I’ll be back at the blog here in the next week. I’m enjoying the offseason and catching up on some video games. My son has played them all and keeps spoiling them.
I’m gonna be doing a lot with tying and flies this offseason so check back. I’ll be getting one more float in this week before putting the hog up for the winter. Already got my skis and snowshoes out along with all the winter gear to play in the snow with the kids.
Thanks to everyone for a fantastic season. Over 130 trips for the year! Could not be living this dream without the support of fly anglers like you. Thanks again and I look forward to seeing you riverside after the thaw next year!
Well, I could go into a lengthy blog about the adventures I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of this season. The fish caught, the stories told, the good company. But there are so many this season I don’t know where to start. I am thankful for all that have come to chase trout with me this season. I have a trip this afternoon so I figured I would squeeze in a quick post before I head to the LC for a big cooperate float for one of the outfitters here.
I have not had the opportunity to fish myself as much as I would like this season. I have had to live through my clients and the experiences we have shared on the river this year. However, there was one day where I was able to venture out on foot alone for the majority of the day. Nothing special mind you, no large trout feeding cautiously that I stalked and tricked, no wildlife to flirt with, no major hatches coming off. In fact the day I recall was pretty uneventful save for few trout that were tricked by my cranefly.
No the day was just a regular day. The sounds and smells of autumn and the river enveloped the senses. The smells of the trees, a slight fishy smell of the decaying salmon, the sound of a quick riffle, the faint singing of frogs, a raven calls, the thicket shifts from a critter within, the distinct sound of a fish rising slowly on the surface.
My attention of course focuses on the trout. I watch intently, seeing the small cutthroat rise on occasion for the small BWO Mayflies that are sporadically hatching out of the riffle above the wild animal. My thumb taps the cork of my fly rod rhythmically, as if I have a tick that develops every time I see a trout feed. I want to cast to it, but I have the wrong fly on, the fish is on a slow easy feeding rhythm, and a part of me doesn’t want to bother this particular trout for some reason. Content with just watching this fish, I lay my fly rod and net down along a fallen log covered in damp moss. The clouds above are heavy with moisture, the moment is quiet, save for the riffle and the trout dimpling the surface ever so slightly. I sit along the bank, enjoy a smoke, and it is as if the trout knew I was there and was not a threat. It began to feed more aggressively. With slashes to the surface and showing its small head from time to time. The flash of neon orange from its cutts and the chartreuse shimmer of the tail as the trout moves about the feeding lie with ease. My hand twitches again but I stay it, relaxed and enthralled by this small wild westslope cutthroat no more than 12 inches or so.
There are days, especially this season, when I forget about the wild places I work in. I have to remind my clients to look up at the scenery and wildlife all the time. I have to remember to heed my own words when I walk the banks of my homewater. This life connects you to the wilds, and those of us who stop and listen from time to time, we learn things about the world that surrounds us but also about ourselves. This feeding trout is just a part of the puzzle. So much has to come together just for that trout to be there and be feeding actively. Even more has to come together for an angler to trick said trout. But this day I was content just observing that which was before me, without invading it, without making my presence known, just there, in the moment, watching a trout…do what a trout does. Wild and free, nothing but a few insects to eat, and a trout eager to eat them.
I am looking forward to the offseason. It has been a long season for me, with over 220 days on the river with guiding, fishing, conservation work, and snorkeling. My mind and body are ready for a type of hibernation. As are the trout as my boat and clients have been putting some hurt down this season. For the first time in a few years I long for snow covered peaks, the quiet of snow falling, and the cold and solitude that winter brings. After a season of telling the same stories, listening to many new ones, meeting hundreds of new people, and introducing them to hundreds of wild trout, a complete change of pace is something I look forward to. The sound of my skis as they run the snow between the trees, the crunch under my snowshoe, the snow covered landscape, devoid of people but full of quiet resting life. As I see the larches change, and feel winters frosty tendrils creep ever closer, as the river slows its pace…so do I. The mountains and woods are calling to me, as the river begins its long winter slumber. I hope to see everyone again next season. Meet new anglers, hear new stories, and enjoy this river and the wild trout within. As this season comes to a close, I am thankful, supporting my family with this gig and living this lifestyle is all I have ever wanted and it doesn’t happen without those who enjoy fly fishing and chasing trout with me.
I’ve got a good run of trips to finish out this month, I will take a week or two off afterwards to settle back into the life of being at home. Blogs, new website updates, some business expansion, and flies galore will pop up throughout the offseason.
Alright! Fishing is really turning up for the fall season. This next week the river will settle after the flip flop, the salmon will show up in greater numbers, and the hatches will begin to come off on a schedule throughout the day. The time to come fish the Yakima River is upon us.
There are a lot of options, from Full Day floats, Half Days, and the Walk and Wade, which is my personal favorite. Walk and Wade trips during the fall season on the Yakima are really fun, cost less, and give anglers who want to DIY a chance to learn access points and wading and fishing techniques that will up your game.
I have 10 days still available in September as of today.
Friday the 9th just became available.
I have the 11th-14th open still, and these four days are looking to be prime fishing weather. Possible peak of Crane Fly hatch and start of shortwing stones.
The 23rd and 25th, and the 28th-30th, October Caddis should be showing up buy these dates.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.