I don’t know where the time goes, I had more free time when I was working full time. Now that I’m retired I’m consistently looking for a spare moment. That said a day or two late but here it is. Saturday June 1st we were a host boat for a “The Fallen Outdoors” (TFO) event at Yale Lake on June 1st. TFO was founded by three veterans in 2009 and has since grown to a nationwide organization serving all veterans across all branches of the United States Armed Forces. TFO mission is to support American Veterans in balancing their duty for their country with their passion for the outdoors.
Friday morning, we topped off the boat and truck tanks, loaded up with coffee and Holiday Market breakfast burritos (the best in Skagit County) before heading south. Our drive south was uneventful and we arrived at Beaver Bay Campground on Yale Lake just after 2:00 or check-in. The campground, located at the north end of Yale Lake is very well-maintained and picturesque. There are two camp hosts and they go out of their way to assure that your stay is enjoyable. Although most of the sites are listed as pull through be very cautious in maneuvering longer rigs in the campground. There are a number of mature trees and large boulders at various campground road intersections and campsite access points. If you’re a longer rig (our combined length is just over 50’) it would pay to park along the main access road and walk to your site to plan your approach before you attempt it with your rig.
Located on the border of both Clark and Cowlitz Counties, Yale Lake is the middle of the 3 Lewis River reservoirs. The Project was completed in 1953. The earthen dam is 323 feet high and the reservoir is approximately 3,800 surface acres. The robust kokanee population is self-sustaining, I was unable to determine whether or not the rainbow population is also. Yale also hosts a healthy population of landlocked coho and I suspect they are wash overs from Swift Reservoir, the next reservoir upstream. An occasional steelhead and adult salmon are also caught incidentally while fishing for kokanee.
Saturday morning, we launched at the Beaver Bay ramp and motored down the lake to Yale Park where the TFO event was being held. Being a bit early and newbies to the event we beached the boat and scoped out the happenings. It was pretty heartwarming to be part of the excitement associated with the event. The veterans eagerly waiting on their boat/skipper assignments and the skippers all working together to assure the veterans had the best day possible. I believe that there were about 50 host boats and 100 or so veterans signed up for the event. Eventually we were assigned Ed and Ray, both army veterans and got underway.
After leaving the dock we headed back up lake to where I had noted a large concentration of fish on the meter earlier that morning. Although I was prepared to offer up our gear off the downriggers, via lead lines, behind planer boards or some combination of we decided to start out with the downriggers. There was a solid band of fish on the meter at 26-34’. Running 4 downriggers I got to work deploying gear. Easier said than done, as I was rigging #2 the first downrigger goes off and we had our first fish of the event on. Although we lost the fish it was the first of many that honored our guests by coming out to play. Eventually I was able to get all 4 downriggers down and it was hammer time. We lost a lot of fish but there was always another waiting in line to be caught and our guests enjoyed catching their limits. With the exception of a brief lull in the action we were blessed with a hot bite, including multiple doubles the entire time we were on the water. Ed and Ray quickly figured out the routine and in no time were helping with baiting the rigs, helping with the downriggers and netting the fish.
Although I had enough gear, flashers and lures onboard to stock every boat in the event, after our initial setup we only changed gear once to accommodate the changing weather conditions. Early AM it was cloudy so I was running painted Arrow Flash dodgers. As the skies cleared and the sun made a welcome appearance, we changed out to metal finish Arrow Flash dodgers. We were running one of my custom kokanee flies in orange or magenta and a custom 2 bladed spinner on either side of the boat. We ran the lures 8-9” behind the dodgers on 12# fluorocarbon leader and they were tipped with tuna corn. Our setback from the downrigger ball was around 70’ and as said before, all our action was at 26-34’ in 80-about 120’ of water. The water was around 62-63 degrees and out trolling speed varied between 1.0-1.4 MPH. I will be installing an iTroll sometime soon and the “Hunt” mode would have been handy. Intentional or otherwise, many of our bites were triggered by speed changes.
The event was a blast and fun had by all. Our guest Ray even won an awesome TFO kokanee rod in the raffle. Fat Man’s BBQ of Cougar catered the event and did an exceptional job, everything was plentiful and yummy. As one of the skippers for the event, collectively we received many thank yous, but the true thank you should be for the veterans and their service.