Winter is trying to hold on here in the Kittitas Valley and we’ve just about had enough of the snow and freezing temperatures. The river is in good shape and the fishing continues to be productive as the water temperatures warm up and the insect life becomes more active.
So What Insects Are The Fish Eating?
The first major hatch we’ll experience here on the Yakima River is that of the Skwala Stonefly. Flip over any rock right now in the Yakima system and you’re likely to find a few of these insects scurrying for cover.
Your best bet right now is to focus on the nymphs of this species. A Pat’s Stone (#8-12) in olive, coffee and orange/black will imitate the Skwala well. Other popular patterns include the 20-Incher Stone (#8-12) and the Rowley Stone (#8-12) in olive and black. Fish your nymphs DEEP, as these stoneflies crawl along the bottom. Skwalas only travel through the water column when they become dislodged from the rocks.
Skwalas are becoming more active as water temperatures reach the 40°F mark. Once the river begins to reach 42°F and higher, we should start to see some adults hatching and fish eating the first “big-bugs” of the year on the surface. This should start to happen sometime mid-March, but is strictly dictated by the weather. Stay tuned on the blog for more information on when this happens!
Along with the Skwalas, there are beginning to be a lot of mayfly nymphs in the river. March Browns will start to become an important food source as their numbers increase. Try fishing a Hare’s Ear (#12-16) in brown or tan and a Pheasant Tail (#12-16) to imitate this mayfly. These should be fished deep as well and serve as a good trailing pattern behind a stonefly nymph in a two-fly setup.
Blue-winged Olives (BWOs) are also present in the river right now and the fish will know what to look for. This little mayfly can be imitated by using an RS2 (#14-20) in olive or a WD40 (#14-20) in a similar color. These can also double as a midge this time of year - another food source these fish will be keying in on.
Pale Morning Duns (PMDs) will also become more prevalent in the system as the spring rolls forward. We aren’t seeing many of these quite yet, but it won’t be long until we do. Keep an eye out for this light-colored mayfly as the spring progresses.
The worm pattern may be one of the best flies in your box during this time of year. Fish have a hard time resisting these critters as they wriggle along substrate at the bottom of the river. There are surprisingly quite a few in the system right now and if you aren’t fishing a worm pattern, you’re missing out.
San Juan’s and Squimie Worms (#8-14) in red, pink, red/pink and brown imitate this food source quite well. Like the smaller mayfly patterns, fish worm patterns behind a larger stonefly nymph to get it down deep and give fish options on what to eat.
Keep an eye out later this week on our YouTube channel for more photographs and videos of these insects. Subscribe to receive notifications on fishing and river reports throughout the season!