Fishing guide shows link between fish, environment

Over the years, I have learned that all fly fishing guides are not the same.

Some are better than others, while a slim few can be categorized as forgettable, regrettably even when you can’t forget them. Like the guy in Alaska who showed up bleary eyed, smelling of stale beer, fought with the bush pilot and then on arrival at our destination promptly produced a flask and disappeared into the tall coastal grass to drink the day away.

Even among the good ones, there are differences. Some are happy with just taking you to the fish and counting a good day by sheer numbers, a shaky strategy at best when the fish aren’t cooperating.

But a select few guides rise above the rest.

For these guides, fly fishing is more than a numbers game and more than the slogan “Rip Some Lips” prominently displayed on the shirt of my intrepid Alaska guide.

For these truly gifted guides, guiding is an art, an expression of the experience of fly fishing as a whole. Here in the Valley, we are fortunate enough to have one of these guides. His name is Derek Young, owner of Emerging Rivers Guide Services, based in Snoqualmie.

A few days ago, I was able to spend an afternoon with Derek, fishing the Yakima. Joining us was Gonzalo Mendez, our local fishing biologist based at the North Bend Ranger station. Not only was I fishing with someone that knew where the fish were, but someone else that knew why they were genetically predisposed to be there. It was great company.

Hailing from Issaquah, Derek graduated from Washington State University and then moved to Dillon, Colo. There, he perfected his craft, fly fishing on such classic Colorado rivers as the Blue, the Arkansas and the Colorado. Eventually, he moved back to Washington and later began guiding the Yakima, which he now calls his home waters.

Derek’s approach to fly fishing is unique. Rather than guide for quantity of fish alone, Derek guides for the overall quality of the experience. Don’t misunderstand me, a guided trip with Derek results in catching trout. But Derek also teaches his clients about the organic connections of the entire aquatic ecosystem, from entomology to ecology. From this, every client walks away with a richer experience and fuller understanding of the fragile, blue-ribbon resource we have in the Yakima River.

As far as my trip with Derek, Gonzalo and I had incredible spring day fishing. It helped that Derek is an Orvis-endorsed guide, so all the best Orvis gear was available to us all day, flies included. Helping as well was Derek’s famous streamside lunch of steak fajitas. Overall, it was a first class trip with a first class guide and a first class experience.

You can reach Derek via his website at Or you can catch him at the Orvis store in Bellevue and sign up for one of his instructional classes. Conveniently, the Orvis Fly Fishing classes are located in North Bend with Derek as the lead instructor. Look him up the next time you want to spend a day fishing. You will be glad you did.

• E-mail Valley-based fly fishing guide Reggie Harris at

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