With winter in full swing, the ice is thick, the days are short and I just can't help but dream of cool spring days sitting on my favorite lake. With that in mind this weeks post I'm going to start an ongoing series on stillwaters.
There is just something about lakes that drives me. Sure, the fish can't go anywhere but you could spend all day on a small lake and not even sniff a fish. It's like a puzzle, or a confusing math equation. You know what you're supposed to do, you think you've got it dialed in and you still go home with a big zero. I'm going to try and help that situation.
One of my favorite things in fly fishing is exploring new lakes. Being from the Fraser Valley and so close to the Kamloops region of B.C. that allows this to happen more than not. The first thing I do coming off a rutted gravel road and seeing the lakes edge for the first time is usually urinate. With a gut full of coffee and a few kidney jarring bumps this is only natural. On a serious note coming to the edge of the lake the first thing to actually do is to look at what's floating around. What's down there that some well fed trout is gorging on. Scuds, leeches, damsels, dragonfly nymphs, chironomid. What do you see? What don't you see? All this can help you dial in and give you a starting point to try out once you're out on the lake.
Before you get out there take a minute to get a feel for the lake. Look for shoals and islands and points where cruising fish can come up for a quick meal. Look at the bottom and the colour of the water. Is it gin clear with a marl bottom, or chocolate and weedy. All these things play into how you go about fishing and techniques to use. Gin clear means you're going to have a higher chance at spooking the fish, but if the times right and the fish are up feeding on the shoals you have a good shot at sight fishing. Weedy and coloured waters might not be sight fishing but you have a little more leeway and might get away with sloppy casts.
Now there is a stigmatism in fly fishing about the practice of trolling. But for all intents and purposes fishing a new lake this can be a good way to learn the lake all while having a chance at a willing trout. A good fish finder is a must, not for finding fish but for accurately finding out the depths of the lake. Trolling allows you to fish while essentially making a map of the lake. I like to troll the edges of the lake first and then do back and forth laps through the middle until I can visualize what's actually happening down there. Once I find some fishy spots and using landmarks on shore to help guide me I'll eventually anchor up and throw out whatever hatches or attractor patterns I see fit. Don't let technique biases affect your fishing all in all we're after the same thing.
These simple techniques can help when exploring new lakes. A few more months to go before us up in the north can do this, but I'm a dreamer and as I start filling my stillwater boxes this seemed like a good post to do this week. In the next few months I'll tackle more in depths posts about other techniques and fly choices that have produced some spectacular specimens. Don't underestimate stillwater fishing and don't go out there ill prepared. I hope I can help you with the knowledge I've accumulated over the years and make your fishing time more valuable.