So…the 6-10 day forecast is calling for some heat! Right in time for summer. Its been a little weird weather wise here but summer is approaching this week. After 11 seasons on the river I haven’t been more stoked for a summer season than this one. Especially since we have lots of cold water and active fish.
As an angler you start to notice things the more time you spend on river. Lately I’ve been noticing two things. One makes me super excited, the other not so much.
Let’s get the negative out of the way first. As a TU Endorsed Guide, so I have conservation and sustainability for my river and the wild animals that call it home on my mind all the time. It is a resource for me but also for many others. As summer time moves in the Yakima River gets pounded by anglers. She is one of the busiest rivers in the PNW. These fish see a lot of pressure. Just this past weekend the bottom 25 miles of river saw close to 70 drift boats go down it. That’s well over 100 anglers. Over the course of 3 days, not to mention the bank anglers, tubers, rafters, and other recreators that enjoyed the river. So, when I did my trip on Monday after the fervor, I noticed something. Fish were spooked. Very spooked. The other reports I got from anglers and guides from Monday’s fishing were not very good. Slow. Now me and my guy had a pretty awesome day. I don’t mean to toot my own horn but I do have a little pride on being able to figure the fish out on off days. I have been in the LC because the upper river flows have been fluctuating for irrigation. Normal this time of year when we don’t have a drought. We were getting trout to come up to the fly. But they were slow rising, methodical, thinking about it the entire time they came up. Patience was the name of the game. But when the trout took the fly they would light lip it, test it, make sure it was real…smart fish. You don’t have to believe me but I see this kind of behavior in these wild animals all the time. It’s like when deer run into the hills when hunting season gets close. They just know. Trout aren’t any different.
We had plenty of fish come up to the fly, but the trout would lightly take the fly meaning a lot of the time when my client set the hook, the fish would spit the fly or just not be there. Because they just weren’t eating aggressive…because their mouths are sore. We hooked a few trout that had obvious fresh hook scarring. It’s just the way it is. I try and relieve stress on trout by changing where I float every day, and I try and avoid the LC as it sees more boats than any other section. The LC has the most fish per mile, but also the most worked over fish, especially after a big weekend. When I did my trip Tuesday…the fishing was poor. Fish just weren’t eating as consistently, it also didn’t help that I was on a triple boater and was hop scotching other boats all day. So I took Wednesday and Thursday off to give the trout a break, even though there are still well over a dozen boats on the bottom 3rd of the river every day this week. I wasn’t gonna have my Hog be part of the frenzy. I’m in the upper this weekend, those LC trout need some recovery time. So keep angler pressure in mind when booking trips, Tuesday through Thursday are the better days to shoot for if you want more consistent fishing in my opinion. Trout will gorge on food, get sore lipped, and the slower days during the week are prime time to get unsuspecting and more opportunistic trout on the fly.
Now on to the positive thing I have been noticing lately. The hoppers are waking up. Around 11 am everyday the past week, if you listen, you can hear the small juvenile hoppers sputter to life and talk to each other in the grass along the river bank. There are a lot of them people. A lot. Walk 6-10 feet into the bank and you will find them all over. As the heat intensifies they will grow, they will get more active, they will mate, and they will fall in the river and trout will go bonkers. Trout are already acting like it’s hopper season, but when the bugs actually show up…oh dude…awesomeness ensues. The entire river system fishes well during hopper season. Everyone congregates in the bottom 25 miles of river because its easy fishing when trout are looking up along the banks, but the upper river has some of the craziest hopper fishing around. For one reason only…more current. The big and little trout fight that much harder when they have fast moving cold water to play in. They have the home field advantage during the summer. Upper river has way more grade, more twists, bends, just more trouty water to be honest. The trout are all over the place in the summer, and everywhere a hopper can fall in the river…you can bet that there is probably a trout nearby. Just remember there is 70 plus miles of river you can fish and the LC is only 25 miles of it.
As this warmer weather moves in over the next week the hoppers are going to pop. And things are gonna get silly. The flows are up, the water is cold, the food is coming, and the fish gotta eat more to keep themselves going in the heavy flows of summer time here on the Yakima. It’s time to book a trip. We have a 15 day window of opportunity upon us. As these bugs show up, expect a lot of boat traffic, I can tell you already that the outfitters are damn near full up over the next 3 weekends, so there are gonna be a lot of people out. Shoot for a weekday, take work off, get the river to yourself, and chase some trout with hopper dries. It’s summer time fishing on the Yakima River…get it while its good.