Yakima Report and Strategies

BDD

Active Member
I started to respond to another thread but thought it might have been too much drift away from the main topic (Upper Yak) so I copied and pasted it into a new thread. Sorry, no photos.

In my opinion the Yakima is not a great dry fly river. There have been so many times when there are bugs hatching all around (mays, caddis, stones) with nary a trout rising to adult naturals. I'm okay with this; the fish are just doing what they can to survive. If they get filled up on bugs in the lower or middle of the water column so they don't need to feed on top, more power to them.

That is not to say you can't catch them on dries. But the opportunities to consistently catch them on dries requires some work, either through a buddy or guide controlling the boat giving you a chance to cast and extend the drift covering lots of bank water. Another option, which comes through experience, is finding wade spots that are conducive to bank fishing and knowing what flow levels you can safely wade from shore. Finally, a third option is accessing spots with a craft of some kind and applying the same hunting approach as the walk and wade option already mentioned. There are a number of spots that you can access with a WM, Scadden, or Outcast type boat where you can stalk the banks and find feeding fish with some experience, timing, and luck with the weather and hatches.

With the low, clear conditions we have seen since fishing opened back up, I have been out three times. One day I wade fished for about an hour and rose a couple fish to March Brown dries. The next time I fished in the lower canyon and rowed across the river and fished the far side and rowed back again without have to do a shuttle. I found fish feeding on caddis adults and had a good couple hours in the evening. Saw lots of boats this day as the weather was great but didn't talk to anyone else to see how they had done. The third time I floated with my wife shuttling and drifted a section through Ellensburg on Saturday. I didn't see another boat and only saw two wade anglers. It was the best day I have had on the Yakima in a while. I caught fish while casting to risers, fish on dries blind casting and drifting, and on streamers. I have not wanted or needed to catch them under an indicator or high stick nymphing, even though I know I could have caught more fish. I caught rainbows, cutthroat, chinook smolt (clipped), and pikeminnow with about a third of my catch on caddis or MB dries. Now that the river has come up, I'll probably turn to lake fishing for the next few weeks as I can take my kids and it is still prime time...but I guarantee I'll be using indicators for that. I'll still be checking flows, clarity, and weather and when the three all align for good conditions, I'm sure I'll sneak out again to the Yak after work (now that it's staying lighter longer) and keep looking for spots that I can either walk and wade or plan a sneak attack with a boat.
 

radiowires

Active Member
Great report and insights BDD, I appreciate you taking the time to reply to my post. What you wrote definitely resonates with my experience. One other thing I have seemed to notice on the Yak is how tightly clustered the fish are. This is much different than what you see in places like Colorado, where fish are in every single little nook and cranny. On the Yak, I tend to find 4, 5, 6, or more fish in a hole, and then hundreds of yards (or more) of relatively dead water. Even water that looks great. I have one section in the Upper Proper that has an absolute textbook run and hole, that I've fished from every which way over the last few years, and have never caught a single fish out of it. One caveat is on the first few days after flip flop, they seem to be more spread out. But for the rest of the year, it's either honey holes or dead water, regardless of how good it looks.
 
I wonder how much the raptor population has to do with what I agree to not be the best dry fly river. Floating it in winter there are raptors in almost every tree it seems. And then as it warms up, you may not see as many sitting in trees, but I would say you see a bald eagle or osprey circling above at least once per day during a float, and often two or three times or oeven more. I would have to think that makes those fish wary to come up to the surface. I've caught many fish that were survivors of a raptor attack, claw marks, fresh or healed in their backs.

When I think of other rivers that I consider to be good dry fly rivers, I don't think I remember seeing anywhere near as many raptors there.
 

Jakob B

Washington Native and college age angler
It really just depends on the day. Fish the Yakima five days in a row you'll have one outstanding day of fishing a few ok days of fishing and one or two poor days of fishing for whatever reason. Most often when I fish it everything is a sub surface kind of day but I've had it once or twice where the streamers and nymphs that have proven very effective up there don't touch a thing. Instead be watching fat trout slurp off the surface and I can't do a dang thing about it because I left my dry fly box at home. Once in a blue moon they're looking up in the upper river but you'll never know when.

Jakob
 

majpreal

WFF Supporter
Whenever I throw dries on the Yak, it generally results in little to no fish (aside from some nice fish caught during spring flying ant hatches), and the most action I typically see is an osprey flying over me, fish in talons, reminding me of who the proper fisherman is.
 

Peyton00

Active Member
It seems whenever i am on the sticks and James Jiminez is throwing dry flies, he has a 12-20 fish day.
 

BDD

Active Member
Radiowires-When drifting along, there are always so many spots where you think there should be fish holding but nothing home. I'm guessing it is probably a combination of fish being spread out like you suggest, wrong time for them to be feeding, wrong pattern, wrong presentation, and the fact that there is just not as many fish per mile than other western trout rivers in other states.

James-that could explain why fish tend to rise more in the evening...less light. And possibly why fish are tucked up into the banks...more cover. I would think raptors would have an easier time fishing the local put and take lakes for their fish than trying to pluck a fish a few inches off the bank, within thick cover. But even the catchable trout in a pond either wise up or get eaten. I wonder about clarity...I know raptors have great vision but I wonder if the turbidity from Wilson Creek affects their hunting? I notice more raptors in the lower canyon than upstream, probably for other reasons that Wilson Creek dumping silt though.

Jakob-I have noticed that too. Some days after having a good day, you go back the next expecting similar results and...

Derek-Captain Obvious? And the point being?

Jamie-No shortage of wind this time of year on the Yakima...if that were just the case, I think those fish would be feeling plenty secure.

Majpreal-hook up with Derek for some quality oars and maybe a few secrets on how to get them on top.

Jim-I know nothing about whiskey except my dad enjoyed it enough. I don't recall him just sticking to a single hour though.

Peyton-Confirming what I wrote earlier-a competent rower and someone who can present flies well is probably the best all-around approach to good catching on dries.

Thanks for contributing all. There is a ton more that could be discussed. Perhaps it is best to figure out the rest of the "secrets" on our own. Hopefully there were some tips that can be helpful for you.
 
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"Not the best" is far different from both bad, and excellent (or, well, the best).

All I am saying is that there are many rivers that have similar trout populations, and much more consistent dry fly fishing, during both hatch and non-hatch periods.

I have had unbelievable dry fly fishing on the Yakima, on many occasions. But, a day or two later, with similar bug numbers, fish on the surface are almost non-existent. I would consider a good (or, the best) dry fly fishing river to be consistent, especially during hatch periods. Hence the rating of "not the best", implying that there are better dry fly fishing rivers.

But, as mentioned above, there are good, consistent hatches, lots of terrestrial insects, and great dry fly water. So, I too wonder what holds the fish back from consistently feeding. Maybe its a combination of a bunch of things: altered flows, varying water Temps caused by that, raptors, bikini hatch, bright ass sun, lots of drift boats.

Not a deal breaker by any means. The Yakima is my home water, and I will always look forward to hitting the river, dry flies or not!
 

Creatch'r

Unhinged Member
Catching fish on dry flies isn’t easy unless you go to a backcountry river stuffed with WSCT’s or starving brook trout. Trout are very nuanced as are the rivers and insects which is why this insane culture even exists. Besides understanding the cycles of hatches, and how the trout react to them, you must tie on a fly suitable to be fed on and then put it in the right place at the right time and know what to do with it when it’s there. Any missing piece in that complex equation and you end up saying things like: “it’s not a very good dry Fly River.” I mean I don’t blame your assessment, and sometimes I would tend to agree based on my day of fishing, but I don’t have the proverbial finger on the pulse, and not at liberty to make a judgment based on my personal report. Trout fishing is very hard, don’t fool yourself.

Where is there a large western river with stable, predictable and consistent hatches where the trout are always looking up? I’ve been around and haven’t seen it yet!
 

radiowires

Active Member
Catching fish on dry flies isn’t easy unless you go to a backcountry river stuffed with WSCT’s or starving brook trout. Trout are very nuanced as are the rivers and insects which is why this insane culture even exists. Besides understanding the cycles of hatches, and how the trout react to them, you must tie on a fly suitable to be fed on and then put it in the right place at the right time and know what to do with it when it’s there. Any missing piece in that complex equation and you end up saying things like: “it’s not a very good dry Fly River.” I mean I don’t blame your assessment, and sometimes I would tend to agree based on my day of fishing, but I don’t have the proverbial finger on the pulse, and not at liberty to make a judgment based on my personal report. Trout fishing is very hard, don’t fool yourself.

Where is there a large western river with stable, predictable and consistent hatches where the trout are always looking up? I’ve been around and haven’t seen it yet!

Thanks for the response. My thinking here isn't that Yak fish don't eat dry flies. I'm pointing more towards less rising by fish on the Yak, particularly pod rising. Sure there are groups of risers feeding on caddis in the Lower Canyon. But the Yak just doesn't seem to have consistent pods of risers that are present in many other rivers. I'm primarily comparing them in my head to behavior I've seen on Colorado rivers that I've fished, both tailwaters and non tailwaters, such as the Colorado, Gunnison, White, S Platte, Yampa, and others.
 

Rocking Chair Fan

No more hot spotting
The Yakima is finicky water for sure. I have been out and caught lots of trout in my favorite spot for the entire day. I go out the next day, stand on the same 'rock', use the same flies, fished at the same time, under the same conditions e.g. sun, wind, BP, flows, etc. and nothing, nada, zip.... Go figure - I still have not figured it out....

Now the Metolious - that is some water that will put most fisher people to shame IMHO...
 

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