Tieton River - Great DIY Fishery!

July 21, 2014

Date: 7/20/2014

Anglers/Students: Ryan, Kevin, Katherine, and Seth

Location: Tieton River (Tributary to the Naches River)

Hunger Level: 7/10

If you have not yet had the opportunity to explore the Tieton River, now is the time. For those who don't know, the Tieton River is one of the larger tributaries to the Naches River. It flows into the Naches River at the junction of Hwy. 410 and Hwy 12, about 4 miles west of the town of Naches. Hwy. 12 then follows the river west all the way up to Rimrock Lake, which is actually a reservoir similar to those found at the top of Snoqualmie Pass (Kachees, Keechelus, and Cle Elum Lakes). Rimrock lake stores water for late season irrigation (Sept. and Oct.), and the Tieton River is the conduit through which that water flows. Just as the Yakima Canyon flows are dropping in the early fall (usually the first week of September), the Tieton River is quadrupling in size. During this time, the Tieton River actually turns into a whitewater rafting destination, with the steepest gradient in Washington State. I have actually done the whitewater trip before, and I can verify that it is steep and FAST! During the month's of June, July and August though, the Tieton runs at a great level for wading, and there are many feisty, eager trout willing to take the fly. Additionally, the access is almost endless (make sure you have a Discovery Pass), and there are many great campgrounds right along the river, which makes the Tieton a great place to explore for a day or a weekend. 

I was fortunate enough to have taught four excellent students the "in's and out's" of the Tieton River this past Sunday. We used a few different techniques to get these little "bullet's" to eat our flies. Most of the fish are in 4 - 9" range, but there are quite a few fish in the 10 - 12" range, and I have personally caught a couple up to 16". Even though the fish are small, they live year round in this steep river canyon, and deal with the whitewater during Sept. and Oct., so they fight with every inch they have, and they fight hard for their size. Plus, they are beautiful little rainbow's (mostly, there are some cutthroat as well), and they are plentiful, so the action can be non-stop when the fishing is good.

 As you can see in the pictures, the Tieton River runs a little dirty throughout the summer, and even though it is at a much lower flow than during the whitewater season, the gradient is still steep, the water is still moving fast, and the rocks are slippery, which makes the wading a little more challenging than normal. I recommend a wading staff for this river, along with a good pair of felt bottomed boots. I have found that the further you are willing to walk/wade from where you parked your car, the better the fishing gets, for both size and numbers of fish caught. As far as rod size goes, 3 - 5 weights are all good. 5 weights are a little heavy for the fish size, but can handle a larger dry and a dropper, or a double nymph set up with ease (especially if it gets a little breezy!). 3 weights are great for single dries or even a single nymph with a small indicator. A 4 weight would be ideal, allowing you to fish in any manner mentioned above, and still make the smaller fish a little more fun to catch. Red's has a great selection of rods in these weights, and if you stop by the shop you can even try them out! Being prepared with the right gear, to get you further away from the "easy access" points, and allow you to cast and fish your flies to the best of your ability, will make your day more enjoyable.

Overall, the fishing was a little slower on top, with a few takers on dry flies. More of our fish were caught on nymphs, either below a dry fly or under an indicator. With the short season these fish have to grow they are very opportunistic, but they are also keyed in on the insects that are readily available to them. We saw a few stonefly casings, and also kicked up quite a few stonefly nymphs in our kick net sample. We saw some grasshoppers along the banks, but they are still small, and not as numerous as they will be in a couple weeks. Another week or so of warm weather and these fish will be looking up almost exclusively. Highlights of the day were Seth catching his first fish ever on a fly rod (and a couple more to boot!). Also, Kevin actually caught two fish at the same time on a double nymph set up (a literal "double-double")!

I will be teaching one more class this season on the Tieton River on August 3rd. We will be covering fly selection, reading the water, and fishing/rigging strategies for fishing this awesome little river. And of course, you will get to do some fishing! If you want to make the Tieton part of your DIY repertoire, I would be grateful to have you in this class and show you the ropes. I look forward to hopefully seeing a few of you that day!

  1. Hey James, Are you still active on the Tieton? I'll be visiting in late July, early August and would love to explore this river a bit. I am a 56 year old beginner fisherwoman. Been on a few Yakima River drift trips (through Evening Hatch, Ellensburg), and out a bunch of times with my rabid fisherman brother. Thats pretty much the extent of my experience. Interested in Walk and Wade type learning experience. I am also a chef....hows the winemaking going and what winery(s) are you working with? Margaret