Yakima River Update - VERY DETAILED

September 6, 2016

Well anglers, the water is down and the game is on for many of you DIY anglers that wait all summer for the fierce flows in the Yakima Canyon to subside.  This report should be all you need to have success this fall, it is very detailed, and since the water is usually extremely stable don't worry about getting daily updates like in the spring.  In the spring the river is up, down, and all around but in the fall its low and clear with the exception of torrential rain.

As the river comes down (called Flip Flop), it opens the door for wade fisherman, DIY boaters, and boat renters too.  You can rent one person fishing boats, framed fishing rafts, or even a Clackacraft from us.  

September "Flip Flop" Explained

In the fall, you have some choices to make based on HOW YOU WANT TO FISH.  There are a lot of strategies right now that will bring you success, but please try to measure success not on the number of fish in the net.  I am going to write two columns here, one is going to be called "Sporty Strategies" and the other is "Fish in the Net".  Each will have some input.  Anyone with an intermediate to advanced skill set needs to try and stay in the "Sporty" section.

Sporty Strategies for the Yakima River in the Fall

Ok anglers, right now the small nymph game is VERY good.  However, for some you that isn't the most interesting way to catch fish!  Some of you signed up to fly fish because you simply love watching the flight path of a dry fly.  The way it unfurls, the way it lands on the water, and YES and given some marksmanship it will land in the right seamline and get sipped by a wild trout!  THAT IS FLY FISHING.  

In addition to dry fly fishing, you can fish dry droppers, swing October Caddis Pupae, and even streamers.

Dry Fly Fishing

There are lots of Summer Stoneflies still out and about, but they are dieing fast and the fish are tired of the big leggy stuff. My personal "go to" for the fall on this hatch is the Tan Tupac Stone #10.  Its a bit more dainty than the big Chubby Chernobyls we find success on early in the hatch. Find some fast water by a pile of dead sticks and drift and twitch this fly near those sticks and fast water.  By late September this technique pretty well dies off however.

Tupac Stonefly Dry Fly - Tan

October Caddis are a nocturnal bug and best fished in the evening.  They are basically a giant orange moth.  They skitter, skate, move, and you can pro-active in generating strikes.  In the evening you can even straight up SKATE them like you would a streamer.  It is so much fun, but it takes a bit of dedication. One of our guides actually reported good morning fishing dead drifting October Caddis here in the Canyon yesterday.  Give it a shot.

Dry Dropper Fishing... in the skinnnnnnny water.  

A couple of guides were fishing after work in the shop the other day, and they caught about 6 fish on nymphs and decided to get sporty.  One of them was simply of tired of the redundancy and decided to approach some of the ultra shallow water with dry flies and a dropper attached about 6" under a dry.  The skinny water is still holding some excellent fish!  They worked much harder but were amazed at the number of fish they caught in that small water.  The fun game of the shallow water is that the drifts are tricky because the trout are spooky and often living under the edges of sticks, grass, or even a random piece of "chop" that provides surface cover from the Osprey.  Give this a shot.

My favorite patterns for this are a #18 or #20 Tungsten Baetis Nymph. Or anything else in #16. The heavier weight of the Tungsten Bead provides stability to the drift.

Tippet for this setup should be 6X RIO Fluoroflex Plus.  It is strong and supple.  

Streamer Fishing in the Fall

This will get better and more productive as the fall wears on, after the first hard freeze the fish will slink back towards the pools and begin to get competitive.  If you are a dedicated streamer fisherman, get an integrated sink tip line on another spool.  Right now, stick with the small lightweight streamers in the knee deep riffles.  It should require a "stout wade" to stand there.

The WF5S6 or the WF6S6 for your 5 or 6 weight will help you catch more fish, cast better, and enjoy this classic form of fly fishing.  

NEW! - RIO In-Touch Streamer Tip Sinking Line
Do a traditional "wet fly swing" if you are wade fishing.  Vary the weight and size of your streamers and enjoy.  This should be a therapeutic strategy with a few big fish mixed in here and there.  Cast out 90 degrees, one mend, let it sink, and as the line comes tight your little minnow pattern will swim for its life in front of the hungry trout.  In the event you make it look real enough...... WHAM.  There goes Nemo.  

Lightweight Streamers for Shallow Riffles and Rock Gardens

It is VERY important to have a few lightweight streamers that will "slither" over the rocks.

Heavy Streamers for the deeper water, colder weather

Sculpin, sculpin, and SCULPIN!  Take your pick.  

Small Dry Flies

We need some cloudy weather for this to pop.  When it does... there will be a big mix of fall Mayflies. There will be Blue Winged Olives, Cahills, Mohogany Duns, and I'll be honest here... there are bunch of "one offers" that I am not familiar with.  It can be a mix on cloudy days.  Hatch time is usually about 1 pm and is best in the big flats with meandering foam lines.  Find a riser.. stay with the riser.  Most of this can be covered pretty well by a few flies.    

Look for feeders and for the love of fly fishing, GET A LIGHTWEIGHT ROD!  I can't tell you how much more effective a fine 3-4 weight rod, or at least a 5 weight with an appropriate line.  It drags less, spooks less fish, protects light tippet, and catches more fish. A RIO Gold is designed with dry flies in mind, and the RIO Trout LT  is made for dry flies.  If you can't justify the right rod, at least get the right line to deliver these delicate morsels to the trout's dinner table.  

The #1 Bug... its a classic and don't over look it.  It looks very real, even if it lands on its side or whatever.  It rides low and makes a good emerger that is still easy to see.
Banks' Sparkle Dun

Here is a GOOD TIP!  - I really like a fly called a "Split Wing Adams".  It is a parachute bug that floats like a cork.  However, it isn't the natural for flat water.  I cut the posts way down if I find myself up against a picky fish. See the image below.  Get #16's and #18's.

Split Wing Parachute Adams Dry Fly

Leaders and Tippets for Small Dry Flies

I like the 9' 6X RIO Suppleflex Leader.  Its made for delicate dry fly drifts and gets the eats when other stuff simply drags.
Rio Suppleflex Trout Leader
 Lift and Swing the Big Pupae!

This is a really fun way to fish.  It is a chance for you to something cool, classic, and go old school.  Tie on an October Caddis Pupae, anything with a beadhead works.  Put it on a floating line, 9' 4X Leader preferably with Fluorocarbon Tippet.  Cast out into the riffle, mend, let it sink, dead drift it and "Euro Nymph" sensing for the strike using your Jedi senses.  As it drifts downstream let it slowly rise from the bottom and swim toward the surface.  WHAM.  Big bite.  If not... cast again and move your feet.  Very fun way to fish.  Here is a sample of the real thing.

Simply Putting Fish IN the Net

Some of you just aren't ready to get "sporty" yet and just need to put some fish in the net.  Nothing wrong with that.  I like a good haul as much as anyone.  The ultimate set up and strategy for simply getting some body count is to light line nymph with a Yarn indicator or 1/2" Thingamabobber (the little guy).

Light Line Nymph Fishing 

I have posted a ton of articles in the past on this, but I think this video really summarizes the right system.  If you have seen it, skip to the Quick Hitters below along with a fly list.

Quick Hitters
  • If there is frost on the ground, fish walking speed water or slower
  • If the air temps are over 50 degrees in the morning when you start, fish the riffles
  • 5' below your indicator is about average for depth from this point on through winter.  
  • Use 2 small flies (#14 and a #18 or #20) rather than a stonefly nymph and a dropper.
  • Look for color changes... brown to green.  if you cast into the green you won't have the same success as casting over the brown and drifting into the green
  • There is no such thing as too small of a fly
  • Yarn indicators!  - Cut these down with scissors to about half size for small nymphs
  • Get an Indicator Comb.  You will love it and never look back.  
  • If you are snagging bottom more than every 10 casts lighten it up.  

Small Nymphs for Fall

Consider this, in the fall you will likely throw casts over the same water again and again and again.  Having a variety of nymphs to choose from is very important for your success.  On the Yakima River, and most other rivers, the water flows are way down which condenses the fish to holes and obvious holding lies.  Because of this, fly matters.  Work the water for a series of drifts moving around a bit.  RE-WORK the water with another nymph.  Easy peasy.

I like 5X Flurocarbon to the top fly, 6X to the bottom.

  1. I can attest to the crazy great fishing on the Yak right now. In the previous week, I had 3 days of fishing, all 30+ fish days , some up to 17" to the net (and a bunch I didn't land!). On a small variety of drys (Stimulator, Comparaduns, Adams) and nymphs (BH Pheasant tail, BH Hare's Ear, BH Mayfly (light Cahill-ish)). Seems like the fish are already podding up, and look for flashing in mid-stream. Great time of the year to be wading - enjoy!
  2. Gracious Amigo!!! That is what I am talking about!!!
  3. I wish more shops could put out such a thorough report! Heading to Yakima tomorrow for a week with the Mother in Law, and I think I will take a couple days to fish this beautiful river.
  4. Great report Joe, would like to see Yak river reports regularly so if we can't get over we can at least live it through the eyes of others. The river is beautiful right now, was over recently and mixed things up as you have reported and landed 20 to 30 fish with some very big fish in the mix - it's time to get out there, I'll see you this weekend.
  5. Awesome! On my way!
  6. Outstanding! Now if you guys get a real "local" lager/pilsner on draft I will testify that Reds is the place!
  7. Excellent! Too many fly fishing shop staff are vague when it comes to sharing information. Don't they get it! Where do you think I'll take my business? Somewhere that shares details or not.
  8. Skittering an Oct. caddis near the seam between moving and slack water produced some large trout at dusk tonight. I saw several caddis leave the surface at last light, and the trout started coming to the top soon after. They were still taking the fly long after I could no longer see it.
  9. Thanks for all the information, Joe! My hip replacement is healing pretty quickly and I hope to be wading and floating the River very soon. Hopefully, the first week in October.