First off…F’ing people don’t know how to read! There are literally burn ban signs everywhere. And what is burning all over the campgrounds in the Teanaway? Damn campfires of course. It even says no campfires in established pits. NO FIRES. Oh my shit. It’s bad enough we have lightning starting wildfires we don’t need fratadas that can’t read doing it too. There was a fire in Salmon La Sac….yesterday! From people who left it smoldering while illegally cutting trails…so can’t expect much rule following from people engaging in illegal activity already…but come on campers…srsly.
Anyway…sorry. I just walked the campground to see how full it was and if it was gonna get rowdy…the West Fork Campground up here in the Teanaway is a shit show. One of my favorite stretches of river but that campground fills with people who treat it like their college dorm room, or their moms house during a holiday stay…just fucking wrecked dude. So I won’t be staying there anymore this summer. I’ll return in the fall when it gets cold and weeds out the weak.
I’m in 29 Pines tonight. It’s further back and for a Friday its pretty scarce on the west end. I’ve got no neighbors and found a spot where I can hear the river from the tent. I’m also tucked back along the trees and can use the boat and rig as a block from people. Plus I need a shower…today was hot. So the privacy is nice.
I’ll fish in the morning before my trip in the afternoon. Now I’m enjoying some music, the sound of the river, and the light of my small backpacking lantern I’ve taken with me everywhere for years. It’s been my light on cold nights in the snow, bivy whacking on the side of mountains, hanging down over my hammock while reading Muir up at some small lake I forget the name of now. It’s lit river camps, tiny houses, nighttime fireside chats, and every night I’ve seen outside of four walls.
It’s a rugged little lantern. It’s smaller than my fist, the butane tank threaded to it is bigger than the actual lantern. It has a weathered metal cable that has a hook I’ve bent back and forth too many times. But it still hangs. The igniter still works after all these years and clicks in the rain, snow, wind, and everything in between. The globe is metal mesh…it casts a distinct checkered shadow. A glass globe would have broke years ago, the mesh is dented and it’s slightly lopsided from thousands of miles being stuffed into backpacks, boat bags, moving boxes, bins, and everything else I’ve used to haul my shit around. It’ll run for days on a small tank. It can light up the camp, or be just enough to read without struggling. It will ward off the fear of the dark, light up the night and keep critters wary, and it continues to be one of my favorite pieces of gear I own…a simple backpacking lantern.
I hear it click on and start up with that ‘whoosh‘ and hiss as it bursts to life blinding me, still to this day, every time I light it. It floods me with memories as it floods the night with light. I remember all the nights I’ve shared with others, the solo nights with just it’s light and the sound of the wild to keep me company. I can recall it all when I turn on my lantern. It makes me smile every time I click it on…it means I’m somewhere away from it all. Somewhere that isn’t where everyone else is. I’m in a place that needs just a faint light, where there are no plug ins, no roads sometimes, a place that no matter what…I know I want to be in. Even in the darkest of times, when I’ve been lost or lonely…it brings light and happiness with it.
A simple lantern…giving me a little joy. Sounds silly…but then again…it’s my lantern.
Good night anglers. I hope you have a little light in your life that brings you happiness.
Guide Life is one of those hashtags that get thrown around a lot. Some of us live it, some us envy those who are living it, and some of us strive to find a guide life of our own. I set out on this journey in 2010.
I started out by using my college training to learn everything I could about the fly fishing industry. I even aced a big final project in one of my business classes where I built a mock small fly fishing business and projected it out 5 and 10 years. I used it later as the basis for building my own business. I started working at a local fly shop with the intention of learning the fly fishing industry from the ground up.
I learned the ins and outs, inventory management, buying and selling product, worked with reps, did online sales, rebuilt a website and database, and learned how to take reservations, and went through guide training and professional level instruction in all things fly fishing.
I then got the opportunity to try guiding and running a store of my own. It didn’t go so well as some businesses do. A huge humbling, learning experience that also solidified in me that I wanted to be a guide…and just a guide. The day to day of a shop, running a business, employees, inventory, it all clogged up what I really wanted to be doing…sharing the outdoors with others.
When I came back to fly fishing I came back on my own. Just me and my boat. I could work as much as I wanted. As long as the family is taken care of I can chase my dream of being a full time fly fishing guide. It’s been work…and it’s had its ups and downs…but it’s been all good. Part of this guiding gig is learning to roll with what the river gives you. That transfers over to the rest of life the more you go further and further down the river into this guide life. At least for me.
The past 4 seasons have been amazing. I’ve loved every minute of it. But it’s not enough…as an angler, a business owner, and a guide…the Yakima was never the end all, be all for me. I always had plans to expand my guiding to new water, different species, and new experiences. I’ve dabbled in a few things, Alaska, steelhead, some Bass. But it’s more than just fish for me. I want new experiences, for myself and for clients. I want to see, hear, smell, taste, and be surrounded by new cultures, new peoples, new places, and new fish…and what better way to seek out those things…than through fly fishing. Fly fishing transcends all the bullshit of the world and brings anglers together around the shared experience of angling for fish with fly and rod. It sounds silly to some but it’s true. Fly fishing can be so much more if you let it. Guiding for me is 80% people and 20% fishing. If you can’t be around people, show them a good time, share and help them experience fly fishing in a fun enjoyable and memorable way…your doing the job wrong…at least that’s how I see it.
My guide life is growing this season. A lot has changed. I’ve moved away from the homewater, but have made my operation mobile and more cost effective and profit efficient. Now that we are homesteading and living with other people I have the ability to travel more, we have less expenses going out, and I know that my family is settled and secure while I continue my career as a guide.
My wife and I have patiently been working towards this for years. Since our youngest was born. We’ve been wanting to move our family back to a more homestead style life and having the opportunity to go back to homesteading and off grid has also given me the opportunity to take the next step in my guiding.
So what does my guide life look like.
First off, I need to be mobile. Living on the homewater just isn’t feasible for what we want for our family. Plus the Yakima is good from June to October. The past 4 seasons have also solidified in me that the Yakima is not an early season fishery for guiding. I can make more money chasing other species during the spring and early summer months. It’s business, it’s not that I don’t enjoy spring fishing on the Yak, but from a business perspective it’s just not really cost effective or easy to sell. And the off season just doesn’t have anything going on for a trout bum here…and I gave steelhead a try…not for me. I don’t like the cold as I get older…and I don’t like wearing waders…or pants for that matter. No I have my eyes set south. So mobile is a necessity, because Texas, Louisiana, and Florida are a long drive and I don’t like planes and you can’t pull a boat with a plane.
But there is the problem of hauling a boat. It’s also a big necessity for guiding. I’ve got a great drift boat, and she’s ready to roll for trout. I’m also looking at a skiff that can work down south and up here for freshwater warm water species like bass and pike. Where I live now has a lot more options for other species in the spring and early summer so a new boat is in the works for next year. Mmmm…new boat.
But where the hell are you gonna sleep dude? Well, my lovely lady steered me in the right direction, like she typically does. A roof top tent or RTT. It’s a thing, it’s basically a heavy duty tent that is mounted on the top of your rig. It’s pretty sweet, spacious, and I can literally shack up anywhere. Campgrounds, take outs, side of the road, rest stops, riverside…it’s as mobile as I can get while still being able to haul a boat.
The other stuff, hygiene, food, and that, a portable hot water shower, a pull out kitchenette in the rig, a table to tie flies on that fits in the tent, jet boil and propane camp stove, a goal zero power kit, it’s all a traveling fly fishing guide needs. When I guide the yak I typically work up to 2 weeks straight before I have or take a day or 3 off. So being able to make the 3 1/2 hour jaunt across the state back to the homestead isn’t that bad. And video chatting with the kids and wife when I’m riverside isn’t that bad either.
I crave the solitude to be honest. It’s a part of me that I discovered when I started spending more time out in the woods, on mountains, and knee deep in rivers. The time in between guide days are super trout bummy right now. I am literally sitting in the Teanaway campground right now finishing this blog. Got some chicken and rice cooking, the RTT is opened up and has the fly tying stuff in it. I’m just chilling next to the boat in the campground, I even took a shower, damn near burnt myself with my new portable shower rig. I’ll do this routine through the 15th then head back to the homestead for a few days then come back and live out of the guide rig and boat for another week or two. It’s pretty sweet, you can be envious, it’s something I’ve been working towards and it hasn’t been an easy journey but it’s my journey. This is my guide life, leaving the family, living on the river for weeks at a time. The solitude, the fish, the scenery, the wildlife, the people, the water and river…it’s life…and I am surrounded by it all just living that Guide Life.
I am here on the homewater through Sunday the 1st. I had my Friday the 29th open up and the weather is shaping up nicely. Light wind, possible rain shower. High in the upper 60’s. As good a day we have got this whole week weather wise. The river is up, and it’s cold and clean in the upper. It’s been colder than usual, it was 46 degrees in Cle Elum last night and the water temp was 50 this morning. So taking the whole day to fish isn’t a bad idea up here.
I’ve got Sunday the 24th open. It’s gonna be hot, high of 86, but fishing early in the AM should be stellar as it has been despite the wind. The wind will be finally be gone Sunday and it’s looks to be the best day of the weekend!
I highly recommend a half day float in the morning before the heat and sun put the fish down. Goldens and Drakes are picking up fish on top pretty consistently in the upper now.
If you’ve fished with me this season or have been following my social media posts, you know I moved away from the homewater. It’s gotten harder and harder to live and only work here. Kittitas County has had over a 17% increase in the cost of housing on top of basically nothing available anyway. There’s only so much guiding work and even less other kinda work. My family and I also can’t live the way we want with the strict regulations on tiny house and self sufficient living. So we moved, we had an opportunity come our way and we took it. It’s east and north so Spokane. Little 12 acre area, we are living semi off grid and self sufficient. Tiny houses, wood fire heat, chickens, rabbits, I’m getting myself a goat, full garden and a few friends living there with us. Pretty sweet, my family and I are stoked.
I am also expanding my guiding with this transition. I love the Yakima, and I will always work the summer and fall seasons here…it’s my homewater, where I learned, cut my teeth, and have caught the majority of the trout in my career. I have fished other places for trout, salmon, steelhead, and warm water freshwater species like bass and pike…and that’s all well and good. Over my guiding career I plan to add back in Bass and Pike in the spring near my new digs, look at working out of state in ID and MT in the spring too. No more Yakima in the spring. For a few reasons.
The Yakima is not a spring fishery. It’s always a crapshoot and the past 4 seasons back at guiding it seemed liked I was chasing literally 12-24 trips between February and Memorial Day. I’m sure I could do more…but I really don’t want to. I know how this river fishes in the spring…slow and cold…with lots of chances of crazy run off and funky salmon pulse flows. The Yak is not a spring time fishery and tying to squeeze trips in poor conditions for opportunity at 5-10 trout on nymphs just isn’t doing it for me anymore. Not really bringing in the clients either. I’ve always been brutally honest about the fishing. Why lie? It serves no purpose except stroking ego. So I will be shifting focus to other species in the spring up to Memorial Day. Pike…Large Mouth Bass, Small Mouth Bass, and Musky. It’s been a while since I’ve chased those predatory fish…and frankly, since my new place is closer to lakes and rivers that have those species in abundance….I’m stoked to get back into it. May even get a skiff for it this winter…mmm.
So that’s a big change. My beardy face won’t be here during the thaw. I won’t miss it. This season really did me in on this decision and it’s just gotten a little silly trying to compete for the few trips in the spring. Not living here full time anymore basically eliminates the need or want for it. I can recommend some amazing guides that work the spring and always will but it’s not for me anymore. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense business wise when you really break it down. Spring trips cover costs…that’s about it, if that. That pesky college degree keeps telling me it’s time to expand out of the homewater. So why keep investing time and energy in something that doesn’t produce a good product? Why try and sell a fishery that isn’t really ready? Trout bums talking business…what have I become!? But I’ve got a family to support and I want to do it with fishing…so you gotta go big or get a ‘regular’ job.
Then of course there is the off season. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become less stoked about cold weather. And after an avy scare, losing a few friends to the mountains, and getting older and having 3 kids…I just don’t really like the snow and cold anymore. And I don’t like fishing for steelhead or salmon in the winter. It’s cool to do for a day or two, and I will totally go do it or hire a guide for a day on the OP or something. But it’s not keeping me here and I’d never work it. Just not my thing.
Fishing and guiding 100-150 days a year on the Yak just isn’t t enough fishing for me either. As I’ve gotten past 30, my kids aren’t babies and toddlers anymore, and my life in general is pretty sweet, there is one thing I haven’t been content with. I want more fishing and adventure. And that makes me anxious. A few wars ago it was the call to conquer mountains and trails, and before that it was to chase fish. I want to chase more fish these days. I want to learn more, understand more, just soak up all I can about fishing with fly and rod. I’ve run out of stuff with trout. So I want to move on to fisheries that intimidate me, chase new species that make my butthole perk up when they eat and run. I want to experience more culture, more of the fly angling world. When I first started out here on the Yak; I always knew I’d never be satisfied or satiate my want to chase fish with just the Yakima River. I also don’t want to be 50 years old and only have ever been a Yakima Guide. I want more. I need more.
So I’m headed south as many of my clients know. When I first started learning the Yakima I just let myself be enveloped by it all. Just fished all the time…this was before children and all I was doing was going to college. So I fished almost every day in some form. When I got my boat it got worse and I just started spending time riverside. This was after kids and my lady will tell you…I skipped out a lot to fish. I settled down for a bit and tried some other types of guiding and outdoor activities, also helped raise a family with my wife. But it’s like I have ants in my pants now. And the kids are older now, we are more stable both financially and as a family…it’s time for change and adding more to our lives! We get bored really easy and I’ve already got 3 kids. So we will add more fish instead.
I was always told the best way to learn this fly fishing thing…is to go do it. I’m using the same approach to the south salt water. I want to be out of my comfort zone, in new territory, with new challenges and craziness. But most importantly new fish and water to learn. I want to spend the next 10 years learning something new and becoming proficient at it. So I’m headed south to start with Redfish, and work my way around the area to see what else I can trick with a fly. Tarpon, snook, my son wants me to catch a barracuda for some reason. I’d like to see what a shark is like too. But going to discover it for myself is half the fun. Figuring out what I’ll like and dig the most. It’s new!
I’d like to start working it in the future but that’s not my top priority right now…education and fishing are. Relocating down there for part of the year, which is being made possible with this new move, will also free me up to just fish and learn. Looking at a new boat for down there too! Being there on the ground also lets me get involved in the conservation efforts there. If I’ve learned anything in the past 4 years being involved with conservation…it will educate you on the fisheries real good.
So that’s what all the hub-bub has been about. Things are changing, I am moving on in my angler development to add more to my experience and hopefully start sharing it with clients and fellow anglers for the next 30 years. There are 365 days in a year and I’d like to fish and work more than 150 of them. Ever since I was 18 and hooked my first trout on a fly rod I knew…I wanted a life that was filled with fly fishing. As I got older I realized I make an okay guide and people seem to dig my jams. The past 4 seasons back at guiding full time have been amazing and I want more, and not just hosting a trip here and there, I want to dive back into angling and get lost in it, have it test and challenge me in new ways…it’s that need for adventure, that crave for adrenaline, and the love of tricking fish with flies…it’s been on pause for a bit with life, kids, and all the other stuff besides fishing…but not anymore. Shit is on now. Time to go play.
Time to chase fish. And by the way…the Yakima is fishing absolutely awesome in the upper right now. And drakes are here…mmmmm.
The summer is here. The heat is here, the summer thunderstorms and rains are here, we’ve got bugs hatching and there are troot eating. It’s dry fly time.
The day time temps are starting to get into the high 70’s to mid 80’s. Midday is starting to be too bright and way too hot for fishing. But good for tubing, rafting, and other riverside activities besides fishing. This means mornings and evenings will start fishing really good.
Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, Drake’s, PMDs, and caddis are what I have on the brain. Let’s talk about where I fish these types of flies and why. I do a lot of dry fly fishing. Typically on an 8 hour summer day we’ve got 2 hours of nymphing and or streamer fishing and the rest focused on dry flies. As a guide in search of dry fly eaters I have 3 things I am assessing when reading a specific piece of water for a dry fly eat.
1. Water temp. Just get used to this one. I am constantly looking for that sweet spot of 54-58 degrees.
2. Where is the food coming from. Let’s say it’s a riffle…is it the right time of day for mayflies to be hatching? If not then why would fish be hanging there? Or maybe it’s an overhanging branch along the bank with a nice cut out…are there stoneflies or caddis in that tree? Yes…then there’s probably a fish under there. Or maybe a big boulder garden, with 56 degree water, a decent yellow sallies hatch…yep…and active feeders….mmmmmm. Always try and determine the food sources when reading water…that gives you insight as to whether trout would be holding in that water or not. If there’s not food…and there isn’t gonna be food there for a while…probably not worth fishing. Fish rise in the water column when food is abundant up top but also when the opportunity for an easy meal presents itself. Looking for areas that give trout those options is key for dry fly fishing.
3. Presentation Angle. Probably not what you were expecting. But half the challenge of dry fly fishing is deciphering which way to approach trout and drift with your fly. Examples such as, a downstream angle, upstream angle, 90 degree, 45 degree, roll cast, arrow cast, where’s the sun in relation to my casting stroke? Or maybe it’s a complicated reach cast on your off hand shoulder, across 3 current speeds, the fastest being closest to the angler and the slowest being in the drift lane…asking how to approach the fish and which method is best is the real challenge of dry fly fishing. On the Yakima…this is why people don’t fish dries….these fish like it perfect the first time. If it isn’t…you may never even see them. If you never see the fish and you keep fishing and casting with no trout love…you might be a little disheartened to throw dries too. I’ve been there. And if I’ve learned anything about dries over the years…it’s to fish the water not the fish…and stick with it…when you get it right…it’ll happen.
Do you know how many times I hear people tell me they haven’t caught a fish in the upper river or in dries? Like 40% of my trips. The upper river has gin clear water, spooky fish, and lots of water to read. It also gives trout a lot of places to feed and hide in. Ever wonder why dry fly fishing can shut down so hard in the LC here? Would you wanna rise for, or eat anything for that matter, after all those boats and anglers go over and cast the same lines and drift lanes over and over day after day? Same happens in the upper but less because the fish move around more. Trout in the upper have more than just a bank and some boulders to hide along when the current is high. There’s just more to offer a practiced dry fly angler. And that’s what the upper requires…practice. In the lower dry fly fishing is best when the fish haven’t had a lot of pressure, and they still are just as picky as their upper river friends. It the lower river has a lot less feeding lines for dries. It’s almost all along the bank save for a few riffles. So this means fish stack up along those lines and feed. When they get lots of pressure they just go eat something else deeper…typically caddis. It’s always caddis I swear.
We get a lot of opportunity at fish on dries in my boat. Big, small, it doesn’t matter…dry fly eats are awesome on this river whether the fish is 12 or 20 inches. I say opportunity because lots of fish are missed. They are very fast, and when you get everything right with the presentation…the next challenge of dry fly fishing to tests anglers…setting the hook.
Nymphing is Indicator Fishing or Bobber Fishing for those of us who started out on gear, and exactly as the name states, there is something visual that lets the angler know they have a fish striking their fly. That indicator is very easy to see and it also gives you a bit of help by giving the angler a few more milliseconds to realize the strike and set the hook. That’s all there when dry fly fishing…but it’s the fish that is the indicator. This….is the single one thing I am constantly trying to improve on as a guide…how to set the hook and teach it. Because nobody likes to miss fish…especially me…I’m super f’ing greedy with this river. I can get the fish up…but setting the hook…to this day…is still a challenge for me…and lots of the anglers in my boat.
I think I’ve worked it out to three things to keep in mind when setting the hook on dry fly eats.
1. You have to watch. I mean intently, tunnel vision watch, while that fly is on the ride. You send it with a purpose and you follow through and make sure that fly gets eaten before you stick that troot in the face. You have to watch. When the fly is riding…all focus should be on it. Mine is, on both flies, so I need each angler to watch too…that’s 6 eyes on 2 flies. I’m also watching the next three lanes down river too. But watch your fly…it’s what you are paying for.
2. I said watch right? Next is: Anticipate the strike…otherwise known as be ready. It’s basically telling you to watch…but with Jedi like focus…to know that a trout will strike…that it can strike…that it must strike…and setting the hook when it does. Just be ready. So many times I’m just not ready and it takes me by surprise and I miss the fish. It happens with clients and I try and compensate for it by giving a big speech every trip about the different types of eats to watch for, when fish tend to hit in the drift, all the stuff in this blog basically…just more so and on the water.
3. Lift up and bend the elbow back. This is a techy one… and it has a second part to it that’s auditory.
When you set the hook on dry fly eats you should first lift the rod by the extending the elbow out while raising the arm at the shoulder. As you raise your arm up , your rod will start to bend from the tension, it’s about when my elbow hits my eyeline for me, then I bend my elbow back to get the rod to bend into a “Question Mark” shape ? . Fly rods, no matter the speed, make, or style, are designed to create tension through leverage by the rod bending. If the rod doesn’t bend…it’s too strong for the fish, if it folds in half…you need a bigger stick.
The rod needs to be in that Question Mark shape and it will give you a lot more control and leverage on the trout. When the rod straightens out it loses its leverage, which loses tension, which loses fish, which makes me super sad. It’s a fluid motion that is more reaction and muscle memory than skill. It takes practice, and for anglers that are practiced they can feel the way the trout eats and adjust the hook set accordingly. It’s amazing to watch, even better when you get it right. I still work on this as I miss a lot of fish when I personally fish. I catch a bunch too but it takes practice throughout the season to stay proficient at it.
The second auditory part I mentioned earlier and then forgot about is this. I make a lot of noise when trout eat. It’s something that isn’t gonna change and I won’t apologize for it. I get paid to show anglers a good time. I work hard at it. When I say ‘set’, or yell ‘there’!’ or say ‘right now!’ I mean you should be into the motion just described above. I say it when I mean it. Watching and reacting with the proper technique can really up your hook up ratio. Fighting and landing them is the next challenge and if you’ve been in my boat it becomes a team effort of coaching and playing that hopefully brings a handshake at the end of it all.
Hell ya…I’ve got the 20th, 21st and 24th still open this week. And the weather and conditions look good for dry fly fishing. Give me a call, shoot me a text, or send an email here from the website. Come test your skills on the Yakima River Troots.
I am a dry fly angler. When I look at a piece of water to read I always read the dry fly drifts and lanes first. Dry fly fishing is the epitome of fly fishing. And trout, by far, take dry flies better than any other species I’ve chased. This is of course one trout bum and guides’ humble opinion.
I have been called snooty for my particular interest in dry fly fishing and rarely ever nymphing these days. I’ll swing and strip a streamer, but nymphing, as I’ve gotten older and further along in my trout angling, has little appeal to me. Yes I know it’s effective, and to this day I can still mend that rig right in front of a troots face hole and get them to eat it. But the challenge of nymphing has past for me when I personally fish. Guiding is a whole other story, and we nymph, and we catch nice fish doing it.
The challenge of nymphing when I first started out was reading the water for it and gauging the depth and where fish should be holding in it. After years of angling, and years of snorkeling…breaking down nymphing has little challenge for me, once you dial it all down…the fish are there…and they eat. It’s science.
Fish hold in water relative to its water temp and flow. When the water is sub 50 degrees, trout don’t need to eat very much…since their metabolism is directly related to water temp. Cold blooded…like a reptile. When metabolism levels are low, fish aren’t expelling much energy, or burning calories, so they don’t need to eat much…it’s like trout are sleepy. And in reality they are hibernating when water temps are really low. Since it’s cold and they don’t have to eat…they hold in the slow water. Once you find the slow water…it’s just a matter of adjusting the indicator so that the drift puts the flies in front of the sleepy troots. If the water is warm enough, typically above 45, a fish will eat a few things. That slow water can be all over. Could be a big pool, a large drop off that creates an undercurrent that is slower along the bottom of the river. Behind big fallen logs, behind boulders, along canyon walls and inside of corners. Nymphing when water temps are sub 50 boils down to finding that slow water speed wherever it may be in the water column. Setting your rig at a depth, then running the drift lanes to see if fish are there. Changing depths until your plugging the bottom. If you don’t get any trout love and you’ve also tried a few different rigs…then you read that water wrong. I do it all the time. I always fish the faster water too early because I’m anxious for clients to get big takes on nymph rigs in that faster stuff. It’s way more fun when the indicator goes down 3 feet or sideways 6 feet. Or the fish hits so hard and runs that’s it’s screaming line. That happened to me today while nymphing actually. Damn near made my heart jump out of my mouth I got hit with so much adrenaline. Ross even asked if I was okay. That shit is fun and I was making sure I was reading water right today while nymphing a few choice areas.
The water temp is over 50 and hovering up into the 54 degree range in the upper. That’s means fish are moving. Warmer water temps mean higher metabolism, which means fish need to eat more. Awww, we are getting somewhere with this nymphing thing. When I realized that fish would hold in some of the fastest water in the river when the water temps are within the 54-60 degree range nymphing really opened up for me.
The sweet spot is 54-58. At 62 fish can be sluggish after being played hard so good releases in fast moving water are recommended. Above 65 degrees I do not fish or guide. Period. Fish can be over stressed and their mortality rate 12 hours post release can be upwards of 60%. When water temps start breaking 62 I only fish in the early morning. Fishing is a amazing, fish are good to play, and your off river before the heat. Give the trout the whole day to just chill, then go play with them early the next day.
When trout metabolism is high, in the 54-58 water temp range. Fishing is super juicy anglers. Super juicy. We are getting some days where the water temp gets up to 54 at it’s like a switch gets turned on. Numbers of fish start breaking a dozen and shit gets silly. Nymphing during this juiciest of times is all about where the fish are moving too and from. They don’t sit still down there anglers. They move…a lot. Mostly because they are after three things…food, cover, and oxygen. Trout will hang out in areas that have 2 of those 3 things throughout the day, but when things start to cool down they look for an place that gives them all three if possible. Once an angler starts to find that rhythm of how trout move about by fishing and reading the water, and trying the various depths and lanes and fly rigs, you end up garnishing a firm understanding in how to break down the nymphing game. It’s why I am always checking the surface temp throughout the day. Because three feet down it’s a little cooler. So when it’s 54 like it is now…trout are moving down there, and they are eating.
Start your mornings by looking for those holding areas. Trout houses, hidey holes, structure, big slow troughs, inside of curves deep, areas where they are least vulnerable, have access to some food if they want a late night snack, and areas where the water temp is low so they can chill. Trout are basically moving too and from these areas throughout the day. They also move up and down the river, sometimes several miles, sometimes, 10’s of miles, and we even know of some adventurous bull trout from Wenatchee that travel 150 miles a year. They visit relatives in the Naches.
So fish are moving. Sometimes just because they can. Birds fly because they can fly…trout do the same…but to swim. You can see them do it when you snorkel. It’s pretty sweet. Nymphing while the trout are moving trickles down to taking water temps and when you see 54-58 start looking for faster water areas with heavier flow, that also bring food and have good cover, meaning the trout can be hanging in faster deep water. Where the trout has the advantage against predators…remember they are designed to be in there and they use the water to survive. These areas can also be rapids, big fast boulder gardens, bottom of riffles holding tight to the riverbed, outside edges of curves, fast water edges with woody debris, overhangs, undercuts, logs or other structure. Can also be deep drop offs, ledges, shelves, and deeper areas that have fast water. Fast water has food and oxygen in it. Fast water grabs particles, bugs, debris, and moves it about and fish look in those slip streams for food when holding in fast water. It’s why when your nymphing at 8 ft in the upper through the fast diamond chop…you get big glorious nymph takes.
It’s also why I mend aggressively. Getting the fly rig down to the prime depth under the indicator with no slack in the line so there is no lag between eat, indicator down, and hook set. This takes big mends that move the indicator and rig up in the current to give the weighted flies enough time to drop into the water column you are trying to fish. Mending is all about keeping the drift and depth going as long as possible to keep the flies in the prime feeding line that you are looking for. If they have drag in them it doesn’t work. If they lift though the water column unnaturally it doesn’t work. Mending is key. It’s why we harp on it so much as guides.
Trout also have it pretty rough, crazy flow changes from runoff and irrigation, a plethora of predators from raptors to otters, to pitchers. So they are trying to survive, and moving around and constantly changing and looking for better places to hold and rest and feed and chill are what trout lives are all about. So when it’s time to spawn they can pass on their genetics and do the whole circle of life thing.
As things cool down in the evening…trout start looking for that slower, deeper, cooler water to rest and hold in until water temps start warming back up the following day. It’s why things can turn off in the evening if it gets cold…trout don’t need to eat as much because the water temp dips back down so they just hang out and chill. When the switch turn off so to speak.
So a quick recap: look for these areas that are faster moving as the water temp rises towards 62. Fishing them by running the various drift lanes of the water. Example, a 20 foot wide, deep run, below a riffle. I’d put a drift lane every 3 feet, 6-15ft drifts, at 6ft with a double nymph rig and split shot. Run that rig through across the area you are reading. If you pick up fish you read it right. If you don’t get fish…adjust your depth. I nymph at 12ft sometimes and I’ll nymph at 1 1/2ft in a riffle too. I’ve nymphed with sink tips too. Not too much anymore, I just use a regular old indicator rig. Sometimes a bobber style, other times a yarny. I add tippet if I need to go deeper off a standard 9ft or 12ft leader. Flies should match the nymph versions of what hatches throughout the day. Nymphing prior to the hatch, then switching to dries when you have active feeder. Then back to nymph and wet flies when things cool down.
Boom. How I learned to nymph in a nut shell. Various books and mentors helped me along the way. But a lot was just self discovery through trial and error…otherwise known as fishing. Once I realized that nymphing was basically just a matter of deduction through repetitious casting and adjusting…I was like….cool I get it…but now I’m bored. It’s never boring for clients…but when I go fish…ya it’s boring. I’ll do it… and I’ll catch fish. But it’s not really my thang. Doesn’t strike my fancy so to speak.
Hopefully that helps some of you fellow anglers out when you are trying to break down the nymphing game. It’s kinda all over the place but that’s kinda how this trout brain works. It’s a little scrambled from all the fish I miss I think. Like today…fish pulling line so fast my reel screamed and the fish was 60 feet out before I knew what the hell was happening. Damn near had a stroke with all that adrenaline when I felt that powerful fish kick my ass all over the river. Ugh, sad face…’tis the woes of the guide who is a little out of practice on his nymph game. Plus I’m weak sauce when playing fish…a habit I am seemingly always trying to break.
Fishing is really f’ing rad right now. River is on the drop from the salmon pulse. Water temps are good, weather is good, windy but what’s new. And fish are eating. Rising lots of fish the past 10 days after 1 pm. And today fish were eating PMDs like they were fat little peachy colored cupcakes. Come chase some trout…’tis good.
There is this absolutely fantastic fly fishing episodic period every season here on the upper Yakima that too many anglers just don’t know about. I’ve been selfishly indulging myself in it every single season for almost 12 years now. The Golden Stonefly Hatch of the Yakima River.
I’ve been in the upper, save for last evening big bust of a float in the LC, and the fish in the upper Yak have begun their annual key in to these big delicious golden treats. Every season sometime in June and the first few weeks of July, we get our Golden Stonefly Hatch. A large yellow and gold Stonefly species that is much like the Salmonfly. The females are typically 2-3 inches with males a little smaller. They hatch nocturnally or early in the morning, by climbing up onto rocks, the bank, and debris and popping out of their shuck. The change from nymph to adult can take a few minutes to hours depending on conditions. They’ve been in the nymph stage for a few years at this point. Once they hatch they retreat to the trees and brush to find a mate and get down to business.
Once they’ve completed their funky fun time dance, the males die off, and 5 females hang out and develop an egg sac. Then as the heat of the day comes on, right now around 2-3 pm the females migrate back to the river by flying down to the surface and depositing eggs back into the river for the next generation of trout food. The eggs, dense little grains of sand sized waiting Stonefly larva, work their way down into the substrate of the rove bottom where they will reside for the next few years feeding and growing. The annual stonefly migration refers to the time when the nymphs come out of the substrate, get their last bit of feeding in by veraciously eating everything in sight before finally pushing to the surface to hatch.
I gauge this migration timeframe by seining the river at various depths and looking to see how many golden nymphs show up. When they are in the knee deep water in great numbers it means shits about to go down. We had that last week and things are starting to go down this week.
Even though there are not a vast number of them on the river surface these fish know they are hatching and they act appropriately. Especially cutties. Fish will seek out, chase down, gobble up, skyrocket for, and absolutely smash the crap out of them. And there’s a reason why. A Golden is a big meal. Could feed a fish for a day kinda meal. So when they decide to eat it… they EAT it. That big bug can fly, it is super fast on the river swimming, it’s big and crunchy with a hard shell and spiked legs…it takes work to eat it. So fish like to make sure they get it in the first try…so they smack it hoard!!!
That time is upon us. Fish in the upper are keyed in on the Golden’s and are starting to regularly smack them. Which is awesome. Earlier than last year but with the way this spring and early summer has went, I’ll take what the river gives me and I’ll roll with it.
Come get in on some sweet big dry action before it’s over.
So I asked on my FB page on what I should blog about because I can’t seem to find anything myself. A lack of fishing has left me with a bit of writers block. It’s finally subsiding and this season is gonna be a funky one on top of how funky its been since…well…last October I guess.
Reading water is the big thing. And of course, it is the one thing that I assume makes a guide a professional. I spend a lot of time when I am not riverside working out how trout and the river move about in relation to each other throughout the season. It seems to pay off as I have happy clients, lots of opportunity at fish, and a business that has grown every year since I started it…Thanks by the way. I was trained to read water. Its what a guide does. I didn’t come to it naturally, I was never a very fishy or outdoorsy person. But science has always been an interest and when I think back as to how I came into fly fishing from gear fishing, it was the science of fly fishing and how fly anglers had a more in depth approach to angling for a trout. The physics behind a fly cast, the way a fly drifts, how a trout sits in the water, and how it all works in relation to each other to produce this incredibly rich and fulfilling experience we call Fly Fishing. Its a funny thing, as I read it back out loud…sounds kinda corny but…who the hell cares…shit is fun.
Water reading is my favorite part of it all. It is where all the things that make up fly fishing intersect and we have that thing I like to call the click happen. When that drift floats just right, that fish is where it’s supposed to be, the trout rises, the angler sets, the angler and animal meet, mmmmm…ya…it all comes together at reading the water. So naturally that’s what every angler wants to improve on. It is something I as a guide am constantly improving on, testing, theorizing about, snorkeling around in exploration of; how trout live in and react to their environment is absolutely fascinating to me.
I had a client this past weekend that relayed to me his experiences with the upper Yakima…sadly it was the same experience I hear time and again; basically it amounts to…there are no fish in the upper Yakima. ‘Fished it a handful of times and never caught anything or saw anything.’ ‘Got a whitefish and some little fish, nothing else.’ ‘I just never see any fish rise in the upper.’ I hear a plethora of things about the upper that just aren’t true. Of course there are fish in the upper. Around 700-900 per mile in fact, depending on the stretch. Smaller water so of course smaller population. I might catch shit for it but the upper river fishes just fine for trout. Dry fly, nymph, streamer, swinging, stripping, soft hackles, big dries, terrestrials, trout spey, all that stuff…it all works up here…it all catches trout. There’s no secret there. It’s just a little tougher and requires a little more reading ability when it comes to water.
The upper river has a lot of water trout can play around in. Unlike the lower river, which is a fairly uniform canyon that has the same structure and holding water for about 26 miles. It is one giant stretch of water that is basically the same from one end to the other…making it a fantastic fishery, especially in the summer. I don’t actually hate the lower river. In fact I love caddis in the LC in the evening when its quiet just above MM 10. I am anxious for 5:30 am as the sun breaks the first few hill sides and lights up the river right slopes in the upper stretches before Big Horn. Big rainbows slurping big dries aggressively before anyone else is out on the river expect for the few that enjoy the enriching and fulfilling experience. But as far as reading the water goes…chuck it up against the bank and get it TIGHT! Looking for 2-6 foot drifts of drag free juiciness with a twitch or two around the overhangs.
The upper river…nope that don’t work. Not at all. Sure there are a handful of hundred yard stretches of river bank that call for that technique but that won’t get you through the day up here. Trout have so much more prime real estate that is tightly compacted onto each other. This makes for a lot of different types of water to interpret. It can be overwhelming, especially to newer anglers. Every thirty yards there is something different a trout can use to their natural selection abilities. Because that is what reading water boils down to…its learning how a trout uses its environment to survive this harsh world! These fish have evolved to be adaptable and incredibly resilient to whatever the natural world throws at them. From predators, to human development, climate change, and even the pesky fly angler who keeps coming out and invading their space with fake food that is sharp. In the upper river these trout get to act like trout.
Since it is summer and from now until about September 10th the river will be fairly consistent with the minor adjustment in flows once we get irrigation water coming down in full supply. Lets focus on water reading in the summer here on the Yak. Lets break this down into three parts to keep it a little organized. Otherwise it will just all fall out in no particular order:
Flows. Water Temp. Food.
Seems pretty straight forward I know, but there is a lot that goes into each one.
Flows. The Yakima River is a tailwater. Meaning we have a controlled flow through the system by dams. This system supplies irrigation for a huge percentage of the country’s agriculture production. This gives us the benefit of consistency, which is what trout need in their lives if anglers what good opportunity at tricking them. Flows in the summer time in the Upper River hover between 2200-3800. Which is huge swing but because of the tailwater we have to deal with that large fluctuation. However, it is typically consistent once it gets set. At 2200-3200 cfs the river is pretty much the same. The spots trout can move around in and find food are all there in this range. When we bump up into 3200-3800 cfs things get a little different, and after 3800 cfs its just really high and I tend to stay out of it. It is not anywhere near natural at that level up here.
In the 2200-3200 range…which I we will refer to as the Juiciest Flow now…is pretty damn sweet. It has fast current in all the right places, gives trout deep holes to hold in, lots of riffles, side channels and braids fill with water at this flow. It gives trout access to other food sources by getting them closer to the overhanging foliage that grows in the summer, and all the new log jams and woody debris, as well as the gravel and substrate changes that expose food and move invertebrate life around just like it moves trout around. I love the upper at this flow.
Boulder Gardens: At the Juiciest Flow areas that have large boulders bigger than basketballs but smaller than a Volkswagen have 3-8 feet of water over them. This gives trout a large water column to hunt and search out food to keep up energy levels against the heavier flow. These areas are prime real estate for big stoneflies, caddis colonies, and bait fish. These are also areas where larger trout can hide in the deeper water and move up and down the water column freely without fear of predators while they feed on the plethora of options. These options are typically larger meals which bring larger trout as well. Trout have two things working for them in these ares. Big easy to find food, and deep water with lots of structure and cover, as well as changing currents and hydro-logical features they can use to their advantage against predators, competing fish, and anglers.
It is why you will see me slow down in areas with bigger water and fish the smaller seams and pockets among the boulders as they tend to hold large trout. The Bristol to Greenbridge Section is especially good for this water. The section from the Teanaway down to Bristol also has a lot of this water.
How to Fish Boulder Gardens Fishing these areas requires the person on the oars to slow the boat down and give the drifts enough time to get the fish’s attention. When Nymphing these areas I start out around 5 feet with split shot on a single or double fly rig. Using a drop or parachute cast I get the fly to drop quickly with aggressive mending to keep the nymph rig deep in the water column long enough to get the troots attention. I look for little soft currents; you will hear me refer to as slip streams. This is because when you snorkel, there are 3 dimensional soft spots where varying speeds of current meet and create areas where food, fish, and the water slows down and basically eddies on itself. Around the boulders and structure down there this also occurs. Along steep drop offs, slight gravel bars, big boulders or logs, they create these slips in the water column that trout key in on. Trout key in on them because this water gives them 2 of the 3 things they need. Food and Cover. The food gets stuck in here, say a big stonefly caught in the current, or a trout knocks a few cased caddis off the boulder with its nose and waits for them to hover in the slip stream and then inhales them before the other trout can. Or maybe a bait fish whacks its head on the rock and gets swept down into a drop where a big lurky bastard is sitting and it just hoovers it. MMmmm. ya.
You can see these Slip Streams when your indicator hovers and slows down but there is a bunch of current all around it..that means you are in one…and if your depth is right…you might be dangling those flies right in front of a trouts face…so watch your shit. If you fish these areas and you are getting hung up a lot you are too deep, so take 12 to 15 inches away. If you are shallow, a lot of the time the rig won’t ever slow down enough for you to see the slips because the weighted rig isn’t hitting them.
When dry fly fishing you are looking for the top currents seams and slips, the stuff that slows down in the top third of the water column. These are those diamond chop areas, big seams and areas where the current zippers together. They are also what us guides refer to as foam lines. Also the areas in front of and behind those big boulders. They create slower pockets of water for fish to hold in and wait for big food to pass over.
These are fun places to hook fish because they are usually larger trout and they have all that fast water to try and kick your ass in. They get airborne a lot, they bulldog in the bottom on the rocks. But they will tire quicker with patience and a bent stick.
Water Temp in Boulder Gardens Anglers need the water temp to be above 52 F for these areas to produce fish regularly. The sweet spot is 54-60 F. Fish are just gonna need to eat more at those temperatures. This also gives trout oxygen rich water.
Riffles at the Juiciest Flows are usually 1 to 3 feet deep and fast moving…faster than most anglers seem to fish. They can also be identified by having choppier water but not white water, with football sized rocks down to pebbles mixed together. They usually have steeper grade making them fast, and are even juicier when they have a gravel bar or a drop or two in them. Riffles generate a large percentage of the food for trout being home to the majority of mayfly populations and several caddis species. This is also an area where sculpin tend to feed.
We have riffles every hundred yards or so in some form here in the upper river. We get way more mayflies hatching than anywhere else. In the summer we have PMDs, Drakes, PEDs, and Tricos.
How To Fish Riffles I like to use fluffier dry flies or foam ones since they float better in the faster current. Lots of reach casts and longer leaders. Riffles usually have uniform current across them with only slight degrees of speed changes. A 45 degree upstream casting angle with a hard reach cast and a 12 foot leader is my preferred approach. Watch the sun angle and shadows cast over the riffle; the shallow water makes fish more aware of their surroundings.
When there is a hatch on or you have active feeders on the surface, trout are typically looking at a spot 3 to 6 feet in front of them, tracking the insect, and then rising quickly in the water column on a rhythm to grab the natural before lowering back to the bottom. When fish rise in riffles they are typically on some sort of rhythm. Observing that rhythm and trying to cast in sync with it and lead the fish to the fly so to speak is how I like to break down riffles when fish are active on top.
The trout hold on the bottom because it gives them the best cover. An osprey over head will have a harder time picking the trout out of the riffle it it holds on the bottom tight in the small slip stream created by the current meeting the river bottom. Cutthroat and Rainbows have spots specifically for this type of water. Those spots, especially on cutthroat, who tend to frequent these areas more than their rainbow cousins here on the Yakima, are more congregated on the back to help break up their tail and backside because they are constantly moving their tail fin to hold in the water. It’s also why I think cutties don’t get bigger shoulders, they like the richer oxygen content in the faster water and have evolved to be able to feed in it more effectively by being slimmer profile fish with quick bursts of speed to escape and evade. It’s why their tails are so big, green and filled with spots…they are moving it constantly so it needs more camo.
When I nymph these areas I set my indicator to 3-4 feet with a single fly, sometimes two but mostly I am fishing a smaller mayfly nymph of some form. Copper John, pheasant tail, purple batman prince. Same approach as the dry fly, 45 degrees upstream with the area I am focused on getting the drift through at 90 degrees. A large mend or two as soon as the cast lands, this ensures that the fly is at the bottom of the riffle when it drifts through the area at 90 degrees to the anglers cast. I will also mend when I get into the sweet spot of the drift sometimes to get the fly to hover for a moment…this can entice a strike. I rarely watch the indicator when fishing nymphs in riffles. I watch 3 feet in front of the indicator and the bottom of the river bed. In the upper you can see the fish move on the fly or change position to strike before the indicator drops, this gives you that spidey sense so many people I guide comment on. Trout hit fast in this water, and when you hook them they are gonna haul ass. They will spook every other fish in the riffle too. So when you are done with one trout give the riffle a few minutes and the fish will reset.
Water Temp in Riffles again this water temp at the Juiciest Flows needs to be in that sweet spot of 54-60 F for fish to be seeking out those areas for food. Otherwise there is no need to be in riffles if trout metabolism is not pushing them to eat more.
All the Other Stuff We also have a handful of other types of water in the upper. Which is why it gets a little overwhelming. We have those bank areas just like the lower canyon, but we have more trees up here, so we have lots more undercut banks, some that go several feet into the bank. We have cotton woods along the banks that have shallow roots that create big pockets along the banks with branches and foliage over them. These areas give trout everything they need and most to of them have names after trout caught from them. Places like Charlie’s House, Bills Place, Walter behind that rock along the bank above State. If you’ve fished with me you have probably heard of a few of these spots. These are what I like to call Trout Houses areas where a single or maybe 2 or 3 trout have carved out as theirs. It gives them cover, access to food, and oxygen as these areas in the summer have a lot of water running by them and shade which cools the water. These are areas that whether nymphing, streamer, or dry fly fishing, you get 1 maybe 3 tries at a presentation to the trout and if it decides to eat you get your shot. Off the top of my head, from Hanson to Bristol, I can think of over 30 spots like this for my anglers. There’s more, and as I go through my trouty brain I can damn near recall each one in detail from memory, and remember which clients and even some of the trout that have come together in these Trout Houses. These are those spots that just about anyone can look and say…”Yep…that looks like a trout could be in there.” They is just trouty.
There are the areas that fall into the categories of, drop offs, lips, slopes, troughs, pockets, shelves, and gravel bars. Techy Stuff, The substrate stuff, the River Bed. These are harder to find and read, and are easier to identify with a few snorkel runs. Fish camouflage into these areas by holding tight to the structure of the river bottom. IE, along the shelf, in the bottom of the trough, in the pocket behind the rock, along the slope of the bar. These are areas where fish that are moving around the system, from one feeding area to holding water, to another feeding spot or what have you…maybe the trout just wanted to go for swim because it could…they do that you know…swim just to swim…just like birds fly just to fly.
Trout may be hanging out for a bit because they have enough food there or enough cover, but they aren’t hanging out for extended periods. These areas are where trout do trout stuff and it makes it harder to read them. But knowing that trout do this kinda stuff and thinking how a trout might move around these areas is how you start to read it. Asking questions like. Where would the food come from? Where could they hide? Where might they be headed? These are the things that run through my brain when I look at these areas. These areas are identified by color changes in the water as you may not be able to see them otherwise. They also have lots of different currents in them. These are the areas where you look at and go…‘shit I don’t know‘. So I fish these with a purpose. 3 to 6 drifts in what could hold a fish by answering some of those previous questions and if I can get a good drift through them. If I do that and I get a fish…I read it right…if I don’t I go on to the next piece of water that looks good. Trout are not in these areas for extended periods so they feed opportunistically if at all, so a few drifts of whatever you may be throwing is a good method. If the trout is there, and it wants to eat…it will. If not…move on. If you fish with me these are those Techy Places I say ‘Might have somebody home today.’ and I let you work for a few minutes before pushing on to another spot.
Finally we have the last few pieces of water I will talk about. Runs, Eddies, and Pools.
Runs are those big long stretches of uniform current that is anywhere from 5-12 ft deep. These are not holding areas for trout. They are moving through them on their way to other parts of the river. 6 to 12 good drifts by breaking the water down with 3-6 different drift lanes is how I fish them. If they are there and want to eat they will. They are less picky here, and I usually nymph or streamer fish these areas as fish are less inclined to move up through all that water for dries. I love swinging these with a heavier sink tip.
Eddies are those areas along the bank or where two big currents meet and create a slow current that works backwards against the main river’s flow path. These can be really big or ever so slight. But they are areas where food gets stuck in the softer currents and seams created by the eddy. So naturally fish will look for food here. They are harder to nymph as the currents on top and underneath are almost always different. But fish picking bugs off the surface are easier to target here. Wait for the rise and then try and land it near the spot of the rise. Headhunting. Its fun, and you never know what kinda fish you are gonna get. I skip these when I don’t see bugs or feeders in them.
Pools are those big deep spots in river, usually slow and ominous, with the chance of a large trout lurking in the depths. I fish for the risers that I see in them, and I swing streamers through them if I don’t. If they have a nice lip at the top of them with enough current I might run a nymph over that lip at 6-8 feet and mend really aggressively as the indicator hits the drop into the pool. Sometimes fish are tucked right on that lip waiting for food to drop into their mouths. Cool places to hook fish as they tussle with you in the depths before they show themselves.
Water Temp in those last three water types follows the others in that sweet spot of 54-60 F.
All these places still exists and hold fish when the flows increase out of the Juiciest Flow level above 3200 cfs. The closer to 3800 and over the less likely you will be able to get the fish to respond. Things are just moving to fast at that point and it makes it harder for anglers to present the fly effectively. It is why I am in the LC when the flows are too high in the upper. When we break 3200 cfs we usually have water temps that are up in the 58-65 F range. Fish still eat, but we play them hard and fast, and get them back in the river. After 65 F I won’t fish or guide. When we are above 3200 cfs things are just moving faster so you need to be quick, and if the water temp is lower than the optimal range it ain’t gonna happen. Fish go deep, hold under all that current and feed along the bottom. They hunker down, or move into side channels for respite and food.
Side Channels these need a special little spot for themselves. These areas are usually a trickle or dry other times of the year. When the water gets up into the Juiciest Flow and above fishing these is always a good idea. They fish just like the mainstem, just a smaller body of water. They have all the same things described above, just treat them like little mini rivers. Big trout get stuck in them too. So don’t skip walking them and seeing if any fish are in them when you find one in the summer.
Foliage and Overhangs in the summer are all over the sides of the river. They are usually part of another kind of water, say an eddy with a bush on its edge, or a riffle with an overhand on the river left side, or a side channel with a bunch of bushes and bramble. These areas are where trout get opportunity at terrestrial insects and aquatic species mating in the foliage. In the upper when you see woody debris, fallen trees, roots, or bigger bushes and branches hanging over the river, tall grass, bushes, along the edges, this is where ants, grasshopper, big stonefly adults, and caddis dries work well. They are added bonuses to the water you are already reading and typically turn out to be Trout Houses.
Alright, there was a lot in there. That’s what is going on in my head when I am looking at water in the summer time. These interpretations work on other trout waters too and have been tried and tested all over.
This is a general overview too, when I get clients on the water we get to break water down in real time, approach it with fly and rod and use different casts and angles to make angling more efficient to that specific read of water. Once the water is read, then you have to approach it as an angler and present the fly no matter the technique in a manner that works in relation to the read of the water. If you do that right…you end up with fish eating your fly. All this changes when flows drop and temps increase or decrease, sunshine and shade can play a role in how responsive fish are to their environment, predators, angling pressure, wind, bug activity, and things like water clarity are also factored into my reading of water and are more of a real time part of the process. Those are the variables that have to be thrown into the equation when reading the water and sometimes make the outcome less or more rewarding depending. To those skills I can say…it comes with more time on the water. I can only relay so much information before time on the water and doing the actual act of reading and fishing the water is necessary to develop the skills further.
I will note a few other things to throw in when reading water: Fish like shade not sun for the most part. Trout are cautious but opportunistic. I switch flies every 15-25 minutes or every 300-800 yards if they aren’t producing fish. Fish can’t count the legs on the fly. Smaller is better when it comes to just about all fly selections. Fish the water, not the fish. Sparkly flies work just as well on sunny days as they do on over cast days. Trout like the rain, but not downpours. If the wind is blowing hard enough, fish won’t have enough stimulus to react to the hatch. Teaching others is the best way to learn new stuff. Less is more. Learn to freaking reach cast. Mend…Mend. Don’t forget all the other stuff happening around you when you are fly fishing.