Yakima River, Ellensburg, WA
Friday – Farmlands River Section – Guides: Joe Rotter, Johnny Boitano.
This was my first time experience with a guide. Joe told me it would spoil me and he was right. There were 4 in our party, me, John (my son-in-law), Pat, and Steve. We had a wide range of fly fishing experience, Steve had never fly fished, John had done a little, I hadn’t really fly fished for about 10-12 years, prior to that I did a lot in Alaska and other places during my military career, Pat had been fly fishing all of his life.
The guides met us at a access point near were we were camped, they discussed the options with us and then we drove to the boat ramp up the river to get started. John and I went with Joe and Pat and Steve went with Johnny. The guides furnished all the flies and leaders and did all the tying and untangling throughout the day. They also provided lots of instruction and teaching tips. I have never nymphed so the morning was spent nymphing and learning how to do that properly. The guides chose the farmlands because there was a lot of blown down trees in the river, that kept most of the drift boats out of that area. They figured with 2 guides they could help each other push the boats over the logs, so it would be the less crowded part of the river. They were right and the fishing was great.
On the Yakima, you can fish from the boat and it’s probably more productive than wade fishing, due to the amount of water you can cover. We fished the holes around submerged rocks and logs and started catching fish within the first 15 minutes. While we got a lot of takes, we probably only hooked half of them and netted only a third of those, as I say, they fight hard.
Its a peaceful river, nice floating, other that all the blow down across the river. The farmlands section is appropriately named. The river flows through a lot of low farmland in the Ellensburg area and through the city limits. We passed the city park as one of the landmarks. It was surprising that people were not fishing the easy access points along the bank, but we only encountered one other boat and no wade fishermen.
Steve caught his first trout on a fly rod. This was his first experience fly fishing and he took to it like a natural. I think he describes it best..
“I had a great time fishing. Aside from the obvious pleasure of just being out in the country I loved the grace of the casting (well I imagine that with practice the grace would come), the rewards from paying close attention to the subtle clues from the fishes’ world, and the precision and beauty of the flies and gear.”
Pat has been fly fishing most of his life and set up the trip for us. He arranged the guides, I brought the RV and coordinated food, so it worked out well. Pat landed a lot of fish and we both caught a 16 incher on dry flies later in the day. Pat needs to learn how to hold a fish for the camera, we’re going to razz him a lot about his technique.
Summary: We got a one day guided service from Red’s Fly Shop, average cost $400-$500 for two. we met the guides at 9:00 AM at an access point, then went up the river to launch the boat. Fished 5 and 6 weight fly rods, nymph in morning. Two flies below an indicator, 16-18 nymphs, the WD40 caught the most fish. the guides furnish flies and leaders and definitely put you on the fish, the catching is up to you. The guides furnished lunch, our menu was grilled steak, pasta salad, and fruit.
Fished dry flies in the afternoon, the stone flies were hatching so we used #6 and #8 stone flys, with an x-caddis (16-18) trailing behind it. Caught an equal number on either. We did catch larger fish in the afternoon after switching to dry. But we were also farther down the river and into larger fish population. Floated about 11 miles of water, took out at Ringers Loop. We were staying at Yakima River RV which is about a 1/2 mile from the Ringer Loop boat access. Got back to the trailer about 6:30 PM.
Hats off to Joe and Johnny, they had a really mixed crew and they did a great job. Put us on lots of fish, gave great advise and tips, didn’t get frustrated with us, and made the trip a really memorable experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to guide fishing.
Saturday – Canyon Section – Self Guided
On Saturday we decided to float the Canyon section in our pontoon boats. We didn’t feel comfortable going over the same water we fished on Friday due to the number of downed trees, log jams, and sweepers we would have to navigate. While the pontoons are very stable, they aren’t the most maneuverable boats out there. We launched from Red’s after talking to Joe about where to fish and what flies might work best. Our plan was to fish down to the Big Pine Recreation area, known as the Slab.
This part of the river is much different that what we floated on Friday. Its runs through canyon country and is also more popular for drift boat owners. Since it was a weekend and the water was perfect, the boat launch at Red’s was crowded, so was the river below Red’s. We only stopped for a short time to wade fish and make pontoon adjustments before heading on down the river. Beautiful scenry and once past the first mile the traffic thinnned out. We nymphed for awhile, then switched to dry flies.
It was difficult to fish from the pontoon while moving, difficult to fish with one hand and control the boat using a single oar. Would have been better to drop anchor, but I had some anchor issues. Mine was designed as a nylon mesh bag you fill with rocks. Worked OK for slow water, but in fast water it drug behind, nice to slow me down and allow fishing, but if wore the bottom out of the bag and I lost all my rocks. So, no anchor, from that point on it was use the one oar method.
As a result we didn’t do as well on Saturday. Had a few on dry flies, Pat caught a couple of white fish, but it was mostly just a nice float through scenic country. Once we got to the Slab, where my son-in-law was waiting, we decided to go on down to the dam. The water after the dam wasn’t great fishing water, so I don’t recommend that float, except for the scenery. Anyway, 5 miles of river makes for a nice one day pontoon float.