Well, its smokey from the fires here in Cle Elum. Its to a point where I have to be inside. Not the place I like to be really. I fished the river yesterday for the first time in several days. The water temps have just been too high for me to feel comfortable stressing trout out anymore than they already are. Fishing was slow. Not horrible for the day, super windy, lower flows, no hatches as we are moving into fall. The drought is causing a lot of problems but so far the trout have been holding out just fine. Fish that have been caught are healthy, fat, and full of energy with an exception here and there. The fish are eating nocturnally just as they did last September when the water temps hit 65 degrees. It just came earlier and has been going on longer. As the flip flop on the river approaches and the water levels drop as irrigation gets shut off, the river will need a close eye. If the air temps continue their downward trend we should be just find. If not then the warm temps could get worse. Everything is pointing to a closer to normal fall with night time lows dropping next week. Next year is another story and another blog post. Let us focus on the positive for this season.
The Fall is my favorite time of year on the Yakima. The colors change, the temps cool, the floaters go back to school, less anglers, less pressure, major hatches, and hangry trout. This river is a tailwater, meaning it flows below dams and therefore its flow is controlled. However, once the flows drop and we hit the fall, the Yakima shows her true colors. Its as if there are no dams on the river during this time of year. Flows are what they would natrually be or closer to it. The river is a trout anglers paradise in Autumn. The runs, and riffles, pockets, and seams all come out of hiding from the high flows of summer and the trout spread out and act like trout again. No longer are they pushed up against the bank chowing down on terrestrials. Fishing is easy in the summer in my opinion. The trout and river do all the work for you.
The fall however… gives the trout the advantage. The angler that has honed their technical casting, presentation skills, and water reading will be in nirvana. I have spent more days on the river in the fall than any other season. While many anglers are off prepping or chasing steel, I go out and have 30 and 60 fish days on the Yakima…typically with the river to myself. Big number days are not always what I am after, in fact I am never after them anymore, but the trout are eager and I would be lying my ass off if I didn’t enjoy tricking trout after trout with elegant and technical casts, finding them in the trickiest currents and pockets. Getting those hangry trout to come out of the quintessential trouty spots this river has to offer. The fall time is the right time for the trout angler.
My mind is filled with all the riffles, pockets, runs, and seams that await me as the fall colors appear, the Tamaracks change, the rains come to the mountians and the first signs of snow appear in late October. I am hoping the snow appears that early this year. There is nothing quite like waking up at 7:00 am instead of 4:00 am to go fishing, especially for an entire day and not 5 hours only. The river here in the fall can produce all day long if you know your hatches and water. The Hoot Owl will lift once the river sees 60-64 temps consistently across the entire watershed. About 3 weeks it would seem.
A brisk morning, mist clinging to the river. Warm fleece under my waders, a heavy flannel to keep the chill away. My beard reveling in the weather. My blue coffee cup and hot tea waking me up with its bold scent and tinge of honey. My boat sitting behind me in cold water, instead of fishing from it I am only using it to get to the best wading areas. A blue wing olive flutters by. A campfire riverside during lunch, fishing October Caddis into the evening. Off river and at home in time for dinner. It’s perfection for this angler.
I have had my most memorable days with trout in the autumn. The trout are most cooperative in my opinion. They feel the winter approaching, and what every wild animal does in the fall is prep for it. Trout are no different. The long cold winter is coming and trout pack on fat and chow on protein to get through it. That usually is in the form of several species of bugs and salmon eggs. A typical fall trouting expedition involves switching from dry fly rigs and nymph sticks througout the day. Certain pods of fish key in to crane flies dancing on the surface of the slack water laying eggs. Others eat october caddis pupas crawling along the bottom pre hatch. A riffle holds a handful of cutthroat eating Mahogany mayflies, while the large sneaky rainbows try and hide their noses while they sip BWO’s in the back eddies. Silly Rainbows….I see you…and I’ve got a size 18 BWO Emerger you can chew on.
The other fantastic thing about the fall is how the fish play. 5x tippet and long leaders, stiff short nymph lines and high sticking pocket water. Fish get into a rythym each day. They pod up, eat, move about, and cycle through the day like its routine. Unlike the constant choas that summer seems to bring. Fast flows, fighting for spots and food, its why the summer is so much fun for anglers. It makes trout easy to find, and easy to trick as they are less picky. They just want food. The fall changes pace and the trout follow. When you trick a 20 inch Rainbow that was quietly sipping mayflies in the soft water…they tend to get cranky about it. With the softer flows they have a lot more river to play in and will run and dance like a trout should. Grabbing a glass rod ups the fun factor as playing fish on glass…at least for me…is the utmost experience in angling for trout…the feel and response from a glass rod with a large trout on the end is quite amazing. There isn’t much that is more satisfying for the trout angler, than tricking a persnicikety trout, having the trout almost outplay you, and successfully landing and releasing a worthy opponent. The trout are my quarry and I am a fly angler.
There is a gnarly old Wild Westslop Cutthroat pushing 20 inches tucked behind a rock below a salmon redd, or a run, waiting for the right fly to pass by. There is a particular rock garden above Bristol on the Upper Yakima that has held some of the largest cutthroat this river has to offer. We won’t talk about the super secret spots where I caught my largest cutthroat to date. The picture above of a friend in the same secret hole can attest to the size of some of these trout that come out of hiding in the fall. 22 inches of cutthroat is impressive by any rivers standards but for the Yakima its freaking glorious.
I invite you to take a trip with me this fall. Every guide has a favorite season, every angler has a time of year when they just slay trout…the fall is mine…and I’ve been doing it for 10 seasons now. I haven’t missed fishing a fall season on this river. The experience of fishing in the fall on the Yakima is by far the best in my opinion. Come and enjoy it, the summer was hard so lets get back to fishing in the fall. Hope to see you riverside this autumn.