Nestled in the Methow River Valley and known as the Jewel of the Cascades, this 80-mile Columbia tributary is known for its great beauty and abundant trout. By car, it can be reached within two hours from Ellensburg or about 3 ½ hours from Seattle. Five towns dot the valley landscape - Mazama, Winthrop Twisp, Carlton and Methow – each with a charm of their own.
The Methow and its tributaries, the Twisp River, Cedar Creek and Early Winters Creek begin in the high, Methow Pass area of the Cascades and continue to join with additional tributaries until their confluence with the Columbia River at Pateros. The Pacific Rim Trail follows the River’s upper reaches while other landmarks such as Star Peak and Mt. Bigelow, two of the state’s highest peaks, add to the river’s splendor.
The river can be waded or floated. Anglers tend to divide the river into three sections: Winthrop to Twisp; Twisp to Carlton; and, Carlton to Gold Creek. Each has differing flows although the lower section has rapids and tends to be turbulent.
Steelhead season changes annually but the trout season typically opens June 1st and closes September 30th. The section below Winthrop is considered by many to be the most desirable. Dry fishing throughout the summer is excellent but fall/winter is the best time, especially for those interested in steelhead. Still something of an insider’s river, the clear watered Methow is often overlooked by anglers and is rarely congested.
Species include wild rainbow trout, wild cutthroat, native bull trout, steelhead (indigenous and hatched) and chinook salmon. While fish tend to average about 12 inches, there are recent reports of 18-25 inch trout being found southeast of Carlton.
Before booking a trip, check to see if the river is closed for spawning and if all fish need to be released. Depending on conditions, anglers may be permitted to keep hatchery steelhead.