rich fields, fertile wetlands and lakes that feed fish a bounty of chironomids, scuds, dragonfly nymphs, mayflies and more.

Lakes such as Amber and Coffeepot feature selective gear regulations that foster beefy trout.

Anglers find miles of public access on scabland streams such as Rock, Cow or Crab creeks.

Some local anglers refer to these streams collectively as “Rattlesnake Creek” for more than one reason.