Outdoors

Secrets for hooking trout in the Saddle Mountain’s still lakes

“Don’t forget your waders,” Ken reminded, when he and Ted picked me up for the 50-mile drive north to Lake Lenice.

It’s possible Ken alluded to a previous trip where I forgot my waders and spent an uneventful day casting between tall reed grass.

Arriving at a mostly empty gravel parking lot on the north side of Saddle Mountain, we were greeted by a fire-blackened landscape.

Ken and Ted attached wheels to the frames of their pontoon boats and pushed them like wheelbarrows on a quarter-mile dirt track that leads to the 93-acre lake.

I hoisted my float tube on shoulder straps, backpack style and left them trudging in the dust.

Requisite waders, sunglasses, hat, life jacket, landing net, extra leader and four boxes of flies (you can never have too many flies), lunch and bottled water completed my checklist of equipment.

Ken fishes Lake Lenice several times a year. In contrast, I find greater satisfaction imagining where trout live in moving water.

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Fly casters on personal floating devices scatter across Lenice Lake on a spring day before a range fire scarred the desert landscape. Courtesy of Dennis Dauble

When it comes to lakes, I’d rather wade along the shoreline and cast to rising trout than drag a fly behind my float tube. But that’s just me.

Fly fishers employ three main techniques when fishing from a floating vessel in still water.

Many troll a wet fly, managing speed and direction with foot power, oars or electric motor.

A second popular technique involves dropping an anchor and fishing a chironomid pattern on long leader under a strike indicator. A fly caster’s version of bobber fishing.

A more active alternative is casting to a weed bed or other shoreline feature that provides cover for trout. Absent a noticeable insect hatch, we three chose to troll below the surface using sinking lines.

I selected an olive-colored Wooly Bugger from my box of flies and trailed a scud pattern behind it on 18 inches of leader. Wooly Buggers are a standard lake pattern because they resemble aquatic nymphs, such as dragonflies or damselflies and leeches.

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A collection of hand-tied flies designed to mimic aquatic insects found in still water. Courtesy of Ted Poston

No sooner did I spool out 20 feet of line and began my kick when I saw a nice trout dancing and splashing on the end of Ken’s line. Fifteen minutes later, when he pulled alongside to chat, he hooked and landed a fat, sassy 18-incher.

Meanwhile, I swapped flies. I trolled fast and I trolled slow. I drifted with the wind and dragged my fly across the bottom. I cast to the shore, let my offering sink and twitched my rod tip to mimic an aquatic nymph rising up in the water column.

The sun moved slowly across Saddle Mountain and, absent feedback from trout, my mind wandered.

Ted reported faring no better success. “I’ve had a few tugs and landed one.”

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Ted Poston ponders which fly to troll below the placid surface of Lenice Lake. Courtesy of Dennis Dauble

Meanwhile, Ken’s merry laugh echoed across the lake, his success attracting the attention of other anglers. “What’s your secret?” an inquisitive fly caster in a small pram asked.

“I guess I’ve got the right combination of speed and depth,” Ken replied.

I tied on a fly that Ken gave me, let out the same length of line and matched his troll speed. The only way for me to fish the top part of the water column, however, was to speed up my kicking or short-line it and hope trout would be attracted to the motion of my fins.

Our day on the water ended when the bites slowed in late afternoon. Credit Ted and I with two trout apiece while Ken landed over a dozen big-shouldered “bows.”

So why the difference?

The mystery was solved on the drive home when Ken revealed he had loaded his reel with type 2 full sink line. Ted plied heavier Type 6 sinking line, which provides a fast descent to a depth of 20 feet.

I used a sink tip line that also operates near the bottom, depending on rate of retrieval. The gist is Ken’s lucky fly stationed 4 feet or so below the surface while Ted and I spent most of our time “dredging weeds.”

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Fly casters Ken Gano and Ted Poston push their pontoon boats up the hill after a fine fall day of fishing on Lenice Lake. Courtesy of Dennis Dauble

I am versed in the application of weight forward and double taper floating fly line and aware of the need to deploy PolyLeaders of different sink rates when swinging a fly for steelhead in large rivers. However, it took a frustrating day on a small desert lake to expose my ignorance of sinking fly line.

Trout should remain active in Lenice and its companion lake, Nunnally, until the season closes on Nov. 30.

Alternatively, fall hatchery plants will grow to reach a healthy 12 to 16 inches when the spring season opens again on March 1.

If you go, make sure to pack your waders and bring an outfit designed to get your offering in the strike zone.

Dennis Dauble is author of four books about fish and fishing (DennisDaubleBooks.com). He will present “Treks, Trails and Trout in the Blues” at 7:15 Nov. 7 at the Kennewick REI store.
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