Late season Rocky Mountain snow storms are great for the ski slopes and mountain towns, however, they’re not so great for fishermen who want to get their season started out at their favorite spot. Cold temperatures and ice interfere with the world-class river fishing opportunities that the West has to offer.
But, when one door closes another one opens, and frozen rivers offer the perfect opportunity to try your hand at lake fishing in the fresh snow melt-fed lakes that pepper states like Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado. If you’re new to lake fishing, or you’re just looking to up your game, here are some tricks to help you navigate spring lake fishing.
Read the Water
When targeting fish in mountain lakes, the water and what’s underneath will tell you everything you need to know. Look for underwater drop offs, peninsulas, and tributary inflows, as well as weed beds. These are classic hide outs for lake fish and a patient line is sure to see success in one of these areas. If your lake is still partially covered in ice, work the edges of those areas with streamers and nymphs for a very successful day out on the lake.
Set Your Rig Up for Success
Your best option when it comes to rig set up while lake fishing is a leach pattern with a pheasant tail or snow cone behind it. However, this rig can be difficult to use in water that is more than 15-20 feet deep. When fish reveal where they are holding, adjust your rig accordingly, but watch your depth.
If there is wind or a slight current, let those elements provide the action of your flies. Usually, all it takes are a few small motions to attract big fish. If the lake is calmer or there is now wind, small 15-20 second incremented strips are your best action option to attract larger fish.
Use Your Eyes
Some Rocky Mountain lakes are crystal clear or have shallower areas that allow you to see straight to the bottom and everything in between. If this is the case, try your hand (and eyes) at sight fishing, if only for the pure entertainment value! Move slowly and look closely for tiny movements of water or a fish tail.
A great rig option for sight fishing is a purple haze or Adams followed by a pheasant tail or snow cone below it. Again, be wary of the water’s depth and adjust your line accordingly.
Try Different Techniques
Another fun way to have a successful day on the lake is to pitch streamers along the ice shelves. Target bait fish, and the larger fish that follow, as they move to the center of the lake for more oxygen and warmer temperatures with big streamers like sparkle minnows, dungeons, or sliders.
Use a figure-8 retrieve to keep your fly in constant motion and wait. On sunny afternoons, try areas with dark bottoms as these areas will attract more fish as the water temperature heats up.