Dry Falls Lake is one of the most productive – and popular – fly fishing lakes in Washington.
Located a couple of hours west of Spokane, near the south end of massive Banks Lake, this scenic lake is a great spot for fly fishermen looking for some trout action in the spring or fall.
The lake is managed as a trophy fishery and has some of the biggest rainbow trout in Washington, with some fish surpassing 20 inches.
Besides the rainbows, Dry Falls Lake also recently has been stocked with smaller numbers of both brown and tiger trout. (Tiger trout are a hybrid of brown and brook trout.)
Its location in the middle of the Washington desert just adds to the charm, making this a popular choice amongst fly anglers from Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
The lake has fairly restrictive rules, including a very limited harvest of one trout at least 18 inches, so be sure to read the latest regulations carefully before fishing here.
Though its location is fairly remote, it’s known across the Northwest for being an excellent trout lake, and various fly fishing clubs schedule trips out to the lake during the spring and the fall.
Dry Falls Lake is one of a chain of lakes in the region; nearby Lenore Lake boasts excellent trout fishing as well.
When it comes to fly fishing for the big trout in the lake, a lot has changed over the years. Trout used to be readily available in the shallows, and frequently caught on a wide variety of dry flies.
Now, however, most of the fishing at Dry Falls Lake is subsurface, closer to the depths of the lake. Streamers fished on a sinking line through the deeper parts of the lake often produce some of the biggest fish, especially in spring and fall.
If you like fishing chironomids under strike indicators, Dry Falls Lake is the place to do it. It’s not the most active way to fly fish, but when the fishing is on, it’s a blast.
Nymphs stripped slowly along the bottom of the lake also produce well.
Dusk on the lake often brings a small hatch of chironomids, which can provide some much-needed surface activity.
Dry Falls Lake is subject to Washington’s selective gear rules, meaning you can use flies or lures as long as you have single, barbless hooks.
You also can cast spinners and spoons as long as they are allowed under the tackle regulations, but there’s no bait fishing allowed here.
All in all, there are virtually limitless ways to catch the fish in Dry Falls Lake – experiment and see what works best for you!
When to Fish
Though the lake is open from spring through fall, most anglers avoid it during the warmer months.
The hot summer temperatures warm the water to levels that are unhealthy for the fish, and hooking a fish when the water is too warm may cause it to die.
When the fishing is good – in the spring and fall – you can expect plenty of company on the lake.
Dry Falls Lake is popular with numerous fly fishing clubs, all of which plan multi-day outings on the lake each year. The lake is no well-kept secret, but it’s big enough to stay spread out from other people.
Dry Falls Lake gets an early spring opener on March 1 and closes at the end of November, and those shoulder seasons on either end should put you into cooler water temperatures and more aggressive trout.
Keep an eye on the regulations each season, just in case, but this is a good lake to explore before some seasonal lakes open.
Location and Access
Dry Falls Lake is just west of the town of Coulee City, inside the Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park, which has fishing in a handful of lakes, lots of camping, golfing and amazing scenery in this fascinating geological area.
Being in the Washington desert, it’s fairly remote, as it’s just over 100 miles from Spokane and nearly twice that from Seattle.
If you’re heading out to Dry Falls Lake, odds are you’ll be staying for a couple of days. Fortunately, there are a number of scenic campsites along the lake that make for great spots to get comfortable for a few nights.
Dry Falls Lake is best fished by boat, float tube or pontoon, and there is an established boat ramp that allows easy access.
Nearby Park and Lenore lakes are popular both with fishermen and recreational boaters. So if you’re having trouble on Dry Falls, there are plenty of options nearby.
There’s nothing quite like the experience of fishing a lake in Washington’s high desert, and Dry Falls Lake is the epitome of that experience.
Pack up your camping gear and head out for a couple of nights to enjoy some of the best fly fishing in the state!
Carter Reschke is a freelance writer based in Oregon. Passionate about the outdoors, Carter is a fly fishing aficionado and spends his days on the river when he’s not writing.