Area: Pacific Northwest
Species: Cutthroat Trout (or Westslope Cutthroat Trout), Rainbow trout
Where: The picturesque Methow Valley rests in north central Washington’s Okanogan Country, roughly four hours northeast of Seattle amongst the 4 million acre-Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The valley, which rests in the rain shadow east of the North Cascades, is home to Winthrop, a popular old-west-themed village. The Methow joins the Columbia some 50 miles south of Winthrop
Why: The Valley is a beloved destination for outdoorsy Washingtonians of all stripes, but in the summer anglers are drawn here in search of the Methow’s wild Westslope cutthroat and rainbow trout. Both populations and average fish size have been enhanced by catch and release regulations enacted over a decade ago.
“I grew up fishing here when they stocked rainbows and you could fish with bait and treble hooks,” said Leaf Seaburg, owner of Methow Fishing Adventures. “It’s taken time for us to realize the river’s potential, but we’re seeing it now…and it’s only going to get better. Each pool will have 15 to 20 cutts. Some are only going to be six inches. But some could go to 26 inches.”
If there’s a mainstay bug on the Methow, it’s the golden stone.
“The fish aren’t super particular about how you match them,” Seaburg added. “You just need the rough size and shape. A big Stimulator will usually do it.”
October caddis come into play in September. (There is currently no season for steelhead or Chinook.)
Local Knowledge: If a dead drift doesn’t work with your golden stone imitation, try skating it.
“The swing and skate works very well on the Methow,” Seaburg continued. “It mimics the way the bugs skitter when they’re trying to dry off their wings. Just cast across, let the fly swing and twitch it. It’s almost like popping for bass, and it may bring up bull trout and steelhead as well as cutthroat.”
TU Initiatives: TU and our partners have advocated for the protection of the Methow’s headwaters in the Okanogon-Wenatchee National Forest from proposed mining development through a federal mineral withdrawal” process. This work resulted in “The Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016,” which was introduced in the U.S. Senate last May and would withdraw 340,000 acres of public lands from future mining activity. TU has also completed numerous instream flow projects and recently inaugurated the Methow Valley Irrigation District Project to improve cold water flows in the Twisp River, a critical Methow tributary. TU’s instream flow projects can significantly improve stream temperature and habitat conditions during critical low-water periods to benefit ESA-listed Chinook, steelhead and bull trout.
Make a difference: Join the Methow Headwaters campaign to get the latest updates on the mineral withdrawal process and how you can help. Currently, the Bureau of Land Management taking comments on the mineral withdrawal, and we need you to make your voice heard. Click here TAKE ACTION and make a difference today.