Saturday, November 18, 2006

Klickitat Steelhead

The flashing highway sign
at the Lyle turnoff from High
way 14 said Highway 142 was
closed 20 miles upstream.
Pfui. Nothing clamps the
bicuspids more than a scheme
gone awry. It's like dashing
down stairs and missing the
last step.
Jarring, that's what.
``Well, drat,'' I said. ``We
can't drive to the bridge over
the Klickitat River at Leidl
Park. Of all the rotten luck.''
My wife Darlene let the
comment pass. Or perhaps I
just thought it instead of say
ing it aloud.
But, darn it, I wanted to
start at Leidl Park, off
Glenwood Road, and fish my
way downstream.
I especially wanted to fish
the riffles along the Stinson
Flat campground area. Once
upon a time I caught two fish
So, I sat at the turnoff,
clutched the steering wheel
and wrinkled the brow in
some perplexity.
I grumbled and pulled a
map from the glove box and
studied the options:
1, Drive back to the turnoff
to Goldendale near the Mary
Hill Museum and circle
around that way to Glenwood
2, Drive on down the
Columbia, past White
Salmon, and turn north on
Highway 141 to Corner-
Glenwood Road;
3, Take the primitive Fish
Hill Road to a junction with
Corner-Glenwood Road south
of Glenwood.
4, Go home.
Well, I rejected going home.
It was 9:52 a.m., and each
of the other options could
take several hours.
``I suppose we can drive up
as far as possible and fish our
way back,'' I muttered.
After a mile, however, I
pulled off at the Fisher Hill
Bridge, where pressing walls
of basalt squeeze the river
into a rowdy cataract.
One other vehicle sat near
the bridge.
``Someone may be dipping
salmon with a net from one of
the scaffolds,'' I said.
I parked and Sadie the
Dalmatian scooted down the
ramp from the pickup. I
hefted the camera with the
300-millimeter-zoom lens on
the shoulder mount.
I located one man, not dipp
ing for anything. He stood on
a ledge and tossed shrimp
with a spinning rod.
Then we continued up the
river. I counted a dozen ang
lers and six kayakers in the 15
or so miles to Klickitat.
Not a good sign. If fish were
biting, especially on a
Sunday, 50 or 60 anglers
would have tossed flies in that
stretch of river.
At a store in Klickitat I
asked a woman about the
road closure.
It was, she said, near where
the Little Klickitat River ran
into the Klickitat, just before
you start up the steep hill at
Wahkiakus (pronounced
``Is there a way to bypass
the barrier?'' I asked.
The woman spread a map
on the counter and pointed
out a route over ``primitive
gravel roads'' that led to
Glenwood Road.
I listened and tried to re
member the various turns she
described, but, finally, it
didn't seem worth the effort.
I thanked her, however, and
we drove on to the barrier.
We turned around, reluc
I drove slow for a mile or so
back down the river, with a
stop to photograph kayakers
in a rapids, until I found a
riffle to fish.
July, August and Sept
ember often spawn ideal fish
ing on the Klickitat.
I had checked the Worley
Bugger Fly Co. Web site be
fore leaving home, and its
photos of nice steelhead
caught earlier this month
hooked me.
To escape the baking sun, I
parked beneath a shade tree.
Slipping into waders made
me sweat through my shirt.
I rigged up the steelhead
rod with a floating line, a
16-pound-test tippet, a purple
wooly booger, and, with Sadie
dogging my footsteps, waded
into the cloudy river.
The Klickitat flows from
Conrad Glacier in the Goat
Rocks Wilderness and winds
through the Yakima Indian
Reservation at the foot of
Mount Adams.
During the heat of the day,
or during heavy rains, runoff
carries sand and grit that
cloud the river.
As I worked the riffle, Sadie
leaned close in case I hooked
a fish, and she could sniff it.
Alas, it was not to be.
We had nary a nibble there
or at the other riffles where
we tossed files.
The only action we had
came when Darlene sneaked
up on us with a camera.
That's when I really con
centrated on hooking a fish,
but all I snagged was a ten
sion headache.
Soon after that, I reeled in
the line and put away the
gear. Darlene opened the ice
chest and lay out sandwiches.
I dished up Sadie's dinner.
We all ate in the shade
while my sweaty clothes
Actually, it was a pleasant
ending to a fishing trip teem
ing with disappointments.

NOTE: The Web site ad
dress for the Worley Bugger
Fly Co is
Greg Thomas' book
``Flyfisher's Guide to Wash
ington'' explains how and
when to fish the Klickitat
River for steelhead. It was
published in 2003 by Wilder
ness Adventures Press.
Lyle, where the Klickitat
River flows into the Columbia
River, is 160 miles from Walla
Walla. It's 30 miles north on
Highway 142 to Glenwood
Road and another 10 miles to
Leidl Park.
Near Wahkiakus you may
walk or bike for several miles
along a closed road near the
See photos at

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