Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Trout Lake Report: A Beautiful Friendship

I read a blog post that complained that the trout fishing in Washington sucks. Guess you need to know where to go. Over here on the east side of the Cascades there are plenty of good trout waters. Maybe it's a case of rivers over stillwaters. I used to share that prejudice, thinking I would never fish lakes. When I first moved here the first thing I did was head down to Rocky Ford Creek, a famous spring creek, just a couple of hours away. The first 20 inch-plus trout I caught in Washington came from there (on a Stimulator.)

But then I started exploring the lakes around here. I quickly discovered that I'd rather get to a lake in twenty minutes and be catching fish during the four hours it would take to drive to and from somewhere like Rocky Ford. I never did get to the most famous lake around here at the time, Lake Chopaka. Haven't been there yet, though it is on my list. No, I discovered my favorite lake and figured I didn't have to look anymore.

I first fished it from the bank, having no watercraft at the time. It was September or October, and the water was way down, and the weeds were beginning to wither. What I remember is seeing fish swirling in those weeds where the channel bottlenecked. I just wasn't sure what kind of fish.

I don't remember what fly I first cast into these waters, but I quickly hooked something. I saw a flash of yellow belly, and my heart sank. I thought it was a carp. There couldn't be that many trout in a lake. But when I got it closer I saw it for what it was: a fat, healthy Brown. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. And it hasn't disappointed.

So now, five years later, I went back to the lake yet again. The lake is big enough that when I feel like a change I simply fish a different part of the lake. This time I went back to the north end, a section I haven't fished since July.

I had finally tied up some more Carpet Caddis. My best days this summer--and ever--on this lake were due to this fly. So I was curious whether it would still have its mysterious power over big trout.

I worked my way all around the shoreline and quickly discovered that this would be a slow evening. The north end is almost one big weed mat, and in the pockets of open water, where I might expect good trout to be working, there were only babies. And, alas, when I saw a big yellow dorsal and tail come out of the water up against the willows, I wasn't able to get a rise. In fact I never saw a sign of that fish again.

So I relaxed and played with the babies. They were happy to hit that brand new Carpet Caddis. I lazed along the shoreline always keeping an eye out for bigger fish. There were tiny caddis coming off, many midges, and some Callibaetis dancing over the shoreline weed mats. The evening was calm and warm. It was really quite lovely.

I moved out into the open water where a few more fish were beginning to cruise. Not a heavy rise, but enough fish to give me hope that I might get close enough to catch a good one. I had drifted the Carpet Caddis behind me for awhile with no takes, so I decided to tie on a smaller fly. The tippet was short, so I started to clip it off when I noticed that the terminal piece of the leader was knotted. Then I saw that the next piece was frayed and twisted. And the next. So I clipped off half the leader and, while floating peacefully in the clouds, rebuilt it.

I tied a Callibaetis comparadun on the fresh tippet, and immediately a fish rose twenty feet from me. I knew it wasn't a big fish, but I flipped the fly into the middle of the expanding rise rings and the fish instantly hit it. It may have been small, but it fought big, ripping up the water trying to get away. It wouldn't stay still even in the net. I was lucky to get one good shot.

That was about it. I paddled lazily around, but the risers were always a little too far away. A light wind picked up, ruffling the pink clouds reflected on the surface. So I stripped in the Callibaetis, fast--and caught another feisty little fish. Maybe I should have stripped that mayfly for awhile.

Instead I did something I haven't done in a long time. I trolled a bead head nymph. It was enjoyable; you can stop thinking and just be in the moment. I got one good hit and miss to keep things interesting.

Was I disappointed in the lack of big fish? Nah. I was there, and I caught fish. The big ones are still there, and I'll see them again. No, this was just a great evening with a great friend, and sometimes it's enough just to be together.


  1. That's a beautiful little place and I can't imagine a better way to spend an evening , big fish or not.

  2. Thanks, Jeff. Well put. There are big fish here, but it's nice when they're the bonus on top of everything else.