Chopaka? Anyone?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by ray helaers, Jan 22, 2002.

  1. My once-a-year expedition to Chopaka used to be the highlight of my fishing year. My partner and I would go for 4 or 5 days every June to fish the callibaetis hatch.

    The last couple of years (about 4 or 5 ago) it seemed to be on the downhill part of its cycle, so we decided to give it a rest for a couple seasons, and one thing leading to another, haven't been back.

    How's it been fishing the last couple years? Back in the day, I considered Chopaka one of the best trout fisheries in the West. Lots of big, educated fish, sipping a thick, complex blend of morning, afternoon and evening hatches, turning up their noses at some of the best offerings of some very good anglers. (Great trout fishing can be a strange version of paradise.) That's what I want to hear about. I have to assume the bugs are still there (midges, at least two mayflies, innumerable caddis, traveling sedge, damsels), but what about the fish? I'm looking for a big population of ready if picky risers, with lots of fish to 20" and a few over. And yes, I expect it to be crowded (it was already crowded long before I found it).
  2. I personnaly have not been up there. Have allways wanted to, untill I heard about the small mouth and big mouth's in there that midnite biologist have intruduced. Plus the crowds. I have instead been going to aneas,ell lakes . Aneas has been producing some etremely large fish in it the last 2 years. :THUMBSUP
  3. Now see? That's the kind of thing that can make you lose faith in human nature.

    I've fished Aneas. The fishing can be every bit as good (and frustrating) as Chopaka, but unfortunately Aneas is not exactly the garden spot of the Okanogan. I've never been to Ell; how's the camping?
  4. We hit Chopaka July 21-23, 2001, a little later than normal. Had the best camping spot on the lake, by the big ponderosa pine. There were a few people, but I wouldn't call it crowded.

    We had an incredible damsel hatch. I'd never fished dry damsels before and it was great watch those fish roll over on the fly. The wind had the damsels falling near the reeds and the fish were stacked there just sucking them up. We also fished with big, black, ugly flies, mostly at dusk. At one point, we picked up fish on the finder down deep and were pulling them up from 20+ feet. Caught a few cutthroat and a couple of small smallies. No LM bass. At one point, I was up on the ridge spotting fish in the shallows for my partner, what a hoot.

    Would I go back, you bet. Let me know if you have other questions.
  5. Went in early June 2001. Set up camp on a Thursday so we got a great campsite. Every day we were there, we had gale force winds for at least several hours a day. Notwithstanding that, there were decent (albeit brief) callabaetis hatches on a couple of days that the temps stayed up despite the wind. It was a challenge to fish dries in high winds but those who knew what they were doing (not me) did pretty well. Others in my party (again, not me) had some pretty decent success with chironomids, callabaetis cripples, a real ugly but simple pattern another angler introduced us to known as the "Chopaka Emerger", as well as damselfly dries fished right up in the reeds. One night (when it was dead calm) we went out and trolled woolly buggers and caught tons of fish. (I know, not as aesthetically pleasing as fishing dries, but it sure helped the overall catch ratio.) We didn't do this, but it looked like some people were fishing travelling sedge patterns at night and doing okay.

    We maybe just hit it right, but it was not terribly crowded the weekend we were there.
  6. Camping at Ell is not the greatest, but it is better than Aneas. And even though it is selective fisheries, there are some nice rainbows in there. I have been there in early May and Late October and have been rewarded both times. It's in a bowl so wind is not to bad. In may fished a damsel right along the shore line in about 2' of water and I could not keep them off. Other times I have used wooly buggers and bunny leeches for good success. Yes I know Aneas is not the prettiest place but since the triploids were put in there it's been awsome. :THUMBSUP
  7. Thanks for the updates. It sounds like fishing was pretty good.

    Ah memories. July can be a little late, especially late July but as you found the fishing is still good, and it's a smart way to avoid the hordes of spring. It is really something when the fish start getting serious about the dry damsels. I was there many years ago over the 4th of July with my wife. One hot sunny afternoon it seemed like every fish in the lake was keying on the damsels. Some fish were actually throwing themselves against the reeds to knock damsels into the water. After thy'd tumble back into the water, they'd turn and slash at anything they had managed to knock in. When I could manage to pull myself together enough to make the cast, it would often be my fly. Back then I had never even heard of dry damsels. I managed to put something together in camp with elk hair and a blue sharpie.

    Another thing I learned at Chopaka on later trips is that dry damsels make really good searching patterns when nothing welse is going on. Throw them well back into pockets in the sparse reeds along the western shore. I've had fish jump clear of the water and take the fly on their way back down!

    I'm glad to hear that the hatches are tough for other people too. That callibaetis hatch can kick your butt under the best fishing conditions. Paul and I used to spend a lot of time on the water at night, towing around wooly buggers on a floating line. We were still maniacs then, barely taking time to eat. I took a 24" 4-1/2 pounder one night, still my personal best trout not out of a pay lake. I got nothing against night fishing, especially after getting my clock cleaned during the evening caddis/midge/caenis hatch.

    Oh man, I've got myself all worked up again. Guess I'll probably be there this June.
  8. I've been fishing Chopaka since the late 60's & have hit it the week before memorial day the past several years. It's still my favorite spot, despite all the people. It's a big enough lake to accomodate a lot of people fishing, and the scenery is great. When I get tired of the crowds, I just fish the north end of the lake. Have had some great days up there.

    I think the hatches have changed over the years. Probably some grand cycle that none of us really understand. In recent years there haven't been big hatches of chironomids or callibaetis - they're still there, but not the heavy hatches of 10-15 years ago. I've heard that the best time to fish the lake now is late June and early July when the damsel adults are heaviest and the big sedges come off at dusk.

    BTW, if you want a break from the fishing, hike up to the ridge on the east side of Chopaka on a clear morning. You get a panoramic view of the Similkameen valley, and there's deer and grouse. A steep hike, but well worth it!

    Geez, I wish it was late June and I was heading up tomorrow!

  9. Tom,
    I've probablly run into you on that same week. Seems like that is the time I find to go explore the region every year. My opinion is that the average size of the fish has dropped off in the last couple of years. Might just be what I connect on, but the big cruisers don't seem to be as prolific in the weeds during the cal. hatch. I used to love stalking the gulpers in the weeds with a size 14 or 16 standard Adams. Man those things were frieght train when they hit!

    I still fish at night until I can't stay awake any longer. Something about not knowing what is going to slam you next! Also have been hitting Ell and enjoying it, allthough not as aesthically pleasing to the eye to fish. Usually stop by Winthrop on the way home and spend a couple of days fishing Big Twin with the spring crowds. Good chrionomiding and good micro brews in close proximity. However, the Methow Valley Brewing Company in Twisp burned down recently, I've heard. :REALLYMAD :ANGRY.

    Go Cougars!!
  10. I like fishing at night, unless it's cold & windy or if I can't find somone to go with me. I usually fish Chopaka with my sister. The last time we went out at night she got attacked by a mama muskrat while coming ashore. It didn't bite her - just bumped her legs a few times trying to scare her off. She actually thought this was neat at the time, but hasn't wanted to night fish the past few years.

    I agree that there have been fewer 20"+ fish the past two years. I've found this is cyclical & usually a few years with smaller fish are followed by a few with bigger ones. Not sure why it works that way - might be the number and timing of the plants, weather, insect populations, or some combination.

    I just love fishing the callibaetis hatches in this lake. The hatch is usually short lived, and you have to quickly figure out the right imitation. I've caught them on #14 emergers one day, and the next day they won't touch it. Then I try different sizes and stages - duns, cripples, weighted nymphs, etc... & sooner or later I usually find something that works. To me, that's what makes this such a fun lake.

  11. Chopaka? Anyone?/Big twin

    I myself discovered Big twin a few years ago. I fished it in late september. I was really pleased at the size of the fish and the variety of what was there, lahotans and Big bow's. Had fun in the shallows with bunny leeches during the day and at night.It was fun at night fishing in 2 ft of water and just getting nailed by one after another big bow! :THUMBSUP
  12. Fish till ya drop.
    Then suck it up
    and fish the evening hatch.

    I agree that the fish size is down in Chopaka. Past years I used to get 3-5 fish over 20" in a catch of 20 fish or so. Last year usually no fish over 20" and few 18"ers. I believe it's the smallmouth bass fry and adults in there sucking up the chironomids and mayflies. I caught several last time up there on beadhead Mayfly nymphs.
    Like to catch the bugger that stuck them in there. :REALLYMAD

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