Central Trout Lakes By Nick Sliwkanich – The Drag Free Drift
Well, it looks a bit more like standard April weather outside. On the drive home today it was drizzly with a few snowflakes, windy, and on the cool side.
That being said, we are still far ahead of the norm as we look into this weekend. Typically we are only now seeing some lakes open up enough to fish, but for the second year in a row, we have had an early ice-off. It’s a safe bet that all the central trout lakes are opened up. Dolberg was open by last weekend, and offered sporadic fishing when we were out; the jist was that no one was catching much, but everyone we talked to got a couple and it was nice to get out on liquid water. Early spring fishing can be pretty hit-and-miss. You just have to go out and see what the day brings.
Before we get going, let me give a quick winterkill update. This is definitely an imperfect science, and even on lakes that experience a large kill, pockets of lake could hold fish, and so here is what we know. Millers is unfortunately gone, and it even made national news… never a good sign. Initial reports in March stated that Muir, Beaver, Fiesta, and Ironside killed. Well, based on some O2 data, there is a chance Fiesta pulled through. It opened up for fishing this past week. If anyone has any more info on that, please let us know! The good news for anglers in the Rocky/Sundre/Caroline area is that the others like Strubel, Mitchell, etc. made it through, without aerators.
Okay, so now that the lakes are open, here’s the current theme: less than 10ft, and usually slowly. Some days you’ll want to crawl leeches along in 3ft of water, others you’ll need to hang boatmen under indicators in 8 or 9ft. As is always the case this time of year, the fish won’t cruise much around the lake. It’s up to you to cover water and find some trout. Personally, this is the best time of year to stick to familiar waters, as you’ll have the background knowledge to locate trout during sometimes tough fishing.
For structure, locate green weeds beds, shallow but distinct drop offs, reed lines, or anything that would help concentrate fish and make the fishing a bit easier. Once you get to a promising location, begin fishing with one of two most effective tactics: indicator fishing or slowly retrieving with an intermediate sink or hover line. Each has their benefits. For detailed information, check out my article “Meat and Potatoes” in the 2016 AFG.
What’s in the water now… Boatmen and backswimmers have been very prominent in the water, and have been in the throat samples I’ve taken thus far. That being said, they haven’t been getting many fish, with leeches producing more consistent action. Boatmen would be a wise choice though, as they’ve been all over the place.
The other insect to mention is of course the chironomid. This is the staple spring food source for trout, and it’s the pupa that we fish most often. They were out a bit last weekend and this week up north, but not in any significant numbers. Down closer to Red Deer, I hear things are cooking along pretty well! Find a nice shoal in 6-12ft of water, and fish a couple of chironomids with the bottom fly about a foot off the bottom. Move it up a foot or so every 15 minutes until you figure out where the trout are in the water column. Check out the water’s surface for shucks; this will at least give you the size of the bugs hatching, and the best colours to start with would be black, green, maroon, and brown, personally in that order as well, if I were to guess. In stained water, you could try a chromie, which stands out in darker conditions. Don’t move the flies too quickly, but try casting across or down and across to cover a bit of water. Expect thick chironomid hatches when the water gets above 10C (50F).
With the cool, overcast weather this weekend, if you find a chironie hatch, match it, but I’d start with leeches in sizes 12-8 to start. Black and olive/brown have worked well so far in my boat, with or without small red beads at the head. These flies are equally effective fished under indicators or with a sunk line.
Spin anglers can easily duplicate this style of indicator fishing by using 6-8lb fluorocarbon at the end of their lines, and suspending flies below a small slip bobber or clear casting bubble.
The beauty of the forecast will be the shallow water fishing this weekend. Don’t be put off by a few weeds, keep your flies high up in the water, and I’d suspect you’ll have a few explosive moments.
The last word will be about turnover. Chain was showing a good bunch of weed/muck/bottom floating up yesterday. Dolberg was just starting to turn last weekend, with a few chunkies spotted. The fishing might not shut down completely in turnover, but the ease of fishing can sure be affected. Just keep this in mind before driving far to the lakes this weekend. Turnover should be wrapped up by next weekend up north, and some of the lakes nearer Red Deer are mostly likely done turning, or finishing.
Be safe on the water, and good fishing.