Chopaka Report, June 26 - 29

Discussion in 'Stillwater' started by cabezon, Jul 8, 2012.

  1. cabezon

    cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2004
    Messages:
    1,791
    Media:
    224
    Likes Received:
    299
    Location:
    Olympia, WA
    Tuesday, June 26th. I packed my flyfishing gear and clothes Monday night and was up at 6ish to pack the camping gear and load up the 4-Runner. After a quick stop for groceries, I was on the road about 7ish. It drizzled on and off most of the way, including on the east side. I did the usual drive through Wenatchee, past Pateros, and into the Okanagan. Finally, I made it to the lake by about 2:30 (350 miles). I had choices of campsites and picked one with easy access to the water. It also proved to be a great crossroad for bird watching too.

    I figured that I could set up the tent later, and immediately launched the pontoon boat and geared up. I had a Callibaetis nymph and damsel nymph on a sink tip on the 6 wt, chironomids on the Sage XP 5 wt, and a Callibaetis parachute on the Sage RPL 5 wt. I loaded the fly boxes in the side compartments and headed out along the western shore, trailing the nymphs as I finned my way along the shore. While I could see the occasional fish working at the surface, I didn’t pick up anything on the nymphs. I stopped at the Cove, the reed-bounded area along the western shore and not far from the camping area. While I had observed a cloud of Callibaetis spinners dipping and diving by my picnic table, I didn’t see any on the water. Still, once I was in the area, the Callibaetis parachute was my fly of choice. There were sporadic rises, and some evidence of damsels, midges, and a size 14-16 tan caddis. I cast my dry fly to every rise within reach and managed to hook and land a half dozen fish before I called it quits about 7ish.

    Back in camp, I watch catbirds, western tanagers, Bullock’s orioles, and cedar waxwings flit from tree to tree. I was pretty whipped out by the drive, etc. and set up the tent, cooked dinner, and crashed by 10ish.

    Wednesday, June 27th. That night was cool, but I was pretty comfortable in my tent. I woke up about 7ish and had a leisurely breakfast and watched the bird show. With clear skies, it warmed dramatically once the sun rose beyond the eastern hills. The amazing difference between this year’s trip and last year’s trip was the near absence of mosquitoes. Last year, they were voracious, but I only encountered two in four days – what a difference a year makes. I headed out about 9 with the general intention of heading to the south end of the lake. But I trailed my brace of nymphs and had high hopes as I saw a few fish already hitting on damsels. I stopped at the Cove and began a series of casts and retrieves. I had a nip and a few casts later, I had a strong take on the Callibaetis nymph by what became a nice 14” rainbow.

    While I was fishing the Cove, several other fishers made a beeline for the south end. I had decided to pack up and join them when I noticed a head in the water on the east shore. It was a juvenile moose!! It started to swim across the lake and I thought that it would be cool to capture some video of the moose on the lake. So, I grabbed my oars and started after the moose. But it was faster across the water than I thought and it actually made it back to the east shore long before I got too close. Still, I did manage a few pictures before it disappeared into the Ponderosa pine forest.

    The fishers at the south end were initially fishing chironomids. I had seen some fish swirling around the reeds, apparently looking for damsels. I restarted my cast and strip routine and picked up several nice fish while the other fishers were picking up fish on chironomids. About noon, the damsel emergence really got going in earnest and the newly emerged adults were pairing off with other damsels over the surface of the water. At this point, I had moved to the far south shore by the reeds and fish started to jump out of the water after the hovering damsels. I tried casting my Callibaetis parachute then the comparadun to rising fish (a trick that worked last year), but I wasn’t seeing much interest. I did manage to hook two fish but in both cases the fly came free before I could land the fish. So, I tied on a blue damsel adult and targeted rising fish again. Still not much action. It was frustrating to have jumping trout all around but not being able to interest them in my imitation. The winds were knocking some of the newly-emerged damsels back into the water. In fact, I saw fluttering damsels caught in the surface film that were ignored too, at least for a while. [My wife had the perfect answer to this hovering damsel conundrum – helium-filled flies. Envision a blue-bodied tube filled with helium gas that hovers a few inches off the surface tied to the water’s surface by the leader. Just have to work on the construction/manufacturing.] Later in the afternoon, I moved to the western edge of the south end and picked up a few more fish on damsels, but not as many as I would have expected given the activity. Eventually, the surface activity died down and I rowed back to camp.

    Thursday, June 28th. This morning was pretty much a repeat of Wednesday. I spent the early morning watching the birds. I hit the water at 10AM and rowed straight for the eastern edge of the south end. I was the only one there for most of the day until several folks arrived in the late afternoon.

    With a warm, relatively calm day, there were already damsels flitting about and fish jumping to eat them. Even more so than Wednesday, the fish were fixated on flying damsels and ignored most anything else. After repeated efforts, I managed to pick up one fish on an adult damsel. I saw one Callibaetis dun and tried my parachute pattern, then my Quigley emerger, then the camparadun without much success. I switched back to the damsel for a while. You know that I’m frustrated when I switch flies that often. I finally started to target fish/location of sippers. Among the crazy jumpers, there were a few fish sipping flies (perhaps midges, perhaps damsel nymphs) at the surface. I tied on the parachute Callibaetis pattern; if I’m going down, I’m going down with my best fly. I then tried to cover the sipping rises that I saw. One was occurring repeatedly just off some barely submerged weeds; finally, I dropped a cast at the right time and hooked up with a nice fish that ran around quite a bit before I could net it. But it was mostly frustrating and with the rising, variable wind in the afternoon, it was harder to be precise.

    I was fascinated by the waterbird behavior that I was observing. Not only were there lots of moms leading trains of ducklings (or cootlings), but the moms became very territorial when another bird approached their brood – lots of squacking, beating of wings, and feather pulling. In addition, two goldeneye adults were battling across the end of the lake for unknown reasons. One wound bite and grab at the feathers of the other while the fleeing duck poled itself across the surface. The first appeared to be attempting to drown the second several times. I couldn’t tell if one bird was dominant or if the aggressor alternated. Also, the ruddy duck males were making display vocalizations and movements for the benefit of females.

    Finally, as the jumping died down, I decided to head away from the reeds and break out the chironomid rod. My thought was that the fish had gorged on damsels, but might be looking for a snack a few hours after the peak. I had tied on a pair of flies. The top fly was a size 14 black chironomid with a white gill tuft and a black bead. The bottom fly was a size 18 midge with a black body, thin green flashabou rib, and a peacock collar. The bottom was about 9 feet and I had the point fly suspended one to two feet of the bottom. My guess that it was time for a mid-afternoon snack appeared to be correct. The fish really liked the bottom fly. I probably caught a dozen fish in two hours, one fish every five to ten minutes. The glare made it a challenge to see the float on occasion and the point fly must have snagged SAV on an occasion or two when I set on nothing. The fish were in the 12 – 15” range for the most part, with one or two 18”er. There were many damsel nymphs in the water. Two tried to crawl up my legs and from the exoskeleton on my hat when I arrived back in camp, one succeeded in emerging from the highest point on my pontoon boat.

    When the chironomid action slowed, I finned my way back to the reeds to try the jumpers again. While there were still a number of crazy fish (mostly smaller fish) jumping for damsels, I did note a few lazier fish that were sipping damsels (or something else) from the surface. I dropped a cast with my damsel adult into the path of a sipper and it took the fly without hesitation. And then the water erupted. A big fish, a holdover fish. We slugged in out for a while, but the fish was well-hooked and I slipped a chunky 18” rainbow into the net, barely, for a few pictures before releasing it to fight another day.

    About 10 minutes later, the scenario repeated itself, down to the size of the fish. That was enough and I called it a day. I rowed back happy to my lakeside camp.

    Clouds came in through the evening and with squally winds started spitting rain about 9:30. The rain finally drove me back into my tent for the night. It was heavier than I expected for a trip to the east side in “summer”. It continued on and off through the night.

    Friday, June 29th. With the long drive ahead of me, today was going to be short day; at least that was the plan. In spite of my success the previous day, I decided to forgo the long row to the south end and to focus more on the water on the east side of the lake opposite the Cove. It was a weird weather day. There were still passing showers and it was occasionally breezy. When the winds died and the temperatures increased, the damsels would be flitting about and the fish were targeting them, but if the wind was up and the temperatures cooler, it was all too quiet, as if the fish were waiting for the show to begin again. I covered the reed edges pretty thoroughly with my Callibaetis parachute. I had one or two takes but with the swirling winds and loose leader, I missed both strikes. I fished chironomids for a while, but I had no takers and grew impatient. If I was going to be skunked, I would do it on my terms and so I went back to the Callibaetis parachute. By now, it was 1ish and I faced the real possibility of a skunking.

    I finned my way back to the west side of the lake as I was leisurely heading back to camp. I couldn’t resist a few casts into the reeds of the Cove, but no one was willing to play. Closer to the northern edge of the Cove, I did see a sipper and cast my parachute to it. The fly sat only on the surface for a few seconds before the fish took the fly and washed the skunk right off!! It was a good fish and we fought back and forth for a bit before I was able to net it, a nice 16” rainbow.

    I know, I know, it was already 2:15 and I should be off the water, not still fishing. But as I continued my way out, I saw another sipper and had to make another cast or four. This second fish also grabbed the parachute fly right away and the battle was on. This one tried to bury itself in the weeds, but I was able to keep its head out of the salad for the most part and soon netted another nice 17-18” fish.

    O.K, now I was done. I broke out the oars and headed for camp. It didn’t take too long to unstring the rods, empty the pontoon boat pockets, and tie the pontoon boat onto the roof. I was on the road by 3:30……

    ChopakaLake2.jpg ThurRainbow3c.jpg ThurRainbow6b.jpg ThurRainbow10a.jpg FriRainbow1c.jpg FriRainbow2c.jpg MooseD.jpg
     
  2. BDD

    BDD Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2005
    Messages:
    2,313
    Likes Received:
    289
    Location:
    Ellensburg, WA
    Home Page:
    Excellent report Cabezon. I simply must force myself and fish Chopaka once. I have found myself with a dozen miles of the lakes several times but the reputation of a "busy" lake has always left me searching for less crowded water.

    One of these days...
     
  3. Irafly

    Irafly Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Messages:
    3,945
    Media:
    118
    Likes Received:
    1,300
    Location:
    Everett, Washington, USA.
    I agree, a most excellent report. That is some beautiful country. Western Tanagers are my favorite ong bird.
     
  4. cabezon

    cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2004
    Messages:
    1,791
    Media:
    224
    Likes Received:
    299
    Location:
    Olympia, WA
    Thank you BDD and Irafly. There were probably 10-12 fishers max over the 4 days that I was there - not crowded at all. The tanagers were great, but the male Bullock's oriole was a real treat as were the western bluebirds. Also, the ruddy duck males were in full breeding colors - blue bills and cinnamon bodies. By my count, I ended up with 45 bird species and never did hike into the forest where I could easily have added another 5-10 species.

    Steve
     
  5. Scott Salzer

    Scott Salzer previously micro brew

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 1969
    Messages:
    3,007
    Likes Received:
    249
    Location:
    .
    Cabezon:

    Love the report. Chopaka has to be one of my favorites. Any Lewis woodpeckers, in the cotton woods, before you head up the steep grade?

    I spent my B-day weekend at a Shelton area lake watching the eagles, osprey, waxwings and purple martins. Gotta love those martins.

    I'm off Chopaka until the fall.

    MB
     
  6. Steve Call

    Steve Call Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2010
    Messages:
    1,586
    Likes Received:
    187
    Location:
    Wetside, WA
    Great report!
     
  7. Caveman

    Caveman Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Messages:
    721
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    N/A
    Wheres the pic of the moose. I always look when I am there. Never have seen any. Lots of rams though,
     
  8. jabseattle

    jabseattle jabs

    Joined:
    May 21, 2004
    Messages:
    1,122
    Media:
    65
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Desert Dweller
    Great report! We just missed you as we arrived Friday evening. You did miss some intense weather action when a cell moved in Saturday afternoon @ 2pm. Insane wind,lighting and hail. For the trip the water temp @ 64 and fish were healthy. I would imagine after this past week of hot weather in that area this lake would be too warm now until fall hits.
     
  9. troutpocket

    troutpocket Active Member

    Joined:
    May 18, 2004
    Messages:
    1,849
    Media:
    81
    Likes Received:
    435
    Location:
    Ellensburg, WA
    Another prime spot I've never visited. Thanks for a great write-up.
     
  10. cabezon

    cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2004
    Messages:
    1,791
    Media:
    224
    Likes Received:
    299
    Location:
    Olympia, WA
    Hi Caveman,
    The last picture in the series is a young moose. First that I've seen in Washington.

    Steve
     
  11. cabezon

    cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2004
    Messages:
    1,791
    Media:
    224
    Likes Received:
    299
    Location:
    Olympia, WA
    No, I didn't look which is too bad as I'm always on the lookout for new birds. I'll have to make a special effort my next time up there. I just got back from Leech and had a great view of a male three-toed woodpecker in the campground.
    STeve
     
  12. Matt Baerwalde

    Matt Baerwalde ...

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2005
    Messages:
    939
    Media:
    177
    Likes Received:
    289
    I enjoyed reading this report. Thanks!
     
  13. Caveman

    Caveman Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Messages:
    721
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    N/A

    That pretty cool stuff
     
  14. Robert Engleheart

    Robert Engleheart Robert

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2008
    Messages:
    1,154
    Likes Received:
    116
    Location:
    Lemoore, CA
    I've been on lakes with swimming moose in Alaska several times, paddling a canoe. It's amazing how fast they can swim.
     
  15. Drifter

    Drifter Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,706
    Likes Received:
    721
    I felt like I was next to you trying to figure those fish out! great write-up. I need to learn all the names of the birds and mostly plant life in lakes so I know what birds I'm watching or what kind of weed bed I'm fishing!

    Damsels-damsels-damsels- I never use a damsel adult and should come up with a pattern for them. But I have really never seen a fish actually take an adult off the surface either! read a lot about fisherman doing well with them on occasion and having an epic day on risers. This is why I liked your report - the "TACTICS USED" we can all learn from these trials and errors we all go through! I would of fished it much different, since I do very little dry fly fishing, but I learned alot from your post. love how different we all are in our pursuits.

    GREAT REPORT - THANK-YOU
     
    Irafly likes this.
  16. Irafly

    Irafly Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Messages:
    3,945
    Media:
    118
    Likes Received:
    1,300
    Location:
    Everett, Washington, USA.
    Chopaka in particular is known for their fish keying in On adult damsels. I once was there in a black out mayfly hatch with thousands of adults I the air and on the water, but the fish were still keyed in on the adult damsels. One adult damsel would be sitting in the middle of 40 adult mays and the fish would find that one bug.
     
  17. Scott Salzer

    Scott Salzer previously micro brew

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 1969
    Messages:
    3,007
    Likes Received:
    249
    Location:
    .
    We hit an incredible damsel hatch a few years back and did very well on adult damsels. Seemed like some fish would actually come out of the water and then down on the dry damsels we fished. What a hoot!

    MB
     
  18. cabezon

    cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2004
    Messages:
    1,791
    Media:
    224
    Likes Received:
    299
    Location:
    Olympia, WA
    I can't say that I'm an expert on Chopaka trout after just two trips, but in my two multi-day trips, I did notice that Chopaka trout really focus on flying damsels especially away from shore. Two Junes ago, I was able to use a Callibaetis parachute as an effective consolation prize (and surprise for them) when the fish were targeting flying damsels, but that was far less effective this year. I've had my best success when fishing damsel dries under circumstances where the fish are focused on damsels on the reeds; these fish will often take damsel flies cast close to their position.

    I still think that the helium damsel dry has merit.....

    Steve
     
  19. Islander

    Islander Steve

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2003
    Messages:
    2,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    Location:
    Langley, Wa..
    Great report and pics. I've only fished Chopaka once. Got blown off with Rick & Ivan. We had to go into town and get burgers. I need to go back one of these days.
     
  20. Drifter

    Drifter Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,706
    Likes Received:
    721
    Sounds like a good sidearm cast just above the water would work! A lake where fish jump at damsels - now that's sweet!

    Helium hmmmmmm might make those trout talk funny after release though.
     

Share This Page