Plain and simple, you fish the Upper Columbia River to catch big, wild, and super hard-fighting rainbow trout. And, because this stretch of the Columbia is remote and relatively unknown, you will have much of the water to yourself. This massive river produces several excellent hatches—midges, blue-wing olives, Mother’s Day caddis, green drakes, and October caddis—and the fish are extremely keyed in on those emergences. Late winter and spring fishing is all about swinging nymphs, soft-hackles, and streamers with single-hand and two-hand rods, which is about as close as you can get to steelheading without fish returning from the sea. In May, the Mother’s Day caddis swarm arrives, followed by PMDs, green drakes, and terrestrials.
Anglers fish from jet boats equipped with oars and standing braces, which allow accurate casts to rising fish in large seam lines and eddies. The green drake hatch is the river’s most noted event and produces the best fishing of the year. These bugs come off in the afternoon and evening hours and bring the biggest fish out of the depths onto the flats to sip drakes off the surface. The big bug show continues in fall when October caddis and blue-wing olives litter the water and those rainbows take notice. Large caddis nymphs swung off two-hand rods can elicit some fantastic takes. Caddis dries bring big snouts up at the same time. These rainbows average about 16 to 19 inches long, but plenty of 20- to 24-inch tankers are taken on dries each summer and fall. Fish to 30 inches are possible, making this a great place to go head-hunting for the largest rainbow trout of your life.
The program at Black Bear Lodge is a little more laid back than you might find at other locales—simply because there’s no reason to hit the water at daybreak if the bugs don’t start hatching until afternoon and the emergence lasts til 10 p.m. Basically, anglers have to pace themselves, which means leisurely mornings with extended coffee time and breakfast conversation. However, if there is good reason to hit the river early, Black Bear and its veteran guides can accommodate. Whenever you decide it’s time, a guide will pick you up in a boat at the lodge—no drive-time, no shuttle, no hassles. Then it’s a short run upstream or down to the most productive spots.
Boats and Equipment
Guides run jet boats to access all the prime water, with the longest run being 8 miles upstream to the Canadian border. Once you’ve reached a productive spot, guides switch to the oars and row these boats to quietly keep you in the best position to cover rising fish. Anglers in the front of the boat can use standing braces to remain stable in these big flows. Rods, reels, and flies are included, but feel free to bring your favorite sticks along with waders, boots, and rain gear.