Friday, April 21, 2017

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout in Washington State April 2017

Darren Petersen photo

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This was one crazy trip. There were 10 of us with a few more on the way. It was our annual trip to Washington State to chase lahontan cutthroat trout! The drive up and over Roger's Pass included a nasty snowstorm. Once we arrived at our destination, we went over to the North 40 Fly Shop and got our fishing licences. The sign said the lake was hot, that made us smile until we heard that the road to the lake was flooded and the drive around was going to add an extra hour. Well after talking to our friends from Spokane and Montana, we decided to negotiate the flooded road. That was a good decision. BUT when we got to the lake, we found out that so much mud and run off was spilling into the lake, that the north end of the lake was unfishable. What, our favourite beach was mud. We headed to the south end and the rough road down to the lake was mud and in bad shape. Thank goodness we all had a four wheel drive trucks because we needed it! The water at the south end was fishable. Larry, Darren, Rick and Doug launched Larry's boat and headed about 5 km down the lake to fish a favourite bay that was fortunately clear and quite fishable. The lake was at least 3 feet higher than last year and that left several of our favourite beaches, flooded and not fishable! That was just crazy! The guys did find another stretch in the bay that had cruising lahontans and they were into fish all day. They caught lahontans to 26 inches. Karen, my buddies Leon and Claude were on shore at the south end and we found lots of fish to tangle with too.

Usually we are sight fishing but not this year. The visibility in the lake was low and we could not see the fish. Luckily there was enough visibility that the lahontans could see our balanced leeches, flashbacks, micro leeches and baby damsels!

Well day two had disaster written all over it! The shoreline at the south end had no visibility at all. The mud drifted all 8 miles down the lake with the north wind blowing. Was our trip ruined and destroyed. Not yet. Over the course of the day, the wind shifted to the south and the south end of the lake started to get some visibility. It took until after lunch and then we started to catch some nice ones. The guys went back to their favourite bay down the lake and had an amazing day. The mud stayed out of the bay for most of the day! Doug was the hot rod. He was fly fishing with a balanced Las Vegas Leech! 

Well day three had some nasty weather shaping up so we started at the North 40 Fly Shop. As Doug would say, "Money will be spent!" We got to the lake a bit later. The guys headed off in the boat. They found their favourite bay had very little visibility and the guys had to look for some clearer water. The south end beach and shore was still ok thanks to a south wind. The fishing was excellent. Leon tagged a 29 incher and later in the day, Rick hit the 30 inch mark! Claude caught several monsters and Karen started tagging several biggies. Then the thunderstorms rolled in. Thunder, lightening, hail and heavy rain began. Karen and I called it a day so we could finish our shopping. We also wanted to keep our two elk hounds dry. Well a few hours later, the weather cleared and the fly fishing became hot. The guys caught a lot of big colourful lahontans.

Well on day four we arrived at the lake and we lucked out that a very gentle south west wind was keeping the mud line at bay! Well it did for most of the day! Then we got showered on but the fly fishing with baby damsels was superb! Lots of quality lahontans were caught! By late afternoon, the mud had arrived and the visibility at the lake went down. It was time to get packed up for the long journey home!

Wow, the weather forecast was for rain and a north wind. That will make the visibility at the lake poor in the coming days. The good news is the fact that the mud run off was slowing and the mud will slowly diffuse and the lake will clear.

Certainly  a different trip with conditions I have not seen in several years! Amazing. The 10 of us still had a great time. We always love seeing our friends from Spokane and Montana!

The stormy drive down the Okanogan made the drive home a bit easier to take. We all love this trip, so much fun!

A flooded road had to be negotiated to get to the lake each day!

Can you see the mud line?

The access road got quite gnarly after a while so Karen and I decided to park and hike. 

After only 10 minuted of fly fishing, I caught a monster that was almost 32 inches long. It was a big thick male. It was an amazing specimen. After a few quick pics it was released back into the lake. Well that got our interest!

Our buddy Claude is a lot of fun to fly fish. He was sporting his new ECHO rod and he was bombing out big casts with his new toy!

Darren Petersen photo

Darren with a beauty!
Darren Petersen photo

Doug had an amazing 4 days on the water. We had to drag him off the lake at the end of the day!

Darren Petersen photo

Karen had an amazing last day! So many quality lahontans to hand!

Darren Petersen photo

Larry tagged several beauties too!
Darren Petersen photo
Darren Petersen photo

My dear friend Leon was always into the fish!

Darren Petersen photo

Rick, the rookie, slayed them!

The vampire leech was a great choice! The first two days! Wild horses below!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Three Days at Bullshead

Larry, Doug and I headed over to Bullshead to get some early season fishing in. Well the drive over went great until we started up the final stretch to the lake. As we climbed up into the Cypress Hills, a nasty snow storm dumped several inches of snow and made the road quite slippery. Once we arrive at Bullshead, the north west wind and snow made us look for every layer we had. Well we geared up and headed off. Bullshead was not that busy for the third day after its opener. I wonder why? Miserable weather! We teased Doug that he had to pay his dues for his first trip to Bullshead ever! Well the fishing was actually quite good on this snowy day. Lots of feisty rainbows to hand!

We took several throat samples that revelled that the rainbows were dining on scuds. That was not a big surprise. We caught rainbows with flashbacks (size 12), baby damsels (we think they thought they were scuds), MOP flies (black), Glenn's Leech, Bruised Leeches and Candy Corn Balanced Flies.

There was also a fish kill at Bullshead. We could not tell the extent of the fish kill but there were dead fish, many in the 3 pound range dead along the shore.

The three of us spent our 3 days exploring a lot of the lake. The water temperature was cold, real cold (38F). I suspect that turn over was imminent. The fishing was slow in the morning and as the water warmed, so did the fishing. We did catch several bigger rainbows. Larry caught perhaps the biggest rainbow I have ever seen at Bullshead. It was over 27 inches long. Fish in the 18 to 24 inch range were caught each day. We also caught lots of stockers. There were fish in both the small pond connected to the main lake and of course the big lake. The water level was high but we noticed that there was more weed in the lake than usual for this time of the year! That may have been a contributed to the partial fish kill. Some of the locals said that winter was quite a bit harsher than usual this year!

We did see Ralf and Chewy from our club out at Bullshead having a great time as well. 

Bullshead may have lost some fish due to winter kill but the fishery still seems to be doing great! It is well worth the trip. The nice thing is the fact that you can fish from shore for about 6 weeks until the weed growth make that impossible.

Doug paying his dues to Bullshead!

Larry layered up and was quite comfortable in the snowy weather!

It was nice to see this memorial to Jeff Wilson, one of the big supporters at Bullhead, especially the fish rescue program!

Day Two was a beauty at Bullshead!

Chewy caught a ton of rainbows at Bullshead!

Ralf working the culvert between the main lake and smaller pond!

Prairie Crocus blooming!

MOP Fly was working great!