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Autumn fast approaches

 

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Fall in the Upper…Below the Riffle
The summer is over.  Autumn fast approaches.  Already I see leaves turning in the highlands.  Soon the nights will be chill and biting in the mountains.  The larches along the high alpine will beam yellow against the cold granite backdrop, a beacon of the shift of the seasons.  My favorite time of year.  The river becomes her true self.  The way I envision the Yakima before man built dams across the river systems of the PNW.  She is as free as she ever can be during the fall.  Mostly because no one cares what her flows are.  Irrigation is done, the few cfs that is controlled is for salmon spawning.  The flows fluctuate with the rains, the river is cold, clear, and the fish are more inclined to act like their wild selves during this time of year.  It is as close to a wild river the Yakima will ever get…the fall season.

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Late Season Rainstorms
Some would argue spring runoff is pretty wild, but they control and hold back the torrent and true power of this river during the early season.  If the Yakima ran free during runoff, most of the lower valley would be underwater.  Those flood planes are there for a reason.  We grow crops and put up houses in them now.  Look at the Teanaway March 2017…that river will rip that valley a new one come next season if the winter is anything like they are predicting.  At one point this last spring the Teanaway was over 6000 cfs.  It flooded the entire upper end and ripped tons of new trees into the river while making new gravel bars and destroying old ones.  Times that by 2 or more and you have the Yakima.  Even the lower yak hit over 10,000 cfs this spring…that’s nothing…we only had 86% snow pack this year! Anyway…back on track here.

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Fall in the Headwaters
The late season, fall, autumn, or Septober, is the best time to fish the Yakima River.  The late season has the most consistency of any other time of year.  Roughly 60 days of damn near perfect trout fishing weather, cold water, low flows, and 5 major hatches.  Frankly, if you haven’t fished the Yakima River after Labor Day…you haven’t fished the Yakima River.  This is especially true anywhere above Ringer Loop on the yak.  The lower 24 miles of river really just isn’t that great in low water.  I just get bored down there really.  But for the angler that likes to wade fish and read water the lower river just isn’t that interesting.  Lots of boulder gardens, sharp basalt rocks, and big wide shallow sections of river.  Also, a little known fact…the fish move upriver a lot during the late season…they follow salmon.  We see it all the time, some out there don’t believe me, but I see it when I snorkel….those fish gotta come from somewhere.  When the lower river drops the fish run out of places to hide next to the bank and all those overhangs, undercuts, and grass lines are inaccessible to the trout.  So they head to the deep shelves, big runs, and pocket water in the boulder gardens.  This can be fun, but when fishing from a boat you find these very devoid sections of river that you have to get through to get to the fish.  Plus the take outs and put ins on the lower river are designed for longer floats, which become harder to do when the river drops.  I find myself rarely floating the LC because I end up having crummy rhythm during the day.  Where the upper offers everything that the lower doesn’t, plus it holds cutties, and the majority of the salmon are up here.

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Big Fish Eat Eggs
Let’s touch on the salmon really fast, and get it out of the way.  We have Chinook and Sockeye Salmon that come into the river here.  The majority of the spawning grounds are above Ringer Loop access.  There just isn’t a whole lot of gravel in the LC.  Its a lot of basalt.  So the salmon come up near Thorp and Cle Elum.  The Chinook go near the hatchery too, the Sockeye head for the lake instinctively but are also trucked into the headwaters until new fish passage is completed.  This means there is a massive protein source migrating up river.  If you were a trout, wouldn’t you follow all that food up river so you can chow down and fatten up for the winter?  Damn straight you would.  All wildlife key in on salmon.  From the raptors, the bears, the wolves, the trout…they all show up to feast on this seafaring nutrient rich fertilizer we call salmon.  It is the lifeblood of  PNW rivers, which means its the lifeblood of this entire region.  Something we are learning more and more about every year those salmon numbers dwindle.  The Yakima is a river that is trying to rehabilitate an extinct run.  To its effectiveness I cannot say…but the trout like it and really…if these wild animals are good with these salmon…then so am I.  Do trout eat eggs patterns here…yep.  Should you fish them…if you wanna catch trout you should.  Do trout eat flesh flies here like they do in the wilds of Alaska?  Yep.  Should you slow strip flesh flies in the upper stretches…only if you wanna catch really big fish.  These salmon have also helped boost our bug populations and increased our hatch activity.  Which brings us to the hatches of the late season.

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Crane Eater
Right now, August 31st…the craneflies have started.  They aren’t prolific or poppin’ yet…but they are here…and the trout are all over them.  So let’s start there.  The Crane Fly is a wicked awesome bug.  The gangly things hatch in the river unlike the ones that hatch in your yard.  These are aquatic.  Slightly smaller, tannish or reddish colored here on the Yak.  It is my favorite hatch next to March Browns.  It usually comes off in late morning, 9-10 am.  It’s usually what I fish after throwing big stonefly dries in the early morning.  I love tying the flies just as much as I love slinging them.  It’s a simple hatch, and a simple technique to fish them, and fish are eager for them.  It’s like the perfect bug for trout.  Trout eat them two ways…dead drifted…or my personal favorite…on the skate.  Everyone comes to fish the October Caddis hatch and skate big flies for troots.  But I cannot tell you how many times I run into anglers on the river that are seeing trout rise all around them, but they can’t get them to eat an orange stimi.  I hand them a crane…and boom….mind freaking blown.

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Crane Larva
Already these trout up here are keyed into the cranes.  I have had several fish the last three days chase and smack crane patterns.  It’s glorious.  There is nothing like drifting the fly along the seam only to think that the fish just didn’t want it…but then as the fly skates along the boulder and out of the drift…the trout shows itself, like a f’ing shark!  And with one last heavy stroke of the tail, the trout lunges onto the fly enveloping it legs and all.  A tight line, an air catching wild rainbow, and a rush of adrenaline!  Dude…whooo…ya…that’s my shit right there.  It gets even better with wild cutties peeps.

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Tamarack’s Crane
They may not fight as hard as their rainbow counterparts…but they take the cranefly better than anything else I have ever seen.  There are days, you can catch those wily cutties in the air.  They literally jump out of the river and snatch cranes out of mid air.  Especially later in the hatch when the females come to ovisposit.  Holy crap is it cool.  The larger females have a heavy abdomen swollen with eggs.  They dab like a caddis, but the clumsy bugs have big wispy legs that stick to the river surface.  This creates a very unique indentation on the meniscus and the trout know this.  A pattern that represents this perfectly is hard to come by in the fly shop.  But my personal hand tied…has been doing a damn good job in some shape or form for the past several seasons.  It’s all about the legs.  They gotta stick and lift lightly, but also get mangled as this happens when the naturals get rolled and they become sunk or crippled.  To mimic the oviposit, skate that fly…I’ve seen the biggest cutties in the river turn and burn off the bank for these things at Mach 10 and just hammer the shit out of them to the point that literally all the angler has to do is hold on.  It’s wicked, and you are usually knee deep wading the river when it happens, with overcast skies, a good warm flannel on your back, some warm tea or coffee in the boat or on the bank, and the colors of autumn all around you…come on…tell me what’s better than that?  Oh…Shortwings Stones…October Caddis….Mahogany, BWO, Cahills….there is no shortage of awesomeness when it comes to hatches and the late season.

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Tamarack’s Stone Shortwing Flavor

Shortwings will arrive here in the coming days they are nocturnal typically.  Hatching in the evening up to the early morning.  It’s how I start my trips in the fall.  With a big stone fly dry.  It’s a smaller almost Sqwalla sized stonefly and a short lived hatch like the sqwalla albeit typically more prolific if not the most prolific stonefly hatch on the river.  The males are flightless and small, females large with big wings, like a summer stone.  Fish them like any other stonefly dry.  Next to overhangs, boulder gardens, and grass lines.  That’s where they hang out, and fish do to.  October Caddis…think regular Caddis, only instead of a size 14…it’s a size 10 to 8 and freaking orange.  They hatch later in the day…usually 3-4 pm in the late season up here.  You end your trip with them…just like regular Caddis.  A big stimi in orange works just fine.  I like a lower riding one…but I keep it simple and fairly traditional.

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 Tamarack’s BWO Paras
Mahogany Duns are a small size 14-16 mayfly that is a burnt rusty color or sometimes peachy red.  Think fall trico.  Fish like them a lot.  Especially pods of rainbows below riffles.  Look for feeders below riffles and in back eddies and that.  They hatch in the afternoon, and like a damp morning.  Just like BWO’s.  These blue winged bad boys will start hatching once the temps stay below 65, and especially on overcast and rainy days.  I’ve had some of my best fish on a drizzly fall day and a good BWO hatch.  Again target riffles and slack water where they congregate.  Don’t ever be afraid to throw flies in the fast water.  Fish eat them in the fast riffles up here.  Especially when the water temps are 52 ish.  Like turbo charged torpedoes these wild trout love that cold fast water.  The Light Cahill is a type of sulfur.  It’s a size 14-16 creamy peachy colored mayfly that usually hatches around 3 pm on the Cle Elum river below the dam in late September early October.  I am usually fishing them in between the crane and October hatch if I don’t feel like slinging eggs or stripping streamers.

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October Caddis Morsels
Streamers are always good in the fall.  Think small, like size 6 and 8 cone head buggers in white and black, black and olive, and black.  Swing and strip those streamers on every shelf, drop off, log jam, and boulder garden you see.  Nymphing, look for the green water, the drop offs, the shelves, the pockets.  Think deep on the big runs and go for the fast water and big mends.  I like October Caddis pupa, cranefly larva, and smaller pats stones for big subsurface flies.  I like small hares ears for the little nymphs, and Copper Johns…in whatever color you fancy, size 16.  It’ll work…I’m partial to red and blue ones.  Chartreuse is also a particular favorite of wild cutties.  Swing nymphs too.  And I also like a good soft hackle October Caddis swung underneath in late October…especially in the mornings when the last few female Caddis come to ovisposit.  When nymphing…think in anticipation of the hatch and fish nymphs accordingly.  If the cranes are coming off at 10 am, fish crane larva under an indicator at 9:30 am.  I hold up in the spot I want to dry fly fish, nymph for a bit, catch a few trout.  Hang out for 10-15 minutes, drink some tea, swap stories with anglers, take a selfie, then when I see the bugs show up and a few trout rise.  I sling the dry.  Just break down each hatch this way…and you’ll put more numbers in the net.  I mean…it works for me and I am so stoked to finally get to do it here on the yak.  Last years drought and lack of rain just made the fall crap.  Not this year!

 Boom…just broke down the hatches and how to fish them for ya this late season. Once the temps settle, these things can come off any day of the season really.  Shortwings usually quit by the 3rd week of September but the rest are around until it really starts to freeze in late October early Novembeard.  The BWO’s hang around until mid November.  Then it’s midges and winter fishing.

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Wade For It
For trips in the fall.  I pick shorter floats in the upper, between 4-8 miles.  I usually make hot tea or coffee on the river at the first stop.  It’s a more laid back day, with intense moments of awesome.  Full days we have 8 hours to enjoy 5 or so miles of river…its amazeballs dudes.  Just working the river, the fish are all podded up in the troutiest freaking water you will ever see on the Yak.  Lunch is usually pulled pork sandwiches or french dips with ajus sauce.  Maybe a hard cider or two.  We get out of the boat a lot, and walk and wade sections of the river, walking a few hundred yards from the boat sometimes.  I like my clients to enjoy the late season for what it is.  A slower paced, fish rich experience, that is unlike any other time of year on the river here.  This fishery in general is pretty unique in the late season.  Just days where you are knee deep in a run, leaves orange, yellow, and red, falling off the trees periodically.  An overcast sky, a morning where you can barely see your breath.  A pod of Sockeye chilling in a pool next to the log jam.  A rising fish just below the riffle.  A long cast, an aggressive take, a firm hook set, the ferocious head shake of a wild trout.  Cold water on the hands, a feisty trout in the net, quickly releasing it, because the next one you are going to trick just rose out of the corner of your eye…yes…the late season is here.

I only have 16 days of availability left in September.  They are filling up quick.  October will be soon to follow.  If you book before Labor Day I’ll swing ya a discount for your late season trip.  I hope to see you riverside this late season.   It is already shaping up to be one of the best we’ve had in a few years.

 

Let’s Chase Some Trout

Tamarack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flannels, River Coffee, and October Caddis

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Fall Days

So…its summer time.  And let me tell you…I freaking hate it.  Now I love to go fishing.  But something about this 90 degree heat, too much sunshine, and shy fish really just doesn’t vibe with me.  We’ve had some good days early in the morning fishing big dries to the bank but the Yakima River isn’t really a summer fishery.  It’s a trout fishery…and trout don’t act like trout in the summer when the temps rise, both water and air.  Now that the water temps have crested over 64 and aren’t cooling because of the summer heat wave that always plagues the tail end of August…I have one thing on my mind…Autumn.

This heat wave is almost done.  Tuesday next week the temps drop back to the 70’s and the overnight lows finally start falling into the low 50’s high 40’s.  This is what I have been waiting for.  The transition from summer to fall.  My clients late next week will be on river with me when it begins it seems!  It’s a magical time on the Yakima River, to be cliche…but there is a reason why the Yakima River becomes a different fishery in the autumn season.  The river goes back to her normal self.  No more irrigation water running down making a mess of the whole thing.  Let’s talk about why I feel this way.

The Yakima River has a 70 plus mile Blue Ribbon Trout Stream section on it.  From Easton Dam to Roza Dam there are roughly 1000 wild and native trout per mile.  During the course of the year the river goes through some changes that directly correlate to how the trout act.  Let’s discuss the season where fish act completely unnatural…as its the shortest season on the river but it seems to be the most busy time for fishing over the course of the year…and that has me a little confused.

From July 1st to September 10th, or roughly 45 days of the year…the Yakima River is a raging torrent of irrigation water growing agriculture investments from Easton all the way to Prosser Washington where the Yakima enters the mighty Columbia River.  From hops, wine grapes, apples, soy, and hay, the water is stored, packaged, and sent down river like the Yakima is a conveyor belt for the human world it serves.  Frankly…its unnatural.  Stretches of the river that would never see sustained high flows like we have in the summer become swollen for almost 2 months and the trout change the way the act.  And not for the better in this anglers opinion.

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Summer time in the Upper

Trout get pushed all over the river during the summer.  Their calm home gets filled with more water then they would normally see in the summer, and this forces the trout to feed differently, as well as hold in water unnaturally.  Fish like to swim.  I see it when I snorkel the river all the time.  There is freedom to the underwater world, and trout take every advantage of it.  Just like birds flying because they can and it’s what they do…fish swim because they can…it’s what they do.  But in the summer the fish are forced on the NASCAR race track, a race they can’t win, just a carousel of heavy water and opportunistic feeding to survive the irrigation season.  Instead of having free range of their home, trout are forced along the banks of the river, hiding in the small slivers of shade, under the trees where flies hang in memory of anglers attempts to entice them into the sunlight and heavy current for a foamy grasshopper.  They are exposed to predators more then they normally would be because they cannot hide.  The middle of the river is so heavy it holds very little food, trout have to expel too much energy to use it to their advantage, and if fish are in the middle they are in the bottom 3 feet of it holding deep, away from the current above, knocking cased caddis off rocks and eating stoneflies that scurry along the bottom.  Thinking a trout ever has to surface for food in its life during the summer is just silly.  There are fish that never break the surface during the summer.  I believe this because I see it, because I catch way more fish during other times of the year, especially bigger fish.  You know what you catch a lot of in the summer…1 and 2 year old fish 6-14 inches.  A lot of them.  They get forced out of all the good hiding spots, and are forced to eat anything they can…which is why you have small fish messing with your flies all day.  Its not just the salmon smolt, most of which are gone by the summer, its baby trout trying to figure out the game that is summer time on the Yakima River.

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Lessons in the late season rain

The Yakima River has been marketed as a summer fishery for so long and in 11 seasons, I can tell you…the best times I’ve ever had on this river…are not during the 45 days of irrigation season.  I get it.  People wanna be on the river when the sun is out and its hot.  But the fish don’t.  As an angler it doesn’t seem logical to come fish when fish are less inclined to act like their normal selves.  If there is one thing any trout angler should know…its that trout like consistency, low pressure, and mild weather.  Trout like overcast days, cooler mornings, they like their water temps between 42 and 55.  This is the Pacific Northwest, and trout like it cold and kinda soggy sometimes.  Think about the weather here.  Most of the year…it’s pretty consistent…consistently cold, wet, cloudy, windy, and basically not what people want to be out in all the time.  But the wild animals do.  Trout are no different.  But people like 70 plus degrees, vast vitamin D quantities spewing from the orange orb we call the sun, and creature comforts.  You wanna catch trout…the best way to catch them is when they are acting like their normal selves…you throw a fly, the fish thinks its real, and magic ensues.  Is it normal for a river to be flooded with stored snowmelt for growing crops?  Not really…think the trout understand this and react to it?  You bet your ass.

Why am I talking about all this.  Well.  There has been a lot of talk in the angling and guide community here about the summer season.  When the river crowds with other user groups: rafters, tubers, drunk people, bored families trying to keep kids entertained before school starts again.  I love seeing the river come alive with people, but I also see the downsides, like more trash, less respectful people, and crowded areas that are almost impossible to float and fish.  I get asked the questions by almost every set of clients, “When is the best time to fish the Yakima River?” to which my answer is: “2nd week of February to July 1st, and anytime after Labor Day to Thanksgiving.”  When the river acts like a normal wild trout river, or as close as possible with dams.

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Wild Bows

These fish are wild.  I can’t stress that enough, at a time in Washington state when, if you have fins but you don’t run to the ocean, no one cares about you, wild resident trout need stewards.  If you ain’t anadromous then you are on the bottom of the list of fucks people give.  Anglers have to give those fucks.  There are those of us who know all wild fish matter and that resident wild populations are the glue that holds all anadromous fish together.  So why would anyone come fish a wild trout fishery…when the river is the least wild it can be?  That is the real question you have to ask yourself.  It’s like there is a secret that all the locals, shops, and guides are keeping: “Don’t come fish when it’s good…that’s when we fish.” Or maybe its just because it’s the way this river has been advertised for so long.  Whatever it is…its utter bullshit…I tell everyone who asks when the best time to come is.  It’s not the summer, those vacation and sick days you have at work…if you fish…they should be used during the spring and fall season.  That’s one of the reasons I offer a discount for repeat trips in the same season, because in all reality, the best way to experience this river as a client, is to fish it 2 or 3 times a year, during the best windows for tricking these wild fish.  My whole business model is based around clients fishing multiple times in the same season, offering a better priced trip, that allows anglers to experience the Yakima the way she is meant to be.  Plus if you’ve gone with me already this season, you know the energy that happens in my boat.  This shit is really fun when things are all clicking and fish are cooperating.  I try and sell the river with that in mind.  Not just trying to get days on the calendar…but to get quality days on the calendar.  There are 100 plus days of good fishing on this river…you just have to be willing to use those $400 waders and $350 rain jacket that sit in your closet most of the year, and take a day off of work.

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Big Cutties in the Fall

So why do I love the Fall season, because its the best fucking time to fish the Yakima ever.   I have had my best days in the late season on this river.  I have had my biggest trout in the late season, the most consistent fishing, and the biggest number days, when the leaves start to change and the sun rises a little later each morning, trout just seem to like it better.  When the irrigation water finally leaves the system, and the flows return to normal, the fish settle back into their natural wild rhythm.  They do what the river does.  It sounds cliche and philosophical or whatever, but the river will tell you everything you need to know to enjoy trout fishing.  When you see the river in the summer, she is this big wide beast, with little to no hatches, hot water temps, and trout battered and tired from the excess flow and inability to be themselves.  When the river wakes up from the winter in the spring, the flows change erratically with the snow-melt and spring rains, the fish are spawning, but this is normal and fish act accordingly, runoff is a regular thing for them, and fishing the windows of opportunity when fish are on schedule and settled can be incredible.  Making sure to leave them be while spawning and fishing them when they are on the move up and down river, holding, feeding, then moving, can be very fun, and a great way to experience wild trout.  The summer approaches and frankly, things begin a downward trend fishing wise once we hit the latter part of August.  The bug hatches subside, the days are long and hot, fish are tired, worked over, and tucked to the banks trying to find any respite, then…everything goes back to normal after the flip flop.  Irrigation water being turned off.

Salmon return to the system, and the fish act accordingly.  The flows drop, and the air and water temps drop back into prime ranges for troot.  The fish are able to swim freely and move about at will and they do.  They follow spawning salmon up river and feed ferociously on eggs and flesh.  The movement throughout the system, causes them to be on a schedule.  They move, feed, rest, move, feed, rest, throughout the day, and this gives guides the ability to break the day down and target fish that are being specific and acting like their wild natural selves.  The hatches return.  Big ones.  Ones that put all other hatches to shame in my opinion.

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Female Shortwing hatching one September evening

We start out with the Shortwing Stone Hatch.  A smaller stonefly that reminds me of the sqwalla.  It typically starts hatching after the flip flop and comes off in the evening, but as the days grow shorter the hatch window moves into the afternoon.  Then the cranefly hatch begins.  These large leggy bugs are one of the best hatches on the river, and the only way to truly explain its awesomeness, is to show you.  Fish get silly for them.  Then the October Caddis begin, and these bugs are one of the last big meals for trout before the winter sets in.  There are also egg and flesh flies that can be thrown, but we also have a small Cahill or sulfer hatch in the upper, silver sedge, Mahogany Duns, and the season finishes strong through the first part of November with Blue Wing Olives once again.  Plus…lets not forget sculpin patterns stripped with a 6WT can be just down right crazy in the fall.  When it rains, the fish get active, blue wings come off, and pods of fish look up.  When the caddis pop in the evening big fish slurp slow with the lower water temp, and every boulder, seam, pocket, undercut, run, drop off, and log…has a trout in it.  Lots of fish are called to the fly during this time of year, and with lower water temps, the fish fight harder and have the turbo charge like they do in the late spring during march browns.

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Fall Season Walk and Wade Trips

The Fall Season approaches.  Late mornings, hot coffee made with river water, a warm toasted sandwich for lunch, flannels, waders, and tooks.  The day broken down by hatches and pods of fish feeding actively on the surface once again.  The amber and pink light of the late season mornings refracting brightly off the gin clear water surface…illuminating the gold, red, and orange leaves of the foliage along the banks.  A slight rain, snow returning to the highlands, white caps against the western larches brightly showing against the blue and purple mountains.  A 20 minute blue wing hatch, the bottom of a riffle, a pod of wild rainbow and cutthroat trout feeding slowly on a 20 second count.  Standing knee deep in the cold water.  Three false casts between rises…5x tippet lightly landing with a reach cast across the current, a rise, a bent tip, and a wild trout acting like a wild trout.  The Yakima River…the way she was always meant to be, smaller, intimate, and full of eager wild trout waiting to play the game with anglers.

Let’s go chase some trout this late season.

Tamarack

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I’m busy 


Well I would love to blog and write about how awesome shit is right now but I’m just to freaking busy. 

Summer almost done, I’m getting ready for the fall season and I’m so busy with trips I have no time for anything but guiding. 

I’ll have a new blog here when I get a day off next week that will touch on the fall season. I’ve still got availability in August but not much.  September and October are already filling. After the 10th of September we should be in the start of the late season here. My favorite time to fish and some of the best  hatches are coming. 

Let’s Chase Some Trout!
Tamarack. 

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Trout in the Summer

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Early Mornings in the Summer

Trout are funny critters.  I get to see them in their natural state like…erry day.  I dream about trout.  There are certain times of year I enjoy watching trout as much as I do tricking and catching them.  I mean…I see a trout eat a grasshopper and my first instinct is to throw foam and stick that troot.  But I also just enjoy watching them eat and rise, uninterrupted…before I ruin their day a little.  Nothing quite like tricking and challenging a wild trout.  The ultimate battle, between nature and man…no Pokeman Go App required.  Just a good cast, a decent drift…and an eager wild trout.

Trout do something really interesting during the summer.  The cold blooded animals start to really wake up.  As if someone poured nitro into their system, gave them a shot of adrenaline…their environment basically turbo charges them.  As the water temp reaches that sweet spot of 55-60 degrees trout metabolism jacks and they have to eat to keep themselves going.  Trout are in constant motion so to speak, so they always have their foot on the gas…sometimes they are going at a slow 5 mph…but when the water flows come up in the summer and the water temps rise….they start cruising at 55 and they need to keep the tank filled.  Which means they gotta eat…and eat a lot.

Luckily nature provides and during the summer months all these things come together to help trout survive.  The hot days make the grass grow tall and overhang the river banks, the bugs use the grass for shelter, to hatch, to mate, to hide from predators.  But a good summer breeze, a drop in temps in the morning, a summer rain, they all cause insect life both terrestrial and aquatic to spring to life and that means they find their way into the river at some point.  The trout that lurk under the surface know this, prepare for it, and key in on areas where food congregates.  Whether it be a stonefly, caddis, or grasshopper, trout have plenty of food to eat in order to their tanks full.

Trout are in high energy mode, which is great because I like high energy days.  You get to see trout be very aggressive, see them chase after food because they have energy to spare and food to compensate the expenditure.  You find big trout tucked in the best positions for food.  Up under grass, along logs, in big rock gardens, anywhere there is going to be a lot of food…that’s where there will be trout.  A riffle in the upper stacked with Drake and PMD mayflies with some Yellow Sallies thrown in.  A grassy bank in the lower with a foot of undercut and 3 foot long grass hanging heavy over the edge of the river…filled with caddis and stoneflies from the night before, and grasshoppers that wake up in the heat of the day.  Or a big log with a deep drop off in middle farmlands, where a stonefly or grasshopper may flop onto the river surface while it makes its way across the log.  These places and more hold trout eager to eat.  And its fun to watch the show.

Watching trout peel off the bank to snap at flies, to see them spring from the depths and lunge out of the water fly in mouth, to watch as they open up their mouth in slow motion and roll on top of a fly…these moments make the day and happen on a regular basis.  When the magic starts to happen, good boat tempo with anglers that are dialed in, listening to their guide, and in tune with the trout, can produce days where you are dealing with trout every few minutes.  It’s how we get those big number days, or days where you just have silly fishing.  The summer time is where its at.  Early morning and late day fishing.  Splitting the day up, taking a siesta in the afternoon while the trout digest the morning’s food, and then re-position to refill the tanks for the evening.  Its constant, the trout get on a schedule and if you come ready to play…the trout usually don’t disappoint this time of year.

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I have had a lot of really great days with clients the past 2 weeks.  Excellent fishing, good conversation, with lots of smiles and handshakes.  We have about 45 more days of this type of fishing before we transition to the fall season and then things really get fun.  Hoppers are literally just starting…summer stones are hatching in the evenings and fish are on them early in the morning.  We have yellow sallies still, drakes, and streamer fishing has still been fairly decent.  Upper river is fishing more consistently, and the salmon are on their way up…its gonna be a good second half of the season…time to chase some wild trout.

 

Tamarack

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Happy Guide


Being a guide you get a myriad of people and skill levels when it comes to clients.  I love the process of finding that sweet spot when it comes to boat tempo each day.  Every set of clients is different.  Each day presents a new way of getting into a groove with people, river, and trout.  Some days are super laid back, no tunes on, just the quiet sounds of the river, a fish zinging some line, a laugh, and the sound of a high five.  I have days where very little is said between me and clients but in all reality nothing much needs to be said on those days. There are these very in tune with whats around kinda days.  I enjoy them just as much as the days where shit gets crazy.

There are days where I spend the better part of the morning teaching and working with clients, and then by lunch that groove shows up, and all of the sudden everything just  clicks. Days when I have newer anglers, I pride myself on being able to get that groove going.  It’s what I am striving for everyday, because when it happens, that’s what being on a guided trip is all about.  There are also days when you just don’t mesh with people too.  Although it doesn’t happen often, maybe once a year.  The trick to being a good guide, I have found, is being good with people.  It has less to do with fishing in the end. Days that turn into a grind, are only that way because you let them.  On days where things aren’t jamming, I just do what I do, put people on trout.  That’s usually enough to get things grooving…I mean that’s what we are there for…chasin’ trout.

Then there are days…when things just get a little crazy.  You meet clients and instantly there are good vibes, things click right away, and the day becomes this smooth ride filled with great conversation, good fishing, smiles, high fives, handshakes, air born trout, and general good times.  I am fortunate that most days turn into these types of days.  I am a high energy guide so I like days that keep things moving and are fast paced.  When fishing is on, and you are dealing with trout every few casts…I love that stuff.  When you are in the middle of some conversation and the trout interrupt it with an awesome display, then as soon as the trout is released, the conversation picks up like it was paused.  I get comments from clients about it all the time.  I warn people that I won’t stop talking all day if they don’t say something.  Most days I am asked questions upon questions which is really fun.  I spent a lot of time learning all kinds of stuff about this area for a reason.  People wanna know that stuff.  What bird is that, why do salmon do that, whats the name of that mountain, what about this river, have you fished that lake, why do the bugs hatch at this time, why did the trout hit the fly like that, why are we fishing this fly, damn dude how’d you do that!?, what about this cast I learned?  All and more.


I also have a lot of stories and tales of music, hiking, bears, samsquamches, trout, Alaska, Montana, parenting, life, off grid living, living on the river.  I also love to listen to stories.  That old school social networking, where you would just converse with people.  Sometimes over a campfire, or in a driftboat, or standing in a riffle, there is nothing like just talking with people and learning about them and them learning about you.  You develop a tangible relationship, and then when you meet again on the river…it just picks up where it left off.  It’s not just a facebook like, or a instagram heart…its a few fellow anglers, ya know…being people…sharing a river and some trout.

As the season really ramps up, I look forward to sharing days on the river with new clients and regulars.  The river is in great shape, fishing has been really good, and the hopper fishing is starting up.  There is nothing better…in my opinion…than a day on the river, with good conversation, good boat tempo, some high energy trout, and a few high fives…hope to see ya out there.

 

Tamarack

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It Approaches

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.

 

Tamarack

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River Update 7/18/16

Client enjoys the scenery

Okay, so here’s the deal.  Fishing is awesome in the LC right now.  The fish are acting like its hopper season.  They are smacking big bugs along the bank and its glorious.  I fished this morning in the rain with a client and there was no shortage of top water action.  Fish are tight to the bank as usual, get a nice dead free drift, let the fish eat the fly, wait for them to turn their head, and enjoy.  The fish this morning were very subtle and slow to the fly unlike they were last week.  We had the river to ourselves for most of the day.  I have been doing shorter floats and slowing the boat down and really working the water.  There are a lot of trout in there and the flows are perfect for it.  Lots of boats hit the river this weekend, which will be the case all through the summer to Labor Day Weekend.  So keep that in mind when picking days to fish.  Trout are slow to the fly after big weekends and they have sore lips.  We had a lot of subtle slow takes that make setting the hook tough, patience is key, but keeping a keen eye on how the fish takes the fly is also important.  Timing is everything when setting the hook on slow eaters.  This all brings me to my next thing.

I found a dying trout in the upper river over the weekend.  Fresh hook scarring from being caught on a recent day, but otherwise seemed perfectly healthy.  But I couldn’t get it to revive.  Could have been a lot of reasons why the trout went belly up, but it was a bummer. I also had a client hook a lovely 22 inch rainbow that needed help getting breaths after the fight we had.  These two instances made me think about how important handling fish is.  So just a reminder, make sure to handle fish with respect, keep em wet, be smart about photos, and make sure to play trout with proper gear, spend ample time when releasing large trout after big fights to make sure they are able to swim away on their own with gusto.

The upper river is a little wonky with the big rain we had and the increase in flows for irrigation but she will settle back down.  Water temps are wicked cold still, sub 58 across the whole Yakima River.  Not a whole lot hatching right now, we seem to be transitioning a bit.  But you can hear all the hoppers in the grass.  They aren’t out and about yet, but fish don’t seem to care.  I have a few days still open in July and August is filling up.

July Open Dates:

23rd 24th and 31st but not for long!
26th, 27th, 29th.  These dates are all weekdays and perfect for those who want less river traffic.  Highly recommend any of these dates.

Give me a call and lets go chase some trout.

 

 

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River Report 7-13-16

Quick river report today.

ITS GOOD.

So the lower river is back in shape and the mornings are fishing especially well.  Big fish on big dries.  Nymphing is also good, and streamer fishing continues to be really fun.

The upper end is high at 3400 cfs, but the fish are willing to eat you just have to fish it at the right time of day.  The mornings are fishing much better.  With the late evenings being decent.  Mid day on the upper is a no go when it is sunny.

The water temps are cold, the flows have settled back down.  The upper literally just came into shape this morning.  I fished it yesterday and it was slow but still running high.  It has settled over the evening and looks really good.  I’ll be out on it again this weekend.

Summer Stones are on the move, they will be hatching en mass soon.  They are already popping in the upper early.  Saw fresh shucks yesterday.  Grasshoppers aren’t far behind.  Drakes are in the upper still, and some goldens flopping around.

I’ve got a few openings still left in July and August is filling up quick.  Give me a call or send me an email.  Half day floats are perfect this time of year.  Pick a morning or an evening and get on the calendar!

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Passion and Respect

Passion.  It is something that has been on my mind lately.  The business side of this gig as a fly fishing guide can really wane on ones’ sanity.  You would think there would be very little stress and bullcrap to deal with when taking people fly fishing; but like all jobs, fly fishing has its share of drama.  I try and keep myself removed from it, and my confrontational nature at times gets the better of me.  I also tend to open my mouth when I shouldn’t.  I also don’t like asshats and trying to have an adult conversation or discussion with one can be quite painful.  When it comes to asshats and fly fishing…I have a hard time associating myself with fellow anglers that seem to lack passion and respect for other anglers.  I respect all anglers, especially those that are good at their craft.  This sport requires a lot of skill to do it well…but you can still be an asshat and be a good fly angler.  I can respect you…but I don’t have to like you.  That seems to be a underlying factor with Americans.  Somewhere we lost the ability to be respectful of each other despite our differences.  Fly fishing has no place for disrespect, prejudices, judgements, or arrogance.  And confidence, should never be confused with arrogance.  Being confident requires one to be humble…if you are a fly angler and haven’t learned this yet…you need to fish more…or maybe you’re doing it wrong.  This sport has two things that I have always seen as inherently fly fishing.  Respect and Passion.

Respect because this activity requires a lot of it.  Respect to the river, the trout, the craft required to tie a fly or cast it, or read a river.  That respect is necessary to be successful and fulfilled by this sport.   You are raised to know what respect is.  I can’t fix or help disrespectful people…you just have to deal with them.  It’s like dealing with whitefish in a sense.  They are there, you don’t wanna deal with them, but sometimes…that damn whitefish just makes a mess of everything.

Professionalism, which goes hand in hand with respect, in business was taught to me in college.  A degree with business and management background is a good way to learn how to treat and interact with people in a business setting.  Something that is unfortunately lost in the fly fishing community.  There is a proper way to go about every type of situation a person in the business of fly fishing may encounter.  It sucks when people you respect disappoint you by showing you their ugly side.  Losing respect for someone is not a good feeling and it seems to happen too often.  It still amazes me how rude people can be to each other, but apparently that’s just how it is here in America.  Getting any person in a heated discussion or confrontation…and they will show their true colors.  Much like how trout fishing gives you a sense of a person.

Why am I talking about this?  Well…trout fishing with people gives you insight into them as a person and their personality.  The way an angler interacts with trout, the river, the guide, the other anglers, is important.  It can tell you a lot about a person.  It also lets me know if I want to fish with them again.  I get paid to take people fishing but on my days off…I have a short list of people who I call to go fish with.  Those anglers and friends that know me well, know that 80% of the time, when I go fishing for myself…I would rather be alone.  I fish with people all the time…where there is no solitude.  And personally, fly fishing is a completely different animal when done solo.  Something I have touched on before and will again.

So on my days off, the days you don’t hear me post about, the days I take no photos, and all I do is lose myself in the river and wild trout, those are the days that tell me about myself and the kind of person I am.  Those days are filled with self reflection, self discovery, and complete and utter disconnect from the world we are plugged into.  Those days are off grid, where its just me and the river.  Throughout my fly fishing tenure I have shared a few of those days with individuals.   Not many, but a few.  If you are lucky enough to be invited on a day like that…consider yourself the closest of friends, of which I have few.  Those days there is a connection between anglers, river, and trout.  It sounds super cliche but there is something special about a good fishing partner.  I get to take fishing partners out for a living, two good fishing buddies…sometimes college or childhood friends, husbands and wives, brothers, father and sons, I get a kick out of sharing a day on the river with two in tune fishing partners.  As a guide when you end up with a set of fishing buddies its like a switch of awesome fishing is turned on.  Even if the fishing is slow its still awesome when everyone is in sync.  That good boat tempo, that groovy vibe, mmm…nothing better for us guides.  Shit gets real.  But as an angler who fishes more than most…I look for it too.  I have it with my son who is 7.  Something I cherish completely.  My son and I may guide side by side one day and that is just f’ing cool as a dad let me tell you.  The respect I have for my son and what he has been through and the little person he has become through it all makes him one of the best fishing partners I’ve had the pleasure of chasing trout with.  I learn just as much from him as he does from me.  That’s one of the keys to a good fishing partner.  Skill level is of no consequence, but respect for each other, the river, and the trout is of the utmost importance to have the connection to a fishing partner I am describing.

I have lost two of my closest fishing partners.  My mentor, we only fished together a handful of times but the time we spent together on and off river I cherish more than any amount of time I’ve spent or will ever spend on the water.  I lost my last fishing partner to suicide last season and it hit me hard.  I spent a week on the road trout bumming it up through Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho to heal and am still healing.  I think about him everyday, and there are places in the upper headwaters that I have not fished since we last fished them together.  When you take away the buzz of technology, the fervor of family and stress of the world, and you share a river and wild trout with another person something happens over time.  You learn more about the person you fish with.  Sometimes without saying anything.  There are days when I fish with a partner and not a single word is said all day long.  We are 100 river yards apart all day, sometimes for several days, nothing is said.  Just casts, smiles, handshakes, and water reading.  A connection begins to form.  Other days everything is said.  This connection forms over a shared passion.  I feel a great loss at times as I am unable to share the river with my mentor or my late fishing partner.  I find some solace in fishing the stretches of river we have shared…but there is always a void now.  One that I fill with fishing…just on a different river, or chasing a new species.  That shared passion, no matter where it comes from or how it is formed, is something that can tie anglers together, some for life.  That passion is the underlying thing that always seems to pop up.  Passion.  Let’s talk about my passion.  As I seem to have had a lot of comments on my passion for fly fishing and its lifestyle lately.

My passion for fly fishing runs deep.  Cliche but true.  It fills a void in me that nothing else has been able to.  I tried to fill it with music for a long time, but also the other things that people try, sex, alcohol, many know I have had issues with depression, and in my recent adult life have made monumental changes that focus on keeping negativity out of my life.  This is all because I have felt as if something is missing from my life.  I found it through fly fishing.  I can look back at most of my adult life decisions and at the root of every one…is fly fishing.

When I almost lost my first born in the hospital…I went fishing to heal and calm down.  When my wife and I separated for a time…I lost myself in the mountains on a secret trek to Canada, playing with small high mountain trout the entire time.  When I was homeless with a newborn…I went fishing to remind myself that everything will be alright.  I hiked to the source of one of my favorite rivers where it literally comes out of a mountain when I learned that I was going to have a son.  When I can’t sleep due to my chronic insomnia…I roll out of bed while my family slumbers…I warily pull on my wading boots, I fumble with my fly, tying it on through the fog of sleep deprivation.  But…when I feel that worn cork in my hand, the rod spring and load to life with every movement of my arm, as if the cork is the outlet and I just have to plug my hand in, I am overcome with something.  Something that washes everything away.  A good cast, a beautiful drift, and an eager trout.  Everything becomes stagnant for an instant.  Like when your fly hangs in the current of a seam for half a second, and your heart skips because it gives a trout another chance to see and take the fly.  In that moment, when trout and angler meet and the natural wild world is invaded by human…I lose myself completely. It is a primal thing.  That survival instinct kicks in, if you learn to keep calm and quiet, that feeling becomes something more than just the need to conquer nature.  At it’s core, that adrenaline rush one feels when trout and angler meet is a survival response.  Take away everything and put a human in its primal state, pre-civilization, and that interaction  with wild animal excites us because we are hoping to eat and survive off it.  That awe or tingly sensation  you feel when you see a bear in the wild, deer fever, when you reach the mountain top, ski the perfect line, or release a trout back to the stream…that is that connection to the world around us that we just don’t have anymore.  Stay with me here it got a little weird there.

Well…I don’t need to eat fish.  So in all reality I’m just an adrenaline and endorphin junky.  My preferred method for getting that adrenaline/endorphin goodness…is by tricking trout with flies.  I used to get it from creating music with people and sharing it with others.  I have got it through mountain tops, long trails, starry nights alone in the woods, but nothing…compares to getting it from wild trout for me.  That…is in part where my passion lies.  Fly fishing is part of what makes me…me.  But like all things one can be passionate about…its much more than just feeding that need.  Fly fishing opens a door to the wild and natural world.  The river is life…it is teeming with it.  Evolution and nature before your eyes.  Happening right in front of you with every cast.  The reason that fly tricks that fish is just a study on the intricacies of how trout interact with the natural world.  When you move past just tricking trout for the joy of tricking them and start to understand why it all works, read between the lines, look under the surface; things begin to take shape, perspectives change, new things are learned.  Respect and appreciation for not only the river and everything that it encompasses, but also, for ones self and life in general starts to form.  The relations one has to the natural world, loved ones, people in general, all those things show themselves to the angler that wants to watch and listen.  That is passion.  That is my passion.  Like a vision quest, or an epiphany of the self and the small place we have in the grand scheme of life.  It’s hard to explain because every angler can become connected to this sport in a different way so its inherently unique.  As unique and special as each person, like each trout, each their own fingerprint.  There is this diversity to fly fishing and the people who become addicted to it.  Like the life histories of steelhead: intricate, unique, diverse, and unknown, fly fishing and the anglers that do it are similar.  It’s just another facet of this sport that makes me love it more.  I get to experience all those differences and intricacies among anglers…by guiding.  I am double tapping that shit.  I am so addicted to this sport that I have to have two anglers fishing simultaneously just so that I can get the proper dosage dudes…I got it bad.

I know I am a little weird, and some…well a lot of people who meet me and go fish with me…think I am way too into this shit.  I understand where you are coming from.  I’m weird…its all I’ve got.  A wonderfully funny quote from a show I love, “Weird is all I’ve got…that and my sweet style” IT Crowd.  I’ve got a style to this fly fishing thing.  I call it flyanglerlife.  This is a lifestyle.  And I’m not talking about the millennial dude with long hair living out of his 70’s Westie, with the best Simms gear, sage X rods, and a bunch of flies from MFC, filming themselves fishing all the famous rivers and putting it up on youtube or whatever.  That’s a facade of the lifestyle.  My life revolves around these trout and their home.  I work year round to keep this fishery going and I will continue too.  I’m an advocate for the wildlife that I have come to understand and cherish.  I am a steward for their home.  My home.  I am not fishing everyday, because I know that a day off the river is a day where a wild trout can act like a wild trout without any interruption.  Which is one of the most if not the most important things about living this lifestyle.  I can catch trout any day…a good angler knows when to go fishing…and when not to.  Ask the few people who fish with me on my days off…I typically catch one or two trout during the day.  I look for that one opportunity…that one fish…that one moment with a wild trout that will sear into my soul.

When I chase trout…that’s what I am chasing.  A moment like no other.  My good friend Ross knows all about it.  For some reason my buddy Ross has become witness to many of these moments.  I always feel bad when they happen, I inherently want other people to experience those moments as I have had so many over the course of my fly fishing I feel greedy getting anymore.  That’s not to say that I don’t crave them from time to time.  But I have found that a trout is much sweeter the more patient you are.  The one thing I have found in these moments though…is they usually take a level of experience and skill that I myself didn’t know I possessed.  It humbles and astounds me every time I am successful in these moments.  Those that get the opportunity to witness it see me in my most organic and vulnerable form.  I am at my truest self in these moments…and there is nothing quite like it.  As I have said, I lose myself…completely.  Passion…passion in life is what is needed.  The root of passion…is love.  Love is something this world needs more and more of it seems.  There is a disconnect between people.  When I guide, when I fish, when a trout and angler meet…its establishing that connection again.  Its plugging us back into each other, the world around us, and it washes away all the bullshit…and there is nothing left but something pure.

When people ask me what I do for a living I tell them I am a fly fishing guide.  Most people just think its a cool gig.  And damn right it is.  But in reality…people are paying me…to help them reconnect.  With nature, with the world, with themselves.  I see it all the time.  Some days are work, but my goal for the day with all my clients is to help them feel that sensation I feel every time I trick a trout.  They may not know it, but that is what they are after when they come out fishing.  I do my best.  I feel success for my day when shoulders are relaxed, backs and arms are tired, brains and fried, faces are sore from smiling and laughing, massive endorphin rushes, high fives, and those things that made the client feel the need to go fishing and get away from it all…they don’t matter so much anymore.  Not every client is like this, some just wanna catch a trout, others are just starting out and are getting a taste for it, some have been doing it so long they just want someone to share it with.  That passion is there at the core of it all.  The guides that have it…are the ones that stand out.  I never really thought of myself as standing out.  There are a lot of people that guide in fly fishing.  But it humbles me every time someone says hello to me and says they read the blog, or love my photos, or really want to get out and fish with me.  It humbles me that complete strangers who have years upon years of fly fishing experience mention their respect for my passion.  It blows my freaking mind that people make videos of me talking about this river because they just dig my vibe man.  Fly fishing makes you look cool…there is no doubt about that fo sho!  But you look even cooler when you are prepping your boat for a trip among other guides and you get singled out because of your passion.  That pulls a lot of weight in this sport.  I don’t do it for the praise, or recognition…its just a byproduct of me doing what I do.  Just like this sport…is a byproduct of trout…doing what trout do.  When it all settles out…I just wanna chase trout…and take people fishing.  The fact that I get to pay the bills and feed my kids by doing it…that shit is cool.

Passion and respect…they mean a whole lot.  A life filled with passion is a life filled with love.  Respect for life and others brings richness to life.  For me that means a life filled with happy faces, loops in the air, drifting flies, and tricking trouts.

 

Tamarack

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Summer Fishing Techniques on the Yak: Part 2 The Upper River


So summer has arrived in the mountains.  We have a summer forecast of highs around 75-80 through most of August, with sunshine, clouds, and the dreaded thunderstorms.  Water is high as described in part 1.  So let’s dive right into the Upper River as there is a little more going on and a bit more required of the angler to have success.

The water flows are above 3000 cfs.  We like the river in the spring and early summer to be around that 2700 mark pre-July.  When we get into the heat of the summer we get higher flows.  Right now we are sitting at 3400.  Which is high.  The river is ripping up here.  Just moving some water.  Unlike the LC, the upper river trout do something different.  They spread out all over the place.  You will find trout tucked to the bank in the big straight aways that resemble the LC.  Especially in the Bristol to Thorp area.  But with all that flow, the higher grade to the river, and the twists and turns and structure both in the river and of the river bottom itself, the river becomes a huge playground for trout.  Lots of places to hide.  Slowing the boat down in the heavy water and breaking it all down is how to play the game.  You may float 50 yards of good dry fly water, then come up on some good nymph stuff.  So having multiple rods rigged and ready to go make the day go smoother.  When we float the upper in the summer in my boat.  I have two nymphs rods that can switch to streamers quickly.  I also have two dry fly rods rigged.  This makes those transitions between the different set ups quick and seamless.  I usually have a 6wt streamer rod set up as well.  Store three rods while the two anglers have two.  Alternate rigs according to the the river.  It can get complicated and overwhelming, so I always have a game plan of how I want to break the day down and what spots I want to fish.   This is based on bugs, flows, and how it fished before, as I usually was out the day before.

There is a lot of water to read.  The fish will be in the bank in some places.  Look for grass lines, overhanging trees, and undercuts in the upper as good real estate for trout.  But you will also find big wide rock gardens where trout are tucked behind and in front of boulders.  You will find big drop offs and shallow riffles that fish hold in, logs, boulders, root wads, big eddies, side channels, the list grows.  The upper has a lot of water to read.  Big runs, slow eddies, pockets, riffles, side channels, back channels, structure, all kinds of trouty goodness.  And the water is usually gin clear which ups the technical factor. A guide that knows their way around and how to break the upper river down is how you get big numbers in the net.  If your guide picks a long stretch of river and isn’t changing tactics every few hundred yards to target the fish specifically…you need to find a better guide.  The upper river fish are not like the LC fish.  They move more, they have more water to hide in and lots of different water to hold in which makes approaching them different every turn of the river.  A guide that has you switching between dries, nymphs, and switching patterns at certain areas knows they’re shit and you should keep booking them.

The sections near Thorp are different then those near Cle Elum and those up near Easton are even more different. So there is just a lot going on up here.  The water higher up near Easton is smaller and more intimate, requiring more reading, breaking all the water up, fishing every boulder, every seam, every log, there aren’t as many fish up there but that section of river holds some of the biggest and smallest trout. That’s why I have 4wts now…those smaller fish can be a lot of fun.  Catching 20-50 12 inch cutties all day ain’t a bad day on a 4wt.  The areas near Cle Elum have a lot of different things going on.  Every 150 yards the river changes, and there may be 50 different places to fish in that 150 yard stretch, and each may have a slightly different approach or tactic.  I can float the same 12 mile stretch of Lower River and fish it the same way 3 days in a row and have success.  I could try the same thing up river and not have an ounce of success.  I end up doing a lot of 6-10 mile floats in the upper, really going slow and breaking the day up.  It’s work both for guide and anglers.  Lots of casts, lots of changes, and lots of rowing.  I can float that same 6-10 mile stretch in the upper 3 days in a row and not fish it the same way each day and that is typically how I have success.  “Always on your toes this upper river and the trout keep you.”  The upper just requires more skill…bottom line.  Those who put the time in and have patience in the summer…come out with some wicked fish stories.

So that takes us to the bugs.  There are golden and summer stones as well as grasshoppers for the big bugs.  We have more mayflies in the upper so PMD’s PED’s and Drakes become a key ingredient to the day.  We also have the baitfish, but nymphing becomes more effective up river because of how certain areas of the river force the fish to hold.  We don’t have as much caddis action in the upper, but being ready for those caddis feeders is always recommended.

 

Let’s start with Nymphing.

I nymph a lot.  Not in the LC as I said in part 1 but the upper is a different beast.  There are shelves, drop offs, and other areas that are just made for nymphing in the upper.  I use a 9-15 foot 4X leader.  I use regular indicator or yarn a lot because I swing nymphs off of shelves and that.  Bobbers don’t swing as easy.   I use split shot most of the time.  I start with one big fly, typically a large more realistic stonefly imitation.  Or a 20 incher instead of a regular pat’s stone.  I put split shot up 8-12 inches above the fly and set my indicator at 5 ft to start.  As I move through the run or area I have clients nymph, I will adjust the depth periodically watching the way the river deepens and shallows.  When we nymph the upper the majority of the time we are targeting fish that are riding the bottom cushion of the river.

The top 6-12 inches of the water column is the fastest moving water.  They middle chunk of the river has the most force, and the very bottom of the river, the last 1ft or so is the slowest water in the river column.  There are really big trout and whitefish hanging out down there feeding on nymphs off the bottom.  They will literally turn over rocks with their noses and search out the crunchy trouty bacon cheeseburgers.  They will also snatch nymphs that float overhead or drop off the shelves and that as they get battered around in the undercurrents and hydraulics.  A lot of the time we are sight fishing for active nymph feeders.  You will see them flash down deep.  Gauge the depth so that the indicator holds the fly along the bottom foot of the water column and hold on.  Mending is super important as you are suing the indicator and mend to get the flies hover and drop through the water column like the naturals.  Those fish have the current to their advantage at depths.  So when they hit they typically hit hard and then move.  They run and bulldog and if you pull them into the water column to tire them out…they typically get airborne.  Not a lot of cutties are caught this way.  This is mostly for those big muscular rainbows holding down deep away from all the birds and that…hiding in the whitefish…sneaky trout.


I also swing nymphs off of shelves and big long drop offs and at the tail end of my drifts along big runs and that.  Cutties hit nymphs on the move and sometimes that swing represents the fly prepping to hatch.  I fish nymphs in the morning and pre hatch if I know the time of the hatch.  Mostly stoneflies with this method.  I will throw a trailer sometimes but remember that trailer means you have two flies to make sure you have in the right spot.  Makes it more difficult.  My trailer is usually only 12-16 inches behind the lead fly.  Mayfly nymph fishing is the next piece.

Mayflies hatch and live in the shallower riffles.  The 6 inch to 3 foot deep water typically.  It will have a broken surface in places, small bubbles or whitewater, and typically faster moving.  Very oxygenated.  Cutties like this water but so do bows.  Mayflies move up through the water column from their hiding places below the cobble and slightly larger boulders and quickly move up to the surface of the river and hatch.  They ride the fast water drying out their wings and will typically lift off at the tail end of the riffle or the 10-25 ft of river below the riffle.  This is where the trout are.  In the bottom third of the riffle.  You may not see feeders because the water is fast, but they are in there if the mayflies have been hatching.

Fish your indicator at a depth about halfway down the water column.  So a three foot deep riffle I set my indicator around 1.5 to 2 feet above the fly.  Again a yarn indicator is less spooky for fish.  I also tie yarn in my blood knots above my fly for shallow water nymphing.  No split shot.  You need to make a long cast with a few good upriver mends to let the nymph get down.  Then ride the riffle to the tail out, with a little swing out the end before recasting.  Just work every inch of the riffle.  When you hook trout you will see the flash before the indicator goes down a lot of the time.  When I have my clients fish this way I am watching the river just down river of the indicator, waiting for the flash.  I can’t tell you how many times I have yelled set before the indicator goes down and have my clients think I am magic or something.  I use size 16 pheasant tail style nymphs, or little hot belly hares ear attractors.  Nothing too specific.  I’m partial to purple and red.  Lighting bugs, copper johns.  That kind of stuff.

So that kinda covers nymphing.  It takes some work, and lots of little adjustments throughout the day to dial it in but when you get it all worked out, you can have a bitchin’ time hooking fish on nymphs watching them flash and that.  Let’s move to dries.

We will start with the Mayfly side of the dry fly game in the upper river.  We are looking at the same riffles we were for nymphing with mayflies.  PMD’s in the mornings a size 16 yellow mayfly dry, afternoons drakes, a gray or green size 14-10 mayfly dry.  Evenings a smaller gray.  Usually a standard Adams will do the job.  I use the reach cast a lot on riffles to get a nice drag free drift.  The trout hit fast and usually sneaky, even the cutties.  They like to hold position so as the fly comes to them they rise up and feed in a rhythm.  Try and cast on the rhythm if you see them actively feeding.  I usually find pods of 5 to 20 trout in these areas.  After you hook a few they will spook.  Give the riffle 2-10 minutes before recasting to let the fish reset.  I like a longer leader here so I don’t spook fish too.  Water is typically gin clear remember so fish spook easier.  A 12 foot leader down to 4X or 5X if the trout keep refusing flies.  Casting upstream and across the riffle.  Work the closest spots first working your way out across the riffle with longer casts.  The reach cast helps with not having to mend a smaller fly in faster water.  I usually anchor the boat in these areas.  Work the riffle in stages, working down the riffle.  Giving the fish ample time to reset in between netting trout.  I have sat in a single 30 yard riffle for 30-45 minutes and had clients catch 6-10 trout each before moving on.  Take your time, those cutties are sprinters and like holding in that faster water.  They can hide in the broken water surface and their camouflage is better suited for it over a rainbow.  They are a more slender fish, less bulky and can sit in fast water.  It’s also why they hit the fly harder, they have a split second to decide if they want to eat it.  When they make the commitment to the fly…its usually spectacular.  Nothing better than a big 16 inch cutty with shoulders rolling fast and hard on a drake dry fly in a riffle.

Big dries.  We have stones and hoppers just like the lower end and we are fishing the same type of water for the most part.  There is just less of it in the upper river.  When you find long straight areas of bank, with grass, undercuts, trees, and overhangs, this is where you focus the big dry game.  Get them tight, and twitch them.  Look for cutties coming out of nowhere and big rainbows sneakily sipping them.  Also target logs, log jams, deadfalls, big boulder gardens and that for stonefly dries.  The stoneflies congregate in these areas when they hatch.  These are also good places for trout to hide from predators.  With gin clear water, trout are always looking for cover up here.  Keep that in mind when reading water.  If you’ve got pocket with a log, or overhang, little shade, there is a fish in it.

Keep in mind the time of day.  As it is more of a factor in the upper.  Trout up here feed on a schedule.  They eat more as the water is really fast up here, so they gotta put more in their bellies.  Your tactics should resemble the schedule of the trout.  Fishing nymphs in the morning pre mayfly hatch.  Switching to mayfly dries around 9-10 am, unless the hatch is earlier.  Then switching to big nymphs before the heat of the day.  Then moving to hoppers and stonefly dries as 11:30-2:00 pm hits.  Then switching back to mayfly nymphs pre drake hatch.  Then to mayfly dries from 2:30-4:00.  Then back to big bugs to get the ovipositing female stones.  Caddis into the evening or sticking with stones.  Streamers plugged in there throughout the day when good areas of the river present themselves.

Streamers in the upper.  I fish the same rig, fast sinking sink tip as in part 1.  And I will have clients target the same types of areas that we do in the LC but there is a lot of places to swing flies for trout in the upper.  There are large drop offs, shelves, and boulder gardens that hold large trout waiting for a big meal to swim by.  A guide that puts a streamer rod in your hand at 3-6 spots in the upper river means he knows there is a chance at hooking into a big ol’troot.   Listen and enjoy.  The cutties like to chase smaller streamers.  I use smaller size 8-6 streamers.  Again a conehead bugger is my go to.  Stripping the streamer through the top end of the target area and then swinging it out the bottom, or just swinging runs steelhead style can be very productive.  Swinging flies instead of stripping through boulder gardens, drops offs, and shelves and letting the river do the work for you can make for some fun times.   Fish hit hard on the streamer and usually peel line in the fast water when they do.  This brings us to playing fish in the upper.  The most important factor for a successful day.

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The upper river current is way heavy.  Lots of elevation to the river here so its moving.  This gives the trout the advantage.  They can move up and down get slack and roll off easy up here.  Playing the angles and working the fish into and out of the currents is how to win.  You will lose a lot of fish up here.  They just know how to play the game.  I watch fish outsmart anglers and guides all the time.  It happens in my boat lots.  It becomes a team effort sometimes to land these wild trout.  If your guide isn’t coaching you through the battles you need a new guide.  I have my clients change angles, feed and take line, work the fish into and out of current to tire them out.  Otherwise the fish typically win.  Especially with newer anglers.  The whole ball game in the upper river just becomes a bit more involved then the LC and the same tactics that work down low don’t have the same success rate up high.  If your guide is doing a big long stretch of the upper and not changing it up throughout the day and getting really intimate with the fishing…you need a better guide.  It’s just what is required up here. Shorter floats, more rowing, more time in the spots.  Stalking fish, sight fishing for them, working the water, sometime is takes 15-30 casts before fish hit.  There are less fish up here so you have to spend some more time with them.

So there you have it.  Hopefully those of you that come fish the upper on your own and have a hard time in the summer are helped by this.  If this kind of stuff sounds awesome to you and you want a challenge from your trout then booking an upper river trip is a good route.  Finding a good upper river guide is key.  There are only a handful of us here that really know how to fish the upper.  It changes a lot and is more effected by dam releases and weather so a guide that is really in tune with things will up the fun and success factor.  I have availability all summer, we have about 65 days of this kind of fishing headed our way.  Give me a call, send me an email, and book a trip.  Let’s go chase some trout in the Upper Yakima River.

 

Tamarack

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