Fly Fishing near Bellingham Area

I am brand new to the site and this is my first post.

I lived in Seattle for three years some time ago, and did not fly fish at the time.

I now live in Utah and flyfishing has become my religion. Of course it is only trout fly fishing not salmon or steelhead but it is a blast.

I have a job opportunity that would put me in the greater Bellingham area if it works out. One of the things that will be really hard is to leave my home river here which I know quite well and enjoy fishing every weekend.

I know there is a ton of water in WA and a great opportunity for the big fish with the Seelies and Salmon, but what can anyone tell me about the trout fly fishing within a reasonable distance of Bellingham (1/2 to 1 hour drive or so at the most).

Thanks in advance for the advice.


Scott Willison
I live in Bellingham and can attest to some resident trout opportunities, though I think you're limiting your fishing if you don't dabble in the anadromous species that the area has to offer. Both Squalicum and Pass Lakes are fly fishing only trout lakes within an hour of Bellingham that offer rainbows, browns, and cutthroat, some of which are of respectable size. The Upper Skagit in BC is probably the closest notable trout river, though there are numerous lesser known rivers and creeks in Whatcom and Skagit Counties that provide plentiful, though typically small trout. Anadromous bull trout are fairly abundant in the Skagit/Sauk system within an hour and a half south of Bellingham. While not trout, these char offer excellent streamer fishing through much of the year (they're chasing salmon fry right now) and get pretty good-sized. Then there's steelhead...which are another thing altogether. ;)
Well, let's see: There's a ten-mile long lake, partly within our city limits, but that's mainly for bass and panfish. There's Whatcom Creek, the outlet stream from that lake, that tumbles through wooded gorges and dells, through the middle of town and into the bay. But the trout in there are reserved for children. True, the lower reaches of the creek are full of searun cutthroat and salmon in season (primarily the Fall), but it can be tricky finding access and casting room...except at the estuary pool, behind the post office, but you'll be competing with scores of bait-flingers. There's a nice little fly-only trout lake seven miles from town, and a few well-stocked lakes in nearby county parks, but you'll need floatation to access them. There are scads of little trout streams in the nearby foothills of the Cascade Range, but that requires exploration and scrambling. Farther uphill, there are mountain lakes of all sizes, where sometimes you can catch brook trout on every second cast, but you'd have to hike to them, sometimes several miles, and the staggeringly beautiful scenery can make it hard to stay on the trail.
There are countless lakes full of Kamloops rainbows in the famous lakes of southern British Columbia, a few hours drive from here by modern highways; but you'd need a passport or other good photo i.d. at the border crossing, and gasoline keeps getting more expensive. And there are countless cutthroat trout and salmon in the nearby island-girded waters of northern Puget Sound; but you need a motor boat and/or some specialized skills in reading tides and bottom structure. In the autumn, you can catch five species of Pacific salmon practically at your feet in the larger local rivers; but they aren't trout, and rarely take a dry fly.
We don't have any normal, classic medium-sized trout rivers. The closest is the upper Skagit River, 100 miles away in B.C. All in all, finding good fly fishing for trout around Bellingham can be a challenge. Maybe you'd better stay in Utah. And tell your friends.
stay in utah. trout fishing around here requires a long drive. 4hrs to the yakima, 2 hrs to the skagit....... the local trout streams fish o.k. in the summer months for small, eager rainbows. the dolly fishing is good year round if you enjoy streamer fishing.
fulano said:
I have a job opportunity that would put me in the greater Bellingham area
that's crazy talk, there's no work to be found in bellingham. :beathead:

I can't speak about rivers or streams as I haven't had much of an opportunity to explore them. :confused: For stillwaters, I would recommend squalicum lake or pass lake as previously posted. Some of the stocker lakes can also be fun after the big crowds die down, particularly those that get triploids put into them. Check out the WDFW site to see when and where stocking will occur, then get a map to figure out how to get there.

Good luck with the job, and welcome aboard. :thumb:

Don't get me wrong, if I make this move I will certainly get into fishing for the big boys ASAP, I just don't have any experience or the gear to do it. I love the feeling of stalking and finding that rising trout and presenting the dry fly right in the feeding lane, seeing the take and setting the hook. It sounds like there will be a chance to find some of this if I move to Bham, but it just won't be 10 minutes from my house like I have now.

I really want to get into Steelheading even if I don't move up there. The biggest fish I've hooked in a river on a fly is a 5lb rainbow and that was quite a rush. A 10 lb or bigger steelhead has got to be a real thrill. Drifting an indicator or stripping streamers is not my preferred method of fishing but if the reward on the end of the line is a big, strong ocean going fish, I'm sure I'll be converted quickly, and still get out with the 4 wt. once in awhile during a baetis hatch.
Yes, if you were here now, you could be fishing the height of the spring run of huge, bright native steelhead on the Skagit River, 90 minutes from here. (Not that you will ever catch one, of course, to keep this realistic...)
Trout rivers like you have in utah do not exist here in Washington state anywhere. You have to remember one thing about living in Bellingham, you ar 30 mins from Canada, where the fishing opportunities are endless. Plus the salmon runs are awsome in BC. I think once you hook into a giant Coho or steelhead, you'll be happy you gave Bellingham a go. Keep us posted on when you arrive and I'm sure someone on the forum would be happy to show you around.


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