A Window of Opporuntity

January 16, 2016

Over the last few days we have had a window of opportunity, which I discovered has been nearly shut by the 4-5 additional inches of snow that I woke up to in Ellensburg this morning. This has been the biggest winter we've had in the upper Yakima River valley for a long time. I think we're all ready for it to let up. Right now... still snowing.  Here is a pic of my back yard with yet another menacing layer of snow.  I have to admit this is getting a little old.
Yesterday we put on the water in an attempt to take advantage of the balmy 38 degree weather and some sunshine, that was not a joke.  That was our goal. In our boat we had Joe, Noe, and Joey.  That is not a joke either. Say those names 3 times fast.

There wasn't a cloud in the sky when we slid the boat down the snowy bank at Mile Marker 20. When we were in the sun the conditions were pretty comfortable, but I'll be honest in saying there were a few times when a slight breeze came up that it was painfully cold. Good gloves make days like this a lot more fun.

Joey is not pictured because all of his photos are of him hooked up with a bigger fish than us.  He did catch these beauties however. 

Winter Fishing Quick Hitters
  • In the morning - focus on the deep, slow, "tanks" where there is ample slow water moving at just slower than walking speed.
  • Deep is key, if you can identify the bottom you are fishing in water that is too shallow
  • Don't underestimate what a quality drift will do for you. If you are fishing little midge patterns like Brassies and WD-40's under anything but Yarn consider a change.
  • Streamers should be low and slow, deep dead swings in the morning, moving towards a strip retrieve in the afternoon.
  • As the air temp gets warmer than the water in the afternoon the trout will often move up off the lips onto the exposed shelves. Yesterday we caught some great fish in very shallow water but that was only in the afternoon during the warmest part of the day.
  • Consider an Intermediate Line with a sinking Versileader, if you are a hard core cold water streamer guy. I have really become amazed as to how well this setup works.

Erik C that works the fly shop went out two days ago and also had some good results. Make no mistake here, although we have many pictures of great trout in the net you'll have to work for it and love outdoor adventures. Cold outdoor adventures. For a certain group however there is nothing better. A silent river with a beautiful red striped wild Rainbow on the line is priceless.

Erik's Update - Jan. 15

Today was another beautiful day on the Yak, much better than most of December anyway when the river was subject to almost daily ice flow. I?d like to start out letting ya?ll know winter fishing is a great time of the year to be on the river if you don't like to share water. Its quiet and there is almost no traffic on Canyon Road. While it?s not always going to be as large of quantity of fish, there is more activity with larger size fish and they can be fierce as most haven't been hooked since late summer or fall.  Shawn and I hit the water and enjoyed a few hook ups and saw some great fish. We set out with the standard 2 fly rig with pats stones, power worms, and small nymphs size 16-20.    

We got a bit of a late start, hitting the water at 1130, but the mornings are cold anyway so I don't feel like we missed much. We put in at mile marker 20 and drifted to Red?s since the launch is plowed at Red's. During the winter its best to simply bypass a lot of water and just work the most productive sections.  Don't be afraid to just dink and dunk on the move, but only hyperfocus on the deep green slots. If you try to fish the Yakima during the winter using the same temp that you do in the spring and summer you'll get frustrated.  The depth changes are so great in low water that you'll simply wind up snagged half the time.

We rigged up and decided to warm up the casting arm right at the launch. We started with a black and brown pat stone, big surprise, and brown and red power worm as an attractor. Shawn brought in his first fish right there on the Power Worm, so after an exciting start we headed down river. 

We moved over the first couple miles fairly quickly and it was slow fishing. We had a few takes, and sadly a few snags which is usually a result of us trying to make something out of nothing in our excitement.  About 10 minutes after having Shawn take the sticks I landed a great fish on a #8 orange and brown pats stone. One of my best ever on the Yakima. It was also one of the best fighting Bows I have landed on the Yakima River despite cold water.

Almost always I'll fight a trout just stripping in the line by hand. This guy wanted to run a bit so I put him on the reel and let the fish have his day and make some noise on my drag system.  Music to my ears.  This guy doubled my 5 weight in half.

As far as where to look for the fish expect them to be in around 3-4 feet of water or more. Set your indicators at least an arms length to the first fly and your second 1-2 feet below it. Look for the soft seams and not too fast of water. Get those nymphs down with a small bit of split shot if you aren't having success or tapping bottom every now and then. Other great flies to use are small #16 and 18 brassies, zebra midges, and wd-40?s. The worms and stones we used were #8. Get those rods off the shelf and come rip some lips!  Just get some gloves on along with a puffy jacket and you'll survive.