Rainbows of Rufus Woods
I am especially blessed to have crossed the finish line and into RETIREMENT! My immediate plan was spending the first 10 days of it on Rufus Woods Reservoir on the Columbia River below Grand Coulee Dam. In short, it was epic! I easily caught well over 200 rainbow trout of mixed types; wild, typical diploid hatchery, and pig, triploids! I have been fly fishing here, on and off for over 28 years and it remains to be my most favorite water to fly fish in the Pacific Northwest. Rufus Woods offers exciting streamer and stillwater fly fishing!
As usual, streamers were very effective in most places. I enjoy drifting out from the shoreline and using the bow mount electric motor to control the drift while casting towards shore and striping back to the boat. My preferred line is a 300 gr Airflo on a glass 8 wt. My fly choice is a weighted black bugger or an olive crayfish, sizes 4-2. Many times you can pull fish up from a 20-ft bottom, the trout are super aggressive!
Nespelem bay held its usual swarm of hatchery rainbows, often grazing on the midge hatches. Literally hundreds of trout gather here to feed. The bay is the most popular spot on the reservoir for other fly fishers using float tubes, pontoon and small car topper boats as you can launch from the beach (so long as your vessel has no motor). Most fly anglers resort to bobber fishing using their favorite chironomid pattern. Red is a very effective color and a black balanced leech will draw strikes too. However, I prefer a clear intermediate sinking line with a #10 black beadhead bugger/leech or a balanced leech, which is deadly too. A florescent orange bead on a black body is my favorite. Four, five and six weights rods are common for this. The fly fishing experienced in Nespelem bay is also common on many parts of the reservoir, you just have to hunt for them and likely, you will be the only one fishing it. Nespelem bay is a "huge" back eddie. Back eddies gather significant midge hatches. It is not uncommon to see rising trout over 30-50 feet of water. The fish are in the top 8 feet of the water column. It's pretty impressive.
Though the lunker rainbows (both non triploid and triploid) often move to different locations, it is no secret that the double digit triploids tend to keep close to the net pens to continue feeding on trout pellets that fall out. Three net pen groups are used by Pacific Aquaculture to rear the triploid rainbows, which, are actually all female steelhead. I was told years ago that the pens had a bottom or diaper to collect all the waste and non-eaten food (therefore the pellets couldn't escape). However, pellets still manage to fall out and as a result, many planted trout tend to congregate near the pens. It's not my favorite place to fly fish but you'd be surprised how many hold over planters, 10-20 lbs, are hanging out there waiting for free meals, lol. If you like eating fish, the triploid rainbows are excellent table fare. They are especially delicious when smoked! Just saying.
Different species abound in the reservoir such as smallmouth bass, walleye, pike minnow, brown trout and brook trout. On this trip, I caught my second brook trout ever since fly fishing here in 1995. Simply put, not too many brookies around. I've also caught browns too and know of others that have been caught. I have not caught any monster browns (yet), mainly 15-20 inches but I do know of plus 24 inchers that have been caught. Hopefully the hatchery trout rule will protect these fish for a chance to grow BIG! The hatchery trout rule means that only trout with a clipped adipose fin may be kept.
Incidentally while fly fishing for the trout you stand a good chance of catching a walleye, smallmouth bass or large pike minnow. I don't release these fish for reasons of preserving the trout populations. There are natural spawning rainbows in Rufus Woods and my hope is they become more prolific in the total trout population. The walleye and smallies are excellent table fare. Can't go wrong with fried breaded fillets. The pike minnow become eagle food. One of the recent changes in the angling regulations is that the limits on walleye and smallmouth have disappeared! Hopefully this is a good sign that the tribe and state are managing towards a much healthier trout population. Let's hope so!
The best way to explore and fly fish Rufus Woods is in a motor boat. The upper fourth of the reservoir from Timm Brothers Farm to Grand Coulee Dam (only to the HWY 155 bridge in a boat) is the best water for a fly rod hands down. Make good use of maps because there are plenty of other places to launch small inflatable crafts. It may take a few times to become dialed in, but the dividends are well worth the time and effort!
Best wishes in your fly fish pursuit!