This season has been a little rougher than others. But my favorite time of year is here. The river has dropped back to her normal flow, the fish are moving about the system on a rhythm, and the bugs are starting to hatch. The Autumn, the Fall…the Late Season is upon us.
Some things recently in my life are making me relocate to south central Idaho for the off season. There I will be working on the south fisheries and a few tours down there to start exploring it. But I am also looking at working towards guiding other states and rivers beyond the Yakima for trout. I will always guide the Yakima River, it is near and dear to me. But I want more, as an angler personally, as an angler professionally, and as a guide. I want more challenges, more water to row and read, more clients and people to share the places and fish with, and I want to spend the next 30-40 years doing it. I never planned to only be a Yakima River guide and spend my career here solely. It is time to expand move on to other waters, and return to the Yak during the time of year when she is at her best.
That time is now. The late season fishing has begun. Today was a tougher fishing day in the upper canyon with the weather, but every day can’t be stellar. We had wind, no bugs, over worked fish from the weekend, and my boat was heavy. Lotta dude in the boat today…but the fishing required extra attention and work. I walked the boat back up runs several times to try new lanes, different flies, and give anglers more chances. Whether we caught no fish or 50 fish I would have done the same things today. Changed flies 12 times, tried different nymph rigs, threw multiple dries, double dries, it was just tougher today, still produced fish, missed some nice ones, but it wasn’t a stellar day and my body ached afterwards, and my brain had been fried by the trout. So I needed to get my shit right after. So I drove to the Cle Elum and didn’t even set camp, just grabbed my gear, still in my waders from the trip since 7 am, and walked up to the first riffle. Fish in 3 casts. I proceeded to lose myself for the next 2 hrs in dry fly fishing for trout with October Caddis and Blue Wing Olive dries.
This evening was especially wonderful as I got into over a dozen trout over the 2 hrs I fished and I landed a 22 inch rainbow after an amazing take and battle. I waited until dusk, just to see if I could get into it with a big trout.
This fish ate 3 casts after I had landed his 15 inch friend in the same spot. I figured…what the hell, they usually hang out together…3rd reach cast across 3 currents, 30-35 feet upstream at roughly 45 degrees. A sweet log jam right next to the deep seam on the river left edge of the run…it’s fucking juicy. There is a soft cushion just ahead of the root ball of the log…a foam line, and a slight drop off into the seam. It’s perfect. The cast isn’t easy, and most anglers I see don’t fish it the way I do. Most go from a down stream angle, unfortunately the fish can see you at that angle.
A more technical cast and method of approach produced an amazing trout today. The fish hammered the fly, I initially thought it was a cutty, but then it turned down river and took line, about 20 feet, then turned back upriver and held deep trying to break me off in the rocks. I could feel the line hit gravel. I started to turn the fish back and forth trying to disorient the fish and get it to rise up in the water column so I could have the advantage. A technique learned from Molly Semenick. The fish came up in the water column…then jumped and I got to see the creature! A huge male with a deep pink stripe flashing in the setting sun reflecting on the river surface. I was mesmerized and hooted very loudly as the trout ran back up the run and tried to get upriver. I back peddled out of the thigh deep current and turned the trout down river. It took the hint and screamed down river jumping once as it went by me. I had slack for a moment and thought I had lost; but the fish came into the slow water below me and I took the opening and closed the gap on the fish. When I went to net it spooked and pulled line almost straightening it in my hand and I grunted loudly at the power. I countered by pulling the trout back into the fast water and rocking the rod tip back and forth to tucker the beast out. I succeeded. The trout yielded and I was able to embrace this gorgeous 22 inch rainbow. A huge male, with a magenta band down the center, deep dark spots with leopard markings near the tail but perfect round circles near the snout. The trout weighed close to 4lbs, and filled the net completely. I was overjoyed with the encounter. I quickly removed the beat up October caddis dry from the nose plate, a perfect hook set for once. I released the fish almost as quickly as I had netted it. No photo required. That was my fish. We shared that moment. Just me, the river, and the trout. I felt blessed, if there is such a thing. To bare witness and battle such an animal and to be humbled by the fight against angler that it put forth. A worthy adversary we made for each other. I tipped my hat, lit up a J and walked back to the truck.
For a moment…all was right with the world and there was nothing but river…angler…and trout.