On the Fly: Lakes vs. rivers | AspenTimes.com
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On the Fly: Lakes vs. rivers

Scott Spooner
On the Fly

Trout in rivers have a fundamentally different set of circumstances from their cousins in lakes and reservoirs, and we must adjust to these differences to become more effective anglers. The simplest of which is that moving water brings the food to the fish, and still water forces the trout to go in search of meals.

Knowing where to find your query in these diverse situations is half the battle, and just like Mesa the shop dog, a fish’s consumption of many, many types of food trumps all other worldly concerns.

To think like a still water fish, consider the time of year and what hatches are most likely. In spring and early summer, chironomids (giant midges) and callibaetis (large mayflies) are the official meal and I prefer to fish these emergences from a float tube or boat in deeper water, although shore fishing can be just as productive.

As summer and fall approach, damsel and dragonflies are hatching in earnest. Seeking out taller vegetation and the little highways the fish use to peruse and graze these places for the long, olive nymphs and waxy winged adults are the ticket. Other food sources include but are not limited to crayfish, baitfish and fry, scuds, eggs, crickets, mysis shrimp, ants and grasshoppers.

Moving water creates a “lazier” fish and these trout follow two simple commandments (most of the time.) Expend no more energy consuming a food source than thou shalt receive from it, and eat what you see the most of, which results in match the hatch situations. These fish can get keyed in on the specific stage of a particular insect, sometimes to our frustration.

A fish feeding on minute insects rarely moves an inch to do so, one slurping drakes the size of corn chips will swim 10 feet out of its way to consume one. Simply put, the smaller the preferred insect, the more accurate we must be.

When midges are the fare, slowest water usually fishes best. Caddis seem to best be fished in riffles, PMDs in pocket water, and stoneflies crawl ashore from the fast stuff you normally walk right past. Drakes just love a gravelly bottom and yellow sallies just seem to live everywhere there is a little current. Adjusting our attentions to these differences make us more skillful anglers and the best ones know where the trout are in any situation, and why.

This column is provided by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374.


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