Monday, August 4, 2008


Combining Fly-Fishing and Mountain Biking

My Trek Navigator Hybrid

The Iron Horse Trail (also called the John Wayne Trail) parallels the Yakima river up and down/stream of the town of Cle Elum. The Trail is perfect for riding and the river is perfect for fishing. This time of year the water up there is low and easily wadable. You don't expect to find big fish up there this time of year though.

Anyway, I had earned a full fishin' day on Sunday. I got up early and packed up all my stuff. I grimly looked at my flybox. It was practically empty. All out of prince nymphs. Almost out of chironomids. Only a few copper johns left. And just one gnary Pat's Stonefly. The only one I've ever tied. It was on the wrong size hook and for some reason had an odd number of legs. It was truly pathetic but I stuck it in my hat anyway. I figured it probably wouldn't matter because recent reports from the river had been terrible.

Bike on the Iron Horse Bridge
On the old, rail-less bridge: The Cle Elum on one side

An hour of driving got me up to Cle Elum where I parked the car at the Depot Cafe along the Iron Horse Trail. In one of the pictures above, you can see what a 9 foot flyrod looks like sticking out of a pannier. I only ran into one other person on the Iron Horse Trail all day, and no other fishermen, which is somewhat surprising given how beautiful the weather was and the fact that it was a weekend day. The trail was hot and dusty but the water was green and cool.

Upper Yakima from Iron Horse Bridge
Now looking the other way up the Yakima

In the second pool that I fished I let my hare's ear/snowcone combo drift to the back of the pool and hooked a nice fish! I was so excited because I honestly wasn't expecting much. My delight turned a little mellow when it turned out to be just a whitefish. Hey, it was still a good fish though. Moving downstream, in the next pool there was a 10" rainbow; I figured that would probably be the best fish of the day. Boy was I wrong. Around the next bend, in the very next pool in front of some ladies standing on a front lawn, I hooked a true giant of a fish. When I finally landed it I was somewhat mystified. It wasn't a trout, and it seemed too big to be a whitefish. It was about 18" and about three pounds. It had the mouth of a whitefish but large scales like a carp. He had taken the bottom fly: the black snowcone. I was trying to get it back when the fish bolted out and broke the line. I honestly don't know what it was but lets just say it was a giant whitefish I guess.

Rootball Hole
About to catch three big trouts!

Downstream from the houses I fished an elbow in the river very hard. This particular curl of the river is very productive and in fact there's a trail that goes right to it from the main road. But this pool yielded no fish. That's okay because I was still smiling from that giant whitefish-thing. Now there was time for a decision. If I crossed the river I could get to another three pools that have fished well for me in the past. But the crossing was tricky and a little dangerous and I wasn't sure if I was in the mood for it. Also, coming back would be even more difficult. I decided to go for it. Nothing ventured nothing gained right?

Yakima Trout
Very Cooperative Fish!

On the other side, I tied on that lame Pat's Stonefly from this morning. On the second cast into the pool the indicator drifted slightly too fast so I set the hook. Aha! Another good fish! This time it wasn't a white fish. It was a big wild rainbow and he'd taken the stonefly. He and I had a long fight and in the end he was wrapped up in both flies. Getting him off and back into the water took a long time so I didn't get a picture. He was beautiful though: probably around 17". A few casts later I hooked an identical fish in the same pool. Either this one was foul hooked or it maybe it was the same rainbow that was just released and he was embarassed because he never showed his face: only his tail came out of the water. Eventually he got the hook out of himself and got away. Oh well.

The smaller of the big fishes of the day

In the very next pool the indicator did that funny drag again so I set the hook and was surprised by a THIRD nice trout. This one I managed to get a few pictures from as he was quite cooperative. He was smaller than the other fish: maybe 14 or 15". He, too, was quite pretty and fatter than the others. I could scarcely believe my luck: catching these nice fish during the wrong month, during the wrong time of day using a terrible fly in the wrong part of the river. I'm not complaining though!

I continued riding the trail and later in the afternoon fished mostly terrestrials (read: grasshopper flies). I hooked a few smaller fish in the fast water below the confluence of the Yakima and Cle Elum rivers. I called it a day kind of early and came home to happy family. What a great summer Sunday.

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