A float for reband trout on the Spokane River
Ethan began casting with City Hall still in view. On the oars, Marc gazed at the downtown skyline and maneuvered the raft so I could get a good photo. “It’s pretty rare to have this kind of fishing within city limits,” he said. Ethan nodded, watching the cars race over the Monroe Street Bridge. “I wonder how many of those people in cars have ever been on the river,” he mused. “I bet not many.”
Ethan Crawford is the owner of Fly Fish Spokane, one of two outfitters (along with Silver Bow Fly Shop) regularly offering fly fishing trips down the Spokane River. He and Marc Fryt, one of his exceptionally knowledgeable guides, had invited me on their inaugural float. Marc handed me one of several rods he had prepared for the day tied with an orange-colored bead-head nymph and dangling below that a neon green stonefly pattern. “Our goal is to make it easy for people to fish their local river,” he said.
We hooked into our first fish near the Sandifur Bridge. It was, like most of the fish we caught that day, a redband trout, one of the Spokane River’s unique species of rainbow trout, identified by a distinctive red line along its flank. We paused to admire the fish before removing the barbless hook and sending it on its way. “There are fewer fish per mile than the trout streams in Montana and Idaho, but if you know where to put your fly, you can catch some big fish on this river,” Marc explained. As we floated, he pointed to productive pocket water, slower moving water behind rocks and around bends and curves in the river’s topography. “Put your fly there,” he said. “Try there. Yes! Aaaand SET!” Before long, I was reeling in a steady haul of trout.
Ethan graduated from Lewis and Clark High School in 2021 and was handed the reins of Fly Fish Spokane earlier this year. I asked how he got into the sport. “My dad bought me a fly rod,” he said. “He didn’t fish himself, but he’d take me out and we’d spend time together on rivers and lakes. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma and died when I was ten. Fishing, I don’t know. It reminds me of him.” I nodded and cast my line into a pocket of flat water. It was midday and the water had taken a golden hue, turning the rocks and boulders below the surface shades of amber and cream. I, too, learned to fish from my dad.
We chatted and cast our flies into the afternoon, arriving at the water treatment plant feeling satiated and peaceful. Ethan yanked a piece of plastic from the rocks and added it to a substantial collection of trash that he and Marc had collected that day. I asked him what he wanted people to know about the Spokane River. “The river is for everybody,” he said. “The more people fish it, the more they will love it. The more they love it, the more they’ll take care of it. We want to help people get to know the rivers and lakes around here. We want to make it easy to get started.”
To learn more about fly fishing lessons and guided floats on the Spokane River, visit Fly Fish Spokane or Silver Bow Fly Shop. Fly Fish Spokane is affiliated with The Fly Project at North 40 Outfitters in Airway Heights. //
Heidi Lasher is a steadfast admirer of the Spokane River. Over the past five years, she has canoed, rafted, paddleboarded, or swam the length of the river from Coeur d’Alene Lake to its confluence with the Columbia River. She is an ardent, impatient, and secretly competitive angler, much like her dad.