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Saturday, April 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 46° Partly Cloudy
Sports >  Outdoors

Landers: Single salmonfly offers nostalgic fishing dream

He couldn’t have been more excited if a whopper brown trout had just swirled on his Stimulator.

Spokesman-Review colleague Jim Kershner stormed into the office the other day gushing about the salmonfly he found fluttering on the sidewalk on his way to work.

With most rivers around the region still blown out from runoff, the sight of a salmonfly triggers fond memories of the one year in 20 or 30 when the average angler actually hits the peak of a salmonfly hatch on a trout stream.

Anglers in the office began twitching with the urge to go out and heave abnormally heavy stonefly nymphs into the unusually big water flooding the region. Ugly Bug patterns weighted with a half-pound of lead ought to get to the bottom.

Spokane fly fishers are well aware of the legend that Spokane River salmonfly emergences once were so prolific they greased the trolley tracks around the old Natatorium Park.

Of course, times have changed. Kershner’s pet salmonfly was the only meaty trout-teasing bug in sight. Still, it was enough for hope.

Checks with Idaho and Montana fishing guides suggest that the Coeur d’Alene is the only river east of Spokane fishing reasonably well this week. Hatches include brown and green drakes, PMDs, blue-wing olives and some teaser golden stones.

Forget the St. Joe for the time being.

Salmonfly patterns cast tight along the shoreline of Montana’s Rock Creek are triggering strikes. But the stream is still off-limits to float-fishing and guides discourage wading lest your first cast be your last.

The Clark Fork River has dropped below flood stage, but it’s still huge. Clark Fork Trout and Tackle in St. Regis doesn’t even want to talk about it until flows are below 20,000 cfs.

On Wednesday, the river was running 39,000.

The St. Joe River also has been huge, with increasing flows on Tuesday and Wednesday as hot weather worked on the lingering snowpack. The road has been opened from Wallace over Moon Pass to the St. Joe, but the river needs to settle.

The Bitterroot River is the realm of knowledgeable guides who know where the river channel. Without that savvy, you’d be lucky to suffer the embarrassment of getting deposited into some farmer’s flooded field – because that means you didn’t get gobbled up in a log jam.

The Bitterroot is still dangerous, but anglers who can get to side channels are catching fish.

The biggest hopes for salmonfly anglers is the West Fork of the Bitterroot, where fly-fishing guides are predicting they’ll see fishable water and catch the tail end of the annual emergence in a couple of weeks.

Kershner finished his lunch hour Tuesday by taking the still-kicking salmonfly to Riverfront Park, where he offered his Pteronarcys californica to the river gods and their fish.

Unfortunately, Spokane River trout apparently have forgotten that a salmonfly is a feast.

Instead of a noble ending as a rich offering to a whopper fish, the salmonfly drifted down the current unnoticed and into the Monroe Street Dam intake.

“It became a kilowatt,” Kershner said.

Schweitzer uplifting: Schweitzer Mountain Resort will open its summer season on Saturday with food, outdoor games and activities, food, live music and free chair lift rides.

Normally, hikers and mountain bikers would take advantage of this summer-opening special.

But this year the resort’s upper slopes are still covered with snow patches and the biking trails are snow-clogged or muddy.

Jacks only on Clearwater: Harvest of adult chinook salmon in the North Fork Clearwater River and mainstem Clearwater River downstream of the Orofino Bridge will close at the end of fishing hours on Sunday. 

PFDs catch on: King County’s Council voted 5-4 this week to require all swimmers, floaters and boaters on the West Side county’s rivers to wear life vests.

Spokane County already has a similar law that reads:

“All persons regardless of age shall wear a personal flotation device while on moving water.”

Who says Seattle leads the way?

Almost hunters: A black Lab won the battle of the breeds Saturday at the Spokane Bird Dog Association’s 2011 Fun Hunt.

Among the breeds were German shorthair pointers, springer spaniels, yellow Labs, English setters and German wirehairs.

The breeds went head to head in braces during the timed event at Espanola to see how fast they and their handlers could bag a pair of chukars.

I’m still checking out the rumor that the Labs and springers were sponsored by PETA.

The handlers generally didn’t have to fire a shot as the “flushers” moved in quickly to nail the pen-raised birds before they could fly.

It’s not clear whether the flushing-dog owners can’t shoot – or whether they really don’t want to.

Stay tuned.

Contact Rich Landers at (509) 459-5508 or email

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