Travel Trip Report: Washington State Upper North Fork Lewis River fishing and More

This summer, I ventured up to Washington state. I was eager to explore many of the rivers that I had grown up near. As a teenager in the Pacific Northwest, I spent most of my fishing time chasing bass and other warmwater species, while neglecting the bountiful salmon and steelhead rivers in the region. Fishing the Eastern Sierras and local Southern California trout streams has wetted my appetite for coldwater mountain streams, and I was hoping to find something similar in the SW Washington region.
 Read on below!

Thanks to a lot of internet sleuthing and very helpful tips from fellow anglers at, I planned several days worth of fishing while visiting my old hometown. One particular location had caught my eye at length - the upper north fork of the Lewis River, in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This particular body of water was supposed to have a resident population of rainbow trout, bull trout, and cutthroat trout, in addition to the usual migratory/anadronomous species (steelhead, salmon). While the bull trout are not supposed to be specifically targeted, the others are fair game, as long as the special regulations for the region (barbless, single hooks on artificial lures or flys, catch and release only) is followed.

Unfortunately, the drive up to the upper north fork took far longer than expected. We stopped several times along the way, including at the beautiful Curly Creek Falls, eventually reaching the beautiful Lower River Falls. Definitely a must-see, this magnificent, 43ft high, 200ft across, multi-level cascades is one of the most scenic waterfalls in SW Washington. We then had a short period of time to fish along the river, both here and further downstream by the bridge. The river is crystal clear and moves fairly fast, yet there is abundant pockets of calm water, overhangs and other mouth-watering structure to target. I casted a variety of flys, including a dropper rig, drys and nymphs, with many strikes from small rainbows (likely steelhead smolts, landed one and released it safely), but no success with anything larger. It was rather frustrating, but the amazing scenery made up for it.

Check out the video of Upper North Fork Lewis River fishing

Spent some more time over the next few days fishing all over the region: East Fork of Lewis River (again, many steelhead smolts on the dry fly), Lake River in Ridgefield (an old favorite, with almost 30+ yellow perch, northern pikeminoow, pumpkinseed sunfish, and sculpin landed in just 2 hours, including one fantastic 14" yellow perch), Salmon Creek (landed a little chub or dace on a nymph), and Rowland Lake in the Columbia River Gorge (hooked many chunky bluegill on conventional lures and wet flys with ease).

Additionally, got to see Panther Creek Falls and explore the idyllic Panther Creek for several hours. This cold stream eventually flows into the famous Wind River and is located near the Panther Creek Campground (where fishing is advertised on the National Forest website) in the Gifford Pinchot region as well. The pools here are amazing, deep and almost glacier blue at times, with frigid waters and thick forests. I spotted one fish, a 12" trout-like species that was fairly timid. I was hoping to run into an residential trout population of some sort, but alas didn't pan out either. Any info on this creek would be appreciated, it's truly a beautiful one!

I'm used to trout streams that support trout year-round, such in the Eastern Sierras, and coming across streams that feel fairly empty, yet are clearly in the right location + right temperature is strange. Just shows how much more learning I have to do while fishing outside of California. The warmwater species really made up for the fairly weak coldwater fishing, but I had a fantastic time either way. Tight lines, enjoy the photos and videos!

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November 15, 2017 at 7:57 PM delete

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Be nice.