WINTHROP — Washington state has a lot of good lakes for fishing, but through the years I always find myself heading back to the Methow Valley to wet a line whenever I can.
Maybe it’s the drive on the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20), a spectacular trip through the Cascade Range in the spring and summer that gets even better in the fall. Or maybe it’s all the wildlife in the valley, particularly the many deer you see munching on the lush grass.
Mostly, though, I think it’s the large number of lakes, big and small, that offer a chance at plump aggressive fish.
Here are three lakes to consider that are near the town of Winthrop, which caters to tourists with a western-style flair, offering lodging, some nice restaurants, a good brew pub, and shopping:
The favorite lake of the Evergreen Fly Fishing Club based in Everett, Big Twin has a nice private campground with ample tent and trailer sites (and a boat launch along the shoreline). For those staying elsewhere, the state also offers access with toilets and a good boat launch.
The launches are important because you really need some sort of watercraft to fish the 65-acre lake effectively.
Big Twin is a bug factory, which makes it fun for a fly fisher. There are good hatches of chironomids, damselflies, and callibaetis mayflies starting when the lake opens on the fourth Saturday in April and continuing through June.
Big Twin has a number of shoals, relatively shallow weedy areas, that provide good fishing in the spring and early summer. The water warms significantly in July and August, so you need to go deeper then or wait for things to perk up again in September or October. The lake closes at the end of that month. Some chironomids are still hatching then. But leech patterns, scuds, and dragonfly nymphs are usually more effective.
Big Twin isn’t just for fly fishers. It is what’s called a selective fishery, which basically means no bait is allowed and you can only use unscented, manmade lures with single, barbless hooks. So check the regulations before fishing there.
The fish range from about 10 inches when planted to carryovers of 18-20 inches. Typically, there are plenty of fish that survive the winter ice, partly because of an installed aerator that makes sure there is plenty of oxygen in the water throughout the icy winter. There was a winter kill last winter, so the state made extra plants of hatchery fish to speed the the lake’s recovery.
While at Big Twin, you might check out Little Twin lake next door. It’s also at the state’s access site. Although the fish at the shallow Little Twin are prone to die off in winter, those that survive get big fast.
To get to Big Twin, go south from Winthrop on Highway 20 and turn right on Twin Lakes Road.
Davis Lake is a long, narrow lake of 40 acres that has a split personality. That means it has two sets of regulations for different times of the year. The rules are posted at the boat launch, but if you use a fly or a manmade lure with a single, barbless hook and release all your fish, you’ll cover the bases for the entire season.
Either way, the fish don’t care about the rules.
There are lots of them, ranging in size from about 10 to 15 inches. Davis fish seem to be more aggressive than most and you can have a lot of fun starting at the boat launch and fishing your way up on one side and coming back along the other shoreline. I have a friend who insists the biggest fish are at the far end of the lake because few anglers have to go that far to catch all the fish they want.
He may be right.
What to use?
Look on the water’s surface to see which bugs are hatching or just start off with a black or olive leech, a damselfly nymph, or a scud atop the weedbeds.
To find Davis from Winthrop take the Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road 1.3 miles and turn right onto Bear Creek Road. Go to Davis Lake Road and turn left to the lake.
A small jewel of a lake, Campbell is located in the Methow Wildlife Area. Because of it’s 10-acre size and because its dirt access road has a tendency to wash out in spring, the lake doesn’t get a lot of fishing pressure.
Prolific insect hatches help the stocked rainbow trout grow quickly. And there are usually good numbers of fish that survive the winter, offering plump trout topping out at about 20 inches.
You can fish the lake from shore, but anglers with some sort of watercraft will be more successful. Float tubes, pontoon boats and small prams are the best for Campbell’s primitive launching area.
My favorite spot is a sandy delta area on the far side of the lake created by runoff from melting snow. It’s a popular cruising spot for fish looking for bugs.
To find Campbell starting from Winthrop take the Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road 1.3 miles and turn right on Bear Creek Road. Drive for 1.8 miles to Lester Road and turn left. On Lester, drive 2.4 miles and turn right on the primitive dirt road. There was no sign there for the lake the last time I looked, another reason Campbell doesn’t see a lot of anglers. The lake is on the left in less than a mile.
All-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles are helpful in spring because the dirt road can be slick when it’s wet.