Nestled in the Central Cascade Mountain Range and its foothills is the Snoqualmie River. It is located about 30 miles east of Seattle, Washington and offers up a huge hinterland of great stream fishing for trout. It’s three forks and many large tributaries give us fishermen and women a great opportunity to explore and fish, all within a short drive from the Pacific Northwest’s largest metro area.
Snoqualmie River Cutthroat Trout Fishing
Cutthroat Trout are abundant throughout the Snoqualmie River. Below Snoqualmie Falls, resident Coastal Cutthroat can be found in the river year round. But there is a good population of Sea Run Cutthroat Trout that migrate back to the Snoqualmie River from Puget Sound in early fall as well. Sea Run’s will winter over in the river and spawn in early spring. Their average size is larger than the resident Cutthroat and average 12″ to 17″. Upriver, Coastal Cutthroat can be found in all the Forks, and the upper South Fork also has a small population of Westslope Cutthroat.
Snoqualmie River Brook Trout Fishing
Eastern Brook Trout are a non-native species that lives in the most remote upper reaches of the Snoqualmie River watershed. The majority of Snoqualmie’s Brook Trout population is in the South Fork and it’s tributaries. I’ve caught them with regularity there throughout the summer, as well as in a few Alpine Lakes that are connected to the South Fork. Brook Trout readily take dry flies such as Royal Wulff, Humpy, Elk Hair Caddis and Blue Winged Olives. But they are rarely picky when it comes to fly selection, and will gobble up nymphs and small streamers as well. If you are fishing with spinning gear, the smallest spinners and spoons are optimal.
Snoqualmie River Rainbow Trout Fishing
Snoqualmie River’s Rainbows are all wild and they sure are beautiful. They are most abundant in the North Fork, Middle Fork and Mainstem river. They average 6″ to 12″ but the occasional lunker is caught (lunker around these parts is 12″ to 16″).
Snoqualmie River Trout Fly Fishing
The Snoqualmie River’s trout are eager to feed during the short summer season. They really need to capitalize during the warm months when insect activity is at its peak. Lighter rods and lines, say 3 weight to 5 weight, are optimal. I always rely on a floating line, and it allows me to switch from nymphs and streamers to dry flies when a hatch starts buzzing.
- Dry flies: Elk Hair Caddis, Humpy, Royal Wulff, Blue-Winged Olive in sizes 14 to 18.
- Nymphs: Bead-head Pheasant Tail, Gold Ribbed Hairs Ear, Prince Nymph, Copper John in sizes 14 to 18.
- Streamers: Epoxy minnow, Conehead Zonker, Bead-head Wooly Bugger in sizes 8 to 12.
Conventional Spin Fishing for Snoqualmie River Trout
A light spinning rod will work great throughout the Snoqualmie River Basin. I prefer something that handles 4-6 pound test line. Small spinners and spoons rigged with a single point barbless hook will be your best lures. Most of the river, most of the year has a bait restriction.
Snoqualmie River Trout Fishing Map
North Fork Snoqualmie River Trout Fishing
North Fork Snoqualmie River is a beautiful river that empties out of the central Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It is the most remote and least accessible of the three forks. The river’s upper reaches are high gradient and tumble out of the Cascade’s West Slope. It then becomes a river with numerous pools, riffles and slow glides. And this means plenty of variety for the adventurous angler. North Fork Road is a county road that loosely parallels the river, but rarely comes close to it. Once the North Fork flows out of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, it enters private forestlands. Campbell Global owns the Snoqualmie Tree Farm. Aside from a few bridge crossings that offer river access, you will need a Campbell Global access permit to do more exploring.
The North Fork is the second largest fork, behind Middle Fork. It clears quickly after heavy rain and runs clear for most of the summer. You can access river flow information at USGS Current Conditions for North Fork Snoqualmie near Snoqualmie Falls.
Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Trout Fishing
The Snoqualmie River’s Middle Fork is the largest of the three forks, and the most beloved by anglers. Aside from the lower reaches that meander through private property near North Bend, the majority of the Middle Fork is located within Mount Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest. Middle Fork Road parallels most of the river. Many trailheads offer great hike in fishing for both the Middle Fork and its tributaries here. Some access areas and trailheads require permits, please check their website to determine whether you will need one.
This fork penetrates deepest into the Cascade Mountains and sources much of its flow from high elevation snowfields and glaciers. Meandering through a beautiful stretch of mature forestland. It is the largest fork, and the last one to lose the effect of snowmelt in the summer. However, once the river stabilizes to a fishable river flow, it offers up some of the best fishing! Rainbow Trout, Coastal Cutthroat Trout, and Rainbow/Cutthroat Hybrid can be found in the runs, pools, and boulder gardens of the Middle Fork. You can access river flow information at USGS Current Conditions for Middle Fork Snoqualmie near Tanner, Washington.
South Fork Snoqualmie River Trout Fishing
The South Fork is the smallest of Snoqualmie’s forks. It is highly accessible from I-90 and connector roads. During the summer, it is a tiny stream with lots of pocket water, small pools, shallow riffles and short glides. Although my average catch in the South Fork is smaller than the others, it has a healthy population of trout and offers up fun days with light tackle. Most of the river is accessible via several Washington State Parks and Mount Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest.
It is sourced near Snoqualmie Pass and is impacted by spring snowmelt. However, it clears quickly and is the first to offer fishable water in the early summer. Heavy rains drain quickly and the South Fork is the first to become fishable after a storm. You can access river flow information at USGS Current Conditions for South Fork Snoqualmie River near Edgewick, Washington.
Mainstem Snoqualmie River Trout Fishing
The North, Middle and South Forks converge at Three Forks Natural Area near North Bend, Washington. The mainstem has plenty of easily accessible gravel bars and great trout water. A couples miles downstream from the confluence, the river plummets over 269′ tall Snoqualmie Falls. I may be a little biased, as this is located in my hometown, but the Falls are one of Washington State’s natural wonders.
The river below Snoqualmie Falls slows down and widens. Meandering through farmlands that surround the towns of Fall City, Carnation and Duvall before it meets the Skykomish Rivers. Slow eddies, long glides and runs and log jams offer perfect habitat for Cutthroat Trout, both Sea Run and resident. The mix gives us a great fishery from early summer through fall.
Fall City has a nice riverfront park with access to a fishy gravel bar. Slightly upriver, David Powell Road parallels the river and has multiple pullouts to park and walk to the river. And from the Lower Snoqualmie Falls parking lot, you can hike downriver from the Powerhouse and fish around the lower river’s largest boulder garden.
In Carnation, the river backs up into stretches with almost no current. However, there are a few great parks that offer good trout fishing. Tolt MacDonald Park is right in town and gives access to the lower Tolt River and its confluence with the Snoqualmie. Downstream near Carnation Farms, Chinook Bend is a large natural area with ample bank fishing access.