River For All Seasons...
A success story it has been and lets hope it continues. It is the
jewel right in our back yard. It is a river for all seasons; The Yakima.
Scaling from the forested East slope of the Cascade mountains to the
farmlands of the Kittitas valley before entering the semi desert canyon
as it heads south towards its final destination of the Columbia river,
the Yakima river paints many faces. It has been a pleasure to learn
some of the intricacies the river has and a joy to realize that the
learning curve continues to bend.
For all intents and purposes the Blue Ribbon
fishery begins at Keechelus Dam and ends at Roza dam. However, the
river below Roza dam while not listed as a Blue Ribbon catch and release
fishery still sports decent numbers of Rainbow trout for quite a few
miles. Eventually the water temps and quality of the river diminish
so much that a resident trout population is not able to survive in
any numbers. The Blue Ribbon stretch of the Yakima is approximately
75 miles long and after Roza dam the river travels approximately another
125 miles before entering the Columbia River. It is in this stretch
after Roza dam that the Yakima River is listed as "one of the
most intensively irrigated areas in the United States."
The watershed really is a gem: From the multiple
eagles inhabiting the waterway during the winter, to the Bighorn sheep
calling the banks its home, to the mule deer, the heron, the hawk,
the cougar, bobcat, black bear, elk and the trout. From the water
it supplies the farmer and the recreational venue it provides for
water sports, to the basalt daisy which is only indigenous to the
Yakima river canyon and the incredible white ash line in the lower
canyon in remembrance of a time that man was not here and Mt Rainier
deposited its mark. The river is truly a gem.
is a river of many faces from its terrain and seasons to the tactics
and methodology used to fool the trout. Fishing techniques range
from far and fine to chucking big uglies and all angles in between.
Each season calls for its' own repertoire.
The River gives up some incredible fish.
does the river come from--- Managed flows...
The Yakima is a managed flow river. From
the first of September through the early spring the river flows
at a mandatory minimum or more depending on releases related to
the Bureau of Reclamation forecasts for influx into the reservoir;
this is especially true in the late winter and early spring. During
late spring and summer the river flows based on the irrigation needs
of the water rights and the need to make room for the snow melt
into the reservoir. In a low snow pack year the reservoirs will
most likely not ever fill to capacity. In a large snow pack year
the reservoirs may fill to capacity and H20 may need to be released
to simply make room for more anticipated storage needs. It is basically
a strategic guessing game based on stats, upcoming weather and capacity
levels. The goal of the B of R is to make sure the reservoirs are
as full as
possible at the end of run-off as well as
to meet mandatory minimum flows for fish habitat. Every year around
the first of September the B of R performs what is referred to as
the flip flop. This is when the Yakima flows are decreased from
the demands of the high irrigation flows of summer to basically
the mandatory minimums that have been instated. This lowering of
the water is a major benefit to the spawning Chinook Salmon. The
lower flows allow the Chinook to propagate successfully.
The Yakima is technically a tail water that is fed by three main
reservoirs.. Many tail waters are bottom fed where the Yakima is
a combination of both bottom and top water reservoir releases.
Elum River Confluence
Elum River Confluence
Boat Launch(East Cle Elum State of WA Access)
Cle Elum River feeds the Yakima system and it is a bottom fed dam.
Kachees and Keechelus also feed the Yakima system and they too are
middle or bottom fed releases yet they both drain into one holding
reservoir, Lake Easton. Lake Easton although lake like is not considered
a lake but more a wide spot in the river. Lake Easton does feed
the Upper Yakima Proper from a top water release and therefore warms
with the air temperatures of the season. In the winter it is colder
and in the summer it is warmer. One benefit of a true bottom fed
tail water is that the water temps are fairly constant throughout
the season, providing adequate temperature, in fact prime temperatures
for aquatic insect hatches year round. Examples of bottom fed tailwaters
would include, The Bighorn, The Missouri, and the Green. The Yakima
being a mixture of both is more like a freestone river, fluctuating
in temperatures similar to that of a river without a dam. The three
main reservoirs that feed the Yakima as mentioned earlier are the
Cle Elum, Kachees and Kechelus. Both the Keechelus and Kachees reservoirs
are channeled into the Easton Reservoir from which the Upper Yakima
proper begins. This is also the point from which the KRD cannel
draws a large amount of water for irrigation purposes in the Kittitas
valley. Typically the upper Yakima river proper will flow at approximately
350 CFS on average from the Lake Easton reservoir and the water
they draw from the Easton reservoir into the KRD cannel during irrigation
season will almost match that number! The Upper Yakima Proper before
the Cle Elum River confluence is a stretch of river that flows at
the most consistent level on a year average as shown in the following
graph. Besides during the typical run-off season this particular
stretch of the Yakima river flows day in and day out with the most
Approximately 13 miles downstream from where
the Upper Yakima Proper begins at Lake Easton, another dam-controlled
river enters the Yakima. This river ( the Cle Elum) originates from
a reservoir with the same name approximately 9 miles from the joining.
The Cle Elum River contributes most of the water volume to the Yakima
River between its confluence and the city of Yakima during the irrigation
season. The flows on the Cle Elum River are very low other than
during peak irrigation which is from June to September. The chart
below shows the incredible fluctuations the Cle Elum River experiences.
The inconsistent and major fluctuation in water flows inhibits the
biomass of the river. The average flow during Non- irrigation season
is 180 CFS and during run-off and prime irrigation season the river
flows anywhere from 1800-4500CFS depending on irrigation demands
and influx of snow melt into the reservoir. The trout population
of the system is certainly less in numbers than the Yakima, due
to the inconsistencies yet there are certainly trout in the river.
of the snow that melts on the East slope drainage that feed the
Yakima is caught in the reservoirs. There are however tributaries
below the reservoirs that contribute to the Yakima that will add
flows of significance, especially during the spring. The largest
of the tributaries is the Teanaway River, which enters the Yakima
approximately 10 miles downstream from the Cle Elum River confluence.
Typically by the end of summer the Teanaway will be flowing at approximately
20 CFS and yet during spring run-off the Teanaway can flow up to
2,500 CFS. Other tributaries that contribute to the Yakima river
below the Teanaway are the Swuak, Tanuem, and Wilson. The Tanuem
could and would be a larger tributary but much of the water is diverted
for irrigation needs as are waters out of many of the other smaller
tributaries before they enter the Yakima.
The Wilson/Cherry creek tributary enters the
Yakima just above the lower canyon and is most certainly a clarity
inhibitor much of the year. The Cherry creek drains much of the
Kittitas valley's irrigation canals and usually flows quite a few
shades darker than the Yakima. After the confluence of Cherry Creek
and the Yakima, the river is quite a bit less clear yet can produce
some of the most prolific hatches. Some of the tributaries that
contribute to the Yakima above the Teanaway River include, Big and
Little Creek as well as Silver Creek.
- This graph depicts the average clarity
of the entire river. The clarity designations will obviously be
affected by Spring Run-off etc.
Round Flow Chart for the Yakima River at Umtanum
the Yakima can be easy and difficult at times, depending on the
water flows and where you plan on accessing the river. Hopefully
this chart on average river flows will help you understand the most
practical times for foot access on the river.
(This Chart graph is based on the Yakima River below the Cle Elum
wading access - - - - - - - --- - - - 500Cfs to 1,500 Cfs
More difficult wading access - - - - 1,500 to 2,000 CFS
Difficult wading access - - - - - - - -- 2,000 to 2,500 CFS
Mostly restricted to boat fishing - - 2,500 and up
above graph is fairly ambiguous in that a strong wader can work
up a particular bank when the river is flowing at 4000 CFS; What
the above graph does is describe a generalization!
are certain stretches of river that lend themselves to better wading
by the nature of their design. For instance the Upper Flatlands
and the Farmlands provide easier wading as an overall rule just
because of size of the rocks evident in the terrain. The river rock
tends to be smaller and uniform and easier to walk on in these parts
of the river. Also the river braids and channels therefore promoting
smaller side channels that are more easily waded. In comparison
the Upper and Lower canyon rocks tend to be larger and less uniform.
The river doesn't offer as much in the way of smaller channels and
is generally one big river.
Float Distance Chart
Average Low Flow float distances (500-1000CFS)
Average Med Flow float distances (1200-2500CFS)
Average High Flow float distances (2750-4200CFS)
following chart rates each stretch using a 1-10 scale; 1 being the
worst and 10 being the best in a variety of parameters. Again, charts
are a bit ambiguous in that a relatively experienced oarsman might
find a certain stretch that is rated difficult to be fairly simple
a beginning wading angler might find a stretch that is listed as
easy wading to be difficult.
Access: This pertains to how many places a person can actually step
into the water and fish.
Bank Access: This refers to how much ground a person can fish from
alongside the river
Ease of Wading in Low Water: Related to the actual difficulty of
Ease of Wading in High Water:" "
Drift Boat Ease: Has to do with if the stretch is navigable with
drift boat and large rafts.
Personal Boat Ease: Refers to the ability to navigate the particular
stretch with a small personal watercraft.
Vehicle Access: A reference to how much of the river is paralleled
by a road.
Nelson WA St.
Cle Elum Bridge
Boat Launch(East Cle Elum Wildlife Launch)
Boat Launch to
Raft Rentals 15.3 river miles
River View Lmuma (Squaw)Creek
Elum River Confluence
Elum River Confluence
Boat Launch(East Cle Elum State of WA Access)
The river between Lake Easton and the
Cle Elum River confluence flows at an average of about 350 CFS.
Access is difficult in that it borders many private summer home
developments. Floating certain stretches of this section is not
recommended with a large raft or drift boat. From the dam down to
the Washington State Dept. of Wildlife access just below the LDS
Ranch as well as from the Bullfrog access to the Cle Elum River
confluence there are many log jams and a few dead end braided channels
that are definitely impassable with large rafts and drift boats.
These two sections of this stretch could be navigated with smaller
personal float boats, yet extreme caution is recommended and only
intermediate to advanced boatman should attempt. The stretch between
the State Wildlife access and the Bullfrog/ Iron Horse access is
navigable by larger drift boats and rafts. The Upper Yakima is predominantly
Rainbows with a small mixture of Cutthroat, and Brook Trout as well
as a few Bull Trout. The best chance to see a black bear along the
Yakima is either in this stretch or the Upper Canyon.
This stretch of river sports some braided
channels and broad riffles. Housing some fine habitat for the wild
Rainbows, Cutthroat and a few Brookies the Upper Flatland stretch
has either fairly easy or difficult access. Much of the lower fourth
of this stretch is bordered by private land and not easy to drive
or walk up to. The section above the lower fourth is easily accessed
by the Hansen pond road access that parallels the river for approximately
2 miles. Decent wade fishing even in high water and awesome wade
access in low water makes this stretch appealing. Hatches are not
is consistent yet can be prolific.
This particular part of the river is certainly a beautiful long
14 mile stretch of the Yakima. While foot and car access is at best
not easy from the semi adjacent State Route Highway 10, the John
Wayne trail does parallel literally 75% of this stretch in close
proximity. The John Wayne trail access is by foot, non motorized
bikes and horses. Highway 10 for the most part of this stretch is
a steep grade away from the river. There are points at which the
river and Hwy 10 are fairly close which allows an angler to access
the river without hiking, yet these are few and far between. For
the avid biker and hiker, some of the best access to the Upper Canyon
is via the John Wayne trail.
This Upper Canyon is loaded with large boulders and offers minimal
wading access at higher volumes. Water clarity is generally beautiful
and the Cutthroat population is definitely more prominent in this
stretch than any other stretch. When this stretch is at lower volumes
there is good wading opportunities. Three major tributaries enter
this particular stretch of the river; The Teanaway, Swuak and Tanuem.
The Farmland stretch of the river probably has the most character
featuring multiple islands and braided channels: truly one of the
best stretches for trout food and spawning habitat as well as wading.
Bordered predominantly by major cottonwood flats, the deer and elk
population in this stretch is fairly high per mile. We generally
like to fish it at lower volumes yet this section offers great fishing
at all levels. There are certainly a good number of sweepers in
this area of the river and there is a specific area we refer to
as the "S" curves. At times over the years there have
been complete blockages making it difficult for drift boats and
the like. Although the wading is good at all levels, vehicle access
is basically nonexistent. The Farmland stretch is bordered by major
ranches and private access. The best way to fish this stretch in
higher volumes is to float fish as well as float and get out and
wade fish. During lower volumes there are a few put-in accesses
that allow an angler on foot to explore. This stretch also has quite
a few contributing streams that are definitely affected by field
irrigation before they enter the river. The streams tend to be a
bit off color and as one progresses downstream the final affecting
stream is Wilson /Cherry creek which is the most significant in
size and is a definite clarity inhibitor.
Affectionately referred to as the "Yakima Canyon" this
certainly can be some of the most prolific habitat on the river.
Year in and year out probably the most fished stretch on the river.
The Lower canyon is a very easy stretch to drift as it travels through
a basalt and desert landscape that is as appealing to many as is
the fishing. The sage brush country is home to many Bighorn sheep,
deer and good hatches. General water clarity in this stretch is
less due to the stream contributions that are listed above.
The following is a basic hatch chart for the Yakima. I don't claim
to be an entomologist and trout don't speak Latin, yet understanding
the food sources that the trout key on will always help catch more
fish as well instill an appreciation for the ecosystem it is part
is hard to speak only of the river in terms of trout and insects,
yet it most certainly has a piece of many hearts. During a normal
winter the river can fish incredibly well. If there is a month that
one might just want to stay home, hug the kids and drink hot beverages
instead of fishing the Yakima it would most likely be January. Yet
some of the largest trout I have personally seen on the system have
been caught during the month of January. Over the years I have personally
witnessed exceptional fishing in every month of the year.
Seasonal Methodology Chart
Generally, we use as heavy a tippet as possible for the technique
we are utilizing. For example
when streamer fishing we will
generally fish no lighter than 2x and often 0x depending on the
clarity of the river; leaders will be about 7.5-9 feet in length.
When Fishing #8 and bigger dry flies in the summer we never fish
them on less the 3x and will generally use about a 7.5 foot leader.
When fishing #18-20 Blue Wing Olives of the Fall we go down to 6x
and use leaders in the 12 foot length
Streamers, Streamers, Streamers Streamer Techniques of Winter include
fast and slow presentations.
(Spuddlers, Buggers, Clousers.)
Droppers and Indicator style. Nymphing generally in slower deeper
water yet with good midge hatches you will find trout in the shallow
(Stone Nymphs, Brassies, Copper Johns,Prince Nymphs)
Dry Fly fishing is fairly slow other than the Midge hatches which
can be fairly prolific.
(Hatching Midge patterns, Adults #18-22)
fly Fishing with midge soft hackles.
Dry Fly fishing to specific hatches and rises can be absolutely
prolific. Search with dries is average.
(Hatch specific dry flies, Attractors)
Droppers and Indicator style Nymphing generally in the slower to
medium fast waters. Can be incredibly automatic for big fish.
(Variety of Nymphs
.Generally Skwala Stone Nymphs)
Streamers with fast and slow presentations
Fly presentations especially during a March Brown or Caddis emergence
Dry fly fishing is more of a searching type fishing and covering
water; except for the last Hour where all heck can break lose and
there will be plenty of targets to cast to if you can see!
Nymphing with dry droppers and Indicator style---Generally in the
Especially early and late in the day
Wet Fly tactics specifically with the Caddis, Yellow Sallies and
Dry fly fishing to rising fish with decent dry fly searching. Rises
can be prolific!
Nymphing can be unbelievably automatic for
numbers as well as big fish. Small nymphs!
Wet Fly swing can be awesome
If I were to pick my favorite period it
would undoubtedly be this time of year, partly because of the Skwala
Stone fly hatch that occurs on the river during this period. This
hatch is the same one that occurs on the Bitterroot, Clark Fork,
the Blackfoot and other western rivers and is assuredly one of my
favorites. Pre runoff, offers clear, cold water, insects(Blue Wing
Olives, March Browns) and hungry post spawn big trout. Generally
there is less people and ample wildlife. Overall not a numbers game
but definitely good fishing.
Mid April-Mid Jun: This time period is fairly ambiguous as it depends
on how mother nature deals her card as to actually when the snow
melt happens. Typically the snow doesn't all come at once and will
generally come in stages between April 15 and June 15. Remarkably
the fishing can be great during run-off, and it can also be quite
poor. If I were to choose a place to be fishing when the river is
big ugly and brown it would be the lower canyon. The trout will
rise to the surface and feed rhythmically with brown water in the
lower canyon assuming there is a great hatch. The predominant hatches
the lower canyon offers during the run-off period include March
Browns and Caddis. There are others insect during that period yet
usually the aforementioned is the most significant to the trout
for rising patterns.
Streamer fishing and nymphing can also be productive.
Some of the best of the Caddis and PMD's
are during this time which can make for a full day of dry fly fishing.
We also experience some average Salmon Flies and Golden Stones hatches
as well. Water flows can be a bit up and down at this time of year
as the releases for irrigation are based on demand and the fluctuations
can affect the river at times. This is also Green Drake season on
the; Chasing elusive Drake Hatches is a passion for many as the
infamous Drake is never predictable and always elusive. Yet if you
catch it right on the Yakima or any other Western Stream it can
be leg wobbling!
Hoppertunity and Summer stoneflies! Casual
attire, usually wet wading and covering large amounts of water by
boat is the general fare. The Hopper/Stonefly dropper combo can
be the best bet and the evenings can be incredible as the Caddis
and the Stoneflies come out to play. The Flip Flop-This occurs on
or around the 1st of September when the flows of the Yakima decrease
incredibly due to the lack of water needs from the upper Yakima
River basin. What this boils down to is that the river will artificially
drop from approximately 3800CFS to 1200 CFS within a two-week period.
This is the best of the best when it comes
to fishing "far and fine" on the Yakima. If I were to
pick the best of the Fall I would say that it would be the last
week of October and the First week of November. Yet on Dec 2nd ,
we hooked 117 fish standing in one zone for three hours.
This would be the period that most people
would say you are absolutely crazy to go fishing! However we have
had incredible fishing during this time as the water is fairly predictable.
We have also caught some of our largest fish at this time of year!
this information has been helpful
..Please visit us at our
Fly Shop just off of the #109 exit in Ellensburg for the most up
to date info on the river.