Spring Stillwater Brookies

(You gotta know when to troll’em…)

I arrived at West Blue Lake in Manitoba’s Parkland region on May 19. The ice had only let go about two weeks earlier and the water was a chilly 50 degrees. Perfect! I love fishing for trout when the water is chilly and they invade the shallows. Over the past ten years, West Blue Lake has risen dramatically and it is now completely ringed by a band of flooded trees.  Even more perfect!  I paddled along in my pontoon boat and cast to likely looking points and tangles of downed timber.  It was a lot like fishing for baby tarpon in the mangroves – minus the heat.

The deep edge of the flooded trees was under about eight feet of water, just enough to camouflage the bottom in this very clear lake.   I knew it was only a matter of time until I started to hammer them.  I used an intermediate line, a type 3 sinker, a damsel nymph, a leech, a minnow… I even watched a midge pupa under an indicator. I know the latter is an effective tactic for many, but I generally don’t have the patience for it. For me, indicators and midges on a lake are signs of desperation. Eventually, without a single strike, I had to move away from the target-rich timber zone to deeper water.  West Blue Lake, being 2 miles long, has volumes of deeper water to cover. So I tossed out the type 3 line, set the rod in a holder, and started rowing. I kept an eye on my depth finder and zig-zagged between 10 feet and 30 feet. Yep, I was trolling. When I fish from my powerboat, I eschew the idea of using a 20 horsepower Yamaha to drag a streamer. But for some reason, if I’m supplying the power, trolling becomes almost soothing. Covering large stretches of water under my own steam is very satisfying.

Almost immediately, the rod jerked in the holder and a 16 inch brook trout wound up in my net. Naturally, I stopped to cast the area but nothing else wanted to play. The rod went back into the holder and my hands went back to the oars.

It took me until dusk, which happens around 10 PM in that part of Canada, to work my way around the lake.  By the time I was done, several more brookies had briefly visited my pontoon boat.  Not spectacular fishing, but definitely a solid start to the open water season.

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Interesting side note #1:  I once hired a fly fishing guide on the west coast of Vancouver Island to take me “bucktailing” for coho salmon.  Bucktailing is trolling a streamer, with a spinner attached, in the prop wash.  Truth be told, it was hugely entertaining to watch coho cavort and cartwheel as they tried to track down the spinner/streamer combo only 15 feet from the boat.

Interesting side note #2:  Here is a link to a sampler of trout fishing in Manitoba’s Parkland region:  https://www.flyfisherman.com/editorial/manitoba-fly-fishing-parkland/151997