Upper Columbia--Trip Report

Jeff Sawyer

Active Member
I usually like to keep my fishing reports short and sweet, I can’t do this one justice that way; everything about the Columbia is big, including this report.

Back in Oct a friend and I purchased a 2 day guided fishing package on the Upper Columbia River at the Evening Hatch’s Black Bear Lodge. We bought the trip as part of a fund raiser through the Puget Sound Fly Fishers. I got in contact with the folks at the Evening Hatch to arrange a time when we might get some dry fly action (I’ve never cared much for nymphing). We decided on fishing 1 and 2 Jul.

As the much anticipated trip got closer, I started looking at the river flows and the weather forecast and it wasn’t looking too good. The River was already very high, 284,000 cfs that’s a lot of water, even for the Columbia. There was a severe weather warning out for Saturday and Sunday with possible high winds and hail. After waiting nearly nine months to take this trip, that was not what I wanted to hear, but what can you do?

We drove up Saturday arriving at the lodge around 5pm. It’s a beautiful lodge right on the river, we meet the host, Bo and Jacks wife, Jen, very nice folks that made us feel right at home immediately. Jack and CJ were out fishing with other clients. They arrived back at the lodge at about dark; they told us the river was big but still fishing and both boats had caught a few.

The plan was to have breakfast and lunch at the lodge and then head out right after lunch and fish until dark with dinner on the water. The weather was nice when we got up, so far so good. I’m not very good at waiting around to go fishing; so we had breakfast and then headed up the road and fished sheep creek for a while. We ended up landing a couple of brookies there, not a bad way to kill time while we waited for the big event.

We headed back to the lodge for lunch, Jack tells us the flows are the highest they’ve ever fished, 287,000 cfs and as we’re having lunch it starts raining; hard. Jack tells us this is the latest he’s ever seen the Drakes, which still hadn’t arrived; and the dry fly game hadn’t kicked off. Looks like it’s going to be nyphing (want to make god laugh, tell him your plans) . The rain passes fairly quickly, and we get out on the water with CJ, our guide.

I’ve been fly fishing since the late 80s, Jose just started last year, but neither of us have fished anything like the Columbia. I’ve never seen water do that; one minute you’re drifting down river the next thing you know you’re drifting up river or across the river and its constantly changing. I had told CJ that Jose was fairly new to the game and it was more important that he catch fish.

CJ delivered. On his third cast there was a monster take; Jose had his rod tip high and I just saw it double over and break off immediately. The power of the take shocked me and I was just watching; Jose had this look of “What the hell just happened”. After a short lesson from CJ about not trying to stop these fish in their tracks, Jose was on track and landed his next fish shortly after; a nice “little” 18 incher. I ended up landing 2 on the nymph rig one about 22” the other about 20”. We also swung some soft hackles and I ended up landing one on the swing as well. While we were there an Osprey dove about 45’ in front of us and took a trout. The weather which had been rainy off-and-on all day took a turn for the worse and it started lightning fairly close and then one very large crack right above us and a huge clap of thunder, brought us to our senses and we decided the fish would wait until tomorrow.

We headed back and it started hailing pea-sized pellets, pounded us; CJ taking it in the face; Jose and I at least had the option to turn around. We got back to the lodge and both Jack and CJ said it was the worst day of fishing this year. I was thinking if this is the worst day, the fishing here on a good day must be incredible. Fortunately, I was about to find out how incredible.

The next morning we got up and the river was even higher, we had no internet access but the rock I stood on the day before was under water, but as the morning went on we could tell it was dropping and was clearing up.

We headed out and the first place we stopped no luck, the second spot no luck, then the third spot CJ saw a well defined seam running diagonally across the river we started fishing that and it was game on. It was a volley, Jose and I started almost taking turns hooking up. Incredibly strong healthy wild fish, even the smaller fish fight like banshees. Jose hooked a “little” 17 incher that jumped about 4 times up to approximately eye-level, it was just amazing to watch. We lost count of how many fish we caught in the main river, I think it was probably around 20 and the quality of the fish was amazing.

We stopped for dinner on a little peninsula and saw a large flock of turkeys and a family of ducks, we left there and headed for a spot CJ said might actually produce some dry fly action. On the way, we saw a couple of deer right by the river. We eased in and at first didn’t see any top action then we saw a couple that were feeding in a seam. We got rigged up with some caddis and on the first cast I drug the fly second cast I got a nice drag free float a nice 20” rewarded me. I saw another riser and cast to it and a take. It jumped, it was big, CJ said it was probably 23”, I played him almost to the boat then he was just gone. I looked at the hook and it was straighten out. We landed 3 or 4 more on drys, I’ve always been bad about keeping count with fish. For me it’s the next one that’s important. We stayed until dark ran us out; it was a great way to end a great day and a great trip.

I’m going to close this by saying if you have thought about doing a trip to the Upper Columbia you should just do it and if you haven’t thought about it and you like to catch really big healthy wild fish you should think about it. It was one of those great trips that stick with you for a very long time.

Kudos all round

Jack Mitchell at the Evening Hatch is running a top notch operation up there; I’m looking forward to fishing with him.
CJ, our guide, worked his ass off for us, and I had a great time fishing with him; and hope to again soon.
Bo, host, made us feel at home and is a damn good cook.
Jose, for a beginner he learned fast, and kept us all laughing, we’re definitely fishing again soon. I can’t wait for the Alaska trip.



Active Member
We fished with Jack and CJ in mid-April. It was a nypmh show and we did very well. It's an amazing fishery! I've fished with the Evening Hatch for years and they have always done well by me.



Active Member
I have been wanting to fish this fishery ever since I saw a show on it. It reminds me of the snake river between dams below brownlee! those big river bows can just be the best fishing anywhere. now I have to start looking at maps - thanks alot!

Were they running drift boats without motors or with? I would think my drifter with motor would be plenty to explore the area. those are the kind of fish I love!


Active Member
I was kind of shocked when coming to WFF that so few fly fisherman wrote about power boats and fly fishing. I have always ran power on my drifters or had the ability to do so. someone just went to central oregon and wrote me that the lakes are huge. I wrote back that most the guides in the area run 19 to 23 ft. sleds. big water like this pic shows and the huge river you almost must have power to be real successful for a trip. were there take outs down river? looks like they could just run back up to where they started at, not something a drifter and 8 horse can do! but that's how they fished it in the show I watched. waters like these big rivers and huge lakes have real-real nice fish though and worth every effort. thanks for responding! tight lines!


Active Member
I think the closest take out down river is at China Bend. There is also a take out right at the Northport bridge which is about a mile and a half above where the picture was taken.