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. Those 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.
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.
|Spring||Caddis and aquatics|
|Summer||Terrestrials, damselflies and dragonflies|
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.