Apr 18, 2012

Back on the Lakes

Walking across a lake has its benefits but it can be disturbing to the fly angler. So close – all that biomass swimming around under a veil of ice – but so far. Our lives keep on, waiting for the day when the ceiling melts and settles into holes of blue and green. For still water anglers, floating atop or walking the edge of a newly-thawed lake means entering a fresh new world, where opportunity flourishes on the palettes of the living - Where life loses its subtlety. That place has returned.

Travis Duddles Photo

Still waters are home to leviathans. For most of the warmer months these large beasts roam the depths where temperatures are cool and comfortable. However, when the ice peels back, they will be cruising the shallows looking for snacks. Anglers fishing from shore might do well to find a point and cast to cruising fish, as these are high traffic areas. Now is a perfect time to cast small streamers, like wooly buggers on intermediate, full sink lines and strip them back to you. Why intermediate? Well because the fish aren’t overly deep and one can retrieve the line slowly without the fear of sinking below the fish. Why full sink lines? Well because full sink lines help to keep the entire line at one depth during the retrieval. Depth is key while fishing lakes because often feed will congregate at certain levels and so will the fish. Much has to do with temperature, so when you find the right depth where the majority of strikes are occurring, you want to keep your presentation there during the entire retrieval. Anglers who count –off the seconds needed to achieve the best depth in the water column are really using those kindergarten-level skills to their advantage.

Perhaps the finest way to fish still water (without the aid of an engine), is via float tube or pontoon boat. They are comfortable, stealthy, sturdy and they help anglers to access many areas that are difficult to reach from shore. This time of year, I like to set up just outside any visible shelf drops and start working in from there. I’ll continue to experiment with depth and retrieval speed until I start hitting fish and then I’ll continue to work that combination in various locations throughout the lake. For those who like to kick back, trolling with a long line from tubes and pontoons can be a very lethal, relaxing way to cover a lot of water.

Steve Turner Photo
I really enjoy fishing baitfish and leech patterns this time of year, however, as the season warms and hatches become more prolific I start to favor more buggy patterns. I used to spend some time on this little out-of-the-way lake in Montana. During the months of June and July, the Callibaetis would come off like clockwork starting around 11:00 am every day. Up until 11, the lake would remain pretty quiet but I would manage to pick up a few fish on nymph patterns such as Pheasant Tails and Hares Ears by sinking them and them very slowly, retrieving small bits of fly line to the surface. Once the Callibaetis started to show, it seemed as if every trout in the lake would migrate to the shallow shorelines to pick off adults and spent spinners alike. Days spent on this lake will forever be engraved in my memory.

Most of my days are spent on rivers. I love the dynamics of moving water, but over the years I have increasingly answered The Lake’s beckoning calls. I am awed by the tranquility and the space that certain lakes provide and the silence and the soft echoes moving over water when that silence is broken. And just the feeling of being surrounded by so much water and casting flies to fish in such a special place.

I hope your lake finds you this season.
The Gorge Fly Shop
Take these patterns along on your next adventure:  Lake Fly Assortment

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

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