The spring is within sight anglers! I know everyone is chomping at the bit to chase some trout but patience always wins out when it comes to tricking trout and it is especially key here on the Yakima River, over and above most other rivers I have fished. (Save for Silver Creek ID, those big browns put Yakima Trout to shame when it comes to being persnickety.)
I’ve been out fishing about 10 times since the first of January. I’ve caught 8 fish. And I tell it to ya straight, it’s slow, sure you’ll have a day here and there where you might slay and have a good winter day. It happens, I’ve had plenty in my tenure. But it’s not what I’m really looking for in the early season these days. I use the early season as the transition period back into life revolving around the river.
From February through October, my entire life and the lives of my family are dictated by the river. It can be hard, especially when nature, fish, or a myriad of other things have a negative impact on that life. But the years where it all works out are super juicy. It’s a life that my family and I love and we would not trade. It gives us freedom, I have entire winters to be at home with my children. My lady and I are able to work as a very effective team when it comes to living this life and raising a family. My kids are exposed to a unique lifestyle and environment that has a heavy emphasis on independence, exploring and discovering for self fulfillment, good work ethic, and being passionate about the things that interest and fascinate you. My kids spend days fishing, skiing, snorkeling, hiking, camping, and learning about the connection they have to the natural world, as individuals as well as on a local, and global scale. And I get to take people fishing for a living and all the awesomeness that comes along with it.
I look forward to the early season after the winter for so many reasons but there is this natural want and need that overwhelms me as we inch closer to spring. Living a life dictated by nature will have that effect. It’s like coming out of hibernation. The days get longer, the sun is brighter, and it wakes me up now. My mind wanders river banks and reads foreign water every morning as I wake. I find myself constantly thinking about fish again. All other things have grown less and less interesting each day. Everyday I want more and more to be outside away from it all and plugged back into what the river is doing.
It’s the call…it slowly crescendos upon me, until it wakes me from my winter routine. Even today, despite the snow the the sun is bright and warm now, and enticing me to wander the literal riverbanks a mile from where I sit. It begins…life will soon be dictated by the river. The more days I am on river between now and the spring the more in sync with it all, and I like being in sync. Waking up with the river, finding out her timing, learning where the fish are, when they will move, and how. The flows and how they will determine it all. Looking over graphs and prediction charts, snowpack levels, and extended forecast models, all to plug back into nature and be on her clock. It’s a process, one that I ease myself back into before guiding starts. Think of it as warm up before the game. And I bring my A game when guide season starts. And guide season starts when the river is consistent and on her annual spring rhythm. Typically end of February start of March on a year like this.
Yes you can catch fish now, but let’s be real, you wanna catch them on dries and streamers, not on bobber rigs all day. And typically before the river gets on that spring time rhythm, the fishing is constrained to a 2-4 hour window of nymphing each day, with the occasional warmer day giving you that sweet early season slay fest if you’re lucky enough to be on river then. As a guide I don’t have to do much when the fishing is like that. It’s just not consistent and for me that means it’s not “sellable” in terms of guiding. So I wait, and I take my time getting back in touch with the river, so that when it gets to that rhythm, I have a better understanding of all the things that make for a good productive day of fishing on the Yakima. I do it for my clients, and it’s how I like to run my business, making sure that I’m back to a professional level after being off for months.
But I do it for me too. It’s a month of time where I can just be a trout bum. I get to fish this time of year, I get to row, I get to camp, I have freedom to just be on the river…literally everyday if I want. And I love the Yakima River, I’ve dedicated years to learning her and even after all this time I’m never grow tired of this river. I’m a little seasoned so I typically go out on the ‘nicer’ days now, but that’s 4-5 days a week. And ‘nicer’ is a relative term as nice weather for fishing in February can mean a lot different things. I get to hone and tune my own angling skills and bring them up to level. It’s like rehearsal if you will, pre season training for the non musician people. I get to try new techniques and refine my teaching curriculum to incorporate the things I’ve learned both from others and on my own. I test theories, I work new water reads, I row new lines and try new angles and approaches across the entire watershed. I familiarize myself with less fished stretches. I work off the winter hibernation weight and I get my body back in shape for rowing clients down the river effectively. My wife and I work the menu and how to better prep and serve meals. I start tying everyday, my days are filled with hours online doing blogs, research, checks, photo posts, video stuff. I have days of dozens of flies, days where I am riverside for hours reconnecting. It’s a good time to be a trout guide let me tell you. It’s the juicy stuff, the stuff I really dig on when it comes to fly fishing. The stuff years of river journal note taking engrained in me on how the river comes alive each season. It’s a really special time to be riverside and come alive with the river.
‘It’s a special time indeed.
As of today, the flows are expected to rise but not considerably in the upper, but the LC might see 4000 plus cfs later this week, snow pack is at 96% for the upper basin. We have snow and rain in the forecast for the next 7 days. Air temps are low to mid 40’s during the day with overnight lows in the low to mid 30’s. That trend in the upper isn’t going to change for the next 10 days. The lower river is already starting to see overnight lows stay in the 40’s, with daytime highs almost hitting 50. Which means water temps in the LC will start to break 40 over the next 10 days. Trout start to wake up around 40-42 degrees and get really active when we start hitting 50 degrees. What does this all mean? It means that the LC is in the process of warming up and picking up, looks like mid February and we will have Skwallas and BWOs but I don’t expect the Skwallas to be hot until later in the month and into March. I’d focus on streamers and trout Spey tactics over the next 20-30 days if you’re coming over to fish. The big fish eat slow easy prey that fills them up quick without a hole lot of work.
The upper river won’t be a happening place until March, the snow pack is high enough that as the lowland snow starts to melt over the next 20-30 days, we will have fluctuating flows that will bring dirty super cold water to the system. It shocks the system out of its winter time rhythm and ups the tempo to spring. But it slows the fishing down up here, so I tend to focus on the lower river and work my way up as we move into March.
So there’s the breakdown. Expect weekly reports, live feeds, and daily updates on the social media stuff as we move forward. You’ll know when I know and I’ll keep ya updated as things improve and get into that sweet spring rhythm. Really looking forward to this season and I hope to see ya all riverside!