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Brooks: Best Practices for Early Spring Trout Fishing

Brooks: Best Practices for Early Spring Trout Fishing

By Jason Brooks

As winter tries to hang on for as long as possible, March will be a month of transition. The early days will still see ice on many lakes, some still fishable, while others will be in respite until the open water prevails. Trout will also start to awaken from their cold-water lethargic slumber with each warmer day. Open water also means more sunlight penetrating deep and warming the lake bottom and deeper waters. Bugs will start to emerge, and trout will gorge.

How lake turnover impacts early spring trout fishing

A lake is known to “turn over” in the springtime and this often occurs in March. The deeper waters that were cold will heat up as the sun hits the mud and rocky bottom. The surface will remain cold with the long nights and big daytime to nighttime temperature swings. Cold winds will churn the topwater and, as the bottom of the lake warms, the water will flip or create movement upward while the colder water on top sinks. When a lake does this, it increases oxygen and mixes up the water. Fish will become more active, and anglers know that once this occurs it is only a matter of time before the trout starts a feeding frenzy.

Understanding the larvae stages before targeting early spring trout

Aquatic insects will begin to emerge from the lakes bottom and hatch. A quick refresher on entomology reminds us that larvae hatched from bug eggs and will flutter around in the water or squirm in the mud until the larvae transition to pupae. The larvae stage means trout will root around in rocks and mud as well as swim along gorging on hatches such as when chironomids are present. The small bug looks a lot like a fishing hook with stripes and a white tuff of gills at the head. This is an easy pattern to tie and to fish as they are suspended under a strike indicator (think bobber fishing with a fly rod). Pupae stages are when the bugs undergo chrysalis and are encased such as the common periwinkle, a well-known trout bait for most small stream anglers. It is the larvae stage that most wet fly patterns are mimicking.

Brooks: Best Practices for Early Spring Trout Fishing

Best techniques and presentations for early spring trout

Since March is the month of new bug growth and hatchings, anglers do well with slowly trolling flies or just fishing them under an indicator. If you are not much of a fly-fishing angler, then know that you can use standard spinning gear with some fly patterns and still catch a lot of fish. The Mack’s Lure Glo Fly is a small Glo Hook with a soft hackle and represents a vast variety of aquatic bugs, as well as just looking like something good for trout to eat. If you are using a fly rod, then it is best fished with a crawling retrieve to have it flutter and suspend in the water. Spinning rod anglers can use one of the small cork floats that slide on the line, the use of a bobber stop and a few small split shot a few feet above the fly. Adjust the depth to the bottom third of the lake and cast it out and sit. It’s very boring, but when you find the fish it can be a lot of fun watching that small cork float go down or sometimes it just starts moving along the surface indicating a trout has taken the fly and is swimming away. Fish feeding on the small larvae often just swim with their mouth open through clouds of hatching bugs, so it is not much of a bite until the hook penetrates the lip.

Best practices when trolling for early spring trout

If sitting and watching a small bobber or strike indicator does not seem like much fun, or if the winds kick up and make it impossible to stay where the fish are then it is time to drop the electric trolling motor. With damselfly larvae being one of the most prevalent in lakes this time of year the Mack’s Lure Smile Blade Fly in Olive Green, Black or Brown are an excellent choice. With the addition of the Smile Blade 0.8, it is a spinner as well as a fly pattern. Again, those flicking fly rods should cast out with an intermediate sinking line and then do a faster retrieve. But this fly is perfect for the spinning rod angler.

If the lake is fairly deep, then a 1/8 to ¼ ounce sliding egg weight on the mainline with a swivel and then 36-inches of light test leader to the fly is a fantastic way to rig the spinning rod. You can cast it out and retrieve it from shore, off a dock, or from a boat. This is also the same way to rig it to troll. There is nothing between you and the fish other than the small weight so the fight is much better than when using a dodger or flasher creating drag. Using a limber rod like those often used for kokanee fishing also makes for a terrific way to troll a Smile Blade Fly for trout. The soft and fast action rod will help keep the fish on the hook as they pull, and battle and it makes a 15-inch trout feel like a monster. This is a fun and very productive way to fish.

Brooks: Best Practices for Early Spring Trout Fishing

Understanding trout planting schedules will ensure success in the spring

To find a lake to fish be sure to first review the regulations. Most lakes will not open until late April or when the state’s general fishing opener occurs. Once you find a few lakes that are open then be sure to look at the planting schedule. If it has been recently planted anglers should know that those fish will likely be in shock and still learning how to feed in a natural environment. What you really want to look for are lakes that received plants just before winter took hold or even better look for lakes that receive a hefty planting of fry in late spring and early summer. Those fish have had the chance to grow in the lake and are used to feeding on natural food sources. Shallow water lakes will often produce well through March and for waters that are deeper then try to find bays or flats as well as fish along the edges where the water heats up during midday. No need to get to the lake early as the fishing will only get better as the day warms up.

March might be cold at the beginning and a bit windy later in the month, but it is also the first chance at ice-out trout. Fish will be feeding on aquatic bugs and Mack’s Lure has just the right flies to increase your springtime trout catch. Do not wait for that April opener when boat launch lines will be aggravating, and planter rainbows will be a nuisance. Instead, break out the fly rod or rig up the light spinning rod and head to an open lake for aggressive carry-over trout.

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