Back to Hirudineous Lake: And Now For Something Completely Different


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I headed back (see to Hirudineous Lake on Wednesday, after the worst of the heat wave had passed in Western WA. @RD Washington State was already on the water and @Phil Fravel and I arrived at the launch right about the same time. I rigged three rods. My Sage 5wt. had a sink tip line and a black bead-head hare’s ear with a damselfly nymph trailer. My Redington 4wt. was rigged with a floating line and the same pair of chironomid nymphs that had worked on Friday. My Redington 3wt. was rigged with a floating line and a biot-bodied Callibaetis parachute, my go-to dry fly at Hirudineous Lake. The day was sunny and there was a mix of light winds with gusts in the low teens.
My plan was to troll the nymphs on the Sage as I finned my way to the west and then reevaluate. On the way, two brookies bypassed the damsel nymph in favor of the black hare’s ear. Hmmm.
And there were occasional brookie-like swirls scattered across the lake and just below the surface. And it was about 11AM; the normal Callibaetis hatch here is from noon to 2PM, with some fish still doing mop-up duty on cripples, etc. until 3PM. 1 + 1 + 1 = a potential Callibaetisemergence. Yeah!!!
Well, truth be told, the brookies were far more enthusiastic about the Callibaetis emergence than the Callibaetis were. But there were just enough emerging duns to keep the brookies (and later, a few rainbows) looking up. Surprisingly, there were no spinners bouncing up and down over the lake’s surface, but I did see two egg-layers on the water’s surface in the mid-afternoon.
I tried several strategies. Of course, the most effective strategy was to see a cruising fish and drop the parachute into its path. This is my FAVORITE game to play on this lake, but I only had a few opportunities to put it into action today. With this strategy, I got a vicious visible take by a rainbow, but the hook didn’t stick and it was soon off. A second option was to find a spot were a fish had recently risen and drop as cast close to that spot – the “it pays to advertise” option. This worked well enough when I was by chance close to the rise and could fin myself within casting distance relatively quickly. I “stalked” a nice brookie that had risen several times repeatedly, and finally it took my parachute.
The third option was akin to “cold-calling”; just drop the anchor and throw out a cast and enjoy the scenery and the acrobatics of the swifts. This worked O.K. for some smaller brookies. And in the early-afternoon, a robust rainbow grabbed a randomly cast fly and proceeded to put on an acrobatic show.
When I was bored with strategy three, the fourth option, to slowly troll the parachute fly at the surface, should not have worked, right. But it did as this colorful brookie with attest.
The wind gust frequently dunked the fly and I was typically finning into the wind. But the fish did not appear to grasp that the fly was sailing upwind and smashed it anyway.
While all this was going on, the fish were ignoring a dramatic damselfly show. I saw several larvae wiggling their way at the surface in a mad dash for my pontoon boat. I felt like a damsel magnet.
At one point, I felt a tickle on my forehead and removed my fishing hat to find that two damsels had emerged under my hat. I moved them to a safer location to complete the process of hardening their wings. And my pontoons were covered with squadrons of adult damselflies taking shelter from the storm (o.k., stiff breeze).
And yet, not a single fish seemed interested in any of this action. The rainbows may be excused as they had been eating pellets only a month ago, but these brookies would have gotten fat on all stages of damselflies previously. A mystery.
On my way out, I stopped by the condos across from the ski area. I remembered from prior camping trips to Hirudineous Lake (aka Mosquito-Horde Lake), that there were some great wildflowers on the slopes leading down to the lake. In addition to the bear-grass and white-flowered rhododendron that I have posted in the earlier threat, I saw lupines,
crimson columbine,
Davidson’s penstemon,
Cascade penstemon,
and rosy spiraea.


The Coho King
Nice report Steve. I'm impressed by the picture of the crimson columbine. Any bird photos, hummers? Also impressed with you going to the dries and the good size Brookie. I hooked one that size on the sailor and they put up a good fight.


Active Member
Another great report Steve! Super photos and descriptions. What a neat palette of colors, and what a perfect day to capture it all. Life in full color.

This is one of those reports you pull up in Winter and really wish every day was Summer (and also say, "screw it, I'm moving away until next Summer!"


Sculpin Enterprises
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Any idea as to water temps... Did the fish seemed stressed when you caught them?
I was told that surface temps were in the low 70's on a sunny day. The rainbows needed extra attention to help them to recover. But eventually, they would swim off on their own.

Steve Kokita

How was the mosquito hatch Steve? Last time there, we got chomped on on the lake and fortunately not so much at the launch......


Sculpin Enterprises
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How was the mosquito hatch Steve? Last time there, we got chomped on on the lake and fortunately not so much at the launch......
Hi Steve,
If you picked up a crowd of mosquitoes at the launch, they did tend to follow you out. But their numbers decreased with time, especially with all the damselflies around. At the parking area and at the launch, especially in the shade, they were their usual voracious selves... They are one reason why I am less inclined to camp there at least until August.
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Sculpin Enterprises
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Nice report Steve. I'm impressed by the picture of the crimson columbine. Any bird photos, hummers? Also impressed with you going to the dries and the good size Brookie. I hooked one that size on the sailor and they put up a good fight.
Hi Jon,
I did not have the telephoto camera with me on Wednesday. In some of the floating vegetation along the shore, I did encounter a female mallard who was looking around at everything. When I finned my way closer, she moved off, revealing five chicks that had been sheltering underneath her. They scrambled after her. Except for the swifts, the only other bird of note that I saw was a pine grosbeak in one of the conifers by the launch (actually @RD Washington State had the correct ID as I called it an evening grosbeak). There were some cool butterflies (for example, swallowtails) around the wildflowers, but when they are warmed up, I need the telephoto for decent pictures.

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