Guide Report: East Meets West on the Yakima

Written by: Derek Young


A fine Yakima rainbow, brought to the net despite the brutal “W.”

photo by Patrick Fulkrod

There’s a British film made in 1936, titled East Meets West in which the cast of characters play though a modern-day plot line: the coveting of something you don’t have because of its strategic value or place. The main character in the movie plays a powerful figure being courted by two larger, foreign powers vying for his homeland, who manages to get what he wants from both of them. There are days on the river when we’re faced with the same challenges —the finicky feeding behavior of early-season fish, the weather, the transition of seasons. When the signs of springtime are all around you, it’s easy to be lulled into a false feeling of hope. Steelhead flies have been named after this feeling, this “Winter’s Hope.”

I recently had the opportunity to share my home water, the Yakima River, with Patrick Fulkrod, an Orvis-endorsed guide from Virginia, and his friend Mark. I’m the sole Orvis-endorsed operation in Washington, so networking and fishing with other Orvis-endorsed guides doesn’t happen all that frequently.


A gorgeous Yakima westslope cutthroat.

photo by Patrick Fulkrod

The antagonist in our day on the Yakima was “the W” —what those outside the fly-fishing community would call the “wind.” I hesitate to say the whole word, for fear of encouraging the atmospheric conditions that push air with force up the rocky canyons and sweeping the sage-covered banks. But, as a guide must do, we were prepared for the conditions and made the best of the day. In the end, East and West both got what we wanted—shared time on the water in challenging conditions making us appreciate a stronger power, the W. The wind blew from East to West, and North to South. It blew us against the banks of the river. But it couldn’t spoil a great day on the river.


The wind blows dust across Washington’s Yakima River.

photo by Patrick Fulkrod

The W wanted to get the best of us that day on the Yakima, but we turned the tables on it. Two Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing Guides from opposite sides of the country, on one Western river, managed to connect with a few wild fish, on a wild, wild windy day. Oops, I said it. . . .

Derek Young is the 2011 Orvis-endorsed Guide of the Year. He guides on Washington’s Yakima River. Check out his blog.

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