These 5 Small Stream Creeks and Rivers Give the Classic Fly Fishing Experience
Small Stream By Will Jukes
Updated. We spend a lot of time around here talking about fishing the big rivers in the Columbia River basin, or the open waters of the Pacific Coast. And why wouldn’t we? They’re great fisheries, and unique to the Pacific Northwest. Small stream fishing – little fish, tight casts, long hikes and 2 to 4-weight rods – often takes a backseat. It’s easy enough to find those streams in other states, places like Colorado, Idaho and Montana. So why spend time on that when Washington has so much of its own fishing to offer?
Of course, this neglects our local fans of small streams, who are left with nowhere to go if they lack the time or money for a trip out of state. But as you’ve probably guessed by now – if you didn’t already know – there’s plenty of great small stream fishing to be had in Washington State. And to help save you time, we’ve rounded up a list of what we think are the five best.
Any one of the creeks and rivers that feed the Yakima River could have made this list, and you should look into them all. The Teanaway River is the final choice because it’s relatively easy to fish – there’s plenty of access through the Teanaway Community Forest, and it’s wide enough that there’s plenty of overhead clearance for casting. It’s probably the best family fishing spot on this list. Plus, it’s just under 2 hours from Seattle. Relative to some of the Eastern Washington destinations further down this list, that’s a stroll. The only downside is that this stream is closed to fishing until the drought lifts.
Speaking of close to Seattle, anglers living in the city should look up the Nooksack River outside of Bellingham. It’s an hour and a half drive and, while the main channel itself isn’t what you’d call a small stream, it’s tributaries are a rich vein of salmonids. The Nooksack drainage has the distinction of harboring nearly every species of salmon and trout that can be found in the Pacific Northwest – chum, coho, pink and sockeye salmon, and rainbow, cutthroat, steelhead and Dolly Varden trout.
A little further afield than the previous two entries, Rattlesnake Creek is a small, picturesque creek in the central Cascades near Nile. Rattlesnake Creek flows through rough country on mostly public land. It’s a hike to get to the best spots, but your reward is pristine water, a scenic canyon, plenty of overhead space for casting, and 20 inch westslope cutthroats.
Actually, we’ve already written a whole article about Crab Creek; it’s part of what inspired me to look for more great little creeks. But it’s hard to find a stream more deserving than this brilliant little creek with its big, hungry cutthroats and challenging casts.
Rocky Ford Creek
Those that don’t acknowledge Crab Creek as the supreme Eastern Washington small stream fishery will probably argue instead for Rocky Ford Creek. And there’s an argument to be made, although the winner probably depends on personal preference. Rocky Ford is a sight casters dream, with lots of clear, gentle water and trophy sized rainbow trout.