Spring Ice-Off

by Josh Patterson on April 24, 2018

Spring is a very exciting time for fly-fishers.  When the ice comes off of the lakes in the spring trout and other species are very hungry.  Trout eat an abundance of insects in the summer.  During the winter months, the trout have a harder time finding food simply because there just aren’t as many food sources available in the winter.  As the ice comes off the lakes, insects begin to hatch as well.  This is a great combination for fly-fishers to take advantage of.  For many, this is their favorite time of year. 

In many areas in the West, the Chironomidae hatch is usually the first significant hatch of the year.  That said, the fish will gorge on these as the ice is coming off.  Anglers will have great success on various Chironomidae patterns in the early spring, but these patterns will also work off and on throughout the summer months.  From June to September, you will see Callibaetis.  Damsel-flies can be great too.  Fishing a “hatch” can be a very exciting thing to witness and it won’t be something you forget any time soon, that’s for sure!  Scuds are also a staple of many trout in Stillwater.  Where these are found, they will be available to the fish as a food source all year long.  Many lakes will also have crayfish and various baitfish as well.  The more you know about the specific body of water you are fishing, the more successful the fisherman you will become. 

Nymphing can be effective in the spring.  An indicator rig with a 9 foot or longer leader.  A two-fly rig is a great way to nymph.  In the early Spring, hanging a scud and a Chironomidae could be a great place to start.  Hanging a small leech can be deadly in the spring and is always a great pattern to have in your box.  Often in lakes, if you hang in there and change flies until you get a bite, you’ll often eventually figure it out.  Some days are very tough.  Lakes can be very difficult to fish at times.  You don’t need a big area of water to fish during ice-off.  A small area big enough to land a fish and cast is all you need.  If you have to fight the fish under the ice and reel him into open water, that’s fine too.  The trout will eat wherever there is food, especially in the spring.  This means that often the trout will feed in the smallest body of open water.  Nymphing is a great way to target those smaller pockets of open water.  Always be careful and be aware of your surroundings as much as possible.  Simple awareness can get fish to the net and could also potentially save your life.  Be safe out there!

Wading along the shore with sinking lines can be very effective in the spring months.  Retrieving leeches and scuds very slowly with these lines can be the ticket to getting fish to the net at times.  Baitfish and crawfish can also work well.  “The tug is the drug!”  When a fish latches on, be ready for the ride of your life because spring fish are often full of life!  Some of the biggest fish of the year are caught at this time.  Many of the fish will still be spawning, so be gentle to the fish and “keep them wet.”