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Yakima River Fly Fishing Calendar, Hatches, Tips, and Fly Suggestions


Fly Fishing in January on the Yakima River


Fly Fishing in January on the Yakima River means favorable river flows under 1000 cfs and excellent clarity. Water temperatures are low, which make nymph and streamer fishing the most consistent means of catching fish. Don’t rule out the dry fly fishing, however, as sunny days can produce some world class midge opportunities. Skwala nymphs become a key component of the trout's diet towards the end of this month. We have caught some of the larger fish we’ve seen on this river during the month of January. Enjoy the solitude because by mid – February, traffic volume starts to pick up again.


Fly Fishing in February on the Yakima River

February is arguably the BEST month of the year for nymph and streamer fishing on the Yakima. Water temperatures warm up, causing the Skwala Stonefly nymphs to begin their annual migration. This event becomes the focal point for the large pre-spawn Rainbows. The river levels and conditions are somewhat stable, and the weather is pleasant. We have had shirt sleeve days near the end of February in each of the last 2 years. The last week of this month marks the beginning of one of the most prolific hatches on the river, the Skwala. These olive colored Stoneflies attract the attention of the trout like no other bug on the river. The fish have come through a long winter, and this hatch is the first opportunity they get to gorge themselves. Spring Blue winged Olives, although smaller at the start, also begin to emerge at this time. Some of the best fishing during these Stonefly hatches is at the beginning of the hatch, when the bugs are just starting to show, and again at the end of the hatch, after the main part has moved through. At both of these times, the fish are looking for them, and there are not many naturals out there to compete and fill up their stomachs. The early part of this hatch is also targeting fish that haven’t seen a dry fly for quite some time.


Fly Fishing in March on the Yakima River


If we were to rank the fishing for all 12 months of the year, March would rate in the top 3 every time! Mild Spring weather, consistent water conditions, and a combination of BWO and Skwala fishing that can give anglers up to 6 legitimate hours of action on dry flies in a single day. Look for the BWO’s to start around 11:30 am, often lasting until 2:30 or later. When the fish quit on the Baetis, it’s time to put on the Big Bugs (aka Skwalas) and go prospecting. Concentrate your Skwala efforts on the likely seam lines and structure along the banks. Oh yeah, did we mention the March Browns? They start towards the end of the month and are most consistent on the sections between Irene and Big Horn.


Fly Fishing in April on the Yakima River


Spring BWO’s, Skwalas, and March Browns remain strong through the first half of this month, and then start to decline. Caddis, beginning with the Grannoms (a true size 12!), start taking flight near the end of April. Caddis nymphs, in green and tan, are active and worthy to receive consideration when selecting flies. With the favorable conditions, prolific bugs, and beautifully colored trout, April joins March in our top 3 list for best months of the year – October rounds out the roster. The first 2 weeks of the Caddis hatch can be the most productive fishing of the year. Grab your pen and calendar and block out the last week of the month. You’ll be glad you did!


Fly Fishing in May on the Yakima River


Mother’s Day Caddis, PMD’s, Big Yellow Mays, and even the occasional Salmon Fly make an appearance in May. Cloudy days can be extraordinary, with the fish extending the dry fly opportunities early in the day on PMD’s and Big Yellows, and switching over to Caddis in the afternoon. Water conditions in May are a bit more erratic, with runoff and Spring rains coming into the equation. Don’t, however, write off the day if you happen to find yourself in the middle of a brownish colored river. We’ve had some GREAT Caddis fishing this month with visibility at only 1’ in the canyon.


Fly Fishing in June on the Yakima River


June is the transition month from Spring to Summer. The flows start to stabilize at higher Summer levels, and our fishing tactics change with them. The Mayflies that we’ve been using over the last 3 months remain decent on cloudy days, but we start thinking more about the larger terrestrials such as ants, bees, beetles, and grasshoppers fished tight to the grassy banks. There is also some good Stonefly activity this month, with a handful of Goldens and Salmons and the start of the tan bodied Summer Stonefly hatch. Caddis continue to provide sight casting opportunities during the afternoon and into the evening. Warmer weather causes the last of the runoff to make its’ way through the system and the recreational floating season begins.


Fly Fishing in July on the Yakima River

 
Warm weather and river flows near 4000 cfs are normal conditions for this time of year. This is also the time of year for casting Summer, also called Short Wing, Stone imitations tight against the bank from a drift boat on the go. Caddis are still on the menu, especially when the sun goes off the water in the evening. Long floats are the norm. It is not uncommon to cover 10+ river miles a day. As a general rule, the river moves at approximately 1 mile per hour for every 1000 cfs of flow. Therefore, at 4000 cfs, you’re going to cover about 4 mph if you just floated and didn’t stop or touch an oar. Recreational floating traffic increases with the warmer weather and higher flows. While weekends in July and August are peak times for recreational floaters, it is very predictable in terms of schedule, making it possible to plan your float and avoid most of the rafters if you desire. The "splash 'n giggle" floaters start up top at Big Horn and Ringer between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm, and by 2:00 – 4:00 pm, have reached the lower half of the canyon. Starting on the lower canyon early in the day or the upper canyon later in the day, allow you to avoid a lot of river traffic. Fishing from one man pontoon boats and wade fishing is more difficult with the higher flows. The lower half of the canyon offers more opportunity for these, as the river tends to bend a bit more and has more gravel bars and inside corners to get out on.


Fly Fishing in August on the Yakima River

 
This is the warmest part of our Summer. Water temperatures reach into the 60’s, with air temperatures in the canyon often breaking into triple digits. Early mornings and late evenings are pleasant times to be on the river, with the fish being more active on dry flies during these low light periods. Often, we split our fishing days up in August with lunch and a siesta sandwiched between an early morning drift and another float into the evening. This schedule also allows the majority of the recreation traffic to clear out ahead of us. Releasing fish as soon as possible with minimal handling is very important if water temperatures reach upwards of 68 degrees. The river is still flowing around 4000 cfs. Grasshoppers and Summer Stones remain the focus, targeting the deeper grassy banks. There is nothing quite as exciting as seeing a large Rainbow attack a hopper. If your fly is 3” from some of those strong banks, then it’s probably 3” too far! Big bugs, shorts and sandals, covering lots of water, and the dry canyon air all make August a great month to spend time on the Yakima River.


Fly Fishing in September on the Yakima River

 
September is the late transition month, marking the change from Summer to Fall. School is starting across the state. Recreational floating traffic disappears, and the cooler weather is more than welcome. Labor Day weekend marks the beginning of the “Flip Flop.” Over a period of 10 days, the river flows steadily decline from nearly 4000 cfs to around 1000 cfs. During the Flip Flop, a major emergence of Summer Stoneflies takes place, and dry fly fishing can be very good. With decreased water levels, wade fishermen and one man pontoon boats enjoy unlimited access to many of the rivers “honey holes.” At this time of year, Baetis (Blue Winged Olive) nymphs and terrestrials such as bees, ants, and beetles still play an important role in the trout’s diet. Grasshoppers are present until the frost, and in cooler years, we even start seeing some October Caddis. The fishing can be great!


Fly Fishing in October on the Yakima River

 
Fall colors in the Yakima River Canyon are awesome. For the most part, the conditions are favorable with temperatures in the 60’s and river flows less than 1000 cfs. Recreation floaters are now spending their weekends in football stadiums, once again leaving the river to the fly casters, Big Horn Sheep, and Bald Eagles. The middle of the month is prime time for Blue Winged Olives, Mahogany Duns, and October Caddis. Blue Winged Olive nymphs and dries are both productive. Don’t give up on the hoppers just yet. They can still catch fish, especially after the first few frosty nights of the Fall. This is another of our “top 3” months of the year. While nymph fishing and streamer fishing can be worthwhile, the extended dry fly fishing is what we really enjoy. As with the BWO/ Skwala combination in the Spring, the Fall BWO’s and October Caddis can pair up to create some very productive dry fly opportunities for up to 6 hours in a single day. The quality fishing, amazing Fall colors, and abundant wildlife along the river make the October experience one that you absolutely don’t want to miss.


Fly Fishing in November on the Yakima River


Fall is turning to winter. By the end of the month, fishing traffic has substantially decreased because of the cooler temperatures and other activities as families begin preparing for the Holidays. The dry fly fishing in November depends largely on what Mother Nature serves up for weather. The last 2 years, we have had temperatures in the single digits the first week of November, which has brought the Fall BWO hatches to a halt. However, in warmer weather years, the Fall Baetis can last nearly through the month. Our fishing days do shorten this month (we go to off-season rates on all of our services), with the best part of the day being from about 10:30 am until 4:00 pm. Temperatures normally range from the high 30’s to low 50’s. The flow is less than 1000 cfs and will remain there the rest of the winter. As for the sub-surface activity, Stonefly nymphs are always present, and Baetis (Blue Winged Olive) nymphs remain a food source at this time of year. We will fish a variety of midge patterns, both on top and as nymphs. When you encounter feeding fish this time of year, it may take some work to determine whether they are eating Midge or BWO’s. Make sure you have both readily available.


Fly Fishing in December on the Yakima River

 
Winter has come to the canyon, and we are fast approaching the shortest day of the year. Big Horn Sheep, Deer, and other wildlife are a common site on the hillsides along the river. Lower water temperatures, normally in the low to high 30’s, make nymph and streamer fishing the most productive method of catching fish. Stones and Baetis nymphs are on the menu at this time of year. Fishing a streamer on the swing in slower stretches of water can produce some exciting fishing and big fish. Midge activity can also be good at certain times in select locations. At this time of year there is very little traffic on the river, and the experience of being out goes well beyond the fishing.


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