Saturday, April 30, 2016

Trout Lake Report: See You Again Real Soon

Turn the page on the calendar. April is complete. You finally make it to Trout Lake for your own personal opening day.

It's wet. The weather has turned back to Aprilness with cool temperatures and spring showers. The river is up and into the pasture behind your house. The nightly chorus of thousands of frogs is magnificent.

At the lake, evidence of lastnight's rain glitters everywhere.

You want to kick off the season on the north end, but there are campers at the access. So you go to another favorite access: the channel.

You tied up a pretty little muddler just for opening day, and you tie it on with anticipation.

You start down the channel toward the north end, flipping the muddler into the shoreline and swimming it back out. Seems like it was what you were made to do.

At the end of the channel you put your rod down to take this photo, and a fish hits the stationary muddler. You watch the line but it isn't moving. The fish missed.

That puts you in the right frame of mind. Looks like the muddler ploy just might work--again. Even so, at the channel outlet into the north end you try some nymphs and scuds. Just to see. Nothing comes, and you realize you're impatient to get back to the muddler.

You work on up the shoreline with the muddler flashing in its own wake. A pretty sight. The wind picks up out of the north and it gets chilly. You pull over and grudgingly put your jacket on.

You reverse and kick back with the wind into the channel. You get a hookup along the way, but it comes undone. Then, up along the driftwood in John's Cove, you get another hit and hookup.

You get this one in the net: the first fish of the season at Trout Lake. You like the fact it's a brown. A good omen.

You hold it in your hand to get a headshot, but it's still fresh, and is out and gone before you can get the camera focused.

You're happy that once again it has been shown that a muddler on the shoreline, at any time of year, will catch fish. You start on down the endless shoreline to see what else you might find.

You start the kick across the south end to the other side. You troll a beadhead leech for a change of pace. Nothing.

You're letting the muddler dry out, so you tie on a handsome stimulator with a pheasant tail body and brown and grizzly hackle. A nice brown hits it about ten feet off the bank. Note to self: don't pick up the fly too soon.

There's a commotion behind you, and you're delighted to hear the unmistakable snuffling of otters. There are three of them, and, as usual, they're intensely curious, and come up to see what you are and what you're doing. They move fast, and, as usual, you fail to get any good photos.

They're fishing, just like you. But probably doing better than you. One is chowing down on a rainbow. You don't usually think of trout as crunchy, but they definitely crunch when being eaten by an otter.

For awhile they're going in your direction, and pop up out of the driftwood unexpectedly to check you out. At one point all three are popping up and down from different locations like the otter version of whack-a-mole.

The otters move on and you continue down the shoreline.

You catch a little rainbow that escaped the otters--for now.

You catch a piece of driftwood on an overshot cast. Mostly, though, you're happy with your accuracy. It's good for opening day.

You kick on around the bend toward the channel. The wind has moderated, and for a few minutes a few fish are up and taking midges off the top. You think you might try a little dry, but then, as quick as it began, the flurry of activity ends. You keep on with the stimulator.

Another brown comes to it, again about ten feet out. It explodes under the fly and makes you jump. 

Thanks, little brown. Go grow up some more, and maybe I'll see you again.

You make the turn into the channel. You realize you're cold. So you decide to call it a day. May will be warmer than April, and the forecast calls for temps in the eighties again next week.

So long, lake. Good to be back. See you again real soon.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

This Time I'll Be the Guy

I'm home. It was a good trip.

I didn't make it out today, but tomorrow will be a dedicated fishing day. My personal Opening Day.

This time I'll be the guy on the water looking up to watch people packed in thin silver tubes pass by 40,000 feet above.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Trout Lake/Brookie Lake Report: Scouting

It's Friday. Tomorrow the general fishing season opens. My favorite lakes will finally be there for the taking. It's the day I've been waiting for for six months.

I won't be here. I'll be cooped up in a plane while anglers are making the first casts of the season.

That's OK, it's for a good reason. I'm going to Kansas to join my three remaining siblings in helping our parents get ready for a move. They have been in assisted living for a long time, but now, as they have entered their Nineties, they require a move into a section of the retirement home that will provide dementia care.

They're basically OK, except for serious memory issues. Many people tell me it's a blessing for someone my age to have both parents living. I see that. As some of you may know, however, dealing with the long, slow-motion decline of your parents can be challenging. Still, I'm beginning to think they may outlive me. One day my Mother will ask, "Why didn't Jim call?" and, well....

Since I won't be here for opening day I took some time on Thursday to drive up to Brookie Lake and Trout Lake to see how things looked.

Brookie Lake is full to the brim, with the spillway roaring. Campers were already staking out campsites.

Signs of spring are making their last stand everywhere. Summer is already pushing its way in. The meadows are soggy and creeks are full. The leaves are almost fully out, and I saw blizzards of cottonwood fluff already. This is unprecedented in the ten years I have lived here.

Birds and animals are here and active. The rattlers are clean and shiny. I saw more than one on the gravel road, and I watched my step in the underbrush.

Trout Lake is also full to the brim. The outlets are running high on the north end.

This is usually a little pathway down to a shingled beach.

There were campers setting up in the north and south campgrounds here, too. Fish Lake, on down the road, is already crowded with RV's and fifth wheels. On the drive out to the main highway I would pass 9 or 10 more rigs rolling in for the big opening.

This launch on the south end is as full as it gets.

The river, meanwhile, is bank full and still rising. It's approaching 20,000 cfs, and is over 14.5 feet. Flood stage is 15 feet. This is an event that usually occurs in May and June. Might as well get it over with.

I'll get home late Wednesday night. You just might find me out on Trout Lake on Thursday. Can't wait to explore those high shorelines.