Fly Fishing Whitefish vs. Trout

General fishing related questions.


WFF Supporter
I've been fishing a Snoqualmie tributary for the last few days and have caught a bunch of whitefish, but no trout. Earlier in the year, I caught trout, but no whitefish. Below are the flies I have caught fish on, over the last few days.

#18 pheasant tail nymph - 5 fish
#10 hares ear nymph - 1 fish
#10 3xl black stonefly nymph - 3 fish

Does anyone have any theories about why I'm not getting any trout? I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong!

I thought I might be fishing too deep, so I fished lighter flies. However, that didn't seem to make much difference; I just stopped catching any fish at all.

I would usually only fish slower water this time of year, but I covered all the water just in case the trout were holding elsewhere. Again, that seemed to make no difference; all the whitefish were caught in slower sections and I didn't get any takes in other areas.
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On our Crooked River tailwater here in OR, whitefish tend to school up: catch one, catch a lot. In December, whitefish spawn by broadcasting their eggs in riffly water. When this happens, the trout are not far behind and below!


Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater....Know Grizzler
If you every find yourself up near Duluth, Minnesota, stop in and have some smoked lake whitefish.
I’ve had smoked mountain whitefish but those lake whitefish were way better in my opinion.

We used to catch some nice size whitefish out of Soda lake while trout fishing in the spring.


Greg Armstrong

WFF Supporter
I don't eat much of either these days, but a long time ago a couple of buddies and I packed into one of the coastal rivers with our burro for a week of fishing.

We cooked a whitefish over the campfire one evening and we all agreed - it was better than the trout we'd been eating.
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Active Member
But catching Whitefish on a nymph requires no skill whatsoever and when I am trout fishing. I get no satisfaction from fishing that requires no skill.
That's me, Rob: Joe No Skill, think I will change my avatar and handle, no more Buzzy, instead I'll be Joe No Skill (definately not Jason Bourne). In defense of my no skills, seven years ago I got to fish the Big Hole, first time in my life. Man, it was a blast! Guided trip, my fly rod, reel, line, leaders, flies and thingamabobbers. Did I mention it was a blast? In the three days fishing that lovely river, I caught lots of whitefish, cutthroat, rainbows, browns, and glory be: several grayling.

Thinking back on that trip, the biggest brown was maybe 18 inches long, a few of the rainbows maybe a tad bigger butnot much. By far the largest fish were a couple of whitefish. I think the guide shares your seemingly low opinion of whitefish. I loved catching them: it was action. Fish on!

So you see, sir, I don't often get a chance to fish rivers. The Yakima is only 60 miles away, I don't have a drift boat or pontoon boat and wading during irrigation season - sketchy. So I just don't fish it and besides, I'm just not a very good nympher. Nympermaniac, not at all. Lacking skills.

Peace, bro! :rolleyes:

(Truth be told: I prefer carping)

Rob Allen

Active Member
I don't hold whitefish in low regard. I am just not interested in fishing for them. That said I have very little interest in nymphing for any species.
I have no interest in carp fishing, but only because I don't want to touch them.

Old Man

A very Old Man
WFF Supporter
I fish dries when I started fly fishing. This was all on the wet side of the state. I fished in Washington for damn near 60 years. I moved to Montana about 15 years ago. Now when I fish for trout with a 2 nymph rig. My top fly is a Red SJW and a Black Zebra nymph on the bottom. If I want to catch Whitefish, I just stick on a Red Zebra Nymph. Either fly is a small one. Size 18 to 20. It works for me.


Active Member
I fish a trout/whitefish stream a lot. Some days it is all whiteys, somedays all trout. One day after a lot of whitefish I returned with a creel, determined to work out a good smoked whitefish recipe. Caught 18 trout, no whiteys. Oregon Dept Fish & Wildlife does electroshock surveys and finds as many as 5000 white fish a mile, 3500 trout. Some people claim that since you catch them both on trout flies, eliminating the whitefish would make more room for trout. Actually, ODFW has never found a case where whitefish declined and trout went up: they go up and down together. I think the whitefish convert a heck of a lot of bottom nymphs to eggs, which they broadcast spawn across the riffles. The trout will be just downstream scarfing them up.

Whiteys start to spawn when the water dips below 45 degrees. On my stream that is Nov-15 till Jan1. Both trout and whiteys will take an egg in that time. I often find trout by just backing off the whitefish spawning spot.

The eggs are really small, peppercorn sized. I use #18-20 hooks. A pale yellow color is a good match, but I find color is not nearly as important as size and a free drift I once fished a beadhead egg and unweighted egg side by side and the unweighted one outfished the beadhead 8:1. That said, you want to get near the bottom, so my standard rig is a small tungsten nymph anchor fly and an unweighted egg on a tag 6-16" above it. They nymph gets it down and is good for snagging the ones you miss (joking :) ). Actually the nymph can sometimes key you into what else is working.

I like them both, whitefish are a bit of a diesel battle, the trout are faster and jump. I never could smoke the mountain whitefish to match the whitefish from the upper mid-west, so I release them both now.


Active Member
Very interesting read...... up here in Canuckistan about the only way you will catch a whitefish (we call them Bonefish because of the similarity in looks not fight) is too nymph which I do almost none of until the winter..... so I caught my first BowriverBone of the season a few weeks back because of my technique change although I caught it along with 3 trout all on a small beadhead bugger even though I also had a beadhead prince on as the second fly. In the summer they never seem to rise to dries ..... maybe too much available food down below ...... yet a few hours south in Montana and on the streams just north oh the 49th you catch them all day long on hoppers or any dry you care to fish..... its makes for a great place to take kids or newbies to fly-fishing although it takes a while to get the knack of hooking them consistently

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