Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Opening Day, Snoqualmie Tree Farm

Every year, opening day represents a quandary for the serious angler. On the one hand, hundreds of Washington lowland lakes suddenly open. They’ve all been stocked with hungry, not-so-bright fish. So what’s the problem? Like baseball’s Opening Day, the lake fishing equivalent is over-attended everywhere. The state estimates that 300,000 anglers will be out on the water that day.

And the serious angler has a problem with this; the serious angler gets annoyed by yelling, screaming, drinking, rabble-rousing, and especially bait fishing. So… where to go? For me, the semi-serious angler, I solve this problem by visiting one of the seasonal lakes in the Snoqualmie Tree Farm. This represents the best of both worlds: the chance to present to fish who haven’t seen a fly or lure in six months and the opportunity to do it in relative peace and solitude.

The Most Awful Spring in Recorded History - Brrr!
Predictably, the weather on opening day was cold and windy, but at least it wasn’t raining. As I was opening the Spur 10 gate, a familiar chevy Suburban pulled up behind me. It was Dave, one of the local tree farm Master Anglers; we were headed to same season lake. I won’t name it, but its known for its large, tight-lipped fish.

As I launched my 12’ aluminum jon boat, I realized that my flies would be the first that these fish would see in 2011. I’d been skunked there on many, many days, but this was one of the few lakes where I’d heard of 20” fish being somewhat routinely caught. Personally, I’d never caught a fish larger than about 15” in the tree farm, but hope springs eternal, especially on Opening Day.

To my surprise, I hooked a fish about 20 minutes after launching, and then another. The second one (pictured) was probably pushing 16” and would qualify as a genuine Nice Fish. Meanwhile, Dave had rowed to the north side of the lake out of the wind and was hooking a fish on every other cast. The first 7 came off, causing him to check his hook. He showed me his mean-looking fly; it was a cross between a zonker and a Carey special. I’m sure the larger meat eaters in the water were very interested in it.

15" native cutthroat
After an hour, I caught a few more trout (14”) but I was freezing by this point and thinking of heading in.Dave started landing fish after fish, including one that he said was 17”. So I stuck around a little bit. I had been fishing the same Carey Special all morning and once again there was a tug on my line and then a satisfying heft. I reeled in a very nice fish, the largest I’d ever caught in the tree farm. It was 18” with a big head. I wanted to get a picture, but the fish was being quite feisty and rather than injure such a fine fish, I quickly let him loose.

The lake was fishing hotter than I’d ever seen it. But I was so cold I turned and started motoring back to the launch anyway. On the way I caught a two more fish, 14 and 15”. I was home by noon. What a great way to start the year!