If you are looking for a high-quality stream fishing experience for trout, look no further than the Yakima River, Washington’s only Blue Ribbon trout stream. Flowing from Keechelus Lake near Snoqualmie Pass into the Snake River at the Tri-Cities, the river offers cold water fisheries in the upper river and warmwater fishing for bass, catfish, and more in the lower section.
The upper stretch of the Yakima, flowing 75 miles from Easton to Roza Dam in the canyon below Ellensburg, is where the Blue Ribbon trout fishery exists. In this stretch, all of the fishing is a catch-and-release affair. Rainbow trout are found throughout this part of the river, and there are cutthroat trout as well above Cle Elum. Not only are catch-and-release rules in effect, but selective regulations are, too. No bait is allowed, and lures may only have a single barbless hook. Having said that, 19 out of 20 anglers you see fishing the Yakima are fly anglers who come from all over the state to fish from shore or from drift boats, pontoon boats, or rafts to hook into trout measuring from eight to 18 inches or better.
The strict management of this river has paid off. Since this area was designated as a Blue Ribbon trout stream in the 1990s by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, trout populations have flourished. Outdoors writer Terry Sheely, writing about the Yakima River for Washington-Oregon Game & Fish Magazine 10 years ago, reported that in the canyon between Ellensburg and Roza Dam there were “1,129 rainbow trout per mile or one trout for every four and a half feet of river.” With that many fish present, it’s not hard to have a good day of fishing.
Having said that, the Yakima doesn’t always offer easy fishing. It is heavily pressured, and skill is required when it comes to presenting a fly or lure in front of a trout to get it to strike. This is where reading the water comes into play and “matching the hatch” to offer flies that imitate a food source for the trout is a key to success.
As for what kind of flies you should use in October? The staff at the Ellensburg Angler Fly Shop suggests using cranefly, stonefly, caddis, or blue wing olive imitations. Specific flies that are working right now include Pat’s Rubber Legs in coffee, orange, or black; Orange Chubby Chernobyls, Purple Haze, and Pheasant Tail flies.
The Blue Ribbon stretch of the Yakima River is open to fishing all year. There are numerous public access points for do-it-yourself anglers. If you want to learn the ropes of fishing the Yakima for the first time a guided trip could be a good investment. Several fly shops, many of them offering guided outings, can be found in Cle Elum and Ellensburg.
COHO SALMON OPPORTUNITIES:
The return of coho salmon up the Columbia River this fall has exceeded expectations. Some 90,000 adult salmon passed over Bonneville Dam as of Sept. 29, a 50 percent increase over the 10-year average return of 60,000 fish.
One place that fishes very well for coho is the Columbia River just off the mouth of the Klickitat. Try hover fishing cured salmon roe just off the bottom to entice strikes from both coho and fall Chinook salmon.
Other opportunities have come open, too, because of this strong coho run. On the Upper Columbia between Priest Rapids Dam to Rocky Reach Dam near Wenatchee, you can keep up to six salmon a day until Oct. 15 (check the e-regulations for more details). The Icicle River near Leavenworth opened up for coho on Oct. 1 (a full month earlier than last year), as did the Lower Yakima River, and even the Grande Ronde River (at least the Oregon part of it) has opened up for coho salmon; this is the first time this has happened in 40 years.
The bottom line? Now is not only a good time to go fishing on the Yakima River, but also an excellent time to go fishing for coho salmon. Enjoy!