Friday, November 29, 2013

The Yakima's Other Season

Plain and simple, the fishing on the Yakima during the Winter and early Spring can be incredible. Often times the river is low and clear and the fish tend to be 'funneled' and isolated to specific zones. Food sources are significantly less at this time of year so the trout and whitefish will target the available foods in the 'feed me' zones. Generally on the Yakima some of the best winter calories for the trout consist of Skwala Stone flies, Midge pupae and adults, Whitefish spawn (egg patterns), Caddis pupa and forage fish.

Typical 'feed me' zones can be described as defined drop-offs and slow downs following large riffles or less isolated waters such as long deep pools. Big broad open flats, riffles and pocket water with multiple current lines are inviting and intriguing but certainly not isolated . The trout are often 'holed' up at this time of year and will move with in that hole to 'funnels' zones. The fish are definitely more migratory within a zone during winter's low volume and cold water season. Usual water temps for this time of year range from 35-40 degrees.

Let's paint a picture here. 9am in the morning and the water temperature is 35 degrees. The midge activity is minimal. By about 11am the water temp has warmed up to 36 and the trout are starting to move up from the depths of 'the hole' toward the drop off that forms the hole. Feeding becomes more active as the midge pupae are hatching more regular and the trout target the pupae along with the eggs of the whitefish. (Whitefish spawn in the flat riffles of tail outs and the riffles at the heads of pools). The water temp peaks at 38 degrees and holds at that temperature from 1-2:30. The fish actively seek the aforementioned food sources combined with the occasional Skwala Stone nymph. The Skwala stonefly perpetuates with a two year life cycle and hatches in March+/- on most western streams, including the Yakima. Therefore, the most mature adult Skwala nymphs are active during the winter time as they are not far away from their emergence. (hatching). At about 3:30 the water temps start to drop usually and given the strength of the subsurface activity the trout may continue to feed or may settle back into the hole where they can conserve energy until the following day, eating here and there. Fishing streamers (forage fish) is a great technique at all times of the day in the winter. Sometimes, prior and post to the described days activity is optimal because the fish are not typically feeding hard, yet the calorie intake of a small fish is hard to pass up.

While every day is not exactly the same, the above description is representative of 'Winter Fishing'.

When conditions align for optimal fishing, some of the best fishing/catching on the Yakima River can be in the Winter. Proper attire is essential as the water temps and air temps demand quality outdoor gear designed to cushion the elements. Currently the air temps are ranging from 28-40 degrees. Water temps are in the mid to upper 30's.

Aside from the actual fishing, Winter brings a new perspective to rivers. The landscape is 'pared to the bone'. The birds of prey are on the hunt. The Big Horn sheep are wintering in the Lower Canyon after a long and arduous rutting season. The most patient fisher of all, the Blue Heron, is present daily. Small heards of elk find refuge near the river bottom especially from Ellensburg upstream. Rarely is the river crowded; In fact, never.

Winter Trout Fishing is not for everyone. Rarely does the airtemp reach above 44 degrees, layers of clothing are a must and fingerless or fingered polypropylene gloves are your best friend. If there is a wind, the chill factor can be biting. On a warm winter day, the weather is tolerable for the average angler. On a normal winter day the temperatures are marginal for the average fisherperson and on a cold winter day the temperatures are basically not enjoyable for the consensus. Winter fishing is for the angler, not for the fair weathered interested fisherman. Winter fishing is for someone who enjoys fishing and not catching. The catching can be great in the Winter, but when it isn't, the weather is an obstacle that most fair weathered fishers would like to do without.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Let it swing

The fishing has been tough. You step into a run and it is time to pick out a fly. The last 5 runs you fished, nothing worked. Big, small, loud, subtle, didn't matter; nothing worked. You grab the nicest one in the box that you tied; then you put it back. No way are you going to toss that fly in this run because if it doesn't catch a fish, you will have just blown your ace.

However, you realize that all you can do is fish the run to the best of your ability with that killer bug. Life is good. It is what you make of it. So be the best you can be, fish as well as you can and be happy with it.