An Atypical Day on the Yakima River
"The Fish Journal" Issaquah Press, Published December 3, 2008
By Dallas Cross

I got a call from Jeff, an Issaquah friend, asking if I was interested in fishing the Yakima River from a drift boat with his fishing partner, Bob. Being a responsible, professional fishing companion I readily accepted and began checking the fishing reports. The day before the trip the flow rate of the Yakima was around 1300 cubic feet per second, low enough to be waded but high enough for good floating.

A report of reasonable caddis and other insect hatches, together with recent reports of fishing success, spurred my enthusiasm and I tied up a couple of dry flies and made sure I had some bead-head nymphs to tempt non-rising trout. So far it looked great.

After driving over Snoqualmie Pass in the morning towing the drift boat trailer, we were met with a cloudless day when we arrived at Red’s Fly Shop on the river. Red’s guides were encouraging and expectant of a productive day on the river with their clients.

We arranged for the truck and trailer to be ferried to our pull out point on the river and drove upstream ten miles to launch. That is when we encountered the rat. It seems Bob had recently put out poison near where he stored the boat. One of the victims had crawled under the cover, into the boat, and curled up in a cup holder. I tried to flip out the rodent with a piece of sagebrush but it jumped onto the bottom of the boat and disappeared through a small slit under the raised flooring at the bow.

Subsequent to declarations of refusal to go fishing with a rat in the boat we tilted the boat so the rainwater washed under the flooring with no luck. We finally resorted to using a fly rod section to dig out the rat which jumped directly into Jeff’s waiting fish net. Ultimately it escaped the net and ran into the sagebrush.

We launched the drift boat and promptly returned to shore to remove the water that had come up though the drain hole I had opened after scraping the plug out with my foot.

Taking turns rowing, beaching the boat, wading to cast, taking shore breaks, and me scraping off barnacles on gravel bars, pretty much describes the rest of the float. This Saturday there were lots of other boaters and wading fisher persons to hail and to avoid floating through their fishing areas. The main action, so far, was herding flotilla after flotilla of brown headed mergansers ahead of the boat and enjoying the scenery.

Although there were several large caddis flies about and a few minor hatches of blue wing olives, the fish did not respond with feeding displays nor interest in our flies. We blamed the sunny sky and lack of cloud cover for fish disinterest. Continuing to switch flies we kept on casting.

After changing from a beaded prince nymph with a large, orange simulator as a floating strike indicator, I finally caught and released the first small rainbow which gulped my small, blue wing dun floating in the foam line. This lowered the skunk flag one-third way down the mast. Bob soon followed with a couple of trout lowering it a third more. Jeff was only able to hook up with tiny trout, all ineligible to lower the flag.

So went the float, but in high spirits we pulled out, loaded the drift boat and began disassembling our gear for the trip back. An exclamation of pain brought our attention to Jeff’s little finger where a small dry fly with a bent down barb protruded from the quick next to his fingernail. Bob then informed Jeff that the tip to his fly rod had been broken off during the incident.

To cheer up the situation Bob remarked that Jeff had caught the final fingerling of the day in the parking lot. We laughingly agreed that this qualified him to lower his personal skunk flag.

Finding there wasn’t sufficient pain killer available in the truck and refusing my offer to pull out the hook with a leader around its bend - accompanied with a piece of sagebrush to bite down on, Jeff opted to ride in the cab with hand aloft all the way back to Issaquah. He checked into a clinic and was queued for treatment behind emergency personnel with a patient on a gurney, and in front of a soon-to-deliver woman bearing what appeared to be twins; but he did not give up his place in line.

Jeff grimaced a lot while he was being attended to, not from the pain, but because the medical staff constantly referred to him as Captain Hook. They did numb his finger and removed the fly before sending the captain to the drug store on his way home.

Picture of Finger and Fly

Fingerling and Fly