The snows are rolling in. The snowpack is above 90% and we are just now coming into the month of January.
January ushers in the harder cold, and starts the countdown to the thaw. Here on the Yakima the late winter hits hard but leaves quickly in terms of fishing. The weather may still be frigid but remember troots are cold blooded cold water critters.
Water temps also start to perk up in the lower river. The days start getting longer every day, minute by minute, every morning now. Before we know it we will have enough sunlight beaming down on the water to warm it up enough for fish to move about. The Lower Canyon of the Yakima River is a marvel of an ecosystem. As the longer days and more intense sun rays start hitting the river it warms the surface, the canyon is a basalt corridor that retains heat. Couple that with the thermal properties of H2O and you have perfect late winter fishing conditions.
The water temps have sat below 40 degrees for the better part of 8 weeks now. Fish have been in hibernation mode eating when its warmer for typically only an hour to 3 a day. As January comes the larger fish have burned through most of their supply for the winter. All those October Caddis and BWOs only keep you full so long. So they start to want to eat. Despite the Hoth like conditions above, fish below are lethargically looking for food.
40 degrees is the magic number. As the sun heats the basalt and the river. The LC turns into a refrigerator and holds its water temp. We get a few hours of solid sunlight no matter how cold the air temp is…and the water will warm and fish will munch. Science Bitches! I’ve fished the LC when it’s 25 degrees outside and the surface water temp is 38 to 40. That’s fishy in January and February. And every day it’s gets a little better, a little warmer, fish get just slightly more active. Every day. Its fun to be out there and watch the whole place wake up. Plus you meet some big ass fish.
The largest trout gotta eat. And they wake up first. As the water hits 40 we have another amazing thing happen. The sculpin start to get spawny and the whitefish are finishing up their spawn. As the trout start to wake up they have these two readily available and very rich food sources to partake of. Remember trout start spawning around 50 degree water and westslope around 48. Trout that wake-up around 40 degree water temps are typically sexually mature adults that need to prepare themselves for spawning in March and April. Rainbow trout can be 2 to 4 years old and westlopes are typically 3 to 5 years old when they are ready to spawn. These are big trout anglers. Some of the biggest and baddest the Yakima has to offer. Our trophies. As a professional guide, I can tell you these fish are easier to conquer during the early season. The angler has the advantage in January and February. The water is lower and colder so fish are slower and easier to play. They can move and pull like tanks, but they aren’t turbo charged like they are above 48 degree water temps. They also don’t have 3000 to 4000 cfs of river to kick our asses in.
We swing for these trout. We nymph too especially in February as the Skwallas start migrating. Every once in a while a BWO or a Midge hatch will give you a shot at some of the first dry fly sips of the season. But the big ones…they eat meat. Sculpins, eggs, and smaller fish are the main course. A few big pieces of meat and a trout is good for a little bit while it moves about the system preparing for spawning. This is the time to chase those fish. As later in the season I won’t be fishing up river during the spawn to allow the trout time to take care of business. So now is the time to chase with spey and meat streamers for big chonkers that wanna get busy. They only spawn once a year so it’s kind of a big deal for them. And they spend the next two and a half months preparing for this monumental milestone in their trooty lives.
It’s already starting looking at the forecast. Don’t let the cold fool you. It’s all about the sun. And as this cold snap finishes off, I see some pretty awesome conditions headed our way. Already trips are on the calendar for January. Anglers ready to test their skill against these wild animals are invited to come take their shot.
I will be running Trout Spey Specials for the next 2 months. Trout Spey Specific techniques as well as nymphing and Euro-nymphing fishing. $325 for 1 or 3 angles. A 4 to 5 hr trips learning and chasing the big boys. The chonkers….the troutasaurus troots. It’s time anglers. Skwalla specials start in late February and run through March. And if you reserve a day before January 15th I’ll knock 15% off your final balance! The 2022 trout season is coming. Let’s chase some trout anglers.
Hope to see you riverside this season!