A couple years ago, we ran a series called “Trout Bum of the Week,” in which we highlighted some of the guys living the good life. . .of a sort. (See the bottom of this post for a link to the previous installments.) This is our second round of profiles. Most of the subjects are guides who have turned their passion into a vocation, spending their time in an outdoor “office” that may include a drift boat, gorgeous mountain scenery, and crystal clear water. Others do have day jobs but manage to spend every other available minute on the water with a fly rod in hand. Whether you aspire to one lifestyle or the other, it’s illuminating to explore the different paths these men and women have taken on their way to achieving “trout bum” status.
Derek Young has cast flies around the Western US for the last 15 years and has lived in Washington since 1984—with stops in Colorado, Missouri, Texas, and Utah that have given him the opportunity to enjoy some of the best fly fishing in the United States. He guides on the Yakima River, where he runs Emerging Rivers Guide Services.
1. When did you start fly fishing?
My first experience with a fly rod was in Colorado, on the Blue River, in 1995. A part-time guide I was working with offered to take me in the dead of winter, and not knowing any different, I learned how to cast and tie knots in bad conditions. He was probably testing me to see if I’d stick with it.
2. What’s your favorite water?
I like to fish moving water, with wild native fish in beautiful places. I guide on the Yakima River because it’s all of those things, and a great fishery.
3. What’s your favorite fly rod quarry and why?
The Westslope Cutthroat. I’ve caught the same fish—marked by talon slashes on its sides and distinctive cheek spotting—a few times. These fish have a significant presence and meaning in the West, and I think they embody the spirit of this pursuit.
4. What’s your most memorable fly-fishing moment?
They are definitely shared experiences. Fishing is a great way to gain perspective on your own. I’ve also completed 45-mile solo desert slot-canyon hikes and experienced that same sense of perspective, but for me fly fishing is most enjoyable when it’s shared with others, like on multi-day float trips. As a guide, I really enjoyed sharing the river with a client who’s been blind since birth, and teaching him how to fly fish. As a parent, I’ve loved seeing my children cast and catch fish and hearing, “I learned by watching you.” As an Angler, there’s a big bull trout in British Columbia (see the photo above) that I want to return for and catch again. I’m even wearing a Trout Bum hat in the photo!
5. What’s your most forgettable fly-fishing moment?
I’ve learned over the years that repetition, having a process, and sticking with it is not only good practice, but superstition as well. When you forget the small details, things can unravel pretty quickly. I’ll never forget that pit in my gut driving home from an unproductive day on the water realizing that I’d left my rod and reel on the roof. I was halfway home but went back and scoured the area where I had parked. I agonized leaving without it, but returned the next day with a rake and swept a 100-yard dirt road looking for it. I found it broken in half— I had run over it in the leaves just off the side of the road. I don’t leave my rod on the roof anymore!
6. What do you love most about fly-fishing?
I love teaching others how to fly fish. I think it’s a bigger discussion and meaningful to my life when the time is taken to prepare, to observe, to teach, and to develop a passion within someone else. Creating an appreciation for conservation and wild fish in their native environments is my passion. And I love catching fish on dry flies!
7. What’s your favorite piece of gear and why?
I’m a gear-nut, so it’s a rod. The ZG Helios Ion 5-weight that I was awarded in 2011 as the Orvis Endorsed Guide Of The Year. It is a reminder of the hard work, of the great days spent with clients, and of the joy of casting a fine rod.
8. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?
Definitely a soft-hackle wet fly. I enjoy tying and swinging soft hackle flies, especially when the fishing is tough. You really have to focus on the variables when the bite is off, and it’s a technique that works.
9. What was your favorite fly-fishing trip?
I’ve been on a lot of great trips, when the fishing has been great and when it’s been not great. Again, for me it’s the experience and most of the time there’s a memory that sticks out the most. To date, one of my favorite trips is a multi-day down the Grande Ronde with my wife, our friends, and three broken rods. Well, they weren’t broken when the trip started, but how they broke is the story.
10. What’s your next dream destination?
I’ve done the saltwater trips for bonefish and tarpon, and fished for steelhead in the great rivers of the PNW. I’ve floated the great rivers of the West and still have a few more to explore. I don’t get to the East Coast often, so I’d have to say the coastal flats of the Carolinas for Redfish. Maybe next year…