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West Kootenay Fishing Report: Columbia River - walleye express

Walleye fishing heating up on the Columbia River, rainbows on Kootenay Lake
Angler Juli Dobie landed this 24-inch walleye on the Columbia River last week while fly fishing near Trail. Photo: Jim Bailey

June was here and it felt more like August at times.

The higher than normal temperatures have definitely increased the water temperature.

Kootenay Lake: The month of May was good to us. Plenty of trips and plenty of fish.

As we saw our water temperature finally hit that optimum number, the fish began to really put the feed bags on. Rainbows up to 9-pounds and bull trout up to 14-pounds were caught on some of our recent trips.

The first half of May saw a lot of bull trout being caught and a few rainbows. But, as the hot weather took over, and the water temperatures climbed, we saw the bull trout fishing drop off and the rainbows pick up.

The lake didn’t stay in the optimum temperature range for too long. Usually we have the whole month of May and most of June before the temps increase and the fish go deep. However, the latest water temperatures are over 60 degrees and we have moved right in to summer fishing.

Summer fishing sees the fish drop down deeper to cooler water temperatures.

We have adjusted our techniques and continue to catch. Average days on the water have produced one or two bull trout, as well as 6-10 rainbows. It seems like there is one magic day each week, where the fish are gorging themselves. And the next six days they are feeding sporadically. So, if you hit the magic day, you’re gonna be busy.

Either way, it doesn’t matter, just have to be on the water.

What are they biting on on Kootenay?: Typically, our bucktail flies are working on the choppy days. Lucky number 210, 221 and 226 have been best for us. However, since the fish seem to be more sub-surface, we have been having the best luck on our favourite Gibbs Croc spoons.

Some days it’s the brass/fire stripe, and other days it’s the brass/fire wing that works better. Just have to keep mixing it up.

The downriggers have been producing a few more fish lately as well. Seems like 40-to-60-foot depths have been most consistent.

We’ve been dragging the same spoons at those depths with good results.

Water temp is over 60 degrees, so our trolling speed has been between 3.0 – 3.5 mph. If the water temp warms up too much more, the fish may become lethargic and it will be time to slow our speeds. But, until the fishing slows down, we will continue with what has worked best.

Columbia River: Walleye have been abundant on the Columbia, with reports of multiple catches coming in.

In mid-June, on one outing, I was getting hits on almost every cast, and landed nine walleye and three rainbows in just over two hours.

The key for targeting walleye is getting your fly down near the bottom with fast sink line. It gets better as dusk settles in or on cloudy days when walleye move into shallower water. Check your line/tippet occassionally, as their sharp teeth can be hard on it, so the fly will be gone on the next hit.

Fly anglers have been catching them on egg-sucking leech patterns, pumpkin head woolly buggers, or other large streamers.

For spincasters a jighead with rubber twister tails is tried and true, but different lures and methods work, from jigging, to casting swimbaits.

The limit for walleye on the river is a generous 16 because they are considered an invasive species.

Rainbow trout fishing has also been hot, but seemingly dependent on river fluctuation at times.

Fly fishers have had good luck casting flies in the evening rise, on size 12-14 dry flies and nymphs with an indicator in large backeddies during the day.

I landed a few nice 14-to-18-inch rainbows on my own version of an Elk hair caddis the other night, not pretty but effective. Adams, Wulff, Tom Thumb, and Humpy patterns also work.

Had great luck with caddis emerger patterns with six to nine feet of leader and a strike indicator. Try a Klinkhamer caddis, Lightning Bug, CDC emerger or other.

As for shorebound spincasters try a bobber with a four-foot lead to a dry fly in the evening or cast spinners and crocodile spoons at any time of day.

West Kootenay Fishing Report on Kootenay Lake is provided by Kerry Reed from Reel Adventures Sport Fishing Charters at, and the Columbia River Report by

Jim Bailey

About the Author: Jim Bailey

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