Thursday, April 23, 2015

Early Lake Report: Time For a Change

It had been a long time since I had gone fishing. OK, compared to geologic time it wasn't that long. But time is relative, and in "fishing time" more than a week, especially at this time of year, is a lonnnggg time. I was beginning to feel a little like this guy.


I went back to Early Lake. The willows are almost fully leafed out, and the catkins are everywhere. The word comes from the old Dutch word katteken, meaning "kitten" because the cylindrical flower clusters resemble a kitten's tail.


I look at this and think of a lot of kittens without tails.


It was a nice day, coming on the tail end of a string of superb bluebird days in which the temperature climbed to the middle 80's. Coming on the end of the string it was still warm but signs of change were evident: high cirrus veiling the sun and forecasting heavier cloud cover on the way, and a brisk wind out of the northwest.


I started out trolling, and then tried a nymph under an indicator, but soon gave up on both techniques. Because of the warm weather, the weeks of outboard boat traffic, and the wind, the water was full of floating weeds (and catkins) which quickly fouled the hook. The worst was the "filamentous green algae," commonly known as pond scum. This was the spyrogyra , bright green and slimy, that floated under the water in fly-seeking blobs.


So I affixed a recently-tied muddler to my tippet and began casting and stripping through the algaeic minefield. I started getting bumps and splashes right away, and then I heard the signature little lip-smacking pop as a fish missed the fly. Bluegill. Sure enough, when I slowed down the strip a little I started catching them left and right.


I like to think I'm not an elitist. I like bluegill on a fly rod. I had fun catching them on this day when the trout were holding out. And they are an important part of the food chain on many a lake or pond, as evidenced by this red-necked grebe who was also catching them (and having a comically difficult head-bobbing, throat-stretching time swallowing them.)


Having said that, I do prefer that bluegill not inhabit trout lakes. Early Lake, though intended to be a trout lake, has been the target over the years of vigilante stocking of warm water fish by persons who apparently find the concept of "trout lake" to be snobbish. So it is today a true piscatorial democracy where all fishermen are created equal. So be it. By this time every spring I've been here the bluegill are coming into their own. So I caught bluegill and enjoyed it. (Good practice for trout, I always think.)

But I was happy when I picked up a random trout in the midst of the schools of bluegill. The bluegill were feisty when hooked, putting on a good show for their size and weight, but they couldn't compare with the trout, even the smallish stockers I caught. These ran and jumped and made a fine ruckus of it before I got them netted.


The wind died down as the sun went down, and the lake calmed. I was still hoping for a good evening rise of trout. There were midges and caddis popping all over.


I tied on a deer hair caddis and looked for rises that never came. So I cast the fly into the pocket water between the mats and drift lines of the becalmed weeds and debris.


And I caught fish on almost every cast--all bluegill.


Time for a change. If I want to catch bluegill I can always come back to Early Lake. But I want to catch trout: fine rainbows, and sleek browns. It has been six months since I caught a brown.


Trout Lake finally opens on Saturday. I'll be there.

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