A tale of two lakes
July 24, 2014 —
Since my last column, I’ve had the opportunity to fish two different lakes. Ordinarily I would be checking USGS sites on my laptop to find some cold, clear stream or river. However, the weather patterns this year have not been kind. We have had one weather event after another. Almost all of my regular haunts are “blown out” and the rivers have been running the color of coffee, two creams.
So when I was invited to fish a highly regarded, wonderfully clear spring-fed lake, I jumped at the chance. I brought a 10-foot, six-weight Scott flyrod rigged with a medium sized popper. We had not fished this lake for years, but it has always produced great fish and fine fishing. Much of the shoreline however had changed and was now filled in with vegetation. I could not get a feel for the lake. It felt like strange water to me, reluctant to give up its secrets. We caught a few, but never scratched the lake’s potential. We could not find the code.
A few days later I got a call from a fishing buddy who told me he had been doing pretty well on his lake. This lake was much smaller and not on anyone’s list of top bass lakes. He said he would be the guide. I raised an eyebrow but got in the front of the canoe. He knew the lake well, as he has fished it regularly for 25 years. We methodically went from spot to spot. “Try the point of these lilies,” “Right side of the floating dock,” “As close as possible to the large rock,” “Under the branch, as close to the shoreline as possible.” We caught too many fish to count. My guide didn’t make a single cast, even though his Loomis rod was along the gunnel (properly, gunwale) close at hand. His rod was rigged with a grasshopper fly. I tried it and it cast beautifully. We caught fish just as regularly on this rig. The magic came from knowing the lake and its hidden secrets. We had the code.
The difference in those two outings is that on the first we were in relatively unfamiliar territory. We caught a few, but chance had as much to play in it as anything. On the second, I was pitching flies to known holding spots—fish in a barrel, if you will.
Fishing legend Lee Wulff wrote a helpful book titled “Trout on a Fly.” In it he has numerous drawings analyzing stream flow and stream structure to portray and explain the places that trout tend to feed, hold, or rest. This is what we commonly refer to as “reading the water.”