Ellensburg Washington

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Centrally located just east of the Cascade Mountains, Ellensburg is surrounded by several great trout filled rivers, making it an ideal place to stay. Considered by many to be the finest fishery in the state, the 214-mile long Yakima, curves around the town’s southern border, adding to Ellensburg’s historic charm. Another top choice is the 80-mile Methow River, known both for its ample fish and exceptional beauty. Excellent fishing can be found on this river within a two-hour drive from town.
 
In close proximity to town, the 75-mile long Naches River is about a half-hour drive. Most of the Naches river basin is located in scenic national forest and wilderness areas, including the renowned Wenatchee National Forest. Often referred to as the “Miracle Mile” of small waters, The Rocky Ford Creek, about an hour from Ellensburg, is best known for its numerous and sizeable rainbow trout. Considered by anglers to be a challenging stream, it is also ranked as one of the best trout rivers in the entire Northwest.
 
While Ellensburg is not thought of as a town exclusively dedicated to anglers, it does have much to offer including 4 well stocked fly shops with knowledgeable owners. What it lacks in numbers (population 18,000) it makes up for with its historic buildings, a major University and a large choice of things to do.
 
If you are with family members or others that don’t care to fish, there are opportunities to go biking on and off road, white water rafting, horse back riding and hiking. Despite its small size, the town has an active arts community with galleries, museums and theaters. Finally, there are events like the Winterhop Brewfest, featuring local microbreweries, Buskers & Burg, a fall celebration with giant puppets, and a highly regarded, large-purse, Labor Day rodeo.
 
Summer is peak fishing time with a high concentration of anglers. The spring and fall seasons remain busy while only a few die-hard choose the winter months.

There are several options for traveling to Ellensburg.
  • Fly into Seattle (SeaTac Airport) and drive for approximately 1 ½ hours
  • Fly into Takima Air Terminal and drive for approximately 40 minutes
  • Fly into Spokane and drive for approximately 2 ½ hours
  • Fly into Bowers Field, a general aviation airport, minutes from Ellensburg 
 
Trips
The Klickitat is a amazing place that reminds me a little of the big island of Hawaii being in the shadow of the Mount Adams volcano cone. The canyon it flows through is rugged and ... morebeautiful. It’s also amazing that it’s the one of the closest Central Washington steelhead stream to the Pacific Ocean. Maybe the 100 mile swim versus the 500 mile Methow River swim could have something to do with the way the steelhead fight on the Klickitat.

The Season

The Klickitat River opens in June for fishing. The water conditions might be an issue with snow melt and high water, but by August the river is pretty stable. Because it drains the glaciers of Mount Adams, a hot day could put the river out of shape. The Klickitat closes the end of November.

The height of the steelhead season is mid August through October, with September and Ocotber being the best.

If you don’t feel like roughing it in style overnight on the river, our single day is great. Many anglers will stay at least the night before the trip in Goldendale at one of the fine lodging accommodations available.
Destination:
The Methow River located in the North Central part of Washington State is a unique fishery with quality trout during the summer and a strong Steelhead population in the fall. The Methow ... moreis a beautiful gem of a river, that we feel lucky to experience and fish on a regular basis.

The Trout Season

The Methow River is a quality trout fishery for Westslope Cutthroat Trout and Rainbow Trout. Because of snow melt, the Methow typically is not in fishing shape until the end of June or early July. It can be solid summer dry fly fishing when the grasshoppers and other terrestrials are at their peak. Many of the trout on the Methow River are in the 12 inch range, but there is opportunity for much larger trout.

It has been common in the past for the Methow to close in early fall due to the presence of steelhead. If you’re looking for prime-time trout fishing on the Methow, the middle of July towards the end of August is when to go.

The Steelhead Season

The steelhead season opening on the Methow River is depended on the number of wild and hatchery steelhead that pass over Wells Dam. In years past, the season usually starts during the first week of October and ends by March 31.

Techniques

During the steelhead season we use different techniques, from swinging flies with a Spey, Switch or Single hand rod to nymphing. We typically float the Methow in fly fishing rafts for the steelhead season. This is a very productive way to fish the Methow even when it is low. With the raft, we’ll fish water that most people have difficulties accessing on foot.
Fishing Waters:
Destination:
The Naches and its tributaries drain a portion of the eastern side of the Cascade Range, east of Mount Rainier, and northeast of Mount Adams. At 75 miles long, it is the largest tributary ... morethat flows into the Yakima River. It’s a fun and fast paced river to fish.

The river’s name comes from the Indian words “naugh,” meaning rough or turbulent, and “chez,” meaning water.

The Trout Season

The Naches opens the first Saturday in June and runs through October. The river is not fishable until the end of June due to runoff. The first part of the season (the end of June/beginning of July) is when we focus on the upper part of the Naches, fishing from rafts. After July the water gets too low in the upper part of the river and we start fishing the lower part of the Naches.

The Naches river offers Rainbow and Cutthroat with an average size in the 10 to 12 inch range, however there is a chance daily for fish pushing the 20 inch mark on dry flies. Out of respect for this unique fishery we limit the amount of pressure that it sees, making it a sought after destination.
Fishing Waters:
Destination:
The “Blue Ribbon” trout waters of the Yakima are home to Rainbows, Cutthroats, good hatches and gorgeous scenery. A great catch and release trout river. Troutwater has fly shops on ... moreboth the upper Yakima River and the Lower Yakima River.

The Trout Season

February/March – Skwala Stoneflies, March Brown Duns

Mid to late February through March is one of the best times to find the large, mature rainbows of the Yakima River. The weather may suck or it could be mild and comfortable during the end of winter. What does usually happen are big fish congregated together in the stable, low river flows during pre-snow melt period.

April/May – March Browns, Salmon Flies, Drakes, Caddis

Great insect hatches occur in the spring on the Yakima River. The Yakima continues to see the skwala stonefly adults into early April. Other stoneflies that are active include the salmon flies and golden stones. On the mayfly side, the March brown duns are in full strength early in April into the latter parts of the month. We also see blue wing olives in April. May will be the blue wing olives, mahagonies and drakes. The salmon flies are strong towards the end of May. The only bummer is the river can easily blowout from snow melt.

June/July/August – Hoppers, Summer Stones, Caddis

June bring irrigation water from the Lake Cle Elum reservior, bumping the river flows significantly. On the positive side, the river stays cool and highly oxygenated throughout the heat of the summer. Lots of dry fly fishing with terrestrial patterns and summer stoneflies. It’s a great time to fish.

September/October – Caddis, Blue Wings, Baetis, October Caddis

After Labor Day, the flow draw down as the irrigation needs for the lower Yakima Valley are met by the Naches River drainage. The warm days and cool nights of the fall bring great hatches. The Chinook salmon are actively spawning in the upper river by the end of September.

November/December – Blue wings, Baetis, Midges

The Yakima will fishing will depend on weather this time of year. It usually fishes well until the first cold snap of the year. The lower river tends to be more mild than the upper with better fish activity as a result. The river is also more accessible below Ellensburg due to less snow.
Fishing Waters:
The “Blue Ribbon” trout waters of the Yakima are home to Rainbows, Cutthroats, good hatches and gorgeous scenery. A great catch and release trout river. Troutwater has fly shops on ... moreboth the upper Yakima River and the Lower Yakima River.

The Trout Season

February/March – Skwala Stoneflies, March Brown Duns

Mid to late February through March is one of the best times to find the large, mature rainbows of the Yakima River. The weather may suck or it could be mild and comfortable during the end of winter. What does usually happen are big fish congregated together in the stable, low river flows during pre-snow melt period.

April/May – March Browns, Salmon Flies, Drakes, Caddis

Great insect hatches occur in the spring on the Yakima River. The Yakima continues to see the skwala stonefly adults into early April. Other stoneflies that are active include the salmon flies and golden stones. On the mayfly side, the March brown duns are in full strength early in April into the latter parts of the month. We also see blue wing olives in April. May will be the blue wing olives, mahagonies and drakes. The salmon flies are strong towards the end of May. The only bummer is the river can easily blowout from snow melt.

June/July/August – Hoppers, Summer Stones, Caddis

June bring irrigation water from the Lake Cle Elum reservior, bumping the river flows significantly. On the positive side, the river stays cool and highly oxygenated throughout the heat of the summer. Lots of dry fly fishing with terrestrial patterns and summer stoneflies. It’s a great time to fish.

September/October – Caddis, Blue Wings, Baetis, October Caddis

After Labor Day, the flow draw down as the irrigation needs for the lower Yakima Valley are met by the Naches River drainage. The warm days and cool nights of the fall bring great hatches. The Chinook salmon are actively spawning in the upper river by the end of September.

November/December – Blue wings, Baetis, Midges

The Yakima will fishing will depend on weather this time of year. It usually fishes well until the first cold snap of the year. The lower river tends to be more mild than the upper with better fish activity as a result. The river is also more accessible below Ellensburg due to less snow.
Fishing Waters:
The Yakima River in Washington is the finest trout stream in the Evergreen State, offering great rainbow trout fishing, as well as the occasional cut-bow and cutthroat. The river starts ... moreat it's source high in the North Central Cascades and flows for miles and miles through lush forests, both pine and cottonwood, enters the farmlands of the Kittitas Valley and floats through the famous Yakima River Canyon. It offers nearly 80 miles of prime catch and release only fly fishing.

Fly Fishing the YAK
"Life is But a Dream" Guided Fly Fishing is proud to offer full day float trips, and half day float trips. We offer guided trips year round and I will personally guarantee that you'll have a ball on the YAK! The Yakima is famous for its spring time caddis, PMD, PED, baetis, skwala stones, march browns, salmon fly and other hatches. The summer months are great for casting tight to the banks with your hopper or dry stone fly, this is my favorite time on the YAK. Fall offers us great baetis hatches and all year long we'll nymph and throw the big ugly streamers to fool the trout. Winter midge fishing can also be great for the die hards out there.
Fishing Waters:
The Methow Valley located in North Central Washington is and continues to be one of the best-kept secrets in the entire Pacific Northwest. With a myriad of outdoor activities to choose ... morefrom, the Methow Valley has served as a sportsmen's paradise for Washingtonians for decades now. Just one of the many activities practiced in the Methow Valley is fly-fishing for Summer Run Steelhead on the pristine, Methow River.

With classic riffle and bolder strewn run after classic run, the Methow River is truly a Steel-heading paradise. This magnificent river affords fly fishermen of every skill level the distinct opportunity to swinging flies, fish heavily weighted wet flies and nymphs or skate and wake dry flies for the most sought after game fish in the world, the Pacific Northwest Steelhead.

The Methow River originates high in the North Cascades Mountain Range and meanders through six major vegetation zones with precipitation ranging from 100 inches to 10 inches a year. The Methow dashes, darts cutting its way over eons of time across large river rock boulders as mountain snows thaw during the warming months of spring.

Eventually, the Methow converges with the mother of all steelhead rivers, the Columbia River at the small town of Pateros, Washington. Salmon and steelhead returning to the Methow system must navigate over 500 miles upriver from the salty waters of the Pacific Ocean, while breaching 9 mainstream Columbia River dam passages. A phenomenal feat of nature in its own right.

In their lifetime, these magnificent Pacific Ocean going fish breach these man made obstacles twice. They pass over the dams on the way to the ocean and upon their return to the Methow River. Here salmon and some steelhead will perform their last living passage, the spawning ritual. Surrounded by farmland, timber and bushy, green meadows, the Methow River is truly a fly-fishing paradise, running clean and clear for much of the season. Remaining relatively wild, it is not uncommon to see numerous mule deer feeding along the river or road, eagles and osprey picking at a decaying salmon carcass or the occasional wild turkey sighting. Experience this wild life adventure while you cast flies for some of Washington States finest steelhead east of the Cascades Mountain Range.

The Methow River steelhead are a summer run species that enter the Columbia river between the months of June and July. Typically they make their way up river in force during the first couple weeks of September. This however, is dependant solely on the amount of water in both the Columbia and Methow River systems. With high water flow, fish tend to arrive early to the system. During periods of low water and a warm Columbia River watershed, steelhead movements will slow until water conditions improve. Once flows increase and water temperatures recede, steelhead resume their up stream travels.

Low returning Steelhead numbers in the mid nineties prompted an indefinite closure of all sport fishing for salmon and steelhead in the Methow River as well as many other Upper Columbia River tributaries. Since that time, the returning numbers of Steelhead has steadily risen in the Upper Columbia River, due in part to an intensive hatchery rearing program spearheaded by several local, state and private fisheries agencies.

In September of 2002, a “special emergency” opening for catch and release fishing was prompted on the Methow River. To say fishing was good is the understatement of the decade with anglers catching almost unheard of numbers of steelhead on a daily basis. Since then, the steelhead numbers have continued to grow, prompting special openings each year in October for steelhead on the Methow system. Each year we eagerly anticipate the opening of the Methow River, generally during the first few days of October.

The Worley Bugger guide team attacks the Methow in two differently modes. By October, flows are low in the Methow allowing a steelhead fly fishermen to access the river by foot. There is plenty of access points along the entire 35 miles stretch of river, where steelhead stage and a fly anglers can nymph, swing or skate a dry fly. Here you have the ability to travel up or down the road in warm, comfortable vehicle targeting key spots throughout the day.

For those that prefer to fish longer stretches of river or want to see more of the Methow, a float trip on a two man raft is also available to you as well. Here you can fish one full section of river putting the boat in the river at point "A" and float several full miles of river to point "B" while fishing every nook and cranny between.

Anyone who has fished the Methow before knows that at times the fish are in the lower river, sometimes holding in the upper portions, and many days they are in both the upper and lower portions of river.
Fishing Waters:
Destination:
Destination:
Fishing Waters:
Rocky Ford Creek is a Central Washington desert spring creek and is located northeast of the small farming community of Ephrata, Washington. It percolates underground and seeps from ... morethe rich, desert Columbia Basin soils flowing south, eventually intersecting the massive still water impoundment of Moses Lake.

This small, well-known trout stream is home to multitudes of aquatic insects and most often hatches occur on a year around basis. It has also earned a respected reputation for growing some of the regions largest rainbow trout. Here, fish feed freely on a vast supply of aquatic and non-aquatic organisms throughout the year.

Water flows and temperature remain fairly consistent much of the season and fish can travel easily through the slow moving waters of this small fly fishing only stream. Trout exceeding 5 pounds are common in the creek, however rainbows measuring in the 16 to 20 inch fork length are customary.

This small spring creek is a virtual mayfly factory during the year. The waters of Rocky Ford churn hatches of Blue Wing Olives, Callibaetis, Pale Morning Duns as well as Trico Mayflies throughout the season. Midges are a constant emergence at the "Ford" three hundred sixty five days a year. Specific times during the season, when mayfly hatches are scarce, these small Chironomids attract the attentions of Rocky Ford Rainbows as they fin freely, harvesting these minuscule insects from the surface.

There is really never a bad time to fish Rocky Ford, however weekends during peak periods, especially the warming spring months, can get busy with fly fishermen. There is however plenty of room to fish. The creek offers over 3 miles of accessible fly-fishing water with bridges on both sides of the creek for easy access from one side to another.

February and the first portions of March will begin producing consistent daily hatches of Blue Wing Olives. By April, Callibaetis and spring Caddis will enter the show and fish will have a variety of aquatics to feed on.

Throughout the late spring and summer months of the season, fish forage on a host of terrestrial insects as well. Ants, Beetles and Grasshoppers flourish under the desert sunshine and will present the rainbows of Rocky Ford Creek with a summer time feast during the long dog days of summer. This is especially true when strong desert winds blow across the Columbia Basin. These tiny creatures are hurled into the water and become a favorite forage for fish this time of year. Large Grasshopper patterns twitched and skated along the banks; cattails and weed beds will also prove productive.

The warm summer months also provide another aquatic event as well. Damselflies as well as Dragonflies, mostly associated with our still water fisheries, also inhabit the waters of Rocky Ford in vast numbers. Trout anxiously await this cycle each year and nourish themselves on both the nymph and adult stages of the insect. Exacting imitations to match this summer food form will work well during peak periods of their activity. Stalking the shoals of the Ford quiet and carefully during a Damselfly hatch can be an exhilarating experience. Site casting to large cruising rainbows as they foolishly feed on these summer time critters is one of our favorites at the Ford. Blue, olive and tan adult Damselflies during the peak months of June, July and August can provide fly fishermen with a fun and exciting dry fly fishing experience at the creek.

Life below the water's surface at Rocky Ford is abundant as well. Scuds by the thousands inhabit the muddy bottom and thick plumage of weed growth that blooms throughout the creek. Trout root along the stream bottom, its deeper shelves and of course the weed line, gorging on these fresh water shrimp. Leeches, as you can imagine, are also consistent forage for rainbows. These two constant food sources aid in growing fish to proportionate sizes very quickly.

When winter arrives in Central Washington and some of our trout rivers close under seasonal regulations or cold temperatures have invaded the Kittitas Valley chocking the Yakima River with slush ice, the water of Rocky Ford stays spring creek consistent and the fish continue on their relentless feeding opportunities. Even during the coldest of winter days, Midges and Blue Wing Olives with appear in the afternoons. The winter months can be a popular time for some Rocky Ford fly fishing enthusiasts. The colder weather and other wintertime activities have chased away the summer time crowds. However, the die-hard fly fishing fanatics will be there and they have it figured out.

Rocky Ford Creek has a long fishing history. A trout hatchery was first erected on its banks in the early 1940's. Fishing became renowned and its popularity quickly grew. Over the past decades, the creek has endured several hatcheries and has under gone environmental changes. Fish barriers were placed at the creeks confluence with Moses Lake to repel non game fish from entering the creek. These intentions were well deserving, however to date both suckers and carp flourish in the creek in specific areas. However, these fish do supply a food source during their yearly spawning cycle, which trout eagerly anticipate and take full advantage of a fleshy meal.

Rocky Ford Creek is one of the few "Fly Fishing Only" streams in the state of Washington. Special regulations were set in place in the late 1990's to establish a consistent lunker rainbow fishery and it seems to be working. The creek remains catch & release only, no bait fishing and a single barb-less hook is required. There is also no wading allowed in the creek, so casting must be completed from the bank. There's not much need to wade the water anyway because an accomplished caster can easily sling line to the other bank with very little effort. Cattails and other plumage grow along the water's edge, which provides shade and cover for the fish during the hot, barren summer sun as well as provide insects refuge from lurking rainbows.
Destination:
Fishing Waters
Many anglers have a love it or hate it attitude toward the tiny, 7-mile long, Rocky Ford Creek. Located about an hour’s drive from Ellensburg, it flows through mostly arid, flat lowland. ... moreThose inclined to hate the creek will be the first to tell you it’s slow, unexciting and the least scenic of the area’s waters. Nevertheless, there are three really good reasons to love it. First it’s open 365 days a year. Second, the climate is mild and year round hatches make winter fishing possible. Finally, its top, public section is a miracle mile of rainbow trout.

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Unlike most Washington State rivers that emanate from mountain runoff, Rocky Creek literally percolates underground and seeps up through the rich, Columbia Basin soil. Maintaining a nearly constant temperature, it moves south and eventually flows into Moses Lake. Also unusual, the creek originates near Trout Lodge, Inc., a hatchery that produces triploids and sells them to the state. Because the hatchery is partly located on state land, the state accepts fish for rent, and a portion of this “rent” gets placed right into Rocky Creek.

Wading is prohibited on the creek but given its narrow width and reedy banks, it’s easy to cast from shore. The constant clarity of the water enables you to actually see the fish and fish from sight. In addition to a full range of insects, the Rocky Ford has thousands of scuds that live alongside leeches on the muddy, weedy creek bottom. Rainbows are amply fed from these sources and tend to quickly grow quite large. Trout in excess of 5 pounds are unexceptional while rainbows ranging from 16-20 inches are commonplace.

Before booking your trip remember that this is a “fly fishing only” river that cannot be waded, prohibits use of bait, enforces a single, barbless hook requirement and is catch and release only. 
Game Fish Opportunities:
This 75-mile river, the largest tributary of the Yakima, starts off in Naches Pass and is known as the Little Naches until its confluence with the Bumping River. At that point, it ... moreofficially becomes the Naches. Draining into the eastern Cascades, the upper river runs through rugged mountains and scenic wilderness, offering anglers an opportunity to enjoy pristine environs at less than an hour’s drive from Ellensburg.

Further down, the lower Naches and its main tributary, the Tieton River, run through open valleys filled with orchards, flowered meadows and fertile farmland before emptying into the Yakima. Best described as a wild, freestone tailwater, it is less frequented than neighboring rivers, making it an excellent choice for anyone seeking a quiet, outdoor adventure.

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Summer season begins June 1st, just in advance of the winter runoff, and continues through late October. The runoff can cause a bit of stain to the water’s clarity, but that is typically short lived. During the summer months the Naches can be waded or floated, although the water current can be strong and its rapids can be challenging.

Known for its abundant trout, the river is home to wild rainbow, native cutthroat, hybrid cut-bows and bull trout species. Average size is approximately 10 inches although larger fish are not uncommon.

Before booking your trip ask about possible fall spawning closures and be prepared to catch and release.
Nestled in the Methow River Valley and known as the Jewel of the Cascades, this 80-mile Columbia tributary is known for its great beauty and abundant trout. By car, it can be reached ... morewithin two hours from Ellensburg or about 3 ½ hours from Seattle. Five towns dot the valley landscape - Mazama, Winthrop Twisp, Carlton and Methow – each with a charm of their own.

The Methow and its tributaries, the Twisp River, Cedar Creek and Early Winters Creek begin in the high, Methow Pass area of the Cascades and continue to join with additional tributaries until their confluence with the Columbia River at Pateros. The Pacific Rim Trail follows the River’s upper reaches while other landmarks such as Star Peak and Mt. Bigelow, two of the state’s highest peaks, add to the river’s splendor.

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The river can be waded or floated. Anglers tend to divide the river into three sections: Winthrop to Twisp; Twisp to Carlton; and, Carlton to Gold Creek. Each has differing flows although the lower section has rapids and tends to be turbulent.

Steelhead season changes annually but the trout season typically opens June 1st and closes September 30th. The section below Winthrop is considered by many to be the most desirable. Dry fishing throughout the summer is excellent but fall/winter is the best time, especially for those interested in steelhead. Still something of an insider’s river, the clear watered Methow is often overlooked by anglers and is rarely congested.

Species include wild rainbow trout, wild cutthroat, native bull trout, steelhead (indigenous and hatched) and chinook salmon. While fish tend to average about 12 inches, there are recent reports of 18-25 inch trout being found southeast of Carlton.

Before booking a trip, check to see if the river is closed for spawning and if all fish need to be released. Depending on conditions, anglers may be permitted to keep hatchery steelhead.
The Klickitat River, located in south-central Washington, flows generally south from its origin on Mt. Adams in the high country of the Yamaka Indian Reservation to its confluence ... morewith the Columbia River in the Columbia River Gorge. The designated segment is the lowermost 10.8 miles of the river. At the upper end of this segment, the river flows through a broad canyon. As it drops toward the Columbia at a steady gradient of 26 feet per mile, the canyon tightens and small rapids spike the channel.

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At about river mile 2.5, the Klickitat drops into a tight, rock-walled gorge. The water cascades and crashes through the rocky channel where the tribes and bands of the Yamaka Nation have used dip-net fishing continuously for generations to catch salmon and steelhead. Of the mid-Columbia tributaries, the Klickitat is one of the favored fishing sites, due to both the number of fish and the narrow canyon with its high water volume.

In addition to the river's outstanding hydrology, the geology of the gorge between river mile 1.1 and 2.5, and the dip-net fishing sites, the river is also the most significant anadromous fishery on the Washington side of the Columbia in the stretch from Bonneville Dam to the Snake River. It supports steelhead trout, Chinook salmon and coho salmon, with six distinct runs.

The lower Klickitat offers a variety of recreation opportunities, including boating, fishing, hiking, camping and sightseeing. Boat fishing is popular when the salmon and steelhead are running. There is an undeveloped boat put-in/take-out on Klickitat County Park land just below the Pitt bridge, and river access at several places along Highway 142, including a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fee camp site. The take-out is before the fish screw trap at about river mile 5, just above the Klickitat canyon gorge. Ongoing construction of the fish bypass at the top of Lyle Falls requires boaters to take out at this point. The falls also marks the beginning of the tribal in-lieu fishing sites and no boating is allowed through this area.

The only permits required are from commercial outfitters; existing commercial outfitters include beginning kayak schools and fishing guides.

The Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad built a railway linking Lyle and Goldendale in 1903. This branch line was abandoned in 1992 and is now the Klickitat Rails-to-Trail. The trail parallels the river's east bank from the Columbia River to Fisher Hill Bridge, where it crosses to the west bank and continues to the town of Pitt. It crosses Highway 142 and continues along the west bank leaving the wild and scenic river portion and continues for many miles upriver.
As the only official “Blue Ribbon” river in the State of Washington, the Yakima is in a class of it’s own. Being close to the quaint town of Ellensburg adds to its allure. Originating ... morehigh in the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountain’s Snoqualmie Wilderness and ending at Richland, this 214-mile long Columbia River tributary is a managed flow tailriver, controlled by the US Bureau of Reclamation and fed by three main reservoirs – the Kachess, Keechelus and Cle Elum.

Despite the controls, a mix of both bottom fed and top water releases create water conditions more like a freestone river than one encumbered by dams. Unlike most western waterways, its waters are low during the spring/fall months and high during summer when demand for irrigation is greatest.

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The Yakima’s official 75-mile Blue Ribbon stretch starts where the three tailwaters merge near the town of Cle Elum, and continues on until reaching Roza Dam. The upper river down to the confluence of reservoirs tends to be braided and difficult to float. A flat section follows, known for wading and long rifles. At East Cle Elum the river runs 14 miles through its “upper canyon” section, populated with large boulders and an abundance of cutthroats.

From Diversion Dam to Wilson Creek is the farmland section. Known for apple orchards, Cottonwoods and Timothy Hay, the fishing is good but access difficult due to private landholdings. Arid Yakima Canyon that runs from Wilson Creek to Roza Dam is the most fished part of the river, typically by drift boat.

The river is open year round with runoff in May. While anglers come from afar to fish Yakima’s waters, it’s rarely over crowded. There’s a wide variety of fish, including rainbow, cutthroat, browns, brook, kokanee, burbot and smallmouth bass. Fish range in size from 12-14 inches.

Before booking a trip, be sure to check anticipated water levels and remember that this is a catch and release river.
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Top Fly Fishing Towns in the US
Rated as one of the top trout fishing towns in the US by BobMallard, author of 25 Best Towns - Fly Fishing for Trout
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