Sockeye fishing in the Hanford Reach requires patience

            It’s high noon and discharge at Priest Rapids Dam is 100,000 cubic feet per second., I drop my anchor in 10 feet of water and put two rods out. Each is baited with a red prawn on a double-hook rig, above which spins a pink-and-silver Mack’s Smile Blade behind a six-inch dodger. My preference […]

Try Quincy Lake WA for Spring Trout

Any text message that begins with “Let’s go fishing!” should lead to quick resolution. However, most of us retirees have definite opinion about where, when, and how to fish. Three days, 29 text messages, and 13 e-mails later, we three long-time friends decide to haul our pontoon boats to Quincy Lake.

Quincy Lake is located in WDFW’s Quincy Wildlife Area, a popular fishing and hiking destination. Access to the 54-acre lake is afforded via a dirt road off WA-281 N, southwest of the town of Quincy. The shallow basins that form Quincy Lake, nearby Dusty Lake, and four small, disconnected lakes known as Ancient Lakes, were carved out when waters from the Ice Age Floods poured out of the Grand Coulee. Geologists describe the surrounding landscape as “cataract-lined alcoves separated by basalt ribs.” Anglers refer to the water bodies as “desert seep lakes.”

Fellow fly caster Ted jumps out of his truck and hands me a checklist of required items for the trip: fly rod, reel, flies, spare leader, landing net, stocking foot waders, boots, fins, oars, oar locks, life jacket, whistle, lunch, water. Once satisfied I have everything, we load my partially deflated pontoon boat atop theirs and we are on our way!

The right pocket of my pontoon boat is stuffed with six boxes of flies that contain chironomids, beadhead nymphs, wooly buggers, leeches, and other assorted soft hackle patterns. I start with a two-fly tandem that includes a Brown Wooly Bugger with a Leech trailer. Wooly buggers are a streamer-type fly designed to resemble natural trout foods such as minnows, crayfish, and aquatic insects. Leech flies come in all colors of the rainbow. The orange version I used was basically a maribou feather wrapped around a no. 12 barbless hook and tied off at the eye. What causes trout to strike either pattern is a subject of debate among flycasters. Characteristics that include undulation and contrast come to mind.

I used variations of the same two patterns all day. As Ken stated, “You have to have confidence in your fly or you won’t catch fish.”

We inflate and launch our pontoon boats. Ted paddles to the east end of the lake, where steep basalt cliffs crown the shoreline. I follow Ken’s wake to the north shore, let out 50 feet of intermediate sink line, and am immediately rewarded with a 14-inch rainbow. Ken leaves me after landing a trout of his own and ventures into a narrow arm where he caught an “18-incher” on his last visit to Quincy Lake. When an angler with a small outboard motor joins him, I peel off to explore where fly casters work the main launch area from prams.

Big mistake. Most anglers are fishing tiny chironomid patterns under a strike indicator, aka bobber fishing. Also, the west end of Quincy Lake is shallow and crowded with submerged vegetation. Lesson learned: when you fish a lake for the first time, follow someone who has caught fish there before. Do not waste valuable fishing time surveying the entire lake by yourself.

Over the next hour, I paddle against a stiff breeze, out of casting range of bank anglers that toss Power Bait. While doing so I am reminded of the limitations of trolling with child-size fins, that my oars splash like a frantic coot trying to lift off from the water’s surface, and a need to mount my seat further forward to relieve the strain on my sore back.

When I finally reach the east end of the lake, Ted reports he has caught nine trout. His success and my two-hour dry spell inspire me to troll slower and deeper. My daydreaming is soon interrupted with a vicious strike. I land the deep-bodied, silvery 16-inch rainbow, but my peanut butter sandwich dives into the lake when wind blows me into the bulrushes. Ken eventually joins up to share in the success. Our regular shouts of glee are interrupted by the “rattling bugle call” of sandhill cranes that circle the channeled scablands and a “conk-la-ree” of redwing blackbirds from their perch in the willows.

Dark storm clouds loom when we paddle back to the launch. “A great day of fishing,” Ted announces, as we tip a cold one. A double rainbow forms to the northeast on the drive home, during which Ken entertains with stories about rattlesnake dens and a pet scorpion. “What did you feed the scorpion?” Ted asks.

“Mostly spiders and soft-body bugs,” Ken replies. “He would pounce on them, sting them, and eat them like a candy bar.”

Having a pontoon boat or float tube allows you to fish several walk-in trout lakes popular to regional fly casters, including Lenice, Nunnally, and Quail. Closer to home, anglers benefit from recent plantings of catchable-size and jumbo trout in Quarry Pond, Hood Park Pond, Fish Hook Pond, and Dalton Lake. Columbia Park Pond is open to juveniles 14 years of age and younger, and holders of disability licenses.

Seven lakes that make up the Tucannon Lakes complex are also stocked with several thousand trout each year. Number and timing of stocked trout for all Washington water bodies can be viewed on the WDFW website under “catchable trout plant reports.” Given all the choices, it’s no wonder trout anglers can’t make up their mind where to fish.

Shad Fishing is Family Fun

The first rule of fishing with youngsters is you must catch fish or they get bored. And if there’s one thing I have learned over the years, it’s that bored youngsters are dangerous. However, nothing gives me more satisfaction than watching the smile on a young child’s face when they reel in a fish. First […]

Summer means huckleberries and trout

In my world, there are few breakfast treats better than a stack of huckleberry pancakes with pan-fried trout “on the side.” Consequently, the first thing that comes to mind when the thermometer hits triple digits is whether it will be a good year for huckleberries. The second consideration is choosing a nearby cool stream or […]

Leaded Line, Fall Trout, Lake Lenice

“Don’t forget your waders,” Ken reminded, when Ted and he picked me up for the 50-mile drive north to Lake Lenice. It’s possible Ken alluded to a previous trip where I forgot my waders and spent an uneventful day casting between tall reed grass.
Arriving at a mostly empty gravel parking lot on the north side of Saddle Mountain, we were greeted by a fire-blackened landscape. Ken and Ted attached wheels to the frames of their pontoon boats and pushed them like wheelbarrows on a ¼-mile dirt track that leads to the 93-acre lake. I hoisted my float tube on shoulder straps, backpack style, and left them trudging in the dust. Requisite waders, sunglasses, hat, life jacket, landing net,, extra leader, and four boxes of flies (you can never have too many flies), lunch, and bottled water completed my checklist of equipment.
Ken fishes Lake Lenice several times a year. In contrast, I find greater satisfaction imagining where trout live in moving water. When it comes to lakes, I’d rather wade along the shoreline and cast to rising trout than drag a fly behind my float tube. But that’s just me.
Fly fishers employ three main techniques when fishing from a floating vessel in still water. Many troll a wet fly, managing speed and direction with foot power, oars or electric motor, A second popular technique involves dropping an anchor and fishing a chironomid pattern on long leader under a strike indicator. (A fly casters version of bobber fishing.) A more active alternative is casting to a weed bed or other shoreline feature that provides cover for trout. Absent a noticeable insect hatch, we three chose to troll below the surface using sinking lines.
I selected an olive-colored Wooly Bugger from my box of flies and trailed a scud pattern behind it on 18 inches of leader. Wooly Buggers are a standard lake pattern because they resemble aquatic nymphs, such as dragonflies or damselflies, and leeches.
No sooner did I spool out 20 feet of line and began my kick when I saw a nice trout dancing and splashing on the end of Ken’s line. Fifteen minutes later, when he pulled alongside to chat, he hooked and landed a fat, sassy 18-incher.
Meanwhile, I swapped flies. I trolled fast and I trolled slow. I drifted with the wind and dragged my fly across the bottom. I cast to the shore, let my offering sink and twitched my rod tip to mimic an aquatic nymph rising up in the water column. The sun moved slowly across Saddle Mountain and, absent feedback from trout, my mind wandered.
Ted reported faring no better success. “I’ve had a few tugs and landed one.”
Meanwhile, Ken’s merry laugh echoed across the lake, his success attracting the attention of other anglers. “What’s your secret?” an inquisitive fly caster in a small pram asked.
“I guess I’ve got the right combination of speed and depth,” Ken replied.
I tied on a fly that Ken gave me, let out the same length of line and matched his troll speed. The only way for me to fish the top part of the water column, however, was to speed up my kicking or short-line it and hope trout would be attracted to the motion of my fins.
Our day on the water ended when the bite slowed in late afternoon. Credit Ted and me with two trout apiece while Ken landed over a dozen big-shouldered “bows.”
So why didn’t Ted and I “do so good,” as Ken politely described our outcome? The mystery was solved on the drive home when Ken revealed he had loaded his reel with type 2 full sink line. Ted plied heavier Type 6 sinking line, which provides a fast descent to a depth of 20 feet. I used a sink tip line that also operates near the bottom, depending on rate of retrieval. The gist is Ken’s lucky fly stationed 4 feet or so below the surface while Ted and I spent most of our time “dredging weeds.”
I am versed in the application of weight forward and double taper floating fly line and aware of the need to deploy PolyLeaders of different sink rates when swinging a fly for steelhead in large rivers. However, it took a frustrating day on a small desert lake to expose my ignorance of sinking fly line.
Trout remain active in Lenice and its companion lake, Nunnally, until the season closes on November 30. Alternatively, fall hatchery plants will grow to reach a healthy 12 to 16 inches when the spring season opens again on March 1. If you go, make sure to pack your waders and bring an outfit designed to get your offering in the strike zone.