Fly fishing the large and small “drive-in” high lakes of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest is an art in itself and good fly-fishing information about a lake is of prime importance to the success of the high lake fly fisher. You need a good understanding of the lake bottom, the insect life and the feeding habits and characteristics of the resident trout.
Use a depth finder in waters of 12 to 15 feet to look for old river or creek channels, drop offs, and uneven bottom contours that tend to hold fish. It is easy to keep track of those special locations in a logbook with the help of a GPS system or simple triangulations using shoreline landmarks as reference points. Also, look for shallow waters (4 to 8 feet) with patches of weed beads and silt covered muddy bottoms. You can easily fly fish these types of waters in depths of no more than 10 feet, using a slow sinking clear fly line and a count down method. The areas with these types of bottoms can support a wide variety of insect life including: May flies, caddis flies, damselflies, dragonflies, scuds, chironomid (midges), and leeches. Where you have insect life, you should find fish.
When I am fly fishing the high lakes, I carry three rods in my boat strung up ready to fish. One rod is a 9 footer with a WF #5 dry line for fishing emergers and dry flies. The 2nd rod is also a 9 footer but with a WF #6 dry fly line rigged with a 10-foot leader, a small adjustable indicator, a small nymph or chironomid. The 3rd rod, also a 9 footer which is matched with a WF #7 slow sinking clear fly line with an 8 foot leader for fishing a wooly bugger, leech pattern or a dragon fly nymph.
If you are fishing a clear mountain lake from a small anchored boat, keep the sun at your back and stay in the blind spot of the fish and maintain a low profile so you won’t need to make a long fly cast. Don’t cast your fly in the same place more than once. In this case consider casting in a 90-degree arc from you position. Start casting 45 degrees out to the left, After working your fly back to your pick-up point, make the next cast 5 degrees to the right of the first cast etc, until you are casting straight ahead. The next cast is 45 degrees out to the right. Continue decreasing the arc by 5 degrees until you are casting straight ahead. I call this cutting the pie and in this situation you are casting 5 degrees toward center on each cast so the shadow of the fly line does not alarm the fish before they see your fly. Always cut the pie to cover as much water as you can while at the same time, casting so that the shadow of the fly line does not alarm any fish that are in the area. For more information refer to my article on Ezine Articles.com “A nymph fishing tutorial”. After changing your fly pattern, repeat “cutting the pie”. After you have thoroughly covered the water with a new fly, quietly pull your anchor and move to another area and change flies again until you find the right fly pattern and or the right lake bottom and feeding fish.
Many high lakes are also exposed to seasonal hatches of black carpenter ants and termites that are blown onto the lake from lakeside fir trees. Black ants usually come out in the middle of June or when the air temperature around the lake first gets into the mid 70 degree- range for a few days. If you see one black ant on the water start fishing a black ant because when the fish start hitting the ants, the fly fishing can be fast and furious.
Fly fishing a small high lake of 1/2 mile across is not much of a problem for a small boat or even a float tube. However, larger lakes need to be fished with care because of possible afternoon prevailing winds can create rough and choppy water conditions that can pose a danger to a small boat. Float tubers always need to wear a life vest and small boaters should always wear them when underway or during rough water conditions.
I hope these fly-fishing tips will help you to better enjoy the outdoor experience. Remember to check the state fishing regulations for the waters that you are going to fish.
Be careful, and good luck fishing the High Lakes of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.
Stanley Stanton: Oregon Fly Fishing Guide and McKenzie River fishing guide,
For trout fly fishing tips, “how to” fly fishing information, plus guided Rainbow Trout Fly Fishing, Steelhead Fly Fishing, classes for beginners, smallmouth bass and Oregon salmon fishing.