Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Cowlitz River
This river is full of migrating fish just about every month
of the year. Its a true year-round fishery. Some months
provide anglers an opportunity to catch a grand slam. It
has large, Chinook salmon that will challenge anyone;
sea-run cutthroat trout; summer steelhead, winter
steelhead, and Coho salmon.

The river flows from glacial streams on Mount Rainier.
The Cowlitz River is within a couple of hours of Seattle
Washington and Portland Oregon. Although the river
can get crowded in some places, it also has plenty of
areas where pristine conditions exist.

Although it is know for its fine steelhead fishing, its
sea-run cutthroat may be just as well liked by the local
anglers. These fish average about 15 inches and large
numbers can be caught at times.

Summer steelhead start coming into the river in late May.
These fish average about 7 pounds. Most of the fish
arrive in mid June. The fish will remain in the Cowlitz into

Winter steelhead start arriving in the Cowlitz River in the
later part of November and the first of December. These
fish can run from about 8 pound to 15 pounds. In the last
part of December and January, hatchery run fish
averaging about 8 pounds make their appearance.

Chinook salmon run during the Spring and again during
the Fall. The Spring run starts in the middle of March
and peaks in April. The average fish will weight about 20
pounds. The fish remain in the Cowlitz River until after
the spawn in September.

You need a driftboat or pontoon boat to fish this river.
The banks are covered with bushes and trees and there
is little access. In addition to the main channel, there are
smaller channels and feeder streams. There are two
hatcheries on the Cowlitz River, one each for salmon
and trout. The purpose it to replace those fish lost by the
hydroelectric dams. Efforts are being made to reduce
the population of hatchery fish while the wild fish

See above
Spring is great for the big Chinook salmon.
Summer is the time for steelhead and sea-run cutthroat
Fall is a good time for cutthroat, summer steehead and
coho salmon.
Wintertime is steelhead time.
Type of Stream

Cutthroat (Sea Run, wild and
Steelhead (wild and hatchery)
Chinook Salmon (wild and hatchery)
Coho Salmon (wild and hatchery)
Chum Salmon (wild)


Southwest Washington

Nearest Towns

Varies with species


Non-Resident License
State of Washington

National Weather Service Link

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Cowlitz River Fishing Report:
11/05/13 One customer reporting the Cutthroat
fishing and the Coho fishing has been good at the
hatchery. Caught several cutthroats.
12/19/13 Water is still very low and clear and the
water is rather cold. No fish reports yet. Need more
rain. Anglers complaining of poor fishing.
01/02/13 Still has low water conditions. The daily limit
for steelhead is two marked, hatchery-reared fish.
Any steelhead with an intact adipose fin must be
released. Barbless hooks are required upriver to the
state border with Oregon, 17 miles upstream from
McNary Dam.
Fishing Report Updated 08/20/16
(Bottom Of Page)
01/11/14 Low water concerns should be over as it is
rising fast due to recent rains. This should bring
more steelhead into the river soon.
01/18/14 The rain has really improved the fishing
opportunities for Coho and steelhead. Some fish  
have been caught the last few days. The water has
fell back down and cleared up and it may slow down.
01/25/14 Very few fish being caught. As expected,
the lower water levels has slowed the catching
down. One customer reported catching a few 5
days ago on our
Perfect Fly steelhead nymphs.
02/01/14 The Cowlitz River is flowing at 6980 cfs
and 12.42 ft which is near normal. Still nothing to
report worth reporting. More rain is badly needed.
02/08/14 As I am sure everyone knows, help is on
the way with snow/rain and then warmer weather
and more rain. Keep a close check on the levels
and this report.
02/15/14 Stream is currently flowing high and will
continue to rise. There is heavy rain in the
forecast for the next week.
02/22/14 Stream is currently back just above
normal levels.
03/01/14 Rain is in the forecast every day from
now through the next seven days. Look for some
high water levels in the near future.
03/08/14 The Cowlitz is currently running very
high with more rain in the forecast for the next
three days.
03/15/14 The stream levels are still high and we
have not received any reports from anglers
03/22/14 Stream levels have dropped but no
fishing reports. One customer ordering flies for
the Cowlitz should check back with us this week.
03/29/14 The river is rising and there is rain in the
forecast every day for the next week.
04/05/14 Sorry, but we received no reports from
anyone fishing during the past week.
Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.

2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.

3. Email us (
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.

All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
Priority Mail.  
05/03/14 It is a waiting game for a while.
05/10/14 There are a few steelhead being caught
around the barrier dam and the Blue Creek area.
05/17/14 We didn't receive any reports from
anyone this past week but conditions should be
about the same.
06/07/14 Although the Cowlitz is one of the first to
get summer runs, we don't have any reports yet.
USGS Real-time Stream Data:
Cowlitz River below Mayfield Dam
06/14/14 stream levels are fine but no reports of
any summer steelhead being caught yet.
06/21/14 Sorry, no reports. Let us hear from you.
07/27/14 A few summer runs are being caught.
Sea run cutts are just beginning to come into the
river and should provide some excellent fishing
for the next several weeks.
08/10/14 One report of some sea run cutts caught
in the mouth of the river but that is about it.
08/16/14 We didn't have any reports from anyone
this past week.
08/30/14 Low water conditions are hurting the
opportunity. There is a few fish in the system and
cooler weather is forecast. That should help some.
09/13/14 We didn't receive any reports during the
past week.
10/11/14 More Coho are moving up the river and
being caught. There are still some Fall Chinook in
the river.
10/18/14 Rain has raised the levels and is moving
the fish upstream. Fishing should improve.
10/24/14 Stream levels are high with more rain
forecast but can be fished at the present time. We
didn't receive any reports of catches.
11/08/14  Lots of Coho being caught and
conditions are pretty good. Crowds of anglers
12/07/12 Coho fishing has been good the past
month when stream levels have permitted
12/14/14 No reports from this past week. Let us
hear from you.
12/20/14 Only a few coho and steelhead have
been caught recently.
12/27/14 Stream levels have dropped a lot but
still high.
01/10/15 Stream levels below Mayfield are in
good shape but no reports from anglers catching
01/17/15 Two good reports from customers
catching steelhead this past week. They reported
some nice size fish.
01/24/15 Excellent conditions and more good
"catching" reports. Nymphs are working the
best. Giant Black and Green Sedge larva
steelhead flies.
02/07/15 Anglers were catching plenty of
fish up until the high water came. The
discharges are not that bad right now,
but keep a close check on the levels.
02/21/15 One customer reported
catching two steelhead this past week.
He was using our steelhead
stonefly and Green Sedge nymphs.
03/07/15 There have been a few
hatchery steelhead caught this past week.
03/28/15 Lots of anglers are fishing and
some are catching a few fish. We would
rate it fair.
03/11/15 Closed until June 1st.
05/23/15 Send us an email and let us
help you plan your next trip.
06/13/15 Sea run cutts and summer
run steelhead shoud begin entering
the river soon. No reports as of yet.
06/27/15 There has been a few fish
show up and a few caught, but it has
been slow. It should improve in July.
07/27/15 Sorry for the lack of reports.
Rain is forecast and should help.
Summer runs are being caught but
numbers are low.
08/08/15 Flows at 3030 cfs, below
Mayflied, which is just above normal
level. Rain chances are good tomorrow
though Monday.
08/29/15 The rain and cooler weather
should improve the fishing big time.
What the flows and discharges.
09/05/15 Anglers are catching lots of
summer run steelhead. The rain brough
much better stream conditions and
cooler weather and it really helped.
09/26/15 A few summer run steelhead are
being caught. There are Chinook and
Coho in the river. Sorry, we missed the
last report. Our contact was sick.
10/10/15 Coho and a few chinook are in
the river and the number should
Salmon Flies
10/24/15 Low, clear water is making it tough
to catch salmon or the summer stellhead.
10/31/15 Stream levels are up and there
are a lot more fish in the river. This next
week should be much better.
11/14/15 Coho fishing has been very
good as long as the stream levels
have permitted fishing. It is up now but
can change fast, so keep a check on it.
11/28/15 Hatchery steelhead are being
caught. Coho fishing has been good. Lots
of rain in the forecast for next week.
12/06/15 Lots of fish were being caught but
you will have to pay close attention to the
stream levels. Lots of heavy rain coming.
01/09/16 Maybe the high water is about
to end. The flows are at 9470 cfs below
the dam. A few steelhead have been
caught but we haven't received any
reports from customers yet.
Perfect Fly
Steelhead Flies
01/23/16 The flows below Mayfield are
10,100 cfs or just a little above normal.
We did not get any reports from the past
02/06/16 Flows are at 12,200 cfs at 14.31
ft. high. The levels need to drop for the
fishing to pick up.
02/13/15 Flows are at 11,300 cfs and
14.0. Normal is about 6500 cfs.
02/27/16 Anglers should be catching
hatchery steelhead in good numbers but
the levels are still high. It can change fast.
Keep a check on them .
03/26/16 The river has dropped and is
clearing and anglers are catching winter
steelhead near the trout hatchery.
07/02/16 Sorry for the lack of reports. We
lost our local contact who moved to guide
elsewhere. Summer run steelhead should
start arriving below Bonneville dam. Let us
hear your reports.
08/06/16 Lots of summer runs being
caught. Stream levels are staying in decent
08/20/16 The stream is at 2550 cfs below