Yakima River Fishing Report

March 15, 2016

Now that I am warm and dry, 48 hours later, I'll give you an update and a rundown on the river conditions.  My hands are finally warm enough to type.  Actually it wasn't that bad on Sunday, but for a while it was as wet and cold as it gets.  Thanks to good gear we weathered it out.  If you are coming out in the next few days, here is your forecast.  I don't want to scare anyone off.  
Before I get into the report, I encourage you to Like our Business Page on Facebook.  This is how you can get the most real time reports on what is happening.  

On Saturday we decided to go for it and keep our trips for Sunday on the books as the river didn't look great but it was dropping and clearing just enough.  Shop staffer and guide, Noe Perez, was one of the few brave souls that fished Saturday.  He worked the river slowly and in detail and put up a good day fishing the Farmlands section from Irene Rhinehart down to Mile Marker 20.  It was good for the staff to get a positive report before we pushed it on Sunday with clients.  Considering how saturated the Kittitas Valley and upper Yakima River watershed is this year I am guessing that we won't see the river much under 3,000 cfs and it will probably stay above 2,500 cfs for the duration of the sping.  So if you are looking for it to drop below that, you may be waiting till fall.    

The day started off with high clouds and all looked good, until we launched the boats and the driving snow storm began.  This wasn't just a regular snow storm either.  Quarter sized flakes!  Morgan started out with a great fish and it gave us confidence that despite high off colored water and nasty conditions we would prevail.  Then after catching a nice big wild rainbow...

She began to freeze haha. 

The fishing was quite good during the brunt of the storm, it was tough to even read the water at times the flakes were coming down so thick.  

The bite was great but the biggest struggle was keeping your hands warm. When its 32 degrees and dumping a rain and snow mix that is rough duty.  Here are a few tips and things that make fishing in these conditions more manageable.  

  1. Simms G4 Pro Jacket - If you want to be warm and dry under it all, this is the jacket.  Yes its $550 but the two of use that were wearing it were the ones that stayed totally dry in that nasty gale.  I believe it saves fishing days.  
  2. 2 Sets of Good Gloves - Bring a dry set always.  You are working around water of course so even if its not raining you are likely to get one set wet.  One pair should be wool, the Simms Wool Half Finger Glove is the best.  
  3. Extra Stocking Cap.  If you know it is going to rain, throw a dry stocking cap in your bag.  I had one in my jacket pocket and as soon as the snow/rain let up I had a dry wool hat that added a ton of warmth. 

These three things help a lot.  I am not a big fan of packing extra clothing because you have a big wet mess after that, but the changeover into dry gloves and hat is a lifesaver.  

Stopover At Red's

We pulled into Red's for lunch and everyone got a chance to dry out a bit.  The ladies decided that lounging around the lodge and using the hot tub sounded like a better idea than going back out for the 2nd half of the day.   I think they were our lucky charm because Leif and I both rowed single anglers in the afternoon, the dudes, and the fishing pretty much shut down after the sunny skies and high pressure prevailed along with a harsh wind.  Maybe the heavy snow/rain wasn't that bad after all haha?

What to Expect in the Upcoming Week

While I would like to promise amazing fishing and sunny skies and lolly pops for everyone, it will likely be standard March fishing.  Cold sunny days, a breeze, and fish that are still acting like its March.  Water temperatures are still ranging from 38 - 42 degrees = cold.  

I don't want to sound like a downer, but keep in mind the magic of early season trout fishing is that it is a challenge and its not easy.  We will likely see some dry fly fishing start to happen over the next few days but with the flows above normal and the rain still working its way out of the system there is a lot of food available under the surface for your dry fly to compete with.  Focus your dry fly efforts in the afternoon and look for feeders.  If you find one, stay with it.  


  • Have realistic expectations and you'll exceed them every time.  Wild trout are special creatures, so even catching just a few is a victory.  Never lose sight of this, especially on the 30 fish days but also on the 3 fish days.
  • Wade fishing in high water is good!  It allows you to spend extended periods of time on fishy water.  Many boats just float on past taking a glancing shot at best.  Be confident in your wading.
  • Don't fight the current.  Many anglers try to fish heavier and deeper on their setups when the water is even a tad murky or faster than they like it.  I have found the opposite to be productive (for me personally, you may have a system you prefer).  I find the weakest softest seamlines and fish them with lighter, more delicate tackle.  Yarn indicators are a nice touch here.
  • San Juan Worms. Yep, get a dozen.
  • Be efficient.  Don't tangle, snag, or change flies too much.  Try to get in a routine and keep your fly drifting as much as possible.
  • Fish it with the same attention you would as if it were clear water.  Its not like the trout swim 6 feet to grab your fly every time when its clear!  You still need to get it relatively close to the trout.
  • When you find a piece of water you like, and you can wade fish it from the bank side out (casting across slower water to faster water) this is when you change up flies and try smaller patterns.  These drifts in swift cold water are the most productive.  Standing bank side and lobbing flies upstream at an angle, as the nymph drifts back toward you it is extremely drag free and naturally filters into the lane that trout hold in.  Wading is good, you don't have to have a boat.  

Here are some flies that you might want to try hint hint:

  1. Hey Joe, What's the word on the Ringer launch. I heard the road and ramp got washed out. Thanks for any info on that!!!!
  2. Thanks Joe for the (always) detailed report! Rick in Spokane
  3. Ringer is currently closed, but we're still not sure of the long term outlook. Bighorn is also closed currently so your options as a boater are to start at Mile Marker 20 as the highest point in the Canyon, or start at Rhinehart park in Ellensburg. We do shuttles from Rhinehart to Mile Marker 20, but just know that the launch is awful and there are lots of trees down throughout that float.
  4. How's the big pine camping area