The Yak ran high

on a recent angling adventure in the Ellensburg Canyon.



An angler flips a nymph into the current at the mouth of Umtanum Creek.


Nora the Schnauzer crosses a bouncing bridge across the Yakima River.


Two boys cross a bridge over the river.


A public access point to the Yakima River exists off Ringer Road Loop, near Ellensburg.


An angler fishes from a pontoon boat above Rosa Dam.


Gravel bars in the river will become much bigger once the water subsides.

The Yak ran high, but it had leveled off and its color had improved.

That's what the lad at Red's Fly Shop in Ellensburg Canyon said.


I stopped there to renew my fishing license because it would be convenient, although half-a-dozen days remained in March, and to splurge on a couple flies fit for spring fishing on the Yakima River.

Darlene and Nora the Schnauzer waited in the truck while I conducted the important business.

It didn't take long. Red's doesn't sell licenses and the young man selected the flies and two leaders in seconds.

That meant, despite a bumbling start, I could be standing knee deep in a swirling, chilly current by half-past noon.

We bustled through the canyon and turned onto Ringer Road loop three miles short of Ellensburg. We passed a boat launch/nature area and parked at a public access site.

Darlene and I tottered into the sunlight. Nora leaped out and headed toward another angler as he finished rigging a fly rod. He ignored Nora. I called her back, and the man walked away without a nod.

Cramped a bit from the drive, I groaned into waders and wading boots. Darlene, being clever, snapped photos.

I rigged up the five-weight, 9-foot rod with a floating line and the new 9-foot, 5X leader guaranteed to sink quickly with a No. 6 bead-headed stonefly nymph.

As an addendum, I squeezed an orange strike indicator onto the leader four feet up from the fly. Perhaps it would dribble the nymph on the bottom, right up to choppers of a hungry trout.

Darlene strolled upstream. Nora and I crossed the meadow toward a familiar rocky bar 300 yards downstream. Nora chased robins and galloped in the shore grass.

My first 30-foot toss from the bar angled upstream and fluttered onto the ripples. I gathered the line quickly as it rode swiftly toward me.

I tossed and tossed, occasionally altering the length and angle. Then, I moved a few feet down the bar and tossed some more.

Nora stuck close and relaxed - well, except for a nervous eye on the robins that hopped about in the grass across a narrow backwater from the bar.

Halfway down the bar, I waded in knee deep and scanned a pleasant view of snow-capped mountains to the north and west of Ellensburg.

Then, more tosses curled onto the current and drifted past as I flipped limp line upstream, leaned against the flow and longed for an unmistakable, nerve-tingling tug.

Alas, I worked that 80-yard stretch of water for more than an hour. No tug.

So, we moved on.

We stopped once half-a-mile from the Umtanum Recreation Site and watched Rocky Mountain sheep and mule deer graze on a ridge high above the river.

We reached the Umtanum site at 2:14 p.m. Nora and I crossed the bouncing footbridge. I threw the line where the stream tumbled into the Yak.

Clouds arrived from the south and briefly spit rain and sleet into dimples on the water.

Several people crossed the bridge, including two 14-year-old boys who bounced the bridge to tease two girls who followed. The girls squealed loudly, pretending fright.

Then, by golly, a strike, as the line landed and the nymph sank.

The rising fish looked like an 18-incher. It twisted and swirled and pulled free.

The strike sparked my enthusiasm, but then I lost the nymph on a back cast. I tied on a dry salmon-fly pattern and tossed it rapidly.

Time slipped away and without another hit, we moved down river.

I tossed flies at two more sites, including the final one south of the Tall Pines and above Rosa Dam.

A man fished from a pontoon boat at the far bank. He used nymphs and made short casts. He lifted his rod tip a couple times but didn't set a hook.

Neither did I.

I removed the gear and stowed it while a hang glider circled on the breeze. He dropped gracefully into the weeds 50 yards away.

Then we headed home, with a stop in Yakima at Miner's, the home of world-class hamburgers, for dinner. Darlene had fish and chips. I had the Chicken Sub Salad.

"Well, the Yak ran high, and I didn't catch a fish," I mumbled between chomps. "Maybe next time."

Contact Don Davis at More of Don's photos can be found online at

If You Go

It's about 130 miles to Yakima and another 20 miles to the canyon on State Route 831. It's another 25 miles or so to Ellensburg. Several recreation and public fishing sites with toilets exist along the river.

For more information, Google Ellensburg Canyon on the Internet.


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