When the fishing seems dead...

Discussion in 'Stillwater' started by obiwankanobi, Apr 14, 2014.

  1. I was out on a local lake on Sat, excited to experience a day with warmer temps and blue sky with only a light breeze. When we arrived to the lake there were a few fish rising and a prolific hatch of midges that ranged between size 18-22. In my mind, I thought that we will finally have our first day this spring where the chironomid fishing will be terrific.

    My gf and I motored over to one of our favorite spots and dropped our anchors. The fish finder was spotting many fish between 12-22' down and the water temp was at 57 degrees. I tied on two of my favorite patterns for this lake and set my indicator at 22' and was anxiously awaiting my first take. After almost 30 mins with no takes and experimenting with different retrieves, I switched to a leech pattern on a sinking line. Within 5 mins, I had my first fish. A quick throat pump revealed what I was seeing hatching on the surface. This fish had what looked to be well over 50 micro midge pupae with some being lime green, brown with a red butt, some filled with gas and chrome bright and others almost black in color. I made a few more casts with the sinking line and leech pattern with no avail and decided to come back to fishing under an indicator.

    My gf who was fishing the same depth with the original patterns that I was using never had a bump the whole time I was experimenting with the sinking line. I tied on a small size 16 chromie and another small size 16 black chironomid and pegged it at the same depth where I saw fish holding on the fish finder. After almost an hour of fishing without a bump and again experimenting with setting my indicator at various depths, we decided to move.

    Move after move, never resulted in success. I switched between fishing my floating line and indicator to my sinking line and various leech patterns. I managed to scratch a few fish which all had been feeding on chironomid pupae but never did too well. Everyone else was scratching their heads with only a few catching the occasional fish.

    Anyone ever experience this and then eventually find the keys to the magic feeding lock later in the day?

    My thought is that there were a few storms that went over us that kicked up the wind and dropped the temps. Despite the fact that the warmer weather returned along with the sun, the barometric pressure changes might have affected their feeding behavior.
    Earthquake likes this.
  2. I've noticed a sudden change in weather -- one way or the other -- can have an effect on the bite. I'm fairly sure barometric pressure can effect trout activity.
  3. If you were targetting the fish at 20' you should possibly have set your indicator at 25'. Keep in mind that it will take hours in calm conditions to get your leader straight up and down so my rule is anything deeper than 10' add 25% to your leader length to get your fly in front of the cruising fish.

    Tungsten beads, swivels and splitshot are a couple more useful additions to get your fly to the right depth in a timely fashion.

    Another thought would be that if you're using tapered leaders you are delaying the sinking of your fly. I like to build my leaders with nothing more than 10 lb. diameter fluoro from the flyline down to the fly. Obviously the fish were feeding on the chironomids you were imitating so the solution to the puzzle has to be something else.

    The barometer is always a guessing game but since you found fish with naturals in their throats they were obviously feeding on them.
  4. Did you try using a 2# flouro to attach the bottom fly the fish have a long time to look at that fly just hanging there? My fist pick would be a San Juan on the bottom, then Black, then Chromie, Glass bead Olive one after seeing what you pump, then if all that fails a Dupont Spinner scoop them off the top!
  5. From past experience this can be really frustrating. @ 22 feet and you know they are there and ignoring your offer. Sometimes putting the chiro on the move up to the surface slowly has worked for me or going to a horizontal leach and moving it up at varies speeds (sometimes ridiculously fast) can make things happen. For both of these options I will go to vertical fishing with a full sinking line.
    triploidjunkie likes this.
  6. If you are fishing 20'+ with a bobber rig you will get lot's of "licks" and never know you got a bite. If your rig has any coiling in the leader you can get a pretty good take and not even see it at the bobber. If the fish are taking aggressively and holding on to the pattern they will about hook themselves, but otherwise it can be tough at those deeper depths with a bobber rig.

    When I fish deep with 20' leaders I use a heavy swivel to keep the leader coil-free.

    I like your idea of going vertical with a high density sinker and short leader.


    This is the style swivel I fish and in the smaller sizes. Keeps small diameter, but adds weight.
    Kevin J. Burnham and Earthquake like this.
  7. Nice to see a report from Obi.

  8. If you are getting a pretty good take and not seeing it at the bobber, how do you know that you are getting a pretty good take? I've done the 20+ next to the full sink approach and my hook up ratio and strike detection has been better at times and the same at others.

    I'd be more likely to use two flies with tungsten beads to keep the leader coil free than a swivel. Swivel's presented in a vertical neutrally buoyant way will be mistaken for food and I know that when I've tried it I missed takes because fish were eating the swivel.
  9. Okay, right back at ya. :) How do ya know you missed takes because the fish were eating the swivel?

    To answer your question to me..., it's time having done this. Over the years I've tried about every vertical presentation method commonly known. I can say (from experience) that my hook-up rate at water over 15' has increased day-in & day-out using a heavier swivel due to greater detection of the light biters ("Licks", as a good fishing friend calls it).

    I have a different theory than you regarding putting weight on the patterns. I think added weight built in the patterns kills some of the action imparted to the fly by the wave action, or strip. Putting the weight in the swivel, and keeping the patterns lighter serves purpose of sinking the rig, holding the line taut, and allowing the patterns to "bounce" more freely.

    Just my $.02 so no offense meant. Sharing ideas helps us all learn stuff.

    Steve Kokita likes this.

  10. Lets just say a buddy of mine had started fishing up in the 14' water column while my bugs were still down at the 20' zone (without telling me I might add). I was still getting plenty of takes, but I wasn't hooking up thinking that my bugs were getting eaten. Now where was my swivel at the time? Yep at the 14' zone. My buddy left and I started fishing next to another fellow who was picking up fish fairly regularly and he volunteered his depth. Hmmm, I took off the swivel moved my flies up and after 14 takes in a row at 20' without a hook up, I hooked up on my first take down at 14'. That's how I know. But you didn't answer my question?

    This is where I think indicator choice really matters. I use a longer 1 1/2" indicator in a tear drop shape. The bigger indicator is easier to see and the shape not being round is easier to detect even the slightest changes as it lies on its side. Round is bad with that 360 degrees of symmetry.

    As for effecting the movement of the bugs with wind and such, using balance leeches and jig patterns with the proper material takes care of that. I've looked at weighted and non weighted patterns in the water and in clear glasses of water and the jig effect creates an in my opinion better overall effect.

    My 2 cents, and I agree, no offense taken and I value your 2 cents and ideas more than many others on here.
  11. Ira, to try and answer your question better, what I mean by, "a pretty good take" is that I am certain fish pickup the pattern and it is not detected as easily the longer the leader, or deeper we try to bobber fish. This is from a small amount of visual observation by me and a couple friends in gin clear water where we hang patterns over the sides of the tube and watch the fish reaction. We have actually watched fish pickup the pattern and spit it right back out, come pick it up again, and eat it, or spit back out. This is what got me thinking about how to better detect a take with long leaders. And to that end, I feel like the method of using a heavier swivel to keep the long leader taut has improved bite detection.

    With regard to bobber size, I like the bobbers to be not overly buoyant so they absorb some of the wave action and not bounce the patterns as hard when the chop gets a little tall. I thought about tying patterns some lighter (small chop), and some heavier (taller chop), but decided it was easier to just fish a less buoyant bobber all the time.

    Like they say, "whatever works" and so it is that folks employee slightly different tactics within the same basic method.

    Hope you and your friends here on this forum have an excellent season this year. :)

    I have knowledge of where some Blackwaters were put into a small Oregon stillwater inFall of '12 by the local Bio. that few people have learned about. They were from the first batch of Blackwaters reared for testing in Oregon's East lake. The small water they were put into has a self sustaining population of Brookies that is a bit over populated. The local Bio thought trying some of these Blackwaters in a small, easily controlled environment might prove interesting. At any rate, I think the road may be clear already and I plan to look for these Blackwaters later this week. I'm kinda excited! :)

    Jeff Dodd and Irafly like this.
  12. WTF are Blackwaters....?
  13. Blackwater Rainbow Trout:

    Black Water Rainbow Trout

    This is a relatively fast growing fish that tends to have a wider girth than other wild strains. The Blackwater is more heavily spotted than the Pennask strain as they tend to have body spots from head to tail, with a heavier concentration of spots above the lateral line. Blackwater rainbows are aggressive, shallow-water foragers – a behaviour enabling anglers to target them easily. This attribute, combined with their fast growth, has resulted in the Blackwater strain becoming one of the most sought after strains by knowledgeable anglers in BC. This strain prefers larger prey such as dragon fly nymphs, snails, mollusks and small non-salmonid fish. The Blackwater rainbow trout is more active during the daytime than other strains.
    Roper likes this.
  14. Blackwaters prefer shiners and minnows but will readily take insects but it is the aforementioned forage fish that supplies the girth. I still remember the stomach contents of a 9 lb. Blackie I caught from Courtney Lake mear Merritt, BC about 10 years ago, 52 shiners!

    Considering they are sharing habitat with brookies, Randy, I would've thought they would have planted a different strain.

  15. Hi John, glad to see ya over here on this forum.

    I'm not sure the use of these Blackwaters was real well thought out in the region I was speaking about. The original shipment was planned primarily for Oregon's East Lake which has always had a terrible chub problem. I caught many of them last year in East and they appear to being doing very well. No stomach content check to look for chubs because they are illegal to harvest. However, they were full of Callibaetis and Chironimids which I pumped.

    The bio. I spoke of in the reply above told me he was alloted part of that shipment because the original plan was to dump them into Oregon's Gold Lake to try them on the over populated Brookies in that fly fishing only water. Long story short, the bio. changed his mind about using them in Gold due to pressure from one of the local fishing clubs who vigorously protect the struggling and small population of self sustaining Rainbows in Gold (it's political). So, he dedided to test them in two small lakes both in the same drainage that are both known to have an overpopulation of self sustaining Brookies and see if the Blackwaters have any affect on the Brookies. That's the story on recent Blackwater stock in Oregon. :)


    Here is an East Lake Blackwater from '13.
  16. I caught some of those Blackwaters at East as well. While working with Phil Rowley at the fly show he told me that the booby fly works well on them because of their aggressive nature.

    Now as for witnessing takes in clear water with no visible take on an indicator, I've witnessed the same in much shallower water, from 15' up to 2' deep. Same observation without the visible take. The first time I witnessed it was at Rocky Ford while fishing an unweighted and unindicatored nymph years ago. I would watch fish open their mouths take in the fly and spit it back out again faster than I could respond without ever feeling the take. This was fishing with less than 4' of line out of the rod and a max of 9' of leader. I know that fish sometimes just take the fly, regardless of what we do, without us ever noticing.

    I like the extra buoyancy of the larger indicators even in the wind, because they provide an extra bounce to the fly. They are also once again easier for me anyway to see and detect smaller changes in larger waves and aren't "lost" in wave sets. Lastly I like to make sure that my indicators are two tone versus single tone. This again allows for the ability to detect subtler changes.
  17. Ira, my long time fishing buddy, Jim is with you on the bobber size and for all the same reasons you mentioned.

    I like the idea of a two-tone bobber but I like Rowley (or similar) style bobbers and I never knew where to get them two-tone. If those are available I would like to try them.

  18. Two tone are tough to come by Randy but when I find them I buy lots. I think I have about a dozen. I always use #1's
  19. you know, i had a similar situation last month at a favorite spring time lake. a friend and i were camped out, we fished a flat that always produces and the water is clear so we could see the fish were feeding. Usually fishing is lights out when this happens but it wasnt for both days we were there. Went back a week or two later with 2 friends and had my personal best day on the lake. the main difference between the two trips was the second one there were steady clouds and a decent chop on and off, while the first trip the weather was sunny both days with minimal chop.

    There are so many variables you really never know what affects the bite, i always seem to record details from both really good, and really bad trips to compare and contrast so you can adjust for future trips. Ive had days where the fish were eating tons of chironomids but our flies just weren't getting bit. i use to think if the fish were eating the real thing and you had proven flies at the right depth you would get fish, but that isn't always the case. Ive been fortunate enough to observe fish in super clear water watching my flies and how they react. you would be surprised at how often a fish will stare at your fly before leaving or eating it, and how many will refuse before you actually get a take.another observation i made is movement is VERY important. i would let the flies sit in the water when the surface was flat and the fish would often swim up and stare at the fly, maybe nip it lightly, and swim away, and when i slowly twitched the chironomids the fish would attack the pattern hard! so having chop is always a bonus so you dont have to "twitch" your flies to add movement.

    ive only been fly fishing stillwaters for 2 years now but what i realized pretty quick is attention to detail can really give you some surprise answers and help you out in the future.

    remember even the little things might give you a clue to the asnwer you are seeking.

    Irafly likes this.
  20. I've seen Ira's BIG white and red indicators....very safe as other boats can see them and are also used as channel markers!!
    Gary Knowels, Irafly and Nick Clayton like this.

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