October 22, 2015
Blackstone Lake--At first sight, this small lake, nestled on the west bank of the Yakima River, looks more like a gravel pit than your typical eastern Washington desert impoundment. But put your U-Boat in the water and suddenly everything changes. The tall old cottonwood trees along the river are a scenic backdrop, and when a trout rises, you're in another world.
Blackstone Lake was dug as a gravel source for local road construction, but when water began to fill the lake, the owners discovered that it was the perfect temperature for trout. The digging operation continues, and the lake is now about five acres.
Initial stocks were Kamloops rainbows, but subsequent plantings were more aggressive hybrids that have some Skamania steelhead stock mixed with the Kamloops. Almost immediately, great numbers of freshwater shrimp and other aquatic life provided high-calorie food, and the fish have thrived beyond the managers' wildest dreams.
I fished the lake in late April, taking numerous 4- to 7-pound fish with an occasional 8- or 9-pounder. The largest caught by our party was a fat, yet beautifully proportioned, 11-pound hen. All were healthy and full of fight and were released unharmed.
The lake is open from mid-March through mid-June and closed during the summer to avoid stress on the trout due to warmer water temperatures. Blackstone booking agent Ryan Lampers reopens fishing in mid-September, and fishing continues into November. He only books two to three days per week, to give the fish a rest and to provide all anglers shots at happy fish. Lampers prefers small groups of from four to six anglers, priced at $170 per angler per day. Blackstone is a unique fishery, an unusual opportunity for a true trophy trout.
You'll need at least a 6-weight rod, with good reserve power in the butt, to handle the extreme winds that blow in the spring and to fight the large fish (fall has more reliable weather). Anything lighter than a 6-weight puts too much stress on the fish because it takes too long to land them.
Most anglers fish either a floating line with an extra-long leader with a 4- to 6-pound-test tippet or a sinking-tip with a standard 7- to 9-foot leader. Teeny 130-grain shooting-taper or Teeny 5-foot Mini Tip lines work extremely well for nymph and streamer fishing, but a full-sinking line also works well. You should take a second rod for dry-fly fishing at those times during the day when numerous hatches emerge and the fish feed greedily. It's a sight to see an 8-pound rainbow nonchalantly swim up and inhale a #16 Adams in the shallows.
A number of different fly patterns work on this little lake, especially nymphs ranging from a #10 or #12 Bead-head Prince to a #12 or #14 green scud with a cellophane back. Late May through mid-June is prime time for damselflies, and #14 to #18 burgundy Chironomid pupa imitations are a good bet in March and April and again in October. Black or olive leech patterns and black or olive Woolly Buggers work throughout the season.
The lake is 18 to 20 feet deep with lots of shallows, but weeds are not a problem and you can fish from the shore or wade. These large trout cruise onto the shallow flats and take #12 to #16 Adams or Parachutes Adams patterns. A kick-boat provides the best platform for this fishing.
You can expect to catch from 30 to 50 trout per day on Blackstone Lake, with two up to 10 pounds and lots of 8- to 10-pound fish—they often break you off. The average trout size is six pounds and the largest fish ever caught on the lake weighed around 17 pounds. I caught two 14-pounders in one afternoon on a #8 Black Teeny Nymph. The Bead-head Prince Nymph is by far the best pattern, because it gets down to the bottom fast, but any nymph pattern works.
Blackstone Lake is located about a mile north of the Ellensburg exit off Interstate 90, about 30 miles from Yakima. Blackstone supplies no gear or lunches, but has a few loaner float tubes and one rowboat. For more information on bookings, contact Ryan Lampers, (360) 691-6706. Anglers can stay at one of four motels at the Ellensburg exit off Interstate 90.
Bruce Holt is Director of Public Relations for the G. Loomis rod company. He lives in Kalama, Washington. Fly Fishing Washington