Early Season Angling: Fly Fishing Amber Lake

I had turned off Highway 904 on the south end of Cheney and was heading through the Turnbull Wildlife Refuge when the coffee finally kicked in.  Just a few more miles, I told my bladder.  I have been making the pilgrimage to Amber Lake every spring for the last 13 years, and this happens every time.  Pulling into the parking lot 10 minutes later, I glanced at the lake and smiled.  There were only a few guys in pontoon boats and a light ripple on the water – perfect.   After utilizing the local facilities, I opened the back of the Subaru, pulled out my float tube, waders, fins, assorted gear, and rod case.  The second I unsheathed my favorite Sage 5-weight rod, it was as though someone had turned on a wind machine.  I laughed, thinking about my family’s fishing curse: “Wherever the Northrup boys go fishing, so too goes the wind.”

I finished getting my gear on, and after a bit of huffing and puffing, I was finally in the water, kicking my way towards my favorite spot on the lake.  While I won’t tell you exactly where, there are so many great places to fish on Amber it really doesn’t matter.  Once I reached my “honey hole,” I put my back to the wind and dropped anchor, counting the number of knots in the rope as I did so.  10 knots at one foot intervals.  I unstrung my rod and made sure the barb was pinched on the black chironomid fly I had tied on, and then attached my strike indicator 9 feet up from it.  Peeling line off of my reel, I made one 30 foot cast downwind and waited for my fly to sink, making sure my line was straight and the rod tip down.

My mind had wandered off, and I was watching some fisherman on the other side of the lake when it happened. Seems it nearly always happens that way. When I glanced back to where my strike indicator should have been, it was gone.  I immediately lifted my rod tip up to set the hook, and the battle between man and fish was on.  After a few powerful runs, I brought the 19” rainbow to the net, carefully removed the fly in his jaw, and returned him to the depths of Amber Lake.  Over the next hour or so, 10 more fish succumbed to my fly and were brought to hand, and all were between 14” and 18.”   Taking a quick break, I cracked open a cold PBR and enjoyed the surrounding scenery.

I prefer to stay on the right side of the fishing gods.
I prefer to stay on the right side of the fishing gods.

“What are you using?  Man, you’re just killing ‘em!” shouted a fisherman as he rowed his way toward me.  I saw this poor chap earlier dredging the deep water with sinking line and most likely a leech of some sort, with no success. This is a great tactic in the warmer months when the fish hunker down in cooler water, but in the spring, still fishing with floating line and a strike indicator is the way to go.

“Chironomids,” I said, as he pulled up alongside of me. His quizzical look said it all.  I pulled my fly box out, removed half a dozen black chironomids with silver bead heads, and handed them over.   I had tied over a hundred the winter before and really didn’t need them all.  Plus, I prefer to stay on the right side of the fishing gods.  “Switch to floating line, put your strike indicator about 9-10 feet up from the fly, and find some shallower water,” I said.  He thanked me and rowed away – I later ran into him in the parking lot, and he said it was the best day of fishing he had experienced in a long time.  Paying it forward, one fly at a time.

I fished a little more in the afternoon, but the wind had increased to the point of really making things tough, so I called it a day.  As I was loading up the car, another fisherman pulled into the parking lot, evidently with the intent of hitting the evening hatch.  He glanced at the lake, then at me.

“Wind been like this all day?” he asked. “Ever since I got here,” I replied.  “But I wouldn’t sweat it; it’s going to die down soon.”

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I glanced at the lake through my rear view.  What had been a swirling maelstrom was now like glass.  I saw the fisherman scan the lake, and then quickly look in my direction as though I was some kind of prophet.  I laughed.  The curse lives on. //


When you go:

Amber Lake is 12 miles SW of Cheney, Wash.

Recommended gear:

  • float tube/pontoon boat + anchor
  • 5-6 weight rod
  • flies: black, red, green chironomids; hare’s ears; damselfly nymphs; parachute adams

Special regulations:

  • Barbless artificial flies/lures only – no bait
  • no combustion engines
  • catch and release: March 1through the end of April
  • more info: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/washington


 International Fly Fishing Film Festival Hits Spokane!

On April 4, Silver Bow Fly Shop and Spokane Falls Trout Unlimited Chapter are hosting the International Fly Fishing Film Festival at the Bing Crosby Theater to get you amped for the fishing season with great films AND raise some dollars for the Spokane River and its urban red band trout fishery. The event includes a raffle and silent auction benefit. Tickets will are available at the Silver Bow Fly Shop ($15), online, or at the door ($18). The raffle and silent auction start at 5 p.m. and the show starts 7. More info at: silverbowflyshop.com. //


Share this Post

Scroll to Top