Trip Report Small-stream fun & bugs in the Yakima drainage

In the past week I've made a couple quick day trips out to small streams within 2-3 hour of Seattle, partly to scratch the itch for a bunch of eager little trout and partly to collect bugs for my website before the July species finish hatching for the year. It's hard to beat small streams for pure variety of scenery, and the fishing can be plenty challenging.

The first trip was to a stream that starts out in a wide, rocky channel with a thin thread of pocket water flowing through it:


For a stream this size, fish were hard to come by midday, with most of the pockets holding nothing and the best-looking pools holding just one or two.


It's always fun to have a mix of fish present and never know what's on the line next. This one had rainbows, westslope cutts, and coastal cutts.




Moving upstream, the valley narrowed into a canyon with bigger boulders, bigger pools, and quite a bit more flowing water. Compared to the Cascades, I've never fished anywhere else that the amount of water in a creek varies so much within short distances based purely on changes in the valley configuration / substrate depth and the amount of water flowing above vs below the gravel. The extra surface water in this canyon, and probably the shade, substantially improved the fishing and now I was catching several fish in each big pool and sporadic singles in any promising little pocket. The number of 10-12" fish was pretty good for a stream this size in this area.




Eventually the canyon became difficult. There was a way to scramble up past this point, but it looked annoying and I wanted to skip ahead to a different part of the stream for curiosity's sake.


Continuing upstream on the kind-of-road, kind-of-trail above the canyon and looking down, I was glad I had climbed out of the mess. If you look really close you can see some water down there somewhere.


Just beyond this mess, the canyon ends abruptly and the creek flows through a wide, gravelly valley with easy walking and more of a normal riffle-pool-run structure.


In less than 100 yards it becomes a completely different stream.



With the water being so extremely skinny here (having mostly disappeared into the gravel), I was amazed at the number of eager fish up here. It was prime time in the evening, but I still caught at least thirty more fish in less than an hour (counting the really tiny ones), all of them native westslope cutts. Apparently the falls in the canyon presented too much of a barrier for the other species.


I didn't see a lot of bugs on the water, but I found a few in the air while walking above the river, and at the end of the night I left time to sample with my kicknet to work on my coverage of western hatches. That turned up some really interesting things. I posted a bunch of them on the entomology subforum already, but my favorites were Attenella delentala, a species uncommon enough I had never heard of it but that has really striking coloration.


The golden stoneflies are really pretty, too -- this one is Calineuria californica:


This one has only ever been found previously in Oregon, but I'm pretty confident on the ID of Paraleptophlebia sculleni. The clear-bodied spinners were swarming over the road in small groups throughout the canyon reach.


The next trip was even more focused on bug collecting, as I had a longer drive and earlier deadline to get home. I only had a few hours to fish. I thought this one might have some really interesting critters because it's at a fairly high altitude and it's more spring-fed than most of our mountain streams.



I fished the meadow reach above, where I've caught 9-10" trout in the past that seemed like monsters given the size of the water. This time the biggest fish were around 8". Maybe the bigger fish in June in previous years were spawners coming up from below. It was still a lot of fun, because it was a challenge in many places to even put the fly on the water, let alone get a good drift without spooking the hyper-wary fish in the shallow, sunny water. Some of them were surprisingly discerning. I spent 15 minutes working on a six-incher that would chase every fly I threw at it but refused to fully take. I caught every other fish in the pool, but this one just wouldn't have it. It was in a tough spot for drag, and I'm not sure if it decided to embarrass me because of the flies, the drag, or both. I never caught it.

After the meadow, I spent just a brief time in the forested reach below and found plenty of fish there too, including one of the particularly colorful westslope cutts that make this stream really memorable.



I caught a few good adult bugs representing species or stages I didn't have on my website yet, including some Drunella coloradensis duns, which are closely related to the Flavs and probably get mistaken for them quite a bit.


These species are typically thought to be smaller than western green drakes (Drunella grandis) and represented by smaller flies, but putting the spinner against the hook size chart makes it a solid 8:


There was also a Rhyacophila caddisfly, the first adult I've found of the genus commonly known as "green rockworms" due to their conspicuously large, green, squishy larvae.


Sweeping the net through the streamside grass turned up this "longlegged fly," which I hadn't heard of before -- family Dolichopodidae. It's around a size 26 and probably completely unimportant to the fish, but I think it would make a great movie villain.


I collected lots of nymphs, including a bunch of Drunella mayflies that were almost all Drunella coloradensis. However, mixed in was one that was new to me and had been on my collecting wishlist for a while, the ultra-spiky Drunella spinifera:


For two stoneflies species, I found both nymphs and adults. These include the Perlodid species Kogotus nonus:



The adult was a female that extruded a ball of eggs into my sampling container on the way home. The turtle-shaped eggs are one of the identifying characteristics for this species:


It was also a good test subject for a new gizmo I made to spread out wings for better identification (the vein pattern is frequently important):


The other nymph/adult stonefly pair was the substantially smaller Chloroperlid species Suwallia pallidula:



I think it was worth the trip to hit this little stream, even though I have to go get a flat tire patched now. I've been there three times and gotten flats on my Jeep twice (as opposed to once in the other 25,000+ miles combined). It's not even a sketchy road... just the wrong kind of gravel I guess. It's good that not a lot of people get out there because this place can't withstand much pressure.

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