It’s been one heck of a busy year with a lot of changes in my life, thankfully all for the better. All-in-all, I can say it’s been a pretty good year and for that I’m grateful. I’m lucky enough to be working in one of the most exciting spaces in technology (mobile apps) and found a new passion, Fly Fishing.
This week I had the privilege of finally being able to go on a guided float down the Yakima River with Orvis endorsed guide Derek Young from Emerging Rivers Guide Services and my buddy Troy Yung. What an experience that was! I was thoroughly ready to catch my share of some trout, but I swear they were holed up in a fish hotel watching some fish porn or something. More on that in a bit…
One of the Fly Shops I frequent is Orvis in Bellevue, WA. In the short time I’ve been fly fishing (a few months), Orvis has put on a number of free seminars that have been quite excellent and their Orvis Days have been simply awesome.
If you haven’t gone to these, you are REALLY missing out! The staff at Orvis has always been wonderful and very knowledgable. If you are a local in the area and haven’t been to Orvis, make sure to at least go there once to have a look and meet some of the fine folks like Leland Miyawaki, the Fly Fishing Manager and Dov Young (what is it with all the Youngs in fly fishing around here). 🙂 If you are into salt water fly fishing in Puget Sound, Leland is one of the most knowledgable guides in the area. Just be forewarned, if you go, it’s going to be hard to walk out empty-handed!!!
It was at the Orvis Fall Days where I met Derek Young when he was presenting on fly fishing the Yakima river. I knew Derek had to be a cool dude when I saw him setting up his MacBook for the presentation. Mac guy, fly fisher, how could he be a bad dude? Then my suspicions were confirmed when he started talking about fly fishing the Yakima. I knew right then I HAD to do this. The bug was planted (no pun intended), now I just needed to find the right time to go. Life was pretty slammed and crazy busy at work for the past 3 months (notice the lack of posts on the blog here). But FINALLY, I found a time that would work, but as life would have it…it was dead smack in the middle of winter. Cold as hell, and not exactly the best conditions for trout. But I was determined. If for nothing else, the float would be incredibly scenic (and fun) and it would be good casting practice with a chance to get some 1:1 instruction on techniques like nymphing, droppers, strike indicators and streamers, as well as reading the water, all of which I was still a complete n00b at.
Every good adventure has a story behind it, and this adventure would not leave us empty-handed. Our day started out in less-than-ideal fashion with Troy’s Audi deciding that half way to North Bend (our planned breakfast destination) was about a good time to break down. :-/ We pampered it and hobbled along to get pretty close to our rally point when I called Derek for a rescue mission. The Audi was pissed off and bucking like a bronco. I suspect CV joints were at the root of the poor Audi’s dilema given the clacking sound and resistance to turning without creating a scene. I was really hoping this was not an early indicator of how the rest of the day was going to turn out. But thankfully, Derek promptly jumped in the “Rum Pig” (more on that later), and came to the rescue a few miles down the road just before we hit Issaquah on I-90.
Troy called a tow truck and set up an appointment for them to tow the car AFTER our float later that evening. There was no way we were going to miss this opportunity. As we were wrapping up the towing situation, Derek pulls up in the Tundra (Rum Pig) with a sweet looking StreamTech raft in tow. This green monster had FUN written all over it. Things were looking up.
Our original plans called for us to stop at a killer breakfast joint in North Bend, but due to the delays, we opted to skip the big breakfast and grab something once we got closer to our put-in at Cle Elum, daylight was at a premium at this time of year. We loaded our gear and launched heading east on I-90 towards Snoqualmie Pass. The weather forecast was all over the place with some calling for snow, so we were hoping the weather would cooperate. The passes definitely had snow, but the drive eastbound to Cle Elum was more than manageable.
We made it through the pass and arrived at our first stop, the Pioneer Coffee Roasting Company. We grabbed some tasty eats and loaded ourselves with coffee to hold us over for a good while. From there we headed out for a quick hop to the put-in. When we got there, I just looked at Derek, then Troy, back at Derek and said, what…THIS is where you’re putting in?
So….like where’s the ramp? Then Derek proceeded to go all 4×4 in what I thought was pucker factor 10 (mind you I’m a recent Northwest transplant from Miami, FL of all places). Snow is something I’m still adjusting to, especially when driving in it. But I guess that’s why Derek is a true pro guide, he maneuvered the Rum Pig with no problem and got us into position to pull the StreamTech off the trailer. I was still wondering how the hell he was going to get the raft to the river, but he promptly put that question to rest. Derek started prepping the raft while Troy and I got suited up. After stowing our gear and a solid safety brief, we boarded the Class 5 rated StreamTech raft and were on our way.
The scenery was simply breathtaking. Everything just has this serene feel about it when it’s covered in snow. The water was crystal clear. Floating down the river just felt right. After a short float, we jumped out for some casting instruction and a little wading. Derek worked with us on getting our casting skills tightened up and got us warmed up for the day. That’s when Troy discovered it just wasn’t his day. There’s probably not much else worse than standing in a river wearing chest waders that are supposed to keep you warm and DRY only to find out you have not one, but multiple leaks. The suck factor for Troy just went up by 10x. No problem though, we adjusted the plan and spent a minimal amount of time wading in lieu for seat time on the raft. As it turns out, this wasn’t bad at all. It probably kept us warmer in the long run and it was great practice being able to fish from a floating platform, we can wade anytime. We spent the majority of the day floating except for a few pit stops along the way.
We started the day off with some nymphing. Derek rigged us up nice with a dropper combo and indicator that would hopefully improve our odds of catching something. Somehow the fish knew something we didn’t. They simply didn’t want to come out and play. While Troy and I were slingin bugs, Derek was keeping an eye out for anywhere the fish might be hiding. We could see clear to the bottom of every pool and nothing, nada, zilch, zip. But we charged on. Along one of our pit stops Derek pointed out the hatch of the day on the snowbank. Looked like some small black winter stoneflies and midges were on the menu for the day.
We continued floating for the next several hours, only to be skunked by the trout. I was able to get some great shots throughout the day and made the float that much sweeter being able to combine another one of my passions, photography.
Before we knew it the daylight was gone and we arrived at our final destination. The shuttle service had already positioned the truck and we were ready to go. Again the Rum Pig came through like a champ and put that Warn winch to good use. The snow was fresh powder and deep. Derek dug out in 4WD mode with ease and got the truck lined up to pull the raft up to shore. A few button pushes later the boat was beached and he turned the truck around to pull the raft onto the trailer. NICE. And just like that, our adventure had just about come to an end.
On our way home we stopped for some great burgers and headed for the pass. The snow was coming down hard at this point and driving conditions were deteriorating fast. Thankfully we made it through with no problems and arrived in time to meet the tow truck.
This adventure ended with us getting skunked by the trout. Fish 1: Anglers 0. I intend to get even. We’ve already committed to Derek that we’ll be coming back out in March for a rematch with the trout. Something tells me the next three months are going to be very long. 🙂 I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the year. Thanks to my buddy Troy and new friend Derek for a great time I won’t ever forget. In the meantime I think I’ll try my hand at learning to tie some flies. And wouldn’t ya know it, Orvis has a 4-session fly tying class coming up in January!
Oh…and about that Rum Pig, you’re probably wondering why I’ve been referring to the Tundra as the “Rum Pig”…
For more pics on our adventure, see the full set on my Flickr page. Happy New Year & Tight lines…see you in 2011!!! 😉