Setting Adrift to Fly Fish the Yakima River

Setting Adrift to Fly Fish the Yakima River

October 08, 2018

Words by Joey Mara; Photos by Daniel Silverberg and Joey Mara

Thick forest fire smoke hung amongst the ponderosa pines in the late August air as the five of us prepared to launch our boats on the banks of the Yakima River. Danny, Pat, Mike, Josh and myself had been eagerly awaiting this moment for weeks. Camping overnight on a river while shooting photos/video and fly fishing requires a LOT of planning. It didn’t help that we were bringing a pile of gear worthy of a Nat Geo shoot. Cameras, tripods, a drone, camping equipment, gas fireplace, hammocks, 12 rods, Paco the dog, chairs, lanterns, a cooler – the list went on and on. Everything needed to find its place and be waterproofed in case we flipped.

 

Photo by Joey Mara

Photo by Daniel Silverberg

 

Let's talk about beer. An extremely critical item for any weekend warrior or die hard fly fisherman. We’ve all had the dreaded “warm Bronson” on the second day of camping because the ice in your crappy cooler melted. Come on! How old are we? Not only did the Cascade Mountain Tech 80 qt Super Cooler keep our beer, ice, and even a little food cold while in direct sunlight for days, but it fit perfectly into the boat frame.

 

Photo by Daniel Silverberg

Photo by Joey Mara

 

Thankfully, a good omen greeted us at the boat launch in the form of a friendly feline who desperately wanted to join our party. But the idea of three guys plus a cat and a dog in one boat seemed unreasonable. So, our flotilla of two shoved off and the anticipation finally abated. The Yakima River is known as Washington’s best trout stream and it’s one we’ve been fishing for almost 20 years. What makes the upper canyon section between the town of Cle Elum and Ellensburg special is the scenery. The landscape transforms from mountains and thick forest to desert plains in the span of a few miles.

 

Photo by Joey Mara

Photo by Daniel Silverberg

 

While the Yakima doesn’t have big whitewater, there are some tricky sweepers and narrow braided channels that make it a fun row. The real challenge was keeping our giant weighed down boat in position for each fisherman to make an accurate cast. This difficulty was compounded by the fact that Paco the dog frequently became entangled in the fly lines at our feet and a hot summer sun was burning down through a smoky haze. Relief came with constant water gun fights between the boats and of course icy cold beers from our cooler.

 

Photo by Daniel Silverberg

Photo by Daniel Silverberg

 

Small islands dot the river and made for ideal spots to pull over and wade a while or take a break to goof off. We were hoping the fish would take a dry fly, which floats on the surface. In order to maximize our chances, several rods were rigged up with different setups on each boat. Breaking off flies on rocks and trees occurred frequently when we fished on the go and having those extra rods ready was crucial if we were to keep fishing.

 

Photo by Joey Mara

Photo by Daniel Silverberg

 

The grassy banks of the Yakima are home to a smorgasbord of grasshoppers. Every well-minded fly fisherman will tell you that fishing “hoppers” is one of their favorite methods for tricking trout. Accuracy is paramount here. Place the fly directly on the edge of the river where a real grasshopper is most likely to land. Six inches away from the bank or less is the rule. Even better if you can hit the grass and drag it into the water without snagging. By the end of the day, everyone had touched a fish and the mood was jovial.

 

Photo by Joey Mara

Photo by Joey Mara

 

Our camp was located halfway through the float near an abandoned ranch. An amazing sand beach and a giant fishing hole made it an ideal location to spend the night. Once the hammocks were hung and camp was set, a huge flock of turkeys flew over to our side of the river. A couple minutes later the drone was in the air capturing the commotion. Over fifty turkeys had invaded the hillside behind camp! Seeing the birds up close quickly turned our minds towards food. Camp cooking is something we take very seriously. Fortunately, my jalapeno bacon cheeseburgers were on the menu and everyone was treated to a gourmet riverside meal. As we proceeded to unwind around the fire, burger comas overtook us and the last beers of the evening were slurped. Bed came early and easily that night.

 

Video by Joey Mara 

 

As we awoke and brewed our coffee in a search for clarity, a sense of responsibility to catch more fish fell on those of us who had not yet been satisfied. Leaving a trip without landing a solid fish or two is unsettling when you’ve been at it as long as we have. Since we were fully entrenched in the desert section of the canyon, hopes were high. Every pocket would be picked apart, every run thoroughly worked over. You have to see the fish in your mind before you can catch it. This is where hydrodynamics, entomology, fly fishing and the human mind collide. Where is the fish likely to be? What insect is it likely to be keyed on? Can I make the cast necessary to present what I think is the right fly to that fish?

 

Photo by Daniel Silverberg

Photo by Daniel Silverberg

 

In one split second, everything lines up. The slot machine is reading triple cherries and an opportunity presents itself. The gaping white mouth of a 20” rainbow floats up from that spot you picked out. Time slows down and adrenaline surges through your veins as you wait for the fly to be engulfed. He annihilates the hopper and retreats toward the riverbed. You lift the rod and the line comes tight. The reel sings your favorite song as the fish peels the line. A smile lights up your face and suddenly, you’re the richest person alive.

 

 Photo by Joey Mara

 

SHOP THE GEAR USED ON THIS TRIP: 

80 QT SUPER COOLER

ULTRALIGHT PACKABLE HIGH-BACK CAMP CHAIRS

STAINLESS STEEL INSULATED TUMBLERS

POP-UP LED LANTERN

Comments

MaryLou

MaryLou said:

Great story and pictures. Keep them coming.

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