The Yakima River runs through it

If the fishing is unreliable, try the burgers in Cle Elum, Wash.
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Trout fishing on the Yakima River in Washington.

If the fishing is unreliable, try the burgers in Cle Elum, Wash.

On Highway 10, about 20 minutes southeast of Cle Elum, Wash., is a spot on the Yakima River where I saw a huge trout in 2006. Grant that no story about fish lacks embellishment, but this one seemed pretty big, big enough to catch my eye while driving on the highway, near sunset on a day of catching nothing. I stopped my car abruptly, almost skidding on the gravel. A pastured horse looked up, whipped a tail across its rump, and went back to munching grass. As a former altar boy who murmured Latin beneath statues of the Sacred Heart, I'm a student of discovered symbols. And this fish beckoned, a beast I was meant to catch. The first time I met the resident-Seattle actor Tom Skerritt, at an event at the Seattle mayor's office, I had to ask: How'd he learn to fly-fish like that? I was referring to A River Runs Through It, the 1992 Robert Redford movie starring Skerritt and Brad Pitt. Based on Norman Maclean's book, the movie featured spectacular fishing, soaring fly lines, gorgeous water, and fat, insubordinate fish. Skerritt crushed me. He doesn't fish. Doesn't think much of fishing. I'm overdoing it here, but I got a feeling that maybe Skerritt doesn't think much of people who ask actors who play fisherman about fishing. It's a movie, dummy! Considering my typical results, I fake fishing too. More often than not, I discover at home that I had used the wrong fly, fished too early or too late, fished when the Yakima was too high or too low. Fishing, I've learned, is better yesterday, or tomorrow, the day you weren't there. This might be heresy or an exercise in making excuses, but for me it's less about catching than trying. If it's too hot, I just swim. There's something awesome about the power of a river lifting you and sending you away. And no matter what happens on the Yakima, at some point on the trip, going or coming, I'll stop for a burger and shake in Cle Elum at McKean's Drive In. Having done my share of salmon fishing in Puget Sound, I prefer trout. With salmon, it's great to hook a mighty King, but most of the time you're just staring into the gray water, wondering what's down there, hoping for something, anything. With trout, you often know the specific fish you're trying to trick. He might have risen to snatch a bug or fluttered water as he nibbled nymphs. Watch the water. There he is, and it's his itsy-bitsy brain against yours. So you flick your line just so, presenting a tiny package of hook and hair that might look yummy. It's luck when I catch one. One time in Montana, I was lowering an Elk Wing caddis into the water when a tiny rainbow exploaded from the water, hooking himself. That was too easy, and I rebuked the youngster as I put him back. Another time on the Yakima, I had decided my many casts were time wasted, so I began reeling in my line, only to discover a rainbow chasing the fly. I had missed the previous bites. That time, I rebuked myself. A few weeks ago, I was back at that spot on Highway 10, eyeballed by the same horse, who perhaps caught a glimpse of the drained milk shake in my car. This time, the beast stayed deep. Maybe the water was too high or too hot, but I'll be back. Fishing for me is a triumph of hope over experience.


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About the Authors & Contributors

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O. Casey Corr

O. Casey Corr is a Seattle native, author and marketing communications consultant.