Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On The Yakima River In
The Yakima River is formed in the Snoqualmie
Wilderness in central Washington. It flows from the east
side of the Cascades down to the Kittitas Valley and then
into a desert like canyon. It's a tributary of the Columbia
River. Its headwaters flow into three reservoirs - Kachess,
Keechelus and Cle Elum. Each of these three reservoirs
have tailwaters that flow together to form the main river.
Although each of these three tailwaters have trout fishing
opportunities, fly fishing the Yakima River is best in its
prime section that begins where the three tailwaters
merge together near the town of Cle Elum. Miles
downstream, the river flows through Rosa Dam between
Ellensberg and Yakima. Although fishing is decent below
the Rosa Dam, the prime area is between Keechelus
Dam and Rosa Dam. Fly fishing the Yakima River can be
challenging but also very rewarding.
The river is 75 miles long between these dams and
includes some prime, blue-ribbon rainbow trout fishing.
Fly fishing the Yakima River tailwater section involves
both a top and bottom releases. It's flows are just about
right the opposite of most western tailwaters. Its water is
low during the Spring and Fall and high during the
Summer, being controlled that way for irrigation
purposes. Its water temperature is more of what normally
exist in a freestone stream than the typical tailwater. The
river is very diverse depending on which section of the
river you are fishing.
The upper river down to the Cle Elum confluence has
some braided channels and isn't suitable for floating in
larger vessels. Below there you'll find what's referred to
as the flat water section that is usually very suitable for
wading anglers. It has some braided channels but also
some nice, long riffles.
From East Cle Elum downstream for fourteen miles, the
river flows through its upper canyon section. This is a
beautiful section of the river with some road access but
most of the water must be accessed from the John
Wayne trail. This section is filled with large boulders and
contains more cutthroats than most of the other sections.
Wading is okay but only on low water. Three tributaries,
the Teanaway, Swuak and Tanuem, enter this section of
From the Diversion Dam downstream to Wilson Creek, or
what's usually called the farmland section, you will find
some more good water but more difficult access. Fly
fishing the Yakima River in this area can be tough due on
low water because it's difficult to float and access for
wading is very limited. The river is bordered with private
land in most areas. The water clarity is sometimes
affected by the inflow of Wilson and Cherry Creek from
the farmland. It is best floated on high water conditions.
The lower river from Wilson Creek to Roza Dam, called
the Yakima Canyon, is the most fished section of the
river. It flows through a desert like setting with big horn
sheep. It's mostly fished from drift boats.
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Photo Courtesy of Stephen Lamb
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 to 12 ft., 5 or 6X Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five
or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
The fishing season is open year-round in the
Runoff can dingy the water but otherwise
fishing is usually great during the Spring
because of the numerous aquatic insect
Fly fishing the Yakima River from a drift boat
during the Summertime is usually great
because of the high water conditions.
Yakima River Hatches and Trout Flies:
on our stream samples of larvae and nymphs,
not guess work. We base fly suggestions on
imitating the most plentiful and most available
insects and other foods at the particular time
you are fishing. Unlike the generic fly shop
trout flies, we have specific imitations of all the
insects in the Yakima River and in all stages
of life that are applicable to fishing. If you want
to fish better, more realistic trout flies, have a
much higher degree of success, give us a
call. We not only will help you with selections,
you will learn why, after trying Perfect Flies,
92% of the thousands of our customers will
use nothing else. 1-800-594-4726
January provides some opportunities thanks
to the many tailwaters that come from the
warmer water of the lakes and reservoirs.
Hatches are rare but there are some Little
Winter Stoneflies that hatch in January
through March. These are often called snow
flies and at times, can be seen crawling along
the banks during the winter months. By mid
February, Blue-winged Olives begin to
appear. There are many differenct species
calle BWOs the majority of which are Baetis
species. These will range in hook sizes from a
20 up to a 16 depending on the species.
March and April are the prime early season
BWO months. They continue to hatch on into
In March, Skwala Stoneflies start to hatch.
They crawl out of the water on the rocks and
banks. Imitating the nymph is usually more
effective than imitating the adult egg layers
but both work depending on the time and
status of the hatch.
Western March Browns begin to hatch at the
end of March and on into April. They peak
during the month of April. The large
salmonflies hatch in some sections in April
Runoff can create some problems but again,
thanks to the many tailwaters where releases
can be controlled to a certain extent, the
adverse effects are usually much less than
that of the freestone streams. March and April
can provide excellent dry fly action.
Mahogany Duns begin to hatch in May along
with a huge American Grannom caddisfly
hatch called the Mother’s Day Hatch.
Pale Morning Duns start hatching in late May
and throughout the month of June. This is the
largest mayfly hatch and the most consistent
in late Spring and early summer. May brings
on Green Drake hatches in some sections of
Yakima River Fly Fishing Guide:
The most important thing about fly fishing the
Yakima River an angler can do in advance of
fishing is to check the discharges from the
dams and the rates of flow on the various
tailwaters. The height and speed of the water
determines whether or not you can wade the
stream and/or float it.
Since the dams have top and bottom releases,
the water temperature is usually affected by
the discharges of water. During the warmer
months of the year, top water discharges are
warmer and bottom discharges have cooler
Spring runoff can adversely affect the flows
from April through early June. The discharges
can vary greatly during the Spring months.
Normally, steady flows occur during July and
Little Yellow Stoneflies hatch in late May
and June. These little stoneflies can bring
about some great dry fly opportunities
when they lay their eggs in the
afternoons. In July, the Summer Stones,
often called short-winged stones
(members of the Golden Stonefly group)
hatch in July, August and September.
Large hatches of Spotted Sedges begin to
occur in late June and July. These
caddisflies bring on some good dry fly
action when they deposit their eggs in the
late afternoons and early evenings.
Several other species of caddisflies can
be found including Short-horned Sedges,
Green Sedges and a few species of
Hoppers, ants and beetles are the prime
terrestrial insects of the summer.
Imitations of these often bring some
decent dry fly action.
Yellow Quills, Eperous species, hatch in
the late summer and bring on some good
dry fly fishing at times. These mayflies
hatch on into September and early
October, depending on the location.
During the same period of time, some
sections of the Yakima will have hatches
of Pale Evening Duns.
In late September, October Caddis will
begin to hatch. The second phase of
Blue-winged Olives will begin to hatch.
This little mayflies bring on the best dry fly
fishing of the Fall. A different species of
Mahogany Duns also hatch in September.
November has some BWO hatches but as
the water gets colder, they will gradually
be replaced with hatches of Midges. Most
of the midges are cream or red (blood)
midges. Midges hatch throughout the year
but become the most important insect to
imitate during the cold months.
The Yakima River has many different
species of baitfish and sculpin. Often
streamers produce the best fishing
opportunities and result in anglers
catching some of the largest fish in the
We recommend Perfect Flies because
they the only fly company in the World
with specific imitations of most every
aquatic insect, in all applicable stages of
life, found in trout streams.
Early fall is usually very good.
Fishing in the Winter is tough but can be
productive on some warm day. Midge
fishing is popular on the stream.
The water levels drop down in late summer
and Fall levels are usually on the low side.
Floating the water can be a problem in
some sections, especially if your using a
larger size drift boat.
About every fly fishing technique in the
book will work on the Yakima river at one
time or another, depending on the location
you are fishing. It is a very diverse river
with every type of water you will find in any
Although we provide a summary of
hatches below, keep in mind these vary
greatly depending on the location at any
given time. You cannot expect them to
occur any and everywhere on the river at
the same time..
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
Headlines: The flows and stream
levels are in okay shape in most
sections. The weather has turned
cold and the water temperature is
dropping in most sections. Midges,
especially the creams and reds, or
blood midges, are hatching. Fish
the in tandem with the larva the
bottom fly. Winter stoneflies are
also starting to hatch. Black flies
are hatching as well. Keep up with
the latest by checking out the
weekly undated Yakima River fly
fishing report linked above.
Yakima River Map
10/17/15 The stream levels remain low for this time of the year. It is raining a little now and will
continue through the weekend but we expect little change in the stream levels. Terrestrials and
Sculpin are a few of the other key trout foods to imitate at this time of the season. The Yakima
is a relatively deep stream compared to most others but with low water levels it can be waded in
10/24/15 The stream level is just about normal right now but there is more rain in the forecast
almost every day for the next week. Keep a close check on the stream levels. October Caddis is
still the main hatch that's getting the attention of the trout. Blue-winged Olives have begin to
hatch again and will continue for the next several weeks.
10/31/15 The river is a little high now but falling back down fast as they reduce the discharges.
It is okay to fish now, just high. There is little rain in the forecast for the next seven days, so
conditions will be excellent again soon. Lots of Blue-winged Olives are hatching and in two
sizes. There are still October Caddis hatches occurring.
11/07/15 The Yakima is getting gradually colder each day. Aquatic insect hatches are down to
mostly midges and Blue-winged olives. The both have several different species and sizes that
will revolve around during the colder months. Don't forget about Sculpin Streamers like the
Brown Sculpin. They will work and also produce some larger fish as a general rule.
11/14/15 The Yakima is running high and fast. There is rain in the forecast every day for the
next week, so we doubt there will be many opportunities to fish. As soon as the levels subside,
streamers should be your first choice. The water is getting colder and you will need to keep the
presentation slow. .
11/21/15 The Yakima stream level is down and okay for drift boats. The water temperature is
going to be a little colder averaging around 47 degrees. That means Midges and little Blue-
winged olives will be the only insects that may hatch. There is a chance of rain two days next
week but it shouldn't be heavy. The Brown Sculpin streamer should stil be a good fly to use.
11/28/15 The weather forecast is looking a little colder and with some snow the first of next
week. Of course, that's normal for this time of the year. Midges will be the only insect option.
The Brown Sculpin and Matuka streamers should still work great if presented deep and slowly.
Fish the midges with the larva and pupa in tandem.
12/05/15 It is snowing right now but snow will change to rain after tomorrow and rain for the next
five days. It will be turning warmer than it was last week and considering that and the cloud
cover, fly fishing should be good. Blue-winged olives and midges should be hatching good. Our
Brown Sculpin and White Belly sculpin streamer flies have been catching a lot of trout for our
12/13/15 The river is high and off color big time. I don't see much of any opportunity for fly
fishing during the coming week. There is snow in the forecast every day but two. If it was cold
and didn't melt, it would be different but the water will continue to be stained and high.
Compared to many sections of the state, it is in good shape. Notice we added Winter stoneflies
to the fly list.
12/19/15 The Bottom line is fishing would be very tough. The water is forty degrees and under
and there's snow and rain in the forecast every day. Midges will catch some fish but the current
is still strong and a little high and it is tough to find still to slow water where the trout hold up,
mostly holes in the bottom.
12/26/15 The river has continued to fall all week and is almost back to normal levels for this
time of the year. The water is cold and you will need to stick with midges and winterstonefly
nymphs. Fish the out of the current, in slack water pockets, holes and sections where there is
little to no current. That is often beneath fast water.
01/02/16 The stream levels are finally back averaging a near normal level. The water is cold, of
course, and you need to fish water not in the direct current such as holes in the bottom,
pockets and area where trout hold. They can't survive holding in strong current this cold. Fish
midges in tandem and winter stonefly nymphs.
01/09/16 The stream levels are down and in pretty good shape with some stain. Midges and
winter stonefly nymphs are catching some trout for the few anglers. The White Belly sculpin
streamer is also a good fly to use with the cloud cover. Fish the slack current and holes in the
bottom out of the main fast currents.
01/23/16 The stream is running a little high right now and is likely to go up some more during
the coming week. There is a lot of rain in the forecast. The weather is a lot warmer and fishing
should be good. The White Belly sculpin streamer fly should be a very good one with the high
water and cloudy skies.
02/30/16 The stream level is very high right now and the water very dingy. There is little
precipitation in the forecast this coming week and it should continue to fall out and get bacck
into decent shape. The White Belly Sculpin streamer is a good fly to use while it is high.
02/06/16The water levels is down but still high. It will continue to fall because there is no rain or
snow in the forecast for the next week. It has some stain but should also get back clear. The
water will probably warm up a few degrees and that will help big time.
02/13/16 As you probably know, it has been raining and the river in on the way up currently too
high to fish. There is little rain in the forecast for the next week, so we don't expect it to take
long before the levels begin to subside.
02/20/16 The river is flowing at 6150 cfs at 33.60 ft. high. You need ot wait until the stream falls
back into shape before fishing. The water is a little warmer and should continue to warm up
some. There is only one day with rain forecast this coming week, so the levels should drop
02/27/16 The river level has come down a lot but it is still too high. There is more rain on the
way for the next week and it is likely it will increase again rather than fall much more. The water
is stained but visibility is about 18 inches. Streamers are the best fly option. The Brown and
White Belly sculpin are two good ones.
03/05/16 The Yakima River is high right now, too high to be worth fishing. It will most likely
continue to rise. There is a lot of rain in the forecast and it may be a few days getting back
down. Notice we have added Skwala stoneflies and March Brown mayflies to the fly list.
03/12/16 The river is still high, in fact, even higher. The good news is the forecast shows the
rain ending for a few days after Monday. Blue-winged olives and midges are hatching now, but
of little use to the angler. Skwala stoneflies and March Brown mayflies will begin to hatch before
the month ends.
03/19/16 The river has come down a lot but still to high to wade in most places you normally
could wade. It can be fished from drift boats at the level it is at. There is more rain in the
forecast but we don't think it will be substantial enough to keep the levels up much longer. You
will just have to watch them.
03/26/16 March Brown mayflies and Skwala stoneflies should begin to hatch very soon. Right
now it is mostly little Blue-winged olives and midges. You can also expect to start seeing little
Black Caddis. The stream levels are still high, to high to wade safely, but okay for drift boats.
We think they will be coming down soon.
04/01/16 Seems like the river is always high this time of the year but not that much. There is
little rain in the forecast and it should fall this week. Drift boat fishing should be fine but wading,
tough to not possible. Several new aquatic insect hatches should begin soon. The water is
getting warmer and the weather this coming week looks great.
04/07/16 The Yakima is running high right now but there is little rain in the forecast this coming
week and the levels should come down. The water is getting much warmer and several new
hatches should begin. We just hope they don't start when the river is high and stained. Right
now, Sculpin streamers like our White Belly Sculpin, is a good fly choice.
04/16/16 The river is high but okay in most sections for drift boat anglers. The weather is going
to be much warmer this coming week with little rain. The levels should continue to drop and
more hatches should start taking place. Our customers have been doing well on the Brown and
White Belly streamers but you should see Skwalas, March Browns and lots of BWOs.
04/22/16 They are continuing to lower the lake to prepare for melting snow from runoff and the
stream levels are remaining high. There is little to no opportunity to wade until the discharges
are lowered. The weather is turning a little colder this week but shouldn't slow down the current
04/29/16 High water continues to be a problem. Drift boats are doing okay in some sections but
it it too high to wade. They keep lowering the lake to hold back the big runoff and all together, it
is good for the fishery as well. Streamers like the Matuka sculpins and White Belly sculpin
should catch fish. The water is mostly stained but clear enough to fish.
05/07/16 The discharges are still a little high to lower the lakes for the runoff but lower than last
week. Drift boats have some opportunity but there is little wading possible. The water is getting
warmer and more hatches will be taking place soon. Blue-winged olives and March Browns are
the main hatches at this time.
05/14/16 The discharges and stream levels are down in much better shape and the water is
mostly clear. It is even possible to wade in some sections and good flows for drift boats. There
are a lot of insects hatching and more sill be starting soon. You always have to check the
levels, but unless things change, get off the couch and on the water.
05/21/16 The river levels are back up and too high for safe wading but drift boats should still be
able to catch fish. The water is slightly stained and Sculpin streamers should work good.
Nymphs rigs are also catching trout. We had two good reports from the previous week before
the levels went up again. You will just have to watch them.
06/04/16 The river is finally in great shape with good stream levels, low discharges and water
that can be waded in many areas. Both wading and drift boat anglers are catching trout.
Several hatches are taking place and this is likely to increase with the warmer weather on the
06/11/16 The weather is turning back to a more normal temperature range. This past week was
exceptionally hot. This should make little difference in the hatches. The water temperature
should remain about the same. We had some good reports come in from customers in spite of
the head last week. Lots of PMDs are hatching and bringing about some good dry fly action.
06/18/16 The Yakima is still in decent shape with mostly clear water. There are a lot of hatches,
but as warned in the report linked to this, don't expect them all to be in the same location of the
stream at the same time. It varies some with the section and type of water. The levels are still a
little high but certainly low enough to be fished by boat.
06/25/16 Stream levels are still in decent shape and there is no rain in the forecast for the
coming week. They should remain in good shape most of the time. We are getting some good
and some not so good reports. This is fairly nolrmal for the Yakima. It isn't a pushover and
varies greatly depending on the section you fish. There are still some good hatches taking
07/02/16 The Yakima stream levels are up a little right now but should start falling again. It is
fine for drift boats but the level eliminates most opportunity to wade. There are still a lot of
insects hatching, but as always, the species vary depending on the location. The Pale Morning
duns and two caddis species are in most all sections of the river.
07/16/16 The levels are much better than this past week but still a little on the high side for any
wading. Drift boats should be able to do well in most sections of the river. The stream is
dropping as I write this and maybe the level will be down to where anglers can wade some
sections this coming week. The hatches vary greatly, depending on the section of the river.
07/23/16 Stream levels are still in good shape and the water clear and cool in spite of the heat.
Anglers are catching good numbers of trout in the upper and lower sections of the river. Pale
Morning duns, little Yellow stonellies and Spotted Sedge and Green Sedge caddis are all
hatching. The best time of day to fish seems to be the last few hours of the day.
07/30/16 The stream levels are staying about the same as last week. The weather is going to
be a little cooler this coming week, but still hot. Fish very early and late for the best results. It is
still warm late in the day but you have some spinner falls and lots of egg laying caddis that will
bring trout to the surface to feed. We received one good report this past week.
08/07/16 The flows are a little strong for wading some areas but all together, in decent shape.
Our customers send in some good reports this past week. There are still plenty of insects
hatching. Terrestrials are also beginning to work good. We don't recommend using them as
long as anything is hatching. Early morning streamer fishing is taking some trout.
08/13/16 The river is in good shape for the middle of August. The discharges and stream levels
are just a little above normal. The weather is going to be very hot again. It will affect the lower
sections of the river, so we recommend fishing as high up as you can. You may consider fishing
the early morning hours using our Sculpin streamer patterns. They have been working good for
08/201/6 Sculpin streamers, like our Matuka patterns, are catching trout in the early mornings.
Stream levels are good, just a little above normal. Fish the uppermost sections for the coolest
water. Tricos are starting to hatch along with lots of caddisflies. The last two or three hours of
the day is the best time to imitate the egg laying caddisflies.
08/27/16 The Yakima is in good shape for this time of the season. Our customers are sending
in some good reports of catches recently. They are fishing the morning Trico spinner falls and
early afternoon hatches, and the caddisfly egg laying activity late in the day. The discharges
and stream levels are fine and the weather a little cooler.
09/03/16 Stream levels and discharges are good for anglers wading in some sections and
using a drift boat in others. Both are catching plenty of trout. The weather and lower water
temperatures is helping. There are still a lot of hatches taking place but they vary some from
section to section. Our customers are doing well with hoppers, ants and beetles as well.
09/10/16 It seems everyone wants to fish terrestrials but don't overdo it. They are never better
than any hatching insect and there are some hatches taking place. Our customers are
reporting good result in fishing both terrestrial and BWOs, little Yellow stones, Gray Drake,
Spotted sedge caddis and other insects are hatching.
09/17/16 There is little change from the past week except the weather is going to be a little
cooler. That is helping keep the trout active and taking flies from the surface at times.
Mahogany duns have started to hatch and there are still lots of caddisflies. The large baetis
Blue-winged olives are starting to hatch and will a mainstay of insects for the next two months.
09/24/16 The weather is warming back up just a little. Hopefully, this won't slow down the activity
of the trout. Our customers have been catching lots of them in all sections of the river. Stream
flows are still good in all sections. There is no rain in the forecast this coming week. Hatches
are taking place mid afternoons and egg laying and spinner falls just before dark.
10/01/16 The stream levels are in good shape in all sections. There is little rain in the forecast
but the weather is going to be much cooler. That should help the overall conditions a lot. Our
customers are catching some large trout on the Sculpin streamers when it is early with cloud
cover. Blue-winged olives are hatching good. It is a good time to fish the river.
10/08/16 The stream levels are in good shape near normal levels. There is little rain in the
forecast this coming week and they should continue to be good. Blue-winged olives are
hatching very good. There are two different species of them. Our customers are catching lots of
trout in all sections of the river. It is a good time to fish it.
10/15/16 The stream levels are in good shape near normal levels. There is little rain in the
forecast this coming week and they should continue to be good. Blue-winged olives are
hatching very good. There are two different species of them. Our customers are catching lots of
trout in all sections of the river. It is a good time to fish it.
10/22/16 The discharges and stream levels are very high in all sections. They are falling but
there is more rain on the way most everyday next week. Wading isn't safe anywhere right now
and although you could fish it in a large drift boat, we don't recommend it.
10/29/16 The discharges and stream levels are still real high. You can fish from a drift boat but
it is less than desirable conditions. We don't think the conditions will change within the next
week. There is rain forecast everyday, as I'm sure you know. You will just have to watch the
11/05/16 The levels are still high but the river can be fished from drift boats. Wading is not safe
in most all sections. Blue-winged olives and midges are hatching good. There are still a few
caddis around but they are very sparse. Fish the BWO numphs in the mornings until about
early afternoon and switch to the BWO duns. Fish the BWO spinner the last couple of hours of
11/12/16 The discharges and stream levels are down just a little above normal, the water clear
and otherwise, in good shape. Blue-winged olives and Cream midges are hatching good.
Sculpin streamers like our Brown Sculpin and Olive Matuka Sculpin streamers are catching
some large fish. There is rain in the forecast about every day this coming week, so go as soon
as you can.
11/19/16 The discharges and stream levels are high. There isn't any wading opportunity but
you can fish from a drift boat. Streamers would be the best fly option until the stream levels get
back down. The water is stained in most sections. There is more rain on the way this week but
it doesnt appear that it will be as heavy as it has been. Blue-winged olives and midges are
11/26/16 The discharges and stream levels are down and the water clear. Stream levels are
just a little above normal. The water temperature is in the low forties. Midges and Blue-winged
olives are the only hatches. The Brown sculpin is still a great fly to fish. Fish it during low light
conditions, early and late and during overcast skies.