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Searching out a New Lake

by Mike Gass

Fishing a new body of water can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Learn to be an observant fly fisher, and you will begin to enjoy the challenge that a new lake presents.

Many people load their boat, and shove off as soon as they arrive at a new lake. This can however, be a big mistake. Its a good idea to walk along the shoreline and look for insect activity and signs of recent insect hatches. For example, a quick look into the water near the shoreline will often reveal whether or not a lake has a population of scuds (freshwater shrimp). Also, shucks from aquatic insects such as chironomids are often blown up against the shoreline. Examining these shucks can give you some idea of what the fish may be feeding on, and the approximate size. A look at the aquatic vegetation along the shoreline can reveal damsel or dragonfly shucks, which would indicate a recent hatch.

Ok, so now your ready to head out on the water. Where to fish? What fly to use? These are questions you will need to ask yourself.

First, where to fish. I recommend you either purchase a local bathymetric map book or look for one on the computer. These maps will give you an idea of where the shoals and drop offs are on the lake. If you don't have a good map of the lake, your best bet is to troll around the lake while on the lookout for shoals, drop offs, rising fish, and insects. Drop-offs are always a good place to start. Drop-offs act as a highway for feeding trout. Trout will cruise along a drop-off occasionally foraging for food on the shoal and then returning to the deeper water where they feel safe from predators. Trolling is a very good way to locate fish. When you catch a fish while trolling, it can be a good idea to set up anchor and try casting flies in the same area.

Second, what fly to use. A small leech patterns, a Carey Special, or a Doc Spratley are all good patterns to troll around with a slow sinking line, while searching out a new lake. The fly fisher should always carry a stomach pump along with them. A stomach pump allows you to see what the fish has recently been feeding on without having to kill it. When you catch your first couple fish while trolling, it is a good idea to stomach pump the fish to see exactly what the fish are feeding on. Then you can anchor up, switch to that particular pattern, and hopefully get into some fish. Of course to effectively fish the particular pattern, you will have to have some knowledge about the insect, such as how it moves and where in the water column to fish it.

You don't necessarily have to catch a fish and stomach pump it to have an idea as to what they are feeding on. For example, if you see lots of chironomids hatching in a particular area of a lake, you may want to anchor up and try a chironomid pattern to see if they are selectively feeding on that insect. If you see chironomids hatching, and fish making nose to tail rises there is a very good chance that the trout are feeding on chironomids. Out on the lake you may also see Mayfly nymphs, Duns, and Spinners, Caddisfly (sedge) nymphs and adults, waterboatman, and damselflies. Fish feeding near the surface or on the surface are easy to find and allow you to key in on them quickly. If you don't catch any fish while trolling. You may want to think back to what you saw along the shoreline. Whether it be damselfly shucks, dragonfly shucks, scuds (freshwater shrimp), mayfly nymphs, chironomid shucks. And give one of these patterns a try. If all else fails, it doesn't hurt to ask a fellow fisherman that seams to be having some success for some help. Be sure to keep your distance, and not to pass between the fisherman and the shore when approaching another angler.

Just remember that the observant fly fisher is often rewarded. Making fishing a new lake, a fun and exciting experience. Remember, look for insect activity, look for signs of feeding fish, and look for changes in water depth.

You can e-mail your comments to Vic @

Tight lines and hope to see on the water
Vic Carrao
STS Guiding Service

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