Jimmy was due to arrive at 7:30 to pick me up en route to Marck’s house, where we would hitch up The Hornet and proceed east to the Yakima Canyon for a bit of late summer trout angling. My gear was waiting in the garage, the dog and myself had been fed. The coffee had begun to work, so at 7:15 I visited the “library” for a few minutes of relaxation. At 7:17 there was a knock on the door: it was Jimmy. So much for the relaxation—it was time to go.
September is a beautiful time of year in the Pacific NW, especially this year when our Indian Summer has been in fine form. Low fog lay over the lowlands with a clear sky just visible through the film; the promise of another bluebird day. As we proceeded east over the Cascades, the weather remained similarly splendid, muted only by the haze of wildfires burning to the north near Wenatchee. It had been too long since I’d last wet a line. August would normally have been a month filled with fishing, but alas it was a month filled with moving, capped off by a two-day garage sale—a necessary evil—that nearly put me over the edge. This day of fishing would be more therapeutic than it normally is.
The first order of business was to select our float for the day. With the Bighorn launch chained off for what appears to be the rest of the year, our second choice was MM 20. However, a mudslide earlier in the summer had rendered the put-in almost unusable. We drove past, noting the remnants of the July slide. But then we pulled a U-turn, deciding to take a better look. Upon closer inspection we determined the launch was not out of the question; it would just require a bit of finesse. No problem for 3 strapping middle-aged men, or rather 2 strapping middle-aged man and myself.
We were on the water by 10:30, fishing a variety of different set-ups. I opted for an orange-bellied foam hopper with a size 20 Lightning Bug underneath. Jimmy drew the first fish; a smallish rainbow in the 10 inch range. With the skunk off the boat early, the ever-present tension of fishing the Yakima River was lifted and we could relax and enjoy the day. I hooked up with a relatively large fish shortly thereafter; an 18-ish inch rainbow that hit the dropper and instantly went airborne. My rusty fish-playing skills resulted in a long distance release, but I had the fish on long enough to consider it almost caught.
The first two or three hours produced decent action with rainbows hitting the droppers and sometimes the dries. I got another nice fish to the boat before it came unbuttoned due to Marck’s inferior net skills a split second before it was in the net. Shortly thereafter I did manage to land a “Yakima 18” (translation: any fish within 3 inches of 18 inches). The Yakima is a finicky river that produces fewer decent-sized fish than it should. The 18-20+ inch fish are there, but one can goes several trips without hooking one. Thus, when the angler does catch a fish that falls a few inches short of a certain mark, it’s acceptable to round up. Yakima River Math is not an exact science.
As the day wore on and the air heated into the mid-80’s, the fish-trickery slowed. By 1 o’clock the trouts may have lost interest in feeding, but we wanted something we could sink our teeth into so we broke for lunch. Upon viewing the Costco chicken salad sandwiches Marck had assembled that morning, we noted a slight green tinge that served as flashing yellow caution. Marck himself had begun to second guess his decision to bring the chicken salad after he failed to remember the last time he’d actually been to Costco. A 3-way case of botulism would not have improved the quality of the fishing and we were relieved to have stopped at Subway in Ellensburg for an alternate source of fresh nutrition.
During the afternoon we got into pockets of soft water that held scores of 3 inch over-achievers, but no respectable fish were enticed to take our artificial offerings. The final 5-6 fish count had all taken place earlier in the float but still it proved to be a splendid late summer day on the water. Summer is not technically quite over, and the Pacific NW has enjoyed a great, extended run of beautiful weeks. Still, one can feel fall in the air. Even the golden stoneflies, busily going about their procreating, know their time is not long. Things will change on the Yakima significantly in the coming weeks, or perhaps even days.
We were off the water a bit earlier than we’d hoped, but had we gotten off any later we would have been deprived of the scenery at the take-out.