Stop…Hopper Time. We all know what that means. Super awesome fun times with dry flies, big water, and big ol’ trout. Just amazing fishing this season on the Yakima River. We have lots of water this season, and the flows just jacked up to summer time levels. The weather has been hot and that has spurred the hoppers into fruition. The forecast for the next 10 days in the upper is a high of 75 with sunshine, the lower is high of 85 with sunshine. SO….its time to book a trip and go chase some trout.
I encourage all anglers to shop around for guides, there are a lot here. I can guarantee you that our local independent guides here are the best of the best and if I’m booked, I make sure to refer clients to other independents like myself. You can book a local independent guide for way less than the outfitters, have a more personable experience, support a small business owner, and if you book with me, we can fish areas of the river that others don’t frequent. There is 70 miles of river to fish, and about 75% of anglers and guides fish the bottom 3rd of this river. Fishing the upper river in high flows, 3400 cfs today, takes a bit of skill and these fish are wicked fun in that heavy water!
Business plug out of the way, on to the next public service announcement.
The past three days I have been at home with the family enjoying the lull in tourist activity before the 4th of July weekend descends upon us. I have a different opinion of our Independence Day celebration after working in the outdoors for a bit. People get really stupid when fire, alcohol, dope, and colorful explosives are all put together. Especially when they are out in the woods away from the city and that. So, before the haters descend upon me, go out and have a good time this weekend, but be smart, just about everywhere in the county is off limits to fireworks, and fireworks are banned on all public lands, no exceptions. Enjoy our Independence, like responsible Americans…please. And pick up your trash and don’t put rock dams in the rivers. Otherwise people like me and my family, and the great volunteers with TU and other organizations have to pick up after you. Hold your friends accountable, no matter how intoxicated, and clean up your mess and respect the rivers, woods, and wild places. Because I don’t like having to go in the few days after and see the aftermath. It cuts into my fishing and snorkeling time and that’s about the only thing I get peeved about these days.
Alright, now on to more insightful things that involve trout and rivers, flies and smiles.
I have had the amazing opportunity to be on or in the river a lot this past month. It’s a special and very humbling thing to be able to do what I love everyday and support my family and live the lifestyle my wife and I love. It is the peak of the season. I have been enjoying the few days off in between runs. It has given me a chance to go explore the headwaters on my own for a day, it also allowed me to spend some time at home with my kids before they leave for a road trip to their grandparents in Idaho. Gone for two weeks while Dad and the Dog chill at home. I’ll be running trips like a mad man, tying flies, and playing this sweet new video game I got. (I pile new video games up during the season and then binge play them while the snow falls during the winter. My son starts playing them before me and gives me spoilers.) Having a few days off also gave me the chance to snorkel the Teanaway a bit more and get more in touch with what is going on under the surface.
Lets be honest, that river is fishing like crap. I hate to say it like that but its true, and I should know, I’ve been up there a lot lately, and I have been fishing it pretty regularly for several seasons. It used to be a haven for the summer time angler with no boat. Big cutties, eager for a dry, bigger flows, and less people. Sadly, last years drought, coupled with the immense amount of people traffic and irrigation usage has sucked a lot of the life out of the beloved Teanaway River. Every time I drive up the valley I see the river gasping for life. I see Mount Stuart, looming at the head of the river, angry and foreboding, as if shaming those of us below. It is not until I venture away from the pavement and away from where people congregate along the banks of the river that I find life again. There is an amazing difference in the presence of fish above the ‘No Fishing’ areas then below. The caliber of fish the higher up you go into the Closed Waters section amazes me. It is reminiscent of what the entire river used to be like. Only 6 years ago the river was so much different. And where people are no longer allowed to fish, only then does the Teanaway seem to show her true self. The only way to experience it…is with snorkel, fly rod not allowed…or needed honestly. I have no desire to fish the Teanaway River these days. I long for the days I remember, nostalgic for a time when fishing the Teanaway River was an incredible experience with absolutely astounding and amazing wild trout. Some that defied belief as to their ability to even be in the river. Wild Westslope with peculiar spots, rich hues of rose, gold, and blood orange, large and gnarly, like aquatic mountain goats venturing further and further into the intricate pools and rapids of the river. They are all but gone, a few still residing high in the river where they are only pestered by predators, the occasional dirty poacher (asshats), and people like myself…snorkeling trying to understand and learn more about them. To bring their home back.
This spring was quite the sight during runoff. The Teanaway River was a torrent of angry vengeful water, running over 6000cfs at one point. She was so heavy there was flooding in areas, she wiped out hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of monitoring equipment, she reformed the stream-bed in places, pulled new logs and dead fall into her embrace, all while washing away the drought and forcing nutrients and life back into her waters. But yet again she is hit with low water, the snow melts too fast, and the water gets pulled out to quickly before it is able to reach her bigger sister the Yakima. That disconnect between the two rivers is very bad. They need each other, and whether we all want to admit it or not, we need them both more than ever.
The Teanaway is like a smaller version of the upper Yakima, like mirror images of each other, but the Yakima has dams that make her bigger. Without them the Yak would be very similar to the Teanaway and Cle Elum rivers. As we see these negative things happen to the Teanaway it is only a precursor to the problems we will face on the Yakima. Everything flows down stream, and when you lose the headwaters, the entire system falls apart. The headwaters are the heart, the brain, the most important organs of the entire watershed. Moreover, than any other thing though, the headwaters are the womb. They breed life. Without them…the system dies. Headwaters Matter. It’s what drives me to work in conservation. I do a lot of it and one day I hope to share the Teanaway with my children and grandchildren and no longer feel that nostalgia. That’s the goal, a life goal for me.
This is why you see my hog and my beardy face up in the headwaters most of the time. I have been in the LC on the Yak a bit, I try and avoid the weekends, its starting to get crowded. I encourage anglers looking for a guide trip to pick a week day. There is still opportunity to have any section of the river to yourself during the week. But part of the reason I spend so much time in the upper river is because it is my stomping grounds. I started wading up here before I bought my boat, exploring the main-stem Yak and all the tribs with a passion that is slightly subdued nowadays. I visit my favorite spots, I’m running out of new spots but I still find new and amazing things every time I am on the river. Fishing the Upper Yak reminds me of the Teanaway too. The Cutthroat are here, and they are by far my favorite fish. They are a funky trout, that can be as frustrating to trick on the fly as their wild rainbow cousins, but they also are some of the fastest fish I have ever met. Watching them in the wild with a snorkel shows that even more. They live in some very cool water, sprinting through rapids with ease. They are smaller and slimmer than a rainbow, but they are faster. They don’t have the strength and ferocity of a rainbow, but they are quick to the fly, and make reaction time a key element of tricking them. I have seen some of the biggest cutthroat of my life in this river, mostly watching them head back down to the depths after missing them on the fly because they are faster than I. My fascination for them, the how, what, and why of what makes them so unique and distinct compared to other trout envelops my trouty brain.
I had a few moments with Cutthroat on the fly this season that will stick with me forever. I have shared many of these moments with clients. That’s what its all about for me. Those moments. The tug is the drug for some, that moment of fish and angler meeting…that is what its all about for me. When wild animal and human interact. It can be even more intoxicating when snorkeling with them. Watching wild cutthroat in their natural environment just being trout…its fascinating. Tricking them with a fly is the preferred method but sometimes its unnecessary.
I am addicted to invading that world whether by fly and rod or snorkel and fins. In reality it is the world. Just a smaller version of it. Put aside the technology, the politics, religion, violence, all the noise….and there in front of you…life is there…doing what it does…passing you by. Slowing everything down with a finely timed cast, a good stroke of the oars, a fly landing perfectly, or a good long swim through a big deep pool taking in the wonder…that’s what my life is all about…that’s all I want life to ever be about. Come share it with me, unplug from it all and come plug in to all the stuff you are missing. No cords required, no charging except that of the soul, the ultimate network…come get some. Will do ya good.
Now I’m unplugging. New blog after fishing this weekend. Check the FB and website for a river report. Will have flies for sale up when I get around to it.
Oh and I’m on Gink and Gasoline in a sweet video talking about trout and stuff. Check it out here: