Friday, July 11, 2008

July 6, 2008: Yakima River and Rocky Ford Report

In short, a FANTASTIC day of fly-fishing.

Leaving Casey with my sister's family (visiting from Byron Bay, Australia), Amy and I got up at (gulp) 5:30AM on Sunday morning. We stopped at the Safeway in North Bend to gas up the car and get some breakfast at the Starbucks. By 8:30 we were stopping at the Bullfrog Flats area of the upper Yakima river. The water was higher than I've ever seen it there but it was still definitely fishable.

I hooked a good fish on my first cast in some slack water just downstream from the launch we had parked at. I saw it roll a few times before it got off in the current. Appeared to be a 10" rainbow. We fished the river down to a beautiful a productive pool where Amy got a whitefish and I got another 10" rainbow. By now we both had dual-nymph indicator rigs: prince nymphs on top and copper johns on the bottom.

The Ringer Loop area of the Yakima River

Next we drove onward past Ellensburg to the Ringer Loop area and parked at "The Corral." Here the river is carving away the bank. You can see the jagged edge of the meadow in the picture above. It seemed like a very unlikely place to catch fish but Amy suggested we try it anyway. I didn't think much would come of it because the water was so fast and so turbulent. I plunked the rig into the water and the current sucked the whole thing under. I could see it quite clearly so I just let it continue. Suddenly I felt a twang on the end of the line -- it was a 12" rainbow. We had a little trouble netting it but we managed. A few casts later, I got a 14" rainbow tucked right up against the bank. This fish had taken the prince nymph. Here's a picture of Amy fishing that same spot.

Fishing undercut bank

We fished for another hour at Ringer Loop without catching anything more than dinks so we took a break for lunch and drove into Ellensburg. Amy was in the mood for Chinese Buffet. So we gorged and gorged until we were as full as ticks and then we got back in her CRV and drove out to Rocky Ford (SE of Ephrata, if you've never been there).

At the first parking area at Rocky Ford there was an older gentleman there with his wife and son; he was showing them the big fish cruising around. He and I got to talking and before long he was loading me up with about a dozen of his flies; mostly damsels, since that's what was flying about. I protested because he REALLY loaded me up but he would have none of it. Its a good thing he did that because his flies came in handy the rest of the afternoon. Amy and I moved down to the third parking area (by the ranch). I'd never been down there before but WOW are there some big fish there!

I talked with some young guys coming off the water and they said they were catching fish with hoppers "the bigger the better" they said. Sounded good to me. I had one giant 2" foam hopper in my box so I tied it on and began flinging it around. It got some looks which was exciting. I cast it out over the larger part of the creek and was stripping it back when a giant beast broke the surface and chomped on it. I saw the fishes eye flash in the water and then my line snapped. Damn. That's going to look funny sticking out of that fishes mouth until someone else gets him and takes it off.

This fish was WAY bigger than it looks in this picture I swear.

Next I tried one of the almost photo-realistic damsel nymphs the gentlemen had given me. I put it under a fluffy indicator and was drifiting through the current. Soon it disappeared and I set the hook on a rainbow. He was FAT.

Since Amy hadn't caught anything larger than a dink I gave her my rod hoping that it was the hot rod. I took her (pink) rod and tied on one of the damsel dries that the gentleman had given me and I started casting it toward rises in the shallows. Before too long there was a swirl and I set the hook on what turned out to be a hog. I'm guessing he was 20" or more and three or four pounds. By the time we got the damsel out of his mouth it had no more wings on it and it was just a small blue line with a hook in it -- unusable now.

Sunset on Rocky Ford

The light started to fade and the fish started rising everywhere; it seemed they were rising to midges. I tied on a mosquito pattern with a little snowcone dropper and cast until I thought my arm was going to fall off with no success. It was downright frustrating because there were so many rises and they were all ignoring what we thought were good presentations of decent flies.

On my way out I stood next to the bridge and cast upstream so I could see the fly against the reflection of the sunset. Suddenly a giant snout rose up and inhaled the fly. I was not expecting it. The fish began leaping all over the place. It was big - probably 25" and more. It leapt 4 feet out of the water several times -- boy he was PISSED OFF. I had no idea what to do -- there was nowhere to land that fish and my net is only about 15" across. The fish took off downstream underneath the bridge. I tried to give him some slack but he was too fast and he broke me off. That was fine with me.

As were were leaving Rocky Ford I reached down to grab some pop cans that I had left. When I realized something was moving underneath them I backed up fast -- it was a snake of some kind. Copper color. Juvenile. And on our way home Amy found a tick on her neck. Gross!!!

So the final tally of the day had me at a half-dozen or so fish to hand. Sadly, Amy had caught only dinks but she was okay with it. She'd been outfishing me for a month anyway so I guess it was just my turn to get some fish. We finally rolled into our driveway at 12:30AM and we were exhausted. What an awesome day.

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