Saturday morning I met up with Dave and his son Ben for the first time. Not wanting to make another solo outing I had posted a "care to join me?" thread on Washington Fly Fishing
- I've met some really great folks and really great fly fishermen doing this in the past and today was no exception. After swapping gear from his rig to mine we set out across the pass to fish Taneum Creek on the dry side. Dave hadn't fished the creek for quite a number of years and I think it had been maybe three years since I last fished it.
Taneum is a very small, medium gradient tributary of the Yakima. In most areas the casting is very short distance and involves a lot of high sticking over pocket water. The trout, while small, are avid dry fly eaters - it's the kind of creek where you tie on a #14 Elkhair Caddis and that's all you need for the day.
We arrived at the first pull-out around 9 a.m. and got to it. Weather was clear, warm and a bit breezy. All three of us were quickly getting into the small rainbows on dries, but as we worked a good deal of water at our first location none of us were coming up with good size rainbows of the sort that both Dave and I recalled from past fishing there. Most of the fish were running about 4-5" with a 6" fish seeming pretty nice.
After awhile we hiked it back to the truck and drove upstream a few miles to another likely spot where the stream was not braided at all and had better flow in the single channel. It really was amazing looking water. This stretch proved better, indeed, and produced some slightly larger fish. The best fish from this stretch were rainbows of about 8-inches. We were a bit low on the creek to get into any of the westslope cutthroat, and nowhere near close enough to the forks to find brookies.
Around 1 p.m. it seemed that all three of us were starting to look around and go, "huh, it would be nice to get into some bigger fish..." We started working our way back downstream to the truck after deciding that we would take a look at the upper Yakima, and that if flows were too high up there we would just continue on to the upper South Fork of the Snoqualmie.
On the walk back downstream, Dave was successfully working a heavy black stonefly nymph through the pools that we'd fished dries across on the way up. He picked up a good number of fish on the way back down with his no-indicator high-sticking skills. Although the fish in Taneum were small, they were beautifully marked redbands.
We set out for the upper Yakima and after driving down a pothole riddled dirt road arrived at the river's edge to find that the flows were just cookin' - there was no way any of us were going to wade that. At these flows the only place for fish would be in the soft water along the banks anyways. We had read some recent reports of wadeable flows up there and good fishing but it was clear that they were now releasing water from the headwater reservoir at Kecheelus Lake and the whole length of the Yakima is officially at summer-flow-levels to provide irrigation to the farmlands below.
Continuing over Snoqualmie Pass we arrived at my favorite stretch of the upper South Fork Snoqualmie at about 3 p.m., which really is a great time to start fishing up there as the water has warmed a bit and the fish are almost all looking up. Even on the west side of the pass the weather was just gorgeous with just a few clouds breaking up on the ridge lines and peaks, and just a small puff of breeziness here and there. Stream flows were really prime for both wading and dry fly fishing, running about 200 CFS at the USGS gauge by Alice Creek
We started getting into fish immediately on the first run. The feisty little trout were slashing and smacking our attractor patterns in about every spot that looked fishy. Average size was decent and what you'd expect from this stretch of river at around five to six inches, with a good number of seven to eight inch fish in the mix. All three species were representing themselves: brook, rainbow and cutthroat trout.
We were all three still looking for something a bit bigger, and knew well that they are in there and it's just a matter of continuing to work all the good habitat with chances of bigger fish looking up getting better and better as evening began to come on. We waded a lot of river, about 2 1/2 miles upstream from where we started, and fished a lot of water.
I was really pleased to bring several small brookies to hand before any other species. I love the brookies coloration and the South Fork brook trout really have pretty, well-defined markings and spots. The rainbows, likewise, are spectacularly marked and by far the most plentiful species up there. It didn't take long for us to all lose count of how many fish had been brought to hand. If I had to guess I'd say I landed at least forty maybe up to fifty trout on that stretch, and from what I saw both Dave and Ben were doing just as well. This stream is just loaded.
At just 15 years old, I was really impressed with Ben's skills. Not only could the kid cast well, and was fishing great looking flies that he tied himself, but he really had a knack for finding good water. He definitely had the eye for where feeding fish would be found and was setting himself up in the right positions to make good casts, mend, get good drifts, etc. Every time I'd get behind a bit and catch up I'd find him fishing some stellar water and raising fish.
As evening was coming on the insect activity was steadily increasing. There were #12 to #14 tan caddis flying around, a good number of #16 green sallies, and some PMD activity. As the sun got closer to the top of the ridge line there were a lot more fish smacking naturals on the surface and the already good fishing just continued to heat up. The average fish size was increasing as well, with more 8-inch fish scarfing down our dry flies followed by acrobatic trips to our hands.
Besides the beautiful weather, more fish than we could count, and a really good time meeting new people, the highlight of the trip was that all three of us got into really nice fish by South Fork standards. Not only that, but all three of us had grand-slam days, landing all three species.
This ten inch Westslope cutthroat put a serious bend in my 2-weight as it drove deep for the center of the pool. The cutthroat slashes under its gills were so vibrant red and it had some shoulders on it. Dave, likewise, got into a nice ten inch cutthroat.
The real whopper of the trip, though, was taken by Ben on a great cast across conflicting currents. After a strong fight he brought the fish of the day to hand: a twelve maybe thirteen inch westslope cutthroat. And that, my friends, is a trophy sized fish on the upper South Fork.
We fished until it was nearly dark, and walked out along the road well into darkness. We were all just beat, and couldn't believe how far we had gone upstream. It seemed an eternity walking the two and a half miles back to my rig. Every bend we'd come around we'd all be hoping to see the truck, only to find another stretch of road to walk that did not have my vehicle on it.
I think Dave said it well when we were walking out: it's amazing that in 2012, with all the people that we have, that we can still catch so many and some nice sized trout up here.
I had a great time fishing with Dave and Ben, and hope to fish with them again soon. I've nothing but good experiences meeting and fishing with folks from the Washington Fly Fishing forum.