Lakers On The Fly
The name Lake Trout lends a slight misnomer to the actual species of this incredible fish. It’s not a trout at all, but a char. The lake trout resides in some of the most spectacular places on earth. The trip that spurred this article is no exception. Lakers on the Fly
The Newhalen River near Iliamna Alaska is where this trip took place, and the intention was to land some nice early season Rainbows. Although Rainbows were indeed landed, the lake trout took center stage. They fed in frenzies on tiny smolt that ventured out into the currents for the first time.
The first feeding frenzy we spotted drew much attention. We expected huge rainbows were cruising the shallows. Not one person expected what happened next. Wham! The marabou muddler was engulfed and stripped quickly through the rising pod of what turned out to be lake trout.
Lake Trout, for the most part, tend to elude most fly-fishing lore and go unnoticed. The depth at which they dwell and the difficulty in locating a group of fish to target within the parameters of the fly angler all contribute to its lack of attention, however there is an exception and that is early spring just after break-up when Lake Trout, usually in the 20-30 inch range, journey from the big lakes and cruise the shallows of the rivers that enter and exit them. So while Rainbows, Dollies, Coho, and Kings steal the limelight, the Lake Trout still continue, unmolested, gorging on the many salmon fry that struggles in the currents as they begin to learn the perils of life.
It is during this time that fly anglers can easily locate and entice Lakers into taking their fly, even on top. The Lakers can be located by the many swirls and splashes as they travel in schools. They remind me of my younger days when we used to go to the lake before school in hopes of catching rockfish “in the jumps” and hopefully catch one without being too late for class.
Once the frenzy is located the angler must quickly introduce their fly into the frenzy and utilize a fast strip-stop retrieve to get the Lakers attention. The takes are no joke and I have found the quicker you retrieve the more attention you get. One may want to hesitate for just a second after a few feet of retrieve before resuming the fast strip technique.
Any fly pattern that imitates a small fish should do the trick. I can only speak for the Maribou Muddler. I found no reason to change while the lakers slammed them with reckless abandon. There is one note of interest you might want to know. Just because of the hard takes don’t think the Lakers are a pushover. For some reason, the Lakers are hard to hook. It seems they strike haphazardly at the fly but I think nerves played a huge part in the misses I encountered.
If you’ve ever fished for Northerns or Musky you’re familiar with the wake created. Like a torpedo as they ambush your lure from behind. With lake trout, you get the same visible approach which can unnerve an angler. As the laker dips under the fly anticipation fills the air. The angler waits for them to come from under the fly for the take. Too often anglers set the too soon. The fish is missed entirely. Anticipation gone as the angler ducks to miss the fly wishing past his ear.
The Lake Trout may not get much attention, but that is quite all right with me. I will be glad to have these dwellers of the deep to myself. I will also enjoy the rainbows, dollies, and grayling in between. If you prefer less crowded angling you should try early spring in Alaska and remember the lake trout. The forgotten lake trout could be an added species found in your journals. An unexpected angling treat during your trip of a lifetime.