By Doug Scates
Did you see on September 26th the colorful and informative spread on 'fly fishing the Yakima' in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer? It was in the Thursday edition of travel & outdoor getaways.
A lot of folks did. I didn't
You see, I decided to fish the Yakima for the first time on the 28th. I had heard about this great fishery just east of the Cascades, and of the Yakima River Canyon, and of the lower flows that permitted wading this time of year, and of the rich supply of insects that permitted the rainbows to grow to very large sizes. I retained this information over time adding to it whenever the conversation came to fly fishing as it inevitably always does.
So I decided to give it a try and why not? Saturday was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky and temperatures in the mid eighties. Stopping on my way by Cooper's Fly Shop in Ellensburg, Robert set me up with the appropriate flies and tips to land the big one's. Being the sponge for fly fishing knowledge that I have become I noticed a copy of the aforementioned article on the counter. Robert was kind enough to give me a complementary copy (which I tucked under my arm and set on the seat next to me unread) and I was on my way.
I found what appeared to be a great place on the river near the Umtanum foot bridge. With the river making a gentle and wide bend near the bridge it's easy to see the lay of the land. Upon surveying as far as the eye could see I immediately noticed that I was not alone. In fact I needed to search for a spot of my own. I spotted a nice area with over hanging brush and trees that I felt sure concealed a large predatory rainbow. Little did I realize, I was the one that would feel prayed upon.
The spot I choose on the river lay approximately 100 yards down stream of another angler. Just after I started fishing an angler arrived and staked his claim to the section of river about 75 yards down from me. As I set up, already waist deep in the river, I watched the fisherman upriver of me, he didn't appear to be having any luck.
I could feel the power of the river, countless volumes of water trying to take me with them on their never ending journey to the sea. I drew out my thermometer and placed it in the river. I watched the somewhat silted water flowing past for signs of food and there were many. The climate on the west side of the mountains doesn't allow for this much food in the water. The hills around me, blanketed with sun baked grasses, were ablaze with a beautifully brilliant golden hue from the late afternoon sun. Life is good! I scooped up a few insects for inspection and removed the thermometer, it read 58 degrees. It was about 5:00 PM and I told myself the fishing should be picking up soon. Fish were rising all around and some showed their size to be quite large. I decided to fish the current out directly in front of me. Casting out and up I let my PMD drift down and in. Bingo! my first cast produced a strike and a hookup! With the eyes of the two fishermen on either side watching my every move I fought valiantly only to be out maneuvered and proceeded to lose the fish. I'm sure the disappointment in my eyes was hard to read at 75-100 yards but my body language told the story. I had lost my first, of many I'm sure, Yakima rainbow. I cast again near the spot of the first, no luck.
As time went on I began noticing more and more fishermen in the river. After covering the main flow of the river I decided to work the shoreline. Casting in and down produced a couple of missed strikes and my first Yakima trout! a 10" rainbow. Again it appeared that I was being watched and this time more closely. By closely I mean geographically. The fisherman down stream was moving closer to my casting range and I imagined him eyeballing the area that was producing strikes. About a half-hour had passed and I kept working that productive area close to shore occasionally resting the shoreline and working the main channel. I had no choice there was nowhere to go. Every time I would turn to work the main current the angler to my right would move in a little closer, all the while, I imaged him eyeing the shore line where I was catching fish. Keeping one eye on the encroacher and one on the fly was making it hard to concentrate, not to mention the wonders it was doing for my wilderness experience! A feeling of desperation suddenly over came me. I decided I had to at regular intervals turn and cast in his direction to keep him at bay. This was war! It was a test of wills. The encroacher wanting to divide and conquer and me protecting my wilderness experience. He was now nearly within my casting range. I was consumed. I found myself unconsciously stripping more and more line as to stretch my territorial boundary to its limit. Bang! I snap off (in his direction) what could be the longest cast of the day! With so many fishermen in the river there was no retreating! I had to stand and fight! Its Ironic, respecting the water around the other anglers had entrapped me.
Another 10 minutes pass, he now was easily within overlap casting range. I kept up my assault on the intruder. Occasionally getting a fish to rise to my fly didn't help to convince the enemy to retreat. Of course I now was concentrating as much on the invader as I was on fishing which, no doubt contributed to my lack of success. My outdoor experience was now snowballing out of control. Bang!, another shot fired in my one man war, I toss off what could be the longest cast of my adult life! My line, leader and tippet collapse in a heap. Screw presentation, this is war!
The dust has settled. The enemy has retreated. The smell of victory is in the air! It's nearly dark now and I'm exhausted mentally and physically. So why do I feel like a beaten man? Hmmm, next time I'm fishing in the middle of the week!
© 2000 Doug Scates
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