How to enjoy them; how to avoid them
THE YAKIMA Central Washington
Enjoy it: Central Washington University is why Four Loko was banned. Coeds in Ellensburg like to party next-level, and when they want to get blacked out on an inner tube, the Yakima River is their venue of choice. Hoppers and summer stones pop at the height of co-ed activity on the Yak. You can witness the sunburned mayhem in the lower canyon from Ringer to Rosa Dam. Look for dirty cars with faded DMB stickers. In high summer flows you can float twenty miles, catch wild rainbows, and drink cans of Busch Light found floating in the river.
Avoid it: Tubers don’t like diversions and sweepers, so a quiet float through the farmlands from KOA to Ringer will buy you some solitude and fat bows. Farther upstream, the scenic upper canyon brings you through ponderosa pines and basalt columns. Enjoy real beer, like a Light Rail Ale from Iron Horse Brewery, and score a few bonus Westslope cutts. Stay late for the caddis, you’ll likely be the only one on the water.
THE CACHE LA POUDRE Northern Colorado
Enjoy it: Colorado State University lets out in mid-May, a time that coincides with thundering weather and runoff . High flows typically push the Poudre’s above-average thong hatch back to July through August, when river levels subside and local innertube sales skyrocket. The best stretch for sorority viewing is the two miles from Gateway Natural Area (also called Filter Plant) to Picnic Rock. You’ll more likely raft amid tallboy-toting hippie chicks drinking the day away until whatever Phish cover band they came to see starts playing at the Mish. But you’ll still catch trout, mostly browns, often on streamers. Plus, you’re mere minutes from New Belgium, Odell’s, or Fort Collins Brewery.
Avoid It: Just drive up the road. Poudre Canyon is home to nearly 90 miles of public water, so just follow Highway 14 and scope the river as you go. As long as it’s not a hot, weekend afternoon, you’ll find open campsites and good water to fish.
THE YAMPA Northwest Colorado
Enjoy it: The beauty of floating the Yampa in July, in addition to mountain girls galore and the most forgiving rainbows in the Rockies, is that there’s always a Triple Crown softball dad who pounds a bottle of Jameson at the put-in and needs his four friends in cutoff jeans to help haul his ass out at 5th Street.
Avoid it: Tubers are highly encouraged to float below Fetcher Pond, which leaves plenty of upper river for dry flies. But don’t forget that many a monster rainbow finds its way down from Lake Catamount, so keep some streamers and 3X on you.
THE LOWER MADISON Southwest Montana
Enjoy it: Section 3 of the Madison is one of the more famous bikini hatches in the West, partly because its mellow flows and low gradient make it safe for Montana State students and those who wish they were Montana State students. Plus, viewers get two shitshows in one: Ennis stoners with an inflate-a-mate, MD 20/20, and a WT girlfriend in a tube top, and burnt-out Bozeman guides with newby clients throwing double-dropper rigs with split shot, 5X, and a Thingamabobber the size of a cantaloupe.
Avoid it: Whether you wade the pocketwater stretch below Quake Lake, or put in for a float at Lyon Bridge or McAtee Bridge, the other two sections of the Madison other some of the best dry-fly water in America. If you’ve never fished golden stones or salmonflies, grab some stimmies and get to the upper or middle Madison toward the end of June.
THE SALT Central Arizona
Enjoy it: Fishing below Saguaro Lake in the morning, tubing with Tempe co-eds by noon.
Avoid it: Stocked rainbows aren’t A-list fish, but if you want to catch trout in Phoenix…
FIVE OTHER CONTENDERS
THE LOWER PROVO
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Highlight: Smallies on crayfish flies.
Highlight: Catching a Bartram’s Bass.
Highlight: Trophy trout fishery.
Highlight: Rainbow, carp, BSU bikinis.