Western Rivers Conservancy hosted the Royal Treatment crew and a few guests on the Yakima River at one of their recent acquisitions, the Yakima Canyon Ranch. Since the Yakima River has been on our "must fish" list, the chance to camp and fish this well-known trout stream was too much to pass up. We packed up and headed Northeast.

The event was billed as a "BYOB" (bring your own boat) as the river flows during summer are increased for agricultural irrigation, making wading difficult. With the river high and fast, casting dry flies at the bank was the order of the day. Even the evangelical Euro nymphers in the group converted to the dry after finding that Hopper/Dropper rigs were problematic when trying to land the Hopper inches off the bank. While the "Hopper Hatch" is still not in full swing, Hoppers, Chubbys, and misc. BFTs seemed to work on the resident Rainbows.

Jake Campbell from the WRC was our camp host and filled a spot in our boat as tail-gunner, giving Jennifer and me the chance to learn more about their work and the rivers they have helped protect. He also had some experience on the Yakima in this stretch, so his input on fishing tactics was very helpful. Jake came in real handy the first morning when a guest's drift boat decided to make the trip alone and jumped off the trailer into the river right after we had cleared an island near the boat launch. While I raced to get ahead of the boat, Jake and I formulated a plan for the recovery of said vessel and executed the plan flawlessly. While Jake delivered the boat to the take-out, Jennifer and I fished our way down and joined him and the happy owners a short time later. 

For the most part, the fish we encountered were small, in the 10" to 12" range, but every drift produced at least one fish of respectable size up to 18" or 19", helping to keep everyone focused. That in itself was a tall order. The canyon is beautiful, and the wildlife plentiful. Mule Deer, Big Horn Sheep, Otters, and abundant birdlife pulled our eyes away from our flies just as a fish rose to them on more than one occasion.

One of my highlights was the pair of hawks dogfighting over the possession of a snake. We sat at the take-out, watching the battle overhead while waiting for the other boats to arrive. As the two combatants dove and banked around basalt towers, a third remained high above, waiting for the right moment to drop out of the sun to join the fray. When the skirmish ended, the canyon was quiet again, except for the sound of rushing water lapping against the drift boat, the chatter of birds, and the wind in the Cottonwood trees above our camp.

With the morning drift and shuttle out of the way, I set up my camp kitchen and Skottle to prepare Tacos for everyone. Everyone added to the potluck feast, with Margaritas being the most popular contribution. The 90-degree temps made those frosty drinks slide down too easily, and soon, the camp was quiet as naptime settled over the group.

The evening drift was scheduled for a later launch to take advantage of the late evening hours when the fish seemed more cooperative and to overcome the margarita naps. We put in around 6:00 but still needed to drop anchor a few times and let the day fade away. With flow pushing us downriver, it only took 3 hours to do the 8-mile float. We caught more fish of respectable size on this final evening of the trip, and it seemed the Trout knew the Hopper hatch was coming soon.

As we approached the take-out, a big fish crushed Jennifer's BFT (Big Floaty Thing,) putting a serious bend in her rod as it peeled line off her reel. I dropped the anchor to hold us in the current while she battled the Trout. Josh and Randy were drifting by just as I slipped the net under the fish, marking the end of our adventure.

Back at camp, we relived the day, comparing notes on flies, fish, wildlife, the barely clad young ladies floating in pool toys, and the naked guy on the paddleboard going down the middle of the river. It was time to pack up and head home. While Josh, Randy, Spencer, and their guests rose early for one last morning drift, Jennifer and I packed up camp and enjoyed a peaceful morning on the Yakima River.

A special thanks to Jake Campbell and Jim Cox of the Western Rivers Conservancy for making this adventure possible. Sometimes to save a river, you have to buy it.

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