LAKE TROUT ON A FLY (Part 3 of Northern Trilogy)
by Daniel Kiazyk
We came around the point of another island (one of many) and we could see something up top sipping a new emerging hatch. A #14 white Wulff was laid out in the vicinity of the last rise. A fish rose and sipped and the fly was taken under. A hard fight ensued. Then what was hoped to be grayling came to the boat. To our surprise, a 3 lb lake trout had taken my offering. Such was the case on this trip almost everywhere we visited and angled for grayling. The question we had was; had we been missing something all along or was this year different from others. There was a little truth in both and something we hadn't realized up until this point.
It was on our way up to the lake that we happened to pass a local inhabitant (whose boat we were going to be using on that trip) and decided to stop and talk. After our traditional salutations the conversation turned immediately to the task at hand – fishing. We were told that the lake was down 8 feet and that rocks were showing themselves in places where they hadn't been seen in years. Furthermore we were told in passing that the lake trout weren't deep, a spoon trolled would more than suffice. With some final details on where we could find some new campsites and fishing spots, we moved on with great anticipation of things to come. If only we knew.
On our first foray for lake trout on this lake we found them in the 15 – 20 ft range over 30-40 ft of water and they had shown a preference to spoons or deeper diving minnow baits. Either natural colors or "far out" combinations seemed to be the ticket. We would also look for shoreline around islands exposed to the largest expanse of the main basin . Bays open to the main basin of the lake were also good. Structural elements, such as reefs, neck downs, or small inside turns/cups and sharper ledges would all hold trout. Given this experiential background, we would always be able to find trout and on this lake. But this was only a start for what we were going to experience on this trip.
Different, however, for this trip was that we had decided to go to a new (for us anyway) section of the lake. Going into a new area demanded that we use our traditional search pattern. This pattern (with a view to catching Lakers on this lake) usually involves looking for those locales where there is access to the main lake basin. Specifically (once in the prior general location) we are looking for structure that holds lake trout. Avoiding unproductive water is key but when in a search mode, it is inevitable. And it was exactly as a result of our search pattern that we came to understand more profoundly our local friend's advice: Stay shallow with whatever you were using, especially if were after the trout.
Ferd, my intrepid fishing bud, (an angler of renown equal to many a TV personality I might add) was at the helm that day and was trolling a Rapala no longer made. This Rapala has earned the name "fish finder" and has many battle scars and repairs to the extent that its only hook has been reinforced via line tied around the bait to help hold the wires inside within the bait. The bait itself has universal appeal with its flo red, white and black color configuration. On many occasions, it has suggested colors that would work with other baits we had on hand. Ferd's plan that day was consistent with prior day's save some foreseeable unproductive water. But it was exactly here (the previously thought productive water) that we started catching more and better lake trout with great consistency. Having said the latter does not mean that we just started trolling any old water, rather we would look for many of the lake trout holding elements already mentioned but in shallower water.
It was at that moment when a series of other occurrences (which we had experienced on this lake over a period of years) all fell into place: some trout were shallow and they were biters. We decided to test out the theory by returning to those locales where trout had been caught or spotted (shallow) and this time we were going to cast our larger marabou flies at them. Low and behold they were still there and they liked the flies we had to offer. Our larger marabou flies (tied for Pike) now took on another life as shallow water lake trout flies. Many trout were located in 8-10 feel of water (and being as clear as it is it was easy to see lake trout rise to our flies. And our new understanding of trout location went even further when fishing for grayling near to a mid –lake island with their large associated free stone flats. Many trout in the area were being caught in 2-3 feet of water on very small flies (flies intended for grayling). At a certain point, some trout were a nuisance as their larger more aggressive predatory posture would often win out when flies were casted in this environment.
Our insight as a result of this experience was that not all trout were deep throughout the summer months (as is the case near our southern Canadian homes). Rather there is a wide array of behaviors and this new pattern yielded a trout in the 12 lb range- good enough to suggest bigger fish also could be caught with this approach. Yet more significant and as a result of this experience was the fact that many of our so called truisms need to be challenged every once in while to push us into new realm of possibility --- lake trout in two to three feet of water!. Hey didn't the old adage say" Nothing ventured, nothing gained".