Ice Off Lake Fishing
In my part of the world we're counting down to ice-off. This is a magical time of year to be a fly fisher. Hungry fish and warming water often result in phenomenal early season stillwater fishing. Here are a few things to remember when heading out for ice-off lake trips:
1. Remember, although several invertebrate food sources may be plentiful in the early season, they are likely to be smaller than they are later in the season because they haven't had much opportunity to grow. If your usual leech patterns are size 8 try going to 10s and 12s. If your lake has chironomids try 18s and 16s rather than 14s or 12s.
2. Fish slow. Our finned friends are cold blooded and move as fast as the water is warm to a point. If you get out as soon after the ice melts as you should the water will still be cold and may even still have some ice floating in it. Intermediate and other slow sinking fly lines are usually much better than fast sinking lines that you have to strip in quickly to avoid snagging the bottom. I like clear intermediate lines in 5 and 6 weights. Fish leeches or nymphs like hare's ears, bird's nests, prince nymphs, or zug bugs on your intermediate line with a slow strip and watch and feel closely for strikes on the fall even before you start stripping. Or try fishing a static rig under an indicator with chironomid and other midge or nymph patterns like bi-color brassies, lightning bugs, or chironomid pupa patterns. Adjust your depth until you find fish.
3. Dress for the weather. If you are wading, float tubing, or kicking a pontoon boat wear fleece pants under your waders and good wool socks. Even if the day looks like it will be warm be ready for Spring snow or other eventualities of the season with a good wading jacket, layered clothing, and gloves.
4. Be safe on the water. A surprise swim this time of year could be a disaster so make sure you get off the water if things get rough. Also, watch for floating ice. It may seem strange but I've seen sheets of ice move and almost trap people in tubes between them. A huge sheet of ice moving with the wind has amazing power.
Ice-off fishing is almost here for me. Maybe it's time on your water. Make sure to get out and try it on your favorite lake this year. See you on the water.