The winter doldrums of living in Washington are tough on the mind and soul. Especially when all the rivers are blown out due to all the rain we’ve been receiving and the closure of many rivers due to low wild steelhead return. There is one thing that I look forward to in January or February, is a good road trip out to “The Ford”. I’d ‘met’ Phil from another fishing board and found out that he was a fellow Korean angler. He was interested in meeting up to learn about fly fishing and hopefully get into some fish one day, but our schedule conflicted since he works weekdays and I work weekends. The stars lined up and I would have a day on the weekend to meet up and fish, so I suggested Rocky Ford. We were joined by another fellow Korean angler James, who grew up in Alaska. He’s spent some time on the Kenai penisula chasing big bows, sockeye, Kings and Coho. James moved to Seattle a couple of years ago and was anxious to learn new water and put a name to the watershed he heard about through others.
We decided to blast out at 5 am from my house for the 2.5 hour drive to eastern Washington. The pass was cold, 34 degrees measured at Snoqualmie under foggy and some snow flurried skies. We stopped in Ellensburg for breakfast at the Bar 14 Ranch house restaurant an old standby favorite for trips out east. After fueling up our bodies and the truck we busted out as the sun was rising to our final desination. Along the way we viewed some epic scenery of the Columbia river valley, and even saw some wild horses, something Jim and Phil had never witnessed before. HAHA!
As we rolled into Ephrata I could tell the adrenaline was pumping and the guys were getting excited even though the temp was still hovering around 35 degrees we came prepared with plenty of cold weather gear. As we drove in the first parking lot I gave the fellas the 411 on the creek and gave them a lesson in spotting the fish which they were amazed to see such large trout swimming near the shoreline. One of my favorite spots to fish, about halfway between the head and tailout is a section of rocks and riffles, but since we arrived after 9 am there were already two anglers at the spot so we decided to move on further downstream. We quickly rigged up and proceeded down to a couple of my favorite areas near the spillway at the very last parking lot area.
The ground was still frozen but the sun was shining the clouds were disappating under the cold eastern Washington dessert sky. I pointed to the location that James should try while I rigged Phil’s nymph set up and gave him some detailed instruction on what to look for and casting tips. While we were doing that. While we were doing that James yelled out and had a fish on just below the spillway in some skinny water. The fish could all be seen in that section just in inches of water, so big bruisers lazily holding their positions in the warm oxygenated water.
Phil and I decided to head down and try the lower section as its alot more visual and easier to explain the nymphing process. Cast after cast, drift after drift we floating the offerings to the fish without much success. They werent in the feeding mood as we could not see their mouths opening to take in the natural offerings, so it would be a tougher day to be fishing. Once noon hit and the temp warmed up, there was a hatch that was coming off, of size 20 midges. Jim picked up a nice fish on the dry just below in some wider flatwater. I was still determined to get Phil into his first fish on the fly so we kept at it, when I moved to a spot with a nice swift run and drifted my bloodworm through the slot the indicator stopped, I lifted and the fish was on! An average sized rainbow which was pumped to reveal its stomach contents. We found size 18 blacks, a scud in Olive and several scud shells that were digested. After releasing the fish, I put Phil onto that slot and told him to work it like I did while I went down to explore some other runs below. A few minutes later he was onto his first fish, yeah! After a few photos, we admired the chrome trophy and slipped it back into the water. It was a relief that he was able to get into his first fish on the fly and I know that it was all that I needed when learning to fly fish to fuel that angling addiction.
We enjoyed the sun and all caught some more fish and then the wind kicked up so we decided to pack up and head back to the head pool to fish for awhile. Nothing proved to be biting up there and by that time it was overcast and definitely cooled down a few more degrees so we enjoyed a celebratory beverage and proceeded back to Seattle. We were all glad to make it out and I know those moments would replay in their minds and it wouldn’t surprise me if they decided to make another run out to the Ford for another day on my favorite little winter fishery.