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Sometimes the anticipation is better than the actual trip. Getting your boxes all arranged, your vest just right making sure your tippets and extra leaders are exactly where they should be, then of course forgetting a key item. Thatí s my favorite trick. Thatís the way I thought this trip was going to be. I started about a week earlier and had my fishing partner come over . We tied what we "knew" would work then what we thought might work, and then, well you can always use one of these, right? Then you spend the obligatory amount of time complimenting each other on the pattern tied and saying stuff like " that looks absolutely deadly. Tie me one would yaí"? "I bet this one catches Ď em". "What do you think"? By the end of the tying session we had a deadly arsenal of flies tied. A couple dozen dries down to 24ís. Scuds in sizes almost as small and the assortment of mayfly and midge emergers that go with them. This time of year [February] at Rocky Ford you can expect small flies. Well this trip was anything but the usual [except for the wind]. Things would be different. I had a kind of calm to my preparation and my usual, I canít wait to get there was muted down a step or two. This was especially surprising since I had not grabbed a rod since late November. Anyway, I have learned that I canít act excited about the trip around my wife. If it looks like Iím going to have too much fun or really enjoy myself I get into trouble, somehow, or she just getís mad and tries to make me feel guilty. This time I played it just right. I said it was going to be cold, windy and probably rain the whole time. If I felt a little smile coming or had to suppress a joyous moment I would go out into the garage, do a quick jig and get it out of my system. A couple of times I had to go out and empty the garbage so she couldnít see. But overall it wasnít quite the level of excitement I would have thought I would feel about going away for 2 days straight. Well the moment finally came and I must have done a better job of acting ho hum about the whole thing because Jamie, my wife made us lunch the night before, thank God because mine are barely edible and consist of mostly pre-packaged and pre-chewed food. I hardly ever stop fishing long enough to eat or drink or anything anyway. So my motto has been "If it doesnít make my waiders smell or feel funny, it can wait." But getting back to my anonymous wife who after reading this made me take her name out, she actually said I hope you enjoy yourself and catch lots of fish. I even think she meant it! Pleased with my performance I didnít let the cat out of the bag until I was around the corner for fear somehow she would know I was now excited. My fishing partner and I had done it. We were going to Rocky Ford! Mark had put all his gear quickly in the car then told me he had lost his license and that we would need to stop somewhere in Ellensburg to get another. Rats, That now puts us on the water at 10 or so. Thatís OK I said the fishing doesnít get started till noon anyway. Which is true of the times I had been there this time of year. No hatches until it warms up a bit if it warms up. The trip to Ellensburg is uneventful and passes quickly. We decide to pull into Jack Mitchellís Evening Hatch just off I-90 and see whatís up. We get out and I think to myself "gee no wind" just then a gust blows my cap off across the lot. That just confirmed it. This would be a challenging day. We walk into the shop and the guide is jumping up and down about what a great day it was yesterday. We both looked at each other and thought "OK what is he going to try and sell us? Before we were 3 steps in he had already picked out 2 madam X ís and 2 olive adult stoneflies to show us. He then sayís " This is what we caught Ďem on, all day long. I bet we caught 35. Now 35 fish is a good day in the summer. This was February. The most I had ever caught in February was maybe 2. Mark asked were you fishing from a boat. Well of course he was, heís a guide I thought. Well after a 5 minute story we decided that we were too close to not give it a shot. We could go to Rocky Ford about 60+ miles away or we could go and be on the water in 15 minutes. I had to admit that I was doubtful of his complete recollection of the previous days events, but I couldnít be sure. So we hit the local Fred Meyerís to get Markís license and were changing gears from a small spring creek using tiny dries and delicate tippets to 4x leaders and size 6 stones we greedily purchased at the shop. Well we drove to the exact spot he told us about. We went down to the water and sure enough not a single fish was rising anywhere. We were fooled into buying some stupid flies he had an oversupply of. Oh well weíre hear letís give it a cast or two and see what happens. Itís plenty early. It was difficult to change my mind set from the spring creek to this much larger freestone river. Again I wasnít in a big hurry and expected to get absolutely skunked.
The flow was low and the water was clear. Actually it was just right. I tied on the Madam X and put a dropper about 18" below it. My favorite dropper, a lightning bug with a tungsten bead size 12. Mark tied on the other fly our guide recommended and a hairs ear dropper. We each eye our favorite water and headed in. The spot Iím leaning toward reminds me of steelhead water. 2-4 feet deep with large rocks and about a steady walk in current speed. Marks was more traditional trout water. After a few cast Iím not surprised that I get nothing. IF it does go under itís just a rock anyway. Well 5 cast into it now my dry disappears, I give it a half hearted tug and feel a steadily weight followed by a vigorous head shake at the other end. It cant be a fish!? Sure enough a nice 12" rainbow bolts for the other side. He had taken my lightning bug! "Fish on" I yell! I canít believe it. Maybe the guide was right. Then I remind myself again. Itís February. NO HATCH. Itís a fluke. 2 casts later I have a similar experience, followed by another and yet another. My doubt is now starting to dissipate and I have Marks full attention. Actually heís trying to ignore me until I have about 6 fish to the net. Then he goes way up river so he canít see me or hear my screams of delight as each fish getís better looking, bigger and harder fighting. Maybe the "good lord look at this one" got to him. Iím not sure. Pretty soon though he came down to the honey hole and has a beautiful 14"+ rainbow take the dry. Now after landing the fish and getting the skunk off his rod he comes down and asks "are you still using that lightning bug? "Same fly I started with"! I replied. Before he can ask I reach in and offer him one. Of course he says " well, IĎll give it a try" Next thing we know we are trading yells and "did you see that one jump? Of course Iím thinking he just wants me to look over there so I will miss a strike I just know it. Now that I think about it I think thatís my trick. Because everybody knows you always get a strike when your least expecting it. And Iím least expecting right now! A little trick I learned from my Pappa, which actually works more often than not. Now we are really having fun. With the comments like "boy I wish I was at work instead of catching these beautiful large hard fighting rainbows all day". "Man this really sucks" I canít get my fly to make a complete drift before I get another fish"
The trick was to get as natural of a drift as possible and as long as possible. Look at the water you plan to fish and approach the water from the best angle to get a long drag free float and not disturb or spook the fish. This takes a little practice but pays off in a big way. Donít just walk up to the water and start flailing. If you see a good lie approach it from below or above whichever affords the best approach that most likely to produce a good drift.
It was fabulous fishing for February. I really think we will be in for some excellent spring fishing as the waters are warming up. It looks like we could have some great midge hatches 2-3 weeks earlier than normal on the lakes, and the stoneflys, March Browns and caddis should be in good numbers earlier than normal this year on the Yakima.
Another nice thing about fishing the Yakima, besides lots of fish is the fact that they are not particularly leader shy. You can go with 5x and 4x tippet and be confident that these fish will still take the fly. I have found that a dropper increases my catch count dramatically. There will be stretches where the fish are keyed on the adult dry fly and others where itís all nymph. Using a fly that you can see well, of course helps. Especially when the dropper is taken sofly. Sometimes Iíll use 2 nymphs or 2 dries. It all depends on what the fish are feeding on and where.
I hope you all get out on the water very soon and take advantage of this prime time fishing. It is definitely better than usual for this time of year. Check with your local Fly shop for up to the minute fishing tips, flies and hot spots.
So much water and so little timeÖ..
Talk to ya' later.