There can be some great ice off fly fishing opportunities in our productive stillwaters. Anglers need to remember that the most consistent success will be found in very shallow water. Often, we will be fishing 10 feet of water or less and sometimes, water less than 4 feet deep will harbour some big, feeding trout.
The fish are in the shallow water because of the diversity and abundance of food sources such as leeches, scuds, immature damselfly nymphs, mayfly nymphs, waterboatman and backswimmers. Many fly fishers are unaware of the importance of boatman and backswimmers as an early spring food source.
These air breathing insects overwinter in the lake by congregating in air pockets that form under the ice. These insects trap a bubble of air along their abdomen which allows them to swim through the water. As the ice recedes both of these insects become quite active and trout will key in on them. Watch for bulging or splashy rise forms which are formed as the trout chase down these bugs.
Boatman and backswimmers can be fished on floating lines and sinking lines from intermediate to type 5. Both insects have an elongated and feathered pair of hind legs that propel them in short but fast bursts through the water. A fast, 2 to 4 inch strip retrieve is ideal for imitating their swim. The next time you are on the water take a look around for these early spring trout treats as they may help you have a great day on the water.
- Brian Chan