Things are changing riverside. This spring has had a slow rolling start. Every season the river comes alive in April. The hills green, the trees bud, the birds return, the otter play, bugs hatch, the days warm, the winds change, the smells invigorate, and the trout eat. One other thing I wait for amd anticipate most of all in the spring. Runoff.
The Yakima is a tailwater. Meaning her flow is dictated by dams. She has a few smaller tributary streams like the Teanaway, Tanuem, Wilson Creek, Swauk Creek and others. All small waters flow into the Yakima. This time of year all those little waters swell with snow melt and rain. Gushing into the river system. These events charge the river with nutrients, minerals, food, debris, organic material, and all other sorts of good things. It is natural and beautiful. We also mimic this event with salmon pulses prior to irrigation water being diverted into the Yakima for agriculture.
This time of year the river is as close to natural as she ever gets. Stifled by dams but allowed to breath. Salmon return as do steelhead, to spawn. The trout also begin to spawn. Small salmon smolt are flushed downward towards the ocean journey that will eventually bring them back.
The swelled creeks and high water giving access to rearing grounds and safe water for all species to spawn in. The dams begin to pulse the river, the water levels rise as if rain and snowmelt are filling the Yakima. They are, just controlled. If not, the Yakima would rage and torrent this valley every season rising high above 20,000 cfs, cutting earth and rock as it tumbles towards the confluence with the Yakima. Flooding and cutting new paths without mercy or regard. A vast wetland would form where most fields and farms are. There would be groves of trees thick and rooted shallow where buildings and streets stand. It would be a sight to behold.
But the Yakima is tamed, save for her trout and the wild things that call her home. As the flows come up from the dams, the river acts naturally. Flushing the system and bringing life to all it touches.
I love it when this happens. I look forward to it every year. It brings about change to the river that gives more life and experience to those that interact with it during this time of year. The flows make trout move, which makes them feed. The river gives them insects and small fish and river critters, plenty to nourish them as they survive the coming season.
This time of year allows the angler to become a part of this world through a fly and rod. Experiencing it through wild trout. Trout allow an angler to tap into the intricate natural river world and connect with it intimately. To feel its flow and power through countering and playing a fish against its current. To enter into that world with a fly that mimics the natural so well when presented adequately, is to put the key into the lock, when the trout eats the lock is turned and the door is opened, entering into the river almost like a stumble through the door and into the swift waters before you. It’s enveloping and amazing.
And while the river needs its time to transition, for all that it touches to adapt and change with it, we patiently wait. As it does more and more moments to be invited into that world as an angler become abundant. It entices and invites. Delivering excitement, peace, clarity, healing, and awe-inspiring natural experiences, unlike most things that can be done outside and near water. It intoxicates.
The ability to find yourself lost in an entire day riverside experiencing everything as it flows by, around, through, toward, and away from you. The river speaks more as it changes and has more to share. These rivers, these fish we chase, this craft we invest ourselves into, brings us things we sometimes can not explain but only experience and enjoy. The river gives us a day and we flow with it. Hoping to be invited in. To be shown something amazing. To hold ourselves in awe, stunned at what the river shares and puts forward. To be humbled, excited, calmed, delighted, exuberant, respectful, and thankful that the river invited us in.
Things are changing. Let’s go see how.