April 13, 2012
There’s nothing like hitting private lakes full of huge rainbows with a couple of great friends and (in my opinion) two of the best lake fly fishermen in the world. I’m talking about Phil Rowley of Canada and Pete Erickson of Boise, Idaho. Both anglers fish lakes as much as they do rivers and have proven tactics that catch not only lots of fish but also huge ones. Phil has written several books on fly fishing lakes and designed many deadly fly patterns. Pete has represented Team USA in the World Championships of Fly Fishing and always manages to land at least a fish on the most difficult lake fishing venues. You could say I’m a good lake fly fisher but that’s because I paid attention to these guys over the years.
Today’s lakes were located on the Idaho side of the Owyhee Mountains and simply go by the name of, “The Ranch”. Fishing on these lakes would not be possible without yesterdays fishing partner, Erik Moncada, who has the access and the ability to bring us as his guests. Erik had us up and running early because we had a two hour drive to get to get to the stillwaters and once again, we had to be back for an event. Today’s event was me speaking at the Riverside Hotel Bar at 7 PM.
We got to the lakes at about 10 AM to light wind and mostly cloudy skies with temps in the 50’s. It was very comfortable and ideal conditions for an excellent chironomid hatch. Sure enough as we wadered up and blew up the float tubes, huge midges were buzzing everywhere. None of us could wait to hit the water and soon I found myself hand-twisting three different chironomids on a 20ft level 2X Fluorocarbon leader, a technique I learned in England many years back. On this rig I have my three flies approximately six feet apart. I fish one red chronomid, a green and a black. If I catch three fish on one color over the others, eventually I fish all three the hot color. When you really nail it, you often catch two fish at a time!
One could say we didn’t exactly nail it today. Naturally, ten minutes after we all launched our float tubes the wind kicked up. And I mean bad. We had whitecaps and temps got cold as hell. In one major kicking event we all worked our way straight against the wind to a bay sheltered by willows. We all trolled our flies the entire way and no one got a bump. Once there the water was covered with chironomids and we knew fish had to be below munching them as they hatched.
We kept trying. I stuck with the three chironomids while Pete and Erik rambled through many different flies. I kept crawling my chironomids with the hand-twist while Phil slowed his down completely and stuck them under an indicator and stared at it like a bobber – and nothing. Then finally, as I raised my rod tip doing what we call the “hang”, where you make your flies look like they are about to swim up and hatch, I got jolted. Three minutes later I landed our first fish of the day, a respectable 18 inch rainbow that nailed my red chironomid.
That nice rainbow got me out of skunk row but it didn’t lead to many more fish afterwards. We fished another two hours without a bump. And there were more than four of us now. A few guys from the Boise Valley Fly Fishing Club arrived and they too were stifled by the fish. At 3 I’d caught the only fish and most of us headed in to go on a different lake. Pete took his time, fishing hard the whole way and the effort paid off as he landed a fish. Then he got another and another. Pete switched to a fast sinking line and was dredging his flies right along the bottom. Something not easy to do without picking up a bunch of weeds, but his line was perfect.
I was tempted to head back out around Pete with a faster sink Streamer Express line but instead we all opted to have a look at the other lake. Rather than launch the tubes again we stood up on the lake dam and fished from shore. A few fish were rising amongst the choppy waves and I stuck a midge out on a floating line and grabbed a seat and watched it. Just like earlier, we had no luck, not just for my dry fly but also for whatever subsurface techniques Phil and Pete were using. Then just as we were about to give up, Phil nailed a nice rainbow on a red chironomid.
Once again we were late returning from fishing. I planned to clean up at Pete’s before my talk tonight but there was no time. We pulled in his house, grabbed my computer and headed to the Riverside Hotel Bar. I delivered a unique topic tonight. Rather than teach like I usually to, tonight was strictly entertainment. Through a PowerPoint Presentation I delivered the full version of my tiger story, “Fly Fishing in the Presence of a Man Eater”. It went great and we had a fantastic time. Tomorrow Erik and I are fishing for carp on the Snake River near Bruneau, Idaho.