Fly fishing diaries | Blue ribbon Yakima

Wow, finally...  I can't tell you how much I've longed to do this: drop a fly line into the Yakima River where it flows through the canyon between Ellensburg and Selah. And today, we finally did it.

We have good friends who live in Ellensburg, and we spent the weekend with them. On Sunday we headed south to spend most of the day fly fishing. The folks at Red's gave us a few spots to check out, places with good access for wade fishermen.

Fly fishermen say that if Washington assigned labels to the fishing rivers in the state, the Yakima would be a blue ribbon fishing river. Maybe the only blue ribbon river in the state. I don't know about that... I'm still a novice. But I can say that fly fishing in the Yakima canyon in the fall is a pretty special thing. The cottonwoods and willows are turning autumn gold, and the river is deep blue as it reflects the sky. We spotted eagles and hawks soaring above the river, and there's an eagles nest in a row of tall pine trees just below the Roza dam. Best of all, we saw a big herd of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep on the far side of the river, and they stuck around long enough for a photo shoot.

Dave and I started out fishing the river near milepost 10. And even though neither of us got a nibble, it was a perfect spot to try out our new Redington fly rods. For me, the novice, it was perfect for fly casting practice. I love my new rod! It's responsive and I can feel it load as I back-cast, which helps me get into a rhythm. It's so much better than my antique Fenwick.

We were fishing the eastern bank, out from shore about 20 feet in knee-deep water. The river flows pretty strong here and the footing is full of boulders, so I took it easy on my first time on the river. Not wanting to get too far from shore (and not wanting to tangle my line in the bushes), I came up with a technique that worked for me:  Cast upstream, and let my fly drift past me as I let out more line. Strip the line in, then cast it left to right upstream, touch the surface, then go back to my usual back cast. Let out line to get some distance, and do the whole thing over again. I don't remember having anyone teach me how to do this; it just seemed a natural and easy way to present my fly to the whole range of river in front of me.

There were two men fishing across the river from us. The water was too deep to wade there; maybe they hiked downstream to this spot, or they were dropped off from a boat. They were waist deep  right at the shoreline, so they had deep pools to fish. We saw them both land fish, saw one of them take a dunk and lose a fish, but they didn't give up. When we left to fish another spot, they were still there.

We worked our way up the river, ending up at a series of deep pools near milepost 19. I didn't care for the muddy beach that sucked at my boots, or that I couldn't walk out very far because of the drop-off. But I caught a fish here: a slim 4-inch trout that couldn't resist my spangly elk hair caddis fly. He bit, came to my hand, and I released him back to the river.

We finished up our day of fishing at another stretch of the Yakima, closer to Ellensburg off Ringer Road. The river here is fun to wade; the bottom is smooth rocks and pebbles, easy to walk on. I caught three more tiny fish, 3-4 inches long. I later joked that if you lined up my four fish end to end,  they wouldn't have added up to one legal fish. No matter. These little guys were fun to catch, and easy to release.

We fished until nearly 5:00, not wanting to leave the river or the coming on of evening. I kept wading to shore to pull out my camera to take pictures; it was so beautiful as the sun went down behind the hills and the light swept through the cottonwood trees. A deer came down for an evening drink, and startled me. Upstream, I watched an osprey fishing in the ripples just past Dave. It was a beautiful time of day to be on the river.

This is the fly that caught fish for me today. Thanks to Red's for recommending it... it was truly
the magic fly for the day.

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