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The Subtle Take

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The season seems to be upon us. More or less. While the river temps are rising a few tenths of a degree everyday with this lovely weather we are having, the winter as a whole seems to be on its way out. With forecasting models showing the same issues with pacific ridging and all that cool sciencey stuff that is making anglers swoon.

I took a look at the Cle Elum today, running around 272 cfs and the water was around 42 ish. I looked for nymphs under the rocks near the banks and found a few, nothing major. I also just took the time to watch the areas that always have fish this time of year. There were a handful of trouts feeding under the surface. Most likely midges as there was a pretty good hatch. Nothing on the surface in my observation but thats pretty normal with 42 degree water.

The season is approaching however, and the all to familiar and always awesome sight of driftboats with trailers lining mainstreet in the am is becoming more regular. Of course right now its usually like 1 driftboat. I took the afternoon to wash mine out. Was really dirty from the winter. During which I never clean her because well….its kind of a pain. Luckily my big plastic bath toy cleans up real nice. I love getting things ready for the beginning of the season. My birthday is this month and the Skwalla hatch usually coincides with it or a week after. I typically celebrate turning a year older, this year 29, by hitting the river for the day. This year will be no different and the dry fly fishing could be wicked. That is if a trip doesn’t get booked on that day, in which case I would just get to float another day that week which is never a problem.

This blog post is gonna plug the fact that I do offer guided fly fishing trips. Kinda sucky but I have already learned that these posts have a positive effect on the calendar dates filling up without having to outright say it so there it is. I just said it now lets move on.

Cool fishing story to end it all off from a birthday of mine a few years back.

Before I had my driftboat, I used to walk up river from the East boat launch outside of Cle Elum a lot. I just found there were less people and easier wading. Plus a lot of just killer water. Downstream is great too but thats another story.

It was on my birthday, and we had a really warm spell that led us into March. The dry fly fishing in the canyon was really starting to pick up, with almost 60 degree days of course it was. The upper river however, was slow to get going. Which is pretty normal. While everyone and their dogs crowded the lower river for a chance at a fish on the dry fly; I was more interested in a big fish on anything and I knew just the spot.

I don’t typically care for what size a trout is just as long as I get to chase them and trick a few. But, this particular spot and I had our runs ins and I always found decent sized trout in it. I was in the mood for a cutthroat but had had a moment with a few already for the day on the nymph. I came up to the spot and took a gander.

The sun was grazing the tree tops with her orange late winter hue. The shadows upon the river like jagged teeth closing in for the night. The light was touching the far end of the slack water at the front end of the hole and a foam line was just visible. A good 35 40 feet away from me with the breadth of the river and at least two different current speeds. Then…I saw it. Only just at first.

A nose….

Not just any nose…a nose and head around the size of my fist! Another sip!

I saw the trout rise a third time barely breaking the surface tension of the slack water. My heart panicked. I quickly switched out my rig and set up for a dry fly. I gave myself a nice long piece of 5x supple flex tippet and tied on a size 18 midge dry. One of the ugliest flies I have ever tied. Nothing more than a few strands of snowshoe rabbit, black thread, and some sparkle yarn for a tail. You can’t see the fly without really spending some time watching it on the water as it is so small. Rocky Ford in the early days was helpful.

The trout rose again. I made my approach. I stayed well down stream and kept my cast really low. If I spooked this fish I would never forgive myself. A rainbow that size is always a treat in the upper stretches and only a rainbow would sip so stealthily and delicately in this river.

The cast was quite difficult and left little room for error. I figured I would F it up big time but I gave it a shot.

Now before we finish this tale of trout versus angler we need to have a disclaimer. What is about to unfold….never happens to me…like in ever, and I have caught a lot of finicky Yakima Trout.

I gave three perfect false casts, and I mean perfect, that line just cut through the cool late winter air like warm butter. I remember the distinct sound of my Mastery Texture Series line as it sung through the guides. Zip…Zip….

I placed the fly 3 feet upriver from the infamous snout. I held the rod high, which I thought would be the end all, but with the cross currents the only way to secure a proper drift with such a fly made it necessary. Everything went silent…

My vision seemed to tunnel on the spot where the trout had rose before. I took a deep breath and held it in anticipation. 6 more inches…..

Whether I was blessed by the fly fishing spirits, my trout sense was in perfect sync, or I just got really bloody lucky that trout rose.

The snout broke the surface and I watched in sheer joy, horror, and the utmost excitement, as my fly, the size 18, fugly little midge gnat, was hoovered by this trout.

It was on. This trout was in no mood and I very much angered him by interrupting his late afternoon feeding. The head-shakes of this trout put fear into my rod. My reel screamed against the silence. The calm intensity of the prior moment was now broken with chaos and pure awesomeness. The fish leapt from the river and I got to witness his prowess. An immense trout!

The trout was not giving up and continued to work its way into the deeper water where I knew a rootwad was waiting for me. A high rod tip and a well played fish were all that was needed. Easier said than done. Like I said, I got really bloody lucky. The Wild Rainbow found his way into my net. I was amazed and dumfounded. 22 inches of pure awesome in trout form.

I pulled the fugly fly from my quarry and released the fish who said goodbye with a splash as if to get back at me. I was done for the day. I tipped my hat to the river, said thank you, and made my way back to my rig. There was nothing else in this river that would top that fish for today.

Just to see and chase such an impressive trout is an experience, but to actually have everything click into place and have that perfect first cast moment that tricks the old, sipping, rainbow is damn near…I’m gonna use it….Legendary! At least for me. Its just one of those moments that will go down as one of the greatest on this river for me, and it was on my freaking birthday!

I hope to share moments like the one with Mr. Subtle Take Trout, with my clients. I actually named my boat after that particular trout, and have “The Subtle Take” engraved in my transom plate in the back of my boat. Take a look if you are ever in the hog this season. We might even be floating by the same hole, and there are always decent fish in it.

Tamarack

#yakimariver #homewater #trout #flyfishing

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