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High, fast and deep

Adjusting to fish at record water levels

A number of years ago, I wrote a column about similar water conditions this late in the summer. So, if you have a memory that recalls everything you’ve read and think you’ve read something like this before, just enjoy a new approach. I, who can’t remember what I had for breakfast, think this is still a timely column.

With many of the streams and rivers flowing at record levels, thanks to a great snow year and spring rains, fly fishing can be challenging, if not downright dangerous. That is, unless you have something that floats and will keep you upright. I and my Friday fly fishing partner, Kim, have float tubes. And, we’ve been using them. We have fished Lake Capote, Joe Moore Reservoir, Haviland Lake, and I fished Pastorius by myself.

A friend told me there were bass in Pastorius, in addition to trout and panfish. So I ventured out to see for myself. Sure enough, I caught a bass, a trout and a panfish, all on dry flies. The bass was caught on a popper and the other two on a dragon fly. That’s the upside to Pastorius. The downside is the lake is once again slowly being taken over with moss and other aquatic vegetation. This has been an ongoing problem at Pastorius. I know it has been addressed in the past but still continues. It’s a great lake, and hopefully something will come along to control the green stuff.

Haviland, as always, was drop-dead beautiful. There were osprey and bald eagles flying overhead as we watched trout rising. It is a lake that is easily fished from the shore, so there are lots of bait fisherman casting all sorts of lures and bait. For fly fishing, Kim and I had our most success using Woolly Buggers, and black seemed to be the most successful color. We also noticed that if the bugger had a long tail, the trout would nibble the end of the tail and not take the whole fly. If you’re going to fly fish Wooly Buggers, I suggest you clip the tail back. Or, use an articulated fly.

Joe Moore Reservoir was a brownish color from all the runoff. However, that was the only thing that was off. Kim actually caught a trout on a popper within the first five minutes. However, that stopped after the first fish. We both went to the old reliable Wooly Bugger. I was using a green one and I am not sure what my partner was using. We fished along the dam and lost count of the number of fish we caught. It was steady catching all day. I am looking forward to fishing it again when it clears up.

I have saved my favorite for last, Lake Capote. There are lots and lots of smallmouth bass and rainbow trout in the lake. They come in all sizes. And their favorite food is something on the surface. On this outing, Kim and I both used poppers and were rewarded with a large number of bass, in all sizes. We fished from the boat launch then across the lake. We kept talking about kicking down to the dam, but remembered “don’t leave fish to go find other fish.”

Similar to Haviland, there are eagles and osprey watching us. There are even nests high up on poles designed for them. There are picnic areas and concrete walkways around the lake. During the week, what you don’t see are lots of people. The other fisherman are mainly on the shore, so there is little to no activity nearby. I do have to laugh remembering hearing a youngster, with his picnicking and fishing family, proudly proclaim he was no longer afraid of worms. I wanted to ask him to cast his worm toward me in hopes a bass would follow it to my popper.

I haven’t been on my short soapbox in a long time, but I’ll now get on it. It truly amazed me how many people, adults and children, using paddle boards, kayaks, canoes and float tubes, were not wearing life jackets. If you’re on the water, that should be first item you put on. Don’t be stupid – live to enjoy another day on a lake.

Reach Don Oliver at durango.fishing@gmail.com.