Lake Fishing for Trout
Lake and Reservoir Fishing
Lake and reservoir fishing for trout is becoming increasingly popular and skilful. It is by no means a poor relation of river fishing. In terms of weight and quality of fish, reservoir angling can be very rewarding. Indeed, few British rivers provide the feed to equal the best of our still waters, and feed is the key to good trouting.
Still-water trout fishing calls for patience, persistence, and intelligence. Many good river-anglers are hopeless on lakes and soothe their feelings by declaring that lake fishing is ‘dull and featureless’. So it may be — if your bag is empty. Stillwater fishing, unless tackled properly, does breed tedium and disgust. It is pleasant to spend an hour by a lake. But to work all day and never see a fish sends many anglers back to their rivers wondering what others ever see in lake fishing.
The successful still-water fisher must know when to fish and when to desist. He must learn to detect when water is ‘dour’ and when it is productive.
First, he should know something about the climate in relation to his chosen lake. The altitude of the water is important too. Lowland reservoirs, such as Chew Lake, fish earlier in the season than waters which are 1,500 feet above sea-level. As a general rule: the higher the reservoir the later it fishes.
With lake fishing two factors are important: the colour of the sky and the amount of wave. Humidity — in so far as it encourages hatches of fly — also has an effect. Misty-grey is the best colour of sky for lake fishing. A low overcast or a drizzly mist are both good. A sunny, blue sky is mediocre. Fluffy white `thunderheads’ are bad, since they act as huge reflectors and pour light down into the water.
In conditions of strong light the trout see too much. Fish which have no trouble in finding and eating organisms as small as .25 cm (0.100 in) in diameter can certainly spot a 1.5 kg (3 lb) leader-point. Anything thicker must look like a rope.
A trout’s vision depends on the reflection of light. Reduce the light (by dulling the sky) and they do not see so well. Break up the light-waves by introducing waves in the water and their vision is much reduced. Only then are we likely to catch them.
Can lakes be successfully fished in calm, bright conditions?
Yes, but the angler must pick his times with care. Early morning and late evening are both favourable. As is well-known, light is reflected off water at the same angle as its incidence, so that most of the light from a low sun is reflected off the surface instead of penetrating. The water becomes ‘dark’ and we can fish with some confidence.
Sometimes you will get dull skies and rippled water but have no luck. If the wind is north or north-east it is probably chilling the water and driving the fish into the deeps. Very dry air too is disliked by lake trout, probably because it is often at a lower temperature than the water.
There is and always must be a certain amount of guess-work in lake fishing. If we could catch fish to a ‘formula’, angling would be a pretty dull sport. It is the gamble that attracts and keeps us flogging away when common sense cries quit!
What sort of tackle for lake fishing?
For wading and bank-work I prefer a medium trout rod – we should used a powerful rod of some 3 m (10 ft). There is good sense in this in that strong rods will cast long lines, but short rods will cast even longer lines. It is not necessarily wise, however, to use a rod designed for casting at the expense of its fishing qualities. I like to see my rod bend into a fish because this is the best guarantee that I am going to land it. It means that the hook is being pulled in firmly and that the fish has a spring against which to fight. To pull on a fish with a strong 3 m (10 ft) rod or even a stiff tournament rod of shorter length means simply that the leader-point is being subjected to great strain. To counteract this some anglers use points of 3.2 and 4.5 kg (7 and 10 lb). But stout points of course reduce the number of ‘takes’ in light-dark conditions. Others fall between two stools, using the prescribed stout rods but with fine points. As a result, numbers of fish smash their way to freedom.
One hears reports from time to time of anglers having their tackle broken by fish. This is something that can and should be avoided. At no time should a lake fisher point his rod tip at his flies while they are fishing. The rod is the angler’s prime guarantee against breakage, but it works only so long as it is used as a buffer between the taking trout and the angler’s fist. Point the rod at the flies and a heavy take will certainly break you. But hold the rod so that the line forms an angle of about 90° with the tip and it is impossible for even the biggest fish to break you on the take, always assuming that a light rod and a sound, although fine, point are in use.
I have watched scores of anglers breaking this common-sense rule and can only assume they have not bothered to think it out. The loss of a big trout is a high price to pay for carelessness. Yet it happens season after season.
Nothing takes harder than a lake trout. All the weight of their bodies goes into the first frightened plunge and it needs every bit of the spring in rod and tackle to resist breakage. A trout may take 45 m (50 yds) of line and backing off the reel in under three seconds. A properly held rod helps the leader to survive this shock treatment.
Self-floating lines are very suitable for lake fishing. Such lines float perfectly even in choppy water.
On some still waters the angler has the option of wading or boat-fishing. The question naturally arises : ‘Is boat-fishing worth the extra cost?’ As with most things in life, it depends. Sometimes a boat means also the services of a professional gillie; sometimes one can fish alone or with a companion. Boats managed by professionals greatly reduce the amount of skill and water-craft needed by the angler. In many cases one finds that it is really the gillie who is doing the fishing and the angler is merely holding the rod. Placing the boat on a good drift, giving a pull on the oar to line the rodsman up with a rising fish — the gillie knows it all, or should do. Then if the angler keeps his fly in the water all will be well.
Managing one’s own boat is of course quite different. The credit, if any, must certainly go to the angler himself if he catches fish. Will he do better in a boat than he would if he had waded? Obviously he will cover more fish, and the ripple-line, which always seems to be just out of reach on big lakes, is no problem. The lake angler who masters the problems peculiar to boat-fishing will probably — over many months — beat the average of the bank-angler. But, of course, individuals vary widely; many anglers simply prefer to wade.
Fishing upland lochans and hill-lakes provides plenty of inexpensive pleasure in lovely surroundings. No special problems are involved. Light trout tackle and small flies almost invariably work well. The factors of sky-colour and amount of wave mentioned above apply equally here.