I forgot how a normal spring is supposed to go. Sitting at home the past two days has got me down. I wanna be outside, slinging flies, rowing seams, and giving trout handshakes. But the river is blown, and its raining, with more to come. It sucks…but then I reflect back on previous years before things started getting progressively worse each winter and our snow pack dwindled up to last years epic and craptastic drought.
Spring on the Yak, at least according to my journals and my time on the river for the past 11 seasons, is always a crap shoot. Typically this river doesn’t really start picking up until Mother’s Day. At least in the lower end. The upper tends to have better mayfly water, and if you dig swinging things like streamers and wet flies the upper can be a great place to spend the spring season. It also has trout eating out of fast water riffles and up along big log jams and boulder fields, and just a lot more than the banks and seams of the LC. A place where trout act a little more trouty and the menu tends to be more varied. It typically blows out a lot. But the areas above the Teanaway are rather consistent and until irrigation kicks up they fish really well, albeit off color 3 days of the week due to the rains. Once irrigation comes in it can be a little funky for a bit but once its consistent the river becomes a paradise for those who like a challenge and the opportunity to fish lots of different flies and use a myriad of techniques and water reading skills.
Referencing my journals I found that the spring was always filled with great dry fly days in March and April, but on an average week the river would be out of shape 3 to 4 days. Not bad even for those of us that want to be out there 6-7 days a week. I have lots of entries of examining bugs when the river would blow and then tying flies to match. That is what I remember most about a normal spring on the Yakima. Having down days that literally made me ache to not be out and patiently…anxiously watching the rain outside while I tie flies in preparation. I have spent the off days or river blown days tying lately and there is a nice rhythm to it now. Tie…fish…tie…fish.
I have promised myself that I would not buy flies that I could tie easily, and have been lucky to be able to partner with Catch Fly Fishing for my mass produced flies. That being said, I still tie over half of my flies for my trips. I typically take my flies back from my clients at the end of the day unless they stuck a monster on the fly and then I make them keep it. But flies are expensive even for guides. Especially if you buy from shops as a guide. Unlike other states guide discounts are kind of a joke around here. I get better discounts in Montana and Idaho shops than I do in Washington. Makes me not want to support local shops. But the relationship of shops and guides, and how I feel guides should be thought of is a whole other blog. But I tie flies, which is becoming less and less of a thing I fear, especially among younger and newer anglers. We have shops not offering tying material or classes, which cuts out an entire part of fly fishing, the flies, and in turn entomology.
You need to know what flies mimic what and when to use them. That comes from learning how to tie and what the fly represents. Even if you don’t ever become a big tier I encourage anglers to try it or take a class. At the very least take an entomology course which should touch on the flies that should be used. When there are 5 different bugs hatching throughout the day, a good angler knows what flies to use and when, a good guide better know, and then have a few tricks up their sleeve as well. I explain to my anglers that a lot of my flies are tied with a specific method and time to fish them. I have a lot of success in the fringe times of the hatch. Post and pre hatch, emergers and wet flies. Being able to break down a hatch, and know when and what patterns to tie on, can turn a 10 fish day into a 40 fish day. Anyone can cast at a rising fish and have a high chance of success, but what about the fish that aren’t rising yet, the ones that key on to specific parts of the hatch, only eating emergers, or nymphs, or the big pigs that only eat the spent morsels that pile up in eddies? It happens. Maybe not on a drought year like last but lately the fishing has been pretty damn good with more than a dozen fish hitting flies, that activity only gets better as we get further into the season.
I have already had success this spring switching from the standard worm and throwing the midge, finding pods of fish chowing on the little bastards. Throw a worm through the same spot….nothing. I meet anglers riverside all the time that ask me how the fishing is for me. 80% of the time I am having a better day, and that is mostly related to my ability to break down the day and fish it according to how the bugs and trout are interacting with each other. It stems from tying. I wouldn’t know that an unweighted sparkle pupa 18 inches below a little yarn can literally produce a fish every cast if I hadn’t learned to tie them, it gave me the how, when, and why to using the fly.
I have journal entries from previous March Brown and PMD hatches where fishing was ridiculous, fishing nymphs pre hatch, emergers for the 20 minutes before the burst, dries during the peak, switch to spent males or wet flies post hatch. That all happens before 11 am some times. There is enough opportunity within that time to have amazing fishing. I mean who doesn’t want 10-30 fish before lunch? The Yak used to be like that, and it looks as though it may be like that again for the next few seasons. I never had an issue with knowing what flies to use when I started out as I started tying before I held a fly rod. But I understand how anglers can get frustrated when they see fish eating but can’t figure out the right bug. That’s where knowing how to tie and what flies represent what bugs comes into play. It can get even more in depth as I now tie specific dries for slow water, fast water, nymphs with different weights, different bodies, to do certain things in the water column to better represent the natural and in theory and reality, catch more trout.
Tying also helps soothe my anxiety, makes me focus, saves me money, prepares me for trips and days on the river, and is a facet of fly fishing that I feel is lost with mass production flies and less younger tiers. There used be a time in fly fishing history where the only way you could get flies was to either tie them yourself, or buy them from a guide or trouty person that did. Shops used to stock flies from the local tiers, its a time I am nostalgic for, I wish more of our local shops supported the local artists and tiers that make this sport unique.
So if you find yourself staring out the window at the rain depressed that your not getting your rod bent. Or if you are looking at the forecast in disgust and resentment, or if you are watching YouTube vids of others catching fish, or maybe you are just trying not to think about fishing and watch zombie movies and cartoons but really you just want to be fishing….stop it…grab a vise, some feathers a little thread, some fur, hair, beads, hell whatever you want, and tie up some flies. No one should ever have to pay $2.00 for a Pat’s Stone. They have three parts, Weight, Chenille, and Rubber Legs. They take less than 3 minutes to tie with a little practice. When you buy a half dozen of those and some san juans you are dropping $20-$30 bucks on flies that literally could have taken an hour to tie at home. The initial investment in tying equipment and materials is less than buying a rod. That money you save can go into a new rod fund, or a new vest, hat, pack, hell I save mine up for material because I can’t help myself. $30 bucks in material goes a long way.
So there is my ploy to get more people tying. Its fun, its better than spending an hour watching another episode of something, and it might help make some other aspects of this sport easier to understand. Now go tie. It’s still raining and the river is still blown.