Trout S.W.A.T. Team - Yakima River Report

March 31, 2016

Why don't the trout appreciate blue bird skies and clear water as much as anglers do?  Apparently that doesn't drive trout hunger, which ultimately is what creates feeding activity and the best fishing.  Its all that matters.  Trout don't care about any other factor, their bellies decide when its time to feed.  It doesn't matter what the weather is, if there is an epic hatch, or if it is your ONE day off to go fishing!  They are completely unsympathetic to you and your schedule and expectations.   They care about two things.  #1 staying alive.  #2 eating just enough to stay alive.  And I suppose there is a #3, they spawn ONCE per year.  I am always amazed at how far off we as anglers can be in our estimate of what type of conditions yield the best fishing.   Even with all my guide seasons I thought the last 3 days would have been on fire.  Its been... "ok".  I am a glass half full type of guy but I want to say it how it is. 

A few weeks ago the water was, in fact it was "marginal" when I personally got into my spring guide routine and started hitting the water several days per week. The fish were aggressive, in the shallows dominating the very best slots and spots.  As the water has dropped, cleared, and the weather has warmed the fishing has progressively tapered off.  It peaked on the 23rd last week and has steadily declined back to "normal" fishing.  It isn't a bad thing but with water temps pushing 50 degrees in the Lower Canyon we have been looking for BWO and March Brown hatches!  This has not happened.  Instead the Skwala hatch has shriveled and the big trout seem to have gone onto the spawn.  They have been harder to find than they were 2 weeks ago.  The small trout are there, but typically don't start feeding aggressively until the water consistently hits the low 50's.  The big trout will spawn off and on for several weeks and if the hatches are good they'll take a break from sitting on redds to feed.  We say it over and over, don't handle the big trout. These take 6-7 years to get to that stage and we want to preserve them.  Release 9 out of 10 instantly, maybe get a parting shot near the water with 1 out of 10.  Here is a nice little Cutthroat that we snapped a shot of, we caught many larger fish but let 'em swim.

Please don't take this fishing report as as "Debbie Downer goes fishing" story, its quite the contrary.  Fishing is still plenty good enough to wet a line and everyone that shows up will be glad they did.  We're just being honest.  You are going to work.  I fished the Upper Canyon from Cle Elum to Thorp yesterday and put some great fish in the net.  Not a lot, but some GREAT fish.  I took some ol' vets that would pass as professional anglers on any river, and the guys pried a handful of fish out from under the brush on dry flies.  We had periods of an hour or more without a single grab but surgical persistence pays off.  Totally concentrated persistence.  Many anglers don't want to work that hard and I get it, this is a vacation day but when you fish... fish hard.  When you relax... relax hard!    Be steady anc concise in your game.  You just have to keep checking spot after spot after spot until you find the willing trout.  The better caster you are the more certain you can be that you haven't left any behind.  

Trout S.W.A.T

When I watch a skilled angler with some killer instinct its sort of like a SWAT team clearing rooms in a large building looking for a suspect.  SWAT guys don't just go stumbling around and start knocking on doors here and there hoping to ambush the bad guy.  Stomping up and down making excessive noise and randomly opening doors.  Sometimes on the left side of the haul, sometimes the right.  Or "hey guys, we haven't tried the 4th floor yet lets see if he's up there!".  Ha.  That wouldn't work at all.  Suspect gets away almost ever time.  These guys take a surgical and systematic approach to clearing buildings.  One room at a time.  Check it, clear it. Move on.  Check it, clear it. Move on.  They will find you eventually.  It might take a while but given that clean, sharp, no mistake, approach these guys will find who they are looking for. Just like a concentrated and skilled caster with a fly rod.  They will check this seamline, that seamline, that boulder, under that brush.  Those trout can run but they can't hide.  

Step ONE!  Get a Stealth Craft 

So you want to fish like a sniper right?  Get a boat for it.  This sounds like a setup but it is no joke.  This boat just showed up at Red's and is a steal at this price. We have it on consignment and I would be surprised if it lasts a week.  It is mint.  Never been in a river.  he took it on a lake once or twice, its loaded.  One of our guides just ordered a Stealth Craft that is nearly identical.  Kevlar skin, very cool boat.

Fishing Forecast for This Week

Conditions are going to get ugly, but we're not sure when.  At this point it looks like we are good through Saturday but we don't like to make predictions too soon.  We always seem to get burned, so we'll be in touch if you are scheduled with us right now.  Please either "Like" us on Facebook or bookmark our page.  This is where we can stay the most current for you because I can post from the river.  

Here is a snap shot of the "prediction chart" for the Yakima Canyon as of 9 pm 3/31.  We're coming in under what was originally predicted and expect the Lower Canyon to stay fishable to about 3,500 cfs for sure - maybe a bit more.  Its so hard to say until we see it real time.  

Tips for this Weekend

I am just going to put a few quick hitters here.

  • Keep it short, and relatively light.  Most people go heavy on their nymph rigs when it gets dirty.  You'll snag the bottom too much and get frustrated.  The trout will move into protected spots and they don't want to fight the current any more than you do.
  • In the Lower Canyon - "dry wade".  My goodness this is a good tip.  

  • Try worms.  San Juan Worms to be more specific bait boy.  Not nightcrawlers.
  • Thingamabobbers.  Yarn indicators are best when its clear.  Use 3/4" Thingamabobbers when its dirty.  
  • Find a water filter.  Seriously.  Gravel bars, islands, or rock piles will filter the water if its dirty.  As Water pushes under ground in the shallow spots and comes out clear on the bottom after islands or gravel bars.  It will still look dirty to you but it tastes much better to the trout.
  • Fish streamers if you are in a boat.  If you want to try and hunt for big fish and aren't worried about numbers a rising river that is off color can offer excellent streamer fishing!  Throw heavily weighted streamers on floating lines into the pockets along the bank.

Hopefully these tips will help.  As the river comes up this weekend it may improve the bite for a day or two.  It appears that by Sunday the river will be wiped for a bit but we won't know for sure for another 24+ hours.  

  1. Joe, I love your blog and this in particular is a great video! Thanks. So much for sharing your wisdom. Meryl
  2. Always great information. The wade fishing video is one I always re-watch. What you teach applies to any river this time of year; especially, if you are using a two fly set up.
  3. It's raining and you have your jacket tucked in your waders, how can I take you seriously?