Yakima River Fishing Report - Flip Flop Explained

August 27, 2014

*this video was made on September 10th, this is what will happen this upcoming week!

The Yakima River Flip Flop

This is might be the very best time of year to hire a guide for a day of floating and dry fly fishing the Yakima River. Likewise, if you are a DIY angler from September through Thanksgiving is the best and most consistent time to wade fish or float in a personal watercraft boat. The term ?flip-flop? defines the Yakima River flow pattern as it goes from very high during the summer, to low during the fall. Right around Labor Day weekend each year the river flows are greatly reduced as the irrigation demand in the lower valley subsides and the reservoirs in the headwaters of the Yakima begin to run low. At this time, the river flows on the Tieton River (a famous whitewater destination about 45 minutes south of our lodge) receives increased flows to compensate for the irrigation demand. This is flip flop.

What does this mean for you?

Well, first off the river becomes low enough to hike around and wade fish. You can even cross the entire Yakima in a few of the widest tailouts! (don?t be a fool trying to do this though;) If you plan to do a lot of wading, get a good wading staff.  It also means much easier boating conditions for anglers. The rowing, anchoring, and float timing is much easier when the river is under 2,000 cfs. By comparison, all through July we were operating at flows around 4,500 cfs! It is a big change.

The fish also adjust their holding spots and feeding patterns. The fish are essentially forced to move off the banks into mid-river boulder gardens, ledges, and pools. On the hot days try the fastest riffles. For the angler on foot this makes them much more accessible. After the first few frosty nights the fish will move into more defined pools. Look for walking speed water where you cannot identify the bottom during this time.

A Few Tips and Advice for Successful Late Summer Fishing

LOTS of dry fly fishing to be had!
*Have a DEEP Selection of Dry Flies. The fish get much more selective as the water speed recedes.

Dry Fly List for Flip Flop:

Orange Dragon October Caddis Dry - fish this in the evenings starting around September 10th
Red Top Beetle - (makes a great trailer for a double dry fly setup)
Super Duper Bumble Bee (fish this during the first frost!)
Fatboy McKnights
Bullethead Golden Stonefly (DO NOT OVERLOOK THIS FLY.  The female stoneflies will be laying eggs in the fall and the black egg sack on this fly imitates this)
J Slam #10 (get the smaller size, it also carries a dropper nymph very well)
Solitude Hopperstone - This is a very high quality fly, always good during stonefly and hopper hatches
Fly Ant Dry Fly - This is also a great trailer for an angler that likes Double Dry Fly Setups
Tupac Stonefly Dry Flies - BOTH colors are a very good late summer pattern.
Split Wing BWO #18 - Must have from September 15th on, this is the best small dry fly hatch of the year.
Split Wing Parachute Adams - All sizes, good prospecting fly because it floats so well.
Bloom's Parachute Caddis #16

River Flows: We are currently at 2,800 cfs at Umtanum in the Yakima Canyon (as of 6:00 am 8/27). Most of the summer it ran at over 4,000 cfs! We'll be down under 2,000 cfs in the next 10 days. The trout will be hungry and much easier to access than they were in July and the first half of August.


Use a bit lighter tippet than you think you need and instead of that 7.5 2X leader? try the 9? 4X or even 5X. The RIO Suppleflex is a good choice for dry fly fishing. The fishery is very healthy with lots of solid Rainbows but they are smart and beginning to refuse and pass on flies that aren?t perfect. You have to admire a mature trout?s willpower. And how is it that the fattest ones are the pickiest?

The hot weather over the past 24 hours has kept the fishing hovering around a 5 on a scale of 1 ? 10 during the day and about an 8 in the mornings and evenings. Don?t worry about getting out too early in the morning or late in the evening once the cloud cover hits. Banker?s hours are ok.

September Hatches in the Yakima River Canyon

The dry fly fishing can be good, bad, and everywhere in between this upcoming week depending on time of day, section of river, and of course? how well the fly is placed. Every day can?t be a "10 out of 10", but most are very good right now! Many anglers have been vowing to fish exclusively with dry flies which is sort of the M.O. this time of year. With the amount of terrestrial insects along the river combined with the low clear water many of the fish are forced to the surface to get their fill. Dry Fly Enthusiasts have a hay-day this time of year. The overall reports is good fishing which is to be expected this time of year. We are in the process of ?flip flop? right now which is the process of the river going from very high to traditional freestone levels. For all of you that fished the Yakima or drove by and decided ?to pass? this summer or spring, now is the time! Get a guide because the flows are dropping and the water is manageable and clear.  Even beginners will have a great time catching some trout on dry flies. It is nearing a perfect volume for wade fishing or pontoon boat floaters in the next 10 days.

Nymph versus Dry:

Both techniques will produce fish during flip-flop. If you have a boat, try to focus on dry fly fishing and covering water quickly. Stop into the fly shop for the latest advice on flies, but think smaller and daintier than the big bugs of summer. Hackle generally out produces foam in clear water and especially on sunny days. If there is water flow tight to the structure then dry fly fishing can be productive. When the flow comes out off the shore follow the foam lines and fish your dry flies out away from the shore. Just follow the main flow. In open water dry fly fisherman need to be sure and leave that fly in the water for long quiet drifts without a bunch of mending and fooling around. These fish have a pretty big sight picture right now looking at the bug so long floats are king.

Nymph fisherman should focus on fast water until the water temps get back down into the high 50?s ? here is a link to keep you dialed in http://www.usbr.gov/pn-bin/yak/dfcgi.pl/?sta=UMTW

Use lightweight Fluorocarbon to your nymphs, 5X and 6X Fluorocarbon Tippet, and if you can use some that have either no gold bead or a black bead that can be advantageous. Also, bronze or tungsten beads don?t shine like brass and can be very effective in clear water like we have now.