Press Release in Fly Dreamers' Website
Marcelo Morales invites all fishermen to rediscover the lakes and
what they have to offer as fly fishing destinations.
The Secret Life of a Lake
By Marcelo Morales, Guide, Fly Tying Instructor, Casting Instructor. Argentina
If you’ve never seriously attempted to fish a lake, perhaps now is the best time to do it, since many of our highly regarded rivers need a deserved break.
For many years, fly fishing lakes has been something of a marginal alternative to river fly fishing. But as fly fishing became more popular, in particular in the last two decades, many river fishermen tired of competing for a good spot on their favorite streams, have migrated to lakes looking for solitude and quality trout. Many of us, in the transition from rivers to lakes have discovered that we’ve been missing out on a source of pleasure and good times, especially when a bunch of brown and rainbow trout swim beside us in a crystal clear water. Or when a big one takes our fly cutting the surface with a tight line, before exploding in a spectacle similar to fireworks, challenging the reel drag and thrilling us as if we were fishing in a river. Today, stillwater fly fishing has become a fully developed discipline with its own techniques and strategies. If you haven’t cast a fly on a lake, you have definitively missed quite an exciting experience that defies even the most skilled fisherman.
Fly fishing creates all kinds of emotions, ranging from deep frustration to full satisfaction and joy.
In Patagonia’s national parks there are more lakes than rivers, and as with rivers, lakes vary from very productive to less productive. Typically the trout in these lakes reach a size which is uncommon in rivers. Learning and understanding the productivity of lakes can guide us to those lakes that produce trophy trout, or those where the number of trout compensates for their size.
Bad weather on a big lake can ruin the entire fishing experience. However, weather on smaller lakes, although sometimes tough, can be dealt with by taking a few precautions. Many larger lakes particularly those of a glacier or tectonic origin, have shorelines that are not friendly during a squall. The chances of finding a sandy beach are virtually nonexistent. Fly fishers are more prone to look for small lakes which can be easily accessed and fished from a float tube or portable boat.
Looking for good places
Shallow lakes where sunlight easily reaches the bottom, feature a higher volume of vegetation and, therefore, abundant food supplies. These lakes are where we find greater numbers of trout particularly if the water is alkaline encouraging an abundance of scuds. Shallow waters also favor the existence of a great number of invertebrates, and if you add a lake with irregular shores and lots of rocks and irregularities, a profitable fishing day is almost guaranteed.
Here is where most food is located because the depth, which is usually not deeper than 18 feet, allows a lot of sunlight penetration encouraging the growth of algae and other types of green plants. Huge quantities of insects and crustaceans choose this habitat. Trout take advantage of this abundance of food along the shorelines, moving in and out several times during the day to feed.
Drop-offs and transition areas
This is the sandy elevation of the bottom of deep water. Since sunlight still reaches this area, there is an interesting growth of algae and plants. This is the area trout choose to seek shelter or to escape the warmth of the shallow summer water. Fly fishing in summer daytimes along the warm shoreline doesn’t make any sense at all. We have to start thinking how water temperatures vary in lakes, and in which temperature zone to fish. A shoreline can be excellent at dawn and sunset and poor during the day. However, a drop off with deeper water might be more productive during the day when the shallower waters have warmed. On average, trout feed in shorelines when the water temperature or sunlight are favorable, spending the rest of the day in drop-offs where they feel safe from heat and predators. Drop-offs depths usually range from 15 to 30 feet.
In some deep lakes, especially those of glacier origin, the deeper waters are often inhabited by trout in certain times of the season. Not having food on the lake bottoms does not mean they are sterile waters. They are inhabited by plankton organisms, such as sand hoppers, that form huge conglomerations and are highly sought by trout. Deep waters also allow the lake to have different temperature strata and that superficial water get mixed with bottom water in certain times of the season when surface water cools enough to reach maximum density and therefore goes down to the bottom pushing hotter water to the surface.
Changes in water
Most lakes experience a change in their chemical composition during the season and according to the air temperature. In a river we typically read the water to determine the possible location of trout, distinguishing between runs, pools and flats, and we have learnt how to determine in which type of water the trout will be according to the water height and temperature.
The flat surface of a lake is quite enigmatic, and to know where to find trout we have to understand how the water changes throughout the season, its chemical composition and oxygen content at the different levels and depths. Oxygen content and temperature determine where trout and other organisms can live, or not. Shallow lakes are full of plants, when these plants die due to excess heat or cold, they fall to the bottom where they decompose generating gases and consuming a lot of oxygen in the process. In these cases the loss of oxygen starts at the bottom and is lower at the shoreline where the majority of trout are concentrated at the beginning of the season, when those shallow waters haven’t warmed. Due to lake turn-over, surface waters of deep lakes go down and make bottom waters go up. At these times, the water becomes turbid and the quantity of oxygen decreases, resulting in a scarce bite. But the lake stabilizes quickly and a turbid lake recovers its normal status in a couple of weeks. Then, trout start eating actively once again.
Once the lake stabilizes, which takes place in spring, insects become more active, because their life is also ruled by the temperature and oxygen in the lake. Those who fly fish in lakes should pay special attention to the surface temperature of the lake, since this can tell us a lot. After winter, the shallower areas of the lake will heat first and there we will find the majority of insects and fishing.
We should pay special attention to hatches, especially dipterous or chironomidaeas as well as ephemeroptera, trichoptera and odonates . All nymphs and larvae of these insects live at the bottom where abundant sediment or vegetation offers a degree of protection as well as an excellent source of food. As there is more debris along the shoreline, if the temperature is the right, this is where efforts should be targeted.
It is quite easy to spot drop-offs when lake waters are clear, but in lakes with turbid waters this can be more difficult. The shore structure can direct us to shallow areas. A shallow shore that smoothly extends towards the water indicates a gentle drop-off ideal for trout, particularly if some vegetation is present.
Echo sounders are perfect to study the bottom structure and invaluable to locate not only fish, but also structure, such as rock outcrops. I have found rock outcrops in the middle of nowhere and was able to find amazing trout.
Trout remain on the shoreline until summer temperatures heat up these waters; then they move to deeper areas and drop-offs. In these areas it is important to fly fish parallel to the drop-offs in order to maximize the time the fly remains in the strike area, and is always better to do it from a float tube.
It is worth mentioning that trout found in lakes are able to see and to detect sounds better than those in rivers. I therefore use longer leaders, even with sinking lines, with weighted flies that sink with the line. In this way I don’t have to resort to a short leader that places the fly to close to the fly line that often spooks the trout.
The difference in strikes from using translucent or intermediate lines is noticeable, even if they have a slow sink rate. It is evident that these less visible lines don’t spook trout and are, apart from floating lines, the ones I largely use in lakes.
The aim of this article is to prompt you to investigate how water behaves in a lake in terms of temperature and depth, since these two variables influence the chemical composition of water and the location of trout. There is still a lot of research work to be done about stillwaters and non-fishing waters. Next time will be talking about winds, our best friend to find the best trout, and we will understand how this element also alters water chemistry and temperature, favoring bites in one place and destroying them in another. By studying temperature, depth and wind carefully we will be able to discover where trout lie in a lake.