Fri 16 Apr 2010
Objective: To develop more consistent methods of taking the large, constantly-on-the-move, fish-eating Eutsuk Lake rainbows on the fly.
Solution 1: Fish at the crack of dawn.
Eutsuk Lake rainbows are said to be of two distinct stocks: those that eat insects; and, those that eat fish, the Eutsuk kokanee. To find the fish eaters, you must find the kokanee.
Kokanee are, by and large, plankton eaters and thus found most commonly associated with plankton blooms. You need an extremely precise depth sounder to find both plankton blooms and kokanee reliably – and you must go out and find these areas. Plankton blooms are more common where sunlight is high, and will not be deep in the water, just close to reliable nutrients, and certainly not below the thermocline, which good depth sounders will show you, probably not deeper than 50 feet as the lake is pretty cold.
Kokanee generally move closer to shore and rise in the water over night. The most likely time they will be found at the surface is at first light. Thus the best chance of catching the large fish-eating rainbows is at the crack of dawn because that is the only time of day they are consistently on the surface, where it is easier to fly fish. And note that this is far earlier in the day than when temperatures have risen enough to allow insect hatches which is your current program’s main aim.
To get your clients on the fish at first light suggests that you are limited in the distance you can travel from the lodge, perhaps 20 minutes. And first light is pretty early, earlier than 5:00 am, in part of your season. This means that you are not likely to get any further south (east?) than Connolly Point or north (west?) of John Buchan Island.
Fortunately, kokanee are often found on the surface right in front of the lodge at the crack of dawn. Thus this is a pretty easy place to fish at first light. In addition, the bottom structure between the lodge and the first point to the left is so exceptional, and all points of land will draw fish, too, that you have a naturally fishy area right in front and adjacent of the lodge.
I both trolled and casted the surface in this area on two mornings. I snapped off one large fish. The chances of landing big fish increases with the number of boats fishing the same spot at the crack of dawn. In talking with Stacey, he offered the opinion, which I agree with, that if a number of boats were to work in front of the lodge in the period up to noon, fish would begun to be caught and allow you to refine your techniques.
The other problem is that these fish are constantly moving around; they may be here one day and gone the next, making consistency difficult. Again, your highest percentage spot is locating areas of consistent kokanee feeding, as noted on your improved depth sounder. Kokanee will also descend as the day progresses as the rainbows do to. Do remember to be watching that new depth sounder throughout the day and try to find places where kokanee are more commonly found every day. If you find such areas, you have found the areas where the fish-eating rainbows are most likely to be.
Dimpling kokanee, usually at the crack of dawn, erupt from the water when chased by the rainbows. Your clients cast right into the kokanee with fish-imitation streamers.
Solution 2: Nymph the inlet streams.
Stacey took the older fellow, Vern, and me up to the Surel creek one morning. A split shot just above a weighted nymph and a strike indicator some feet up the leader keeps the fly moving just off the bottom in the channel fished. Note: Stacey told me he had taken 7 plus five pound rainbows here one morning.
In short order, Vern had a spectacular fight with a great rainbow. When he got it in to the beach, we estimated the fish at 12 pounds. This means that big rainbows will congregate at inlet streams and eat insects.
Across the bay, Vern let me fish the inlet stream there and I took perhaps 12 smaller fish. Then I had a smack from an 8-pound rainbow that jumped to show its size. This was on a bead head nymph without a strike indicator, again a large rainbow on a small, match the hatch insect pattern, that is, these fish are proof of large insect-eating rainbow. (Note, too, that all insects hatch within 30 feet of the surface from the underlying mud – an important consideration in consistently finding fish. For example, this fact allows you to eliminate all areas of the lake that drop off quickly or are simply rock.)
This confirms, as your guides know, that inlet streams are fish producers. Add the prominent above-surface points – not inside bends – and you have the best spots. Connolly Point is the lake’s most prominent, it should be the best place to fish. In addition, on leaving on the plane, I saw a very silt laden river flowing into the lake south (east?) of Connolly. This should be a good fish producer, better than Surel, judging by the size of the flow and the amount of silt spewed into the lake – a kind of structure in itself.
Solution 3: Prove the fish and cast to shore.
After the crack of dawn, have the guide troll the boat close to the shore – they must be committed to doing this – I say this having found I couldn’t get one to do so – he kept zagging offshore after each time I asked him to move right onto shore – with a large plug or spoon on the downrigger and have the client(s) cast right onto shore. This method has the positive advantage in that, while more successful early, and perhaps late, it can be done all day long.
Thus the client is actively fishing and will catch some fish and be happy. But the method is explained as ‘proving the fish’, meaning when a big one is caught on the downrigger, the client gets the fun of bringing it in, and then picks up an already-rigged rod with much deeper sinking line and casts, hoping to pick up another. After casting for the larger fish for awhile, the boat moves on, client casting right onto shore again, the K-14 plug down the other side of the boat. And so on.
The idea of ‘proving the fish’ came to me one day I spent casting and casting at many different spots on the lake where I read fish. After awhile my enthusiasm would wane and I would put a silver, K -14 Flatfish at 25 feet, that, as a diving plug, reached perhaps 40 feet deep. I continued casting as I trolled along. In no time, I caught a 7 pound rainbow on the plug. So I stopped and cast until my hopes once again dimmed. I then put down the K14 again and cast as the boat moved along. Of course, I caught another large rainbow. In the end, I had caught seven rainbows within 3 – 7 pounds on the downrigger and was happy though on this day I was unsuccessful with the fly. Better success with this method will be early in the day. The two points round the corner from the lodge are good for this one, as is the rocky, loggy shore to the east.
As the day progresses, move from shore and fish structure through the middle of the day. There are many spots in the lake where exceptional underwater structure rises from the bottom, the inside of Le Bordais Point, for instance. Surprisingly, the bay in front of the lodge has great structure including a ridge off the left point that runs south for quite some ways – and there are many other spots.
After all, if you read rainbows first thing and the kokanee don’t move, the large rainbows will probably stay with them. Since neither will be deeper than the thermocline, you can eliminate most of the lake’s deeper water and concentrate ‘proving’ and casting. This would be, of course, more successful with a number of boats where you more commonly find plankton or kokanee
Solution 4: Put a strong light and insect zapper on the point past the firepit.
Pit-lamping – the use of light to lure fish for fishing at night – is not allowed in BC. Thus you should put a light of high intensity at the point, just beyond the fire pit, for the “comfort and enjoyment” of your clients. The light grants safer walking and gives a beacon for those on the water coming back late. Should you wish it be a more environmentally-friendly lodge-feature, add a solar panel to generate power.
Because there are extreme numbers of insects in the region, mount an ultraviolet bug zapper with the light, situated so as to drop the zapped bugs in the water off the point – I have also seen an additional fan used with a zapper for this purpose. This will ensure that rainbows naturally come to recognize this as a point of consistent food. And of course this will aid your morning fishing for them, quite possibly right off the lodge grounds, coffee cup in hand, without having to go out in the boat at all.
In fact, a whole string of lights along this shore would be quite pretty – and useful for fishing, too.
Solution 5: Sight fishing from a carpet- and flat-decked boat.
Using a carpet- and flat-decked boat, put the client in the bow and a guide operating the foot pedals in the rear – on a lee shore, i.e., no wind. Sight fishing is a blast even if the fish aren’t large and some of the fish are actually fairly large.
One afternoon I moseyed past the stream 10 minutes east of the lodge and followed the shore around the corner. A good bit of structure starts a few hundred yards around the corner, quite visible, down to perhaps 15 feet, and continues for a couple of miles. Between 2- and 5- pm in the afternoon, there was a great hatch on the day I did this, and calm water. Fish were jumping within a foot from shore.
I stopped trying to catch fish after catching 20 of them. Among them, I landed two three pounders, three two pounders and saw, but did not catch, two four pounders. This and the Surel fish taking nymphs leads me to suspect a number of possibilities: that the reputed fish- and insect-eating stocks may actually be one stock; there are opportunistic crossover fish that feed on what ever food is presented; or, there are even bigger insect-eaters than I saw.
This is a good thing to know as it means, since all insects hatch from shallow waters based on temperature, knowing your heavily producing shorelines will lead you to be more consistent with catching bigger fish – shallower gradient, more mud (not sand or rock) and weeds, sunken logs for structure.. That means, that when using the deck boat to select a particular fish and then hunt it down, that you may find that there are fish right on shore that are up to the very large range of over 10 pounds.
Note that I went back the next day to check the area again and caught dramatically fewer fish. This again suggests that the Eutsuk’s fish are very mobile. With a shoreline of more than 110 miles, being consistent means understanding all those shallow gradient shores that typically produce insects.
Solution 6: Bucktailing.
In the central part of B.C., Gerard and Kamloops trout are often taken right on the surface at any time of the day with 7” polar bear hair bucktails fished far from the boat. Though you do not see these large rainbows, or pick them up on the depth sounder – because they are beside the boat -, they are there, particularly later in the season.
Put the bucktails out some distance from the boat, because those fish that spook from the engine sound, may have turned and moved back into the wake by the time the flies get to them.
Those fish that do not move back in can be taken by using side-planer setups, for example, those from Luhr Jensen that can place lines to either side of the boat.
Fish only the fishy water. Think of the lake in 3D and the first roughly 50 feet contains all the fish. This means that 90 percent of the lake’s water, that beneath, is eliminated as containing fish. Makes the task that much simpler
Flies: The flies used at the lodge generally match the nymph or hatch and thus are quite small. Develop some larger, attractor, stimulator flies. After all, a K-14 plug is huge and thus very large flies will also work. Remember that you have a pretty much virgin fishery and thus these non-pressured fish should respond to stimulators. I can send some shots of my flies.
Fly rods: for the longer distances required of casting on open lake surfaces, Spey rods can, in the hands of a skilled person, work out 150 feet. And because Spey is trendy, you should have some rods at the lodge. Good value for money lines include Loop, Grey’s, Sage 9140 and Lamiglas’ travel rods. I used the Lamiglas 10/11, 6 piece travel rod. It will overhead cast the entire leader and line and then into the backing. Note that leaders should be short – less than 6 feet – because you want the fly at the same level as the line.
Fly lines: for fish that may be found at the surface down to the thermocline, heavier sinking lines are required. I used a 60 tip of an intermediate Spey line with a sinking running line and it could handle the depth, provided the boat was not moving with the wind. One can also join two sinkers, Type 4 to Type 8, to get a line of 180 feet, for a longer-distance horizontal pull through the fish zone. It can be cast or let out as the boat backs away from the intended fishing target.
I also used a 30’ Type 12 tip ahead of either 200 feet of Amnesia backing or in front of a full sink fly line.