From the bottom-draw dam at Castlegar to the U.S. border, the upper Columbia River features 30 miles of the most intense caddis dry-fly fishing you’re likely to experience. The steelhead-strain rainbows will leave anglers breathless as they rise in immense pods along the seams and back eddies. Dave Brown Outfitters is pleased to offer the only full-time fly-fishing guiding service on this magnificent stretch of river, just a 3-hours’ drive from the Spokane airport. We specialize in dry-fly fishing to trophy trout in shallow water – something no other Columbia outfitter can claim, either in Canada or the U.S.!
The Columbia River
The upper Columbia redbands are “steelhead” to the core. When Washington State dammed the lower river, thousands of wild, native-run steelhead were trapped in the free-flowing upper Columbia. The steelhead trout quickly adapted to the freshwater habitat, becoming the spectacular-fighting rainbows we fish to today. The upper river also boasts strains of the world-famous Gerrard rainbows – long associated with the Kootenay region. Keeping all these fish well-fed are a host of insects. The afternoon and evening caddis hatches are the dry-fly mainstay, bringing the Columbia’s rainbows to the surface almost daily from late-May to October. Other hatches include BWOs, PMDs and midges, and terrestrials like hoppers and ants are also present.
During your float you’re likely to see an abundance of birds and wildlife. Bald eagles and blue herons soar above while deer, elk and the occasional black bear make appearances along the water’s edge. Average daytime and evening temperatures are warm compared to other mountainous areas, making for a very comfortable fishing experience. But the Columbia remains cold year-round owing to its tailwater origin and volume of flow, guaranteeing hard-fighting rainbows that will take you deep and far into the river.
Fly-Fishing the Columbia River
Fly-fishing with Dave Brown Outfitters is experiencing the Columbia done right. You’ll be fishing from our specially equipped Power Drifter. The 50-horsepower jet outboard enables us to safely navigate the big river while we cruise to and from the best spots. Then, once we’re set up in the prime water, we cut the motor and drop the oars, meaning you’ll be casting from a conventional drift boat just like on any other big Western river. The jet drive also lets us access shallow water where wading is the norm – places where 20-inch-plus rainbows eat dry flies and you won’t see another angler. It’s a setup we’re pleased to offer our clients to maximize your Columbia fishing experience.
Columbia River rainbows average 16 to 18 inches, but 20”+ trout are commonly landed on dries each day. These trout love to run, fight and jump spectacularly. Between hatches or early and late in the season, streamer fishing is also effective, but you’ll want to bring a heavy rod and strong arm because the water is big and so are the trout waiting in the swift currents.
The upper Columbia doesn’t run off per se, so dry-fly fishing begins in earnest from Memorial Day (Victoria Day in Canada) on. Prolific caddis season is typically late-May to mid-September, though strong hatches will continue well into the fall and the fish continue to rise to caddis during October. By then the big Orange caddis are out as well and drawing the attention of some really big trout. We have a devoted cast of clients who come to fish #8 foam dries each autumn – please book early so you don’t miss out!
The nearby Slocan River and smaller tributaries round out the tremendous West Kootenays fishing experience. Rainbows are the mainstay, offering a great complement to the world-class cutthroat fishing in the East Kootenays namely the Elk Rver , where Dave Brown Outfitters dropped first anchor in the commercial guiding business.
For those seeking the ultimate Western Canadian fly-fishing adventure, we suggest combining a West Kootenays trip with several days’ fishing out of Fernie and The Elk River in the East Koots. It’s a great way to catch steelhead-strain rainbows and native cutties in one epic trip. Better yet, it’s only a 4-hour drive from the Slocan Valley to Fernie; we can ensure you don’t miss a day’s fishing by offering a tremendous walk-and-wade option at the halfway mark.
With the magnificent Selkirk Mountains and scenery of Interior B.C. as the backdrop, other Columbia-area attractions are bountiful: hiking, mountain biking, lake boating and kayaking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, and golf – all are available in the immediate vicinity.
We recommend spending at least 2 days in the Columbia area, and 3+ if you want to experience all the fishing has to offer. In addition to the Power Drifter, our West Kootenay guides use standard Mac boats to tailor the boat to the river. Fitter anglers also have several walk-and-wade options.See our Trip Planner for more ideas.
The City of Castlegar puts you at Ground Zero for the Columbia. Both the Sandman Inn and economy-priced Quality Inn are central to restaurants, bars, coffee shops and convenience stores. We’ll arrange to pick you up – from there it’s a short hop to the river and the put-in of choice. For those seeking urban accommodations with a ‘hip’ flavor, we recommend the vibrant mountain community of Nelson – just 25 minutes from the upper Columbia. Long considered the “funkiest” town in the B.C. Interior, Nelson is beautifully perched on the hillside above Kootenay Lake and famous for its heritage buildings and eclectic flair. The centrally located Hume Hotel is a Nelson mainstay; other options are the upscale Prestige Lakeside Resort, Best Western on Baker or any of the numerous B&Bs in the area.
If you’d prefer to stay off-the-beaten-path in the rustic Slocan Valley, we recommend Lemon Creek Lodge. But be forewarned – there’s no cell coverage in this idyllic backroads – just a world of peace and quiet!
Questions ? Call Us 1-800-453-3991 or email – firstname.lastname@example.org
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