Ellensburg Washington

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Centrally located just east of the Cascade Mountains, Ellensburg is surrounded by several great trout filled rivers, making it an ideal place to stay. Considered by many to be the finest fishery in the state, the 214-mile long Yakima, curves around the town’s southern border, adding to Ellensburg’s historic charm. Another top choice is the 80-mile Methow River, known both for its ample fish and exceptional beauty. Excellent fishing can be found on this river within a two-hour drive from town.
 
In close proximity to town, the 75-mile long Naches River is about a half-hour drive. Most of the Naches river basin is located in scenic national forest and wilderness areas, including the renowned Wenatchee National Forest. Often referred to as the “Miracle Mile” of small waters, The Rocky Ford Creek, about an hour from Ellensburg, is best known for its numerous and sizeable rainbow trout. Considered by anglers to be a challenging stream, it is also ranked as one of the best trout rivers in the entire Northwest.
 
While Ellensburg is not thought of as a town exclusively dedicated to anglers, it does have much to offer including 4 well stocked fly shops with knowledgeable owners. What it lacks in numbers (population 18,000) it makes up for with its historic buildings, a major University and a large choice of things to do.
 
If you are with family members or others that don’t care to fish, there are opportunities to go biking on and off road, white water rafting, horse back riding and hiking. Despite its small size, the town has an active arts community with galleries, museums and theaters. Finally, there are events like the Winterhop Brewfest, featuring local microbreweries, Buskers & Burg, a fall celebration with giant puppets, and a highly regarded, large-purse, Labor Day rodeo.
 
Summer is peak fishing time with a high concentration of anglers. The spring and fall seasons remain busy while only a few die-hard choose the winter months.

There are several options for traveling to Ellensburg.
  • Fly into Seattle (SeaTac Airport) and drive for approximately 1 ½ hours
  • Fly into Takima Air Terminal and drive for approximately 40 minutes
  • Fly into Spokane and drive for approximately 2 ½ hours
  • Fly into Bowers Field, a general aviation airport, minutes from Ellensburg 
 
Fishing Waters
Many anglers have a love it or hate it attitude toward the tiny, 7-mile long, Rocky Ford Creek. Located about an hour’s drive from Ellensburg, it flows through mostly arid, flat lowland. ... moreThose inclined to hate the creek will be the first to tell you it’s slow, unexciting and the least scenic of the area’s waters. Nevertheless, there are three really good reasons to love it. First it’s open 365 days a year. Second, the climate is mild and year round hatches make winter fishing possible. Finally, its top, public section is a miracle mile of rainbow trout.

Unlike most Washington State rivers that emanate from mountain runoff, Rocky Creek literally percolates underground and seeps up through the rich, Columbia Basin soil. Maintaining a nearly constant temperature, it moves south and eventually flows into Moses Lake. Also unusual, the creek originates near Trout Lodge, Inc., a hatchery that produces triploids and sells them to the state. Because the hatchery is partly located on state land, the state accepts fish for rent, and a portion of this “rent” gets placed right into Rocky Creek.

Wading is prohibited on the creek but given its narrow width and reedy banks, it’s easy to cast from shore. The constant clarity of the water enables you to actually see the fish and fish from sight. In addition to a full range of insects, the Rocky Ford has thousands of scuds that live alongside leeches on the muddy, weedy creek bottom. Rainbows are amply fed from these sources and tend to quickly grow quite large. Trout in excess of 5 pounds are unexceptional while rainbows ranging from 16-20 inches are commonplace.

Before booking your trip remember that this is a “fly fishing only” river that cannot be waded, prohibits use of bait, enforces a single, barbless hook requirement and is catch and release only. 
Game Fish Opportunities:
This 75-mile river, the largest tributary of the Yakima, starts off in Naches Pass and is known as the Little Naches until its confluence with the Bumping River. At that point, it ... moreofficially becomes the Naches. Draining into the eastern Cascades, the upper river runs through rugged mountains and scenic wilderness, offering anglers an opportunity to enjoy pristine environs at less than an hour’s drive from Ellensburg.

Further down, the lower Naches and its main tributary, the Tieton River, run through open valleys filled with orchards, flowered meadows and fertile farmland before emptying into the Yakima. Best described as a wild, freestone tailwater, it is less frequented than neighboring rivers, making it an excellent choice for anyone seeking a quiet, outdoor adventure.

Summer season begins June 1st, just in advance of the winter runoff, and continues through late October. The runoff can cause a bit of stain to the water’s clarity, but that is typically short lived. During the summer months the Naches can be waded or floated, although the water current can be strong and its rapids can be challenging.

Known for its abundant trout, the river is home to wild rainbow, native cutthroat, hybrid cut-bows and bull trout species. Average size is approximately 10 inches although larger fish are not uncommon.

Before booking your trip ask about possible fall spawning closures and be prepared to catch and release.
Nestled in the Methow River Valley and known as the Jewel of the Cascades, this 80-mile Columbia tributary is known for its great beauty and abundant trout. By car, it can be reached ... morewithin two hours from Ellensburg or about 3 ½ hours from Seattle. Five towns dot the valley landscape - Mazama, Winthrop Twisp, Carlton and Methow – each with a charm of their own.

The Methow and its tributaries, the Twisp River, Cedar Creek and Early Winters Creek begin in the high, Methow Pass area of the Cascades and continue to join with additional tributaries until their confluence with the Columbia River at Pateros. The Pacific Rim Trail follows the River’s upper reaches while other landmarks such as Star Peak and Mt. Bigelow, two of the state’s highest peaks, add to the river’s splendor.

The river can be waded or floated. Anglers tend to divide the river into three sections: Winthrop to Twisp; Twisp to Carlton; and, Carlton to Gold Creek. Each has differing flows although the lower section has rapids and tends to be turbulent.

Steelhead season changes annually but the trout season typically opens June 1st and closes September 30th. The section below Winthrop is considered by many to be the most desirable. Dry fishing throughout the summer is excellent but fall/winter is the best time, especially for those interested in steelhead. Still something of an insider’s river, the clear watered Methow is often overlooked by anglers and is rarely congested.

Species include wild rainbow trout, wild cutthroat, native bull trout, steelhead (indigenous and hatched) and chinook salmon. While fish tend to average about 12 inches, there are recent reports of 18-25 inch trout being found southeast of Carlton.

Before booking a trip, check to see if the river is closed for spawning and if all fish need to be released. Depending on conditions, anglers may be permitted to keep hatchery steelhead.
The Klickitat River, located in south-central Washington, flows generally south from its origin on Mt. Adams in the high country of the Yamaka Indian Reservation to its confluence ... morewith the Columbia River in the Columbia River Gorge. The designated segment is the lowermost 10.8 miles of the river. At the upper end of this segment, the river flows through a broad canyon. As it drops toward the Columbia at a steady gradient of 26 feet per mile, the canyon tightens and small rapids spike the channel.

At about river mile 2.5, the Klickitat drops into a tight, rock-walled gorge. The water cascades and crashes through the rocky channel where the tribes and bands of the Yamaka Nation have used dip-net fishing continuously for generations to catch salmon and steelhead. Of the mid-Columbia tributaries, the Klickitat is one of the favored fishing sites, due to both the number of fish and the narrow canyon with its high water volume.

In addition to the river's outstanding hydrology, the geology of the gorge between river mile 1.1 and 2.5, and the dip-net fishing sites, the river is also the most significant anadromous fishery on the Washington side of the Columbia in the stretch from Bonneville Dam to the Snake River. It supports steelhead trout, Chinook salmon and coho salmon, with six distinct runs.

The lower Klickitat offers a variety of recreation opportunities, including boating, fishing, hiking, camping and sightseeing. Boat fishing is popular when the salmon and steelhead are running. There is an undeveloped boat put-in/take-out on Klickitat County Park land just below the Pitt bridge, and river access at several places along Highway 142, including a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fee camp site. The take-out is before the fish screw trap at about river mile 5, just above the Klickitat canyon gorge. Ongoing construction of the fish bypass at the top of Lyle Falls requires boaters to take out at this point. The falls also marks the beginning of the tribal in-lieu fishing sites and no boating is allowed through this area.

The only permits required are from commercial outfitters; existing commercial outfitters include beginning kayak schools and fishing guides.

The Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad built a railway linking Lyle and Goldendale in 1903. This branch line was abandoned in 1992 and is now the Klickitat Rails-to-Trail. The trail parallels the river's east bank from the Columbia River to Fisher Hill Bridge, where it crosses to the west bank and continues to the town of Pitt. It crosses Highway 142 and continues along the west bank leaving the wild and scenic river portion and continues for many miles upriver.
As the only official “Blue Ribbon” river in the State of Washington, the Yakima is in a class of it’s own. Being close to the quaint town of Ellensburg adds to its allure. Originating ... morehigh in the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountain’s Snoqualmie Wilderness and ending at Richland, this 214-mile long Columbia River tributary is a managed flow tailriver, controlled by the US Bureau of Reclamation and fed by three main reservoirs – the Kachess, Keechelus and Cle Elum.

Despite the controls, a mix of both bottom fed and top water releases create water conditions more like a freestone river than one encumbered by dams. Unlike most western waterways, its waters are low during the spring/fall months and high during summer when demand for irrigation is greatest.

The Yakima’s official 75-mile Blue Ribbon stretch starts where the three tailwaters merge near the town of Cle Elum, and continues on until reaching Roza Dam. The upper river down to the confluence of reservoirs tends to be braided and difficult to float. A flat section follows, known for wading and long rifles. At East Cle Elum the river runs 14 miles through its “upper canyon” section, populated with large boulders and an abundance of cutthroats.

From Diversion Dam to Wilson Creek is the farmland section. Known for apple orchards, Cottonwoods and Timothy Hay, the fishing is good but access difficult due to private landholdings. Arid Yakima Canyon that runs from Wilson Creek to Roza Dam is the most fished part of the river, typically by drift boat.

The river is open year round with runoff in May. While anglers come from afar to fish Yakima’s waters, it’s rarely over crowded. There’s a wide variety of fish, including rainbow, cutthroat, browns, brook, kokanee, burbot and smallmouth bass. Fish range in size from 12-14 inches.

Before booking a trip, be sure to check anticipated water levels and remember that this is a catch and release river.
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Top Fly Fishing Towns in the US
Rated as one of the top trout fishing towns in the US by BobMallard, author of 25 Best Towns - Fly Fishing for Trout
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