By Larry Tullis
UTAH FISHING & OUTDOORS - January 15, 1992
Float tubing in the middle of winter might sound crazy but a died-in-the-wool float tuber might think that staying indoors all winter is even crazier. The truth is probably that the tuber is already crazy and just uses the “l’m going crazy indoors” ploy to finagle another fishing trip. No matter what the case, winter float tubing is possible year-round at Clear Lake in Idaho.
The lake is fed by massive springs and the water temperature never gets very cold. In fact the water temperature is in the 50’s year round. Even though the air temperature gets quite cool (sometimes down right cold), ice never forms on the water. And, as you might assume, the lake is full of trout.
Clear Lake is a small, privately owned lake that sits between the world’s largest fish hatchery and an 18 hole golf course. It's outlet flows 3 short way and then empties into the Snake River. The lake is small by western standards but can accept quite a large amount of fishing pressure because of the nutrient rich waters and occasional and accidental stocking from the hatchery. It‘s not uncommon for an experienced fly fisherman to catch and release over 50 fish any day of the year — even in the middle of the winter!
The lakes aesthetics leave something to he desired but this is one of the best winter spots for just When the water is hard everywhere else having fun. Even though this is not a pristine place, the water is clear, waterfowl are usually abundant and the large fish will provide a challenge for anyone. The novice lly redder can refine his techniques and the expert can easily compare the productivity of fly patterns or retrieves. Most anglers get rusty over the winter but a trip or two to Clear Lake before the regular season will keep your senses honed and that crazy look out of your eyes.
Almost any fly pattern and fishing style will work at one time a another but there are several techniques that consistently take more fish. The pond varies in depth down to about 15 or 20 feet. The edge bordering the hatchery has numerous waterfall-type inlets that aerate the lake and create a fair volume of water flowing through the small lake. The inlets have enough current to fish as you would fish a stream. Weighted nymphs and a strike indicator do very well. Try egg patterns, San Juan worms, scuds, hare’s ears, prince nymphs and midge larvae. The strikes are often fast and subtle, so set the hook quickly if you detect any unnatural movement to your drift. There are so many fish in the lake that they must be aggressive because of the competition but will definitely do what they can to avoid being hooked.
Nymphs also work quite well in the lake itself but a completely different rig is needed. A type I or II sinking line or a 10 foot sink tip leader rigged with a nymph often is deadly. Fish the nymph slowly and be alert for the slightest pause, indicating a take.
A strike indicator and a lightly weighted nymph also do well along the reeds. The fly is cast in towards the reeds and allowed to sink. Watch the indicator for a slight twitch. a large dry fly works very well as the indicator and gives the fish a choice.
Hatches are sporadic but there are almost always fish that are willing to take dry flies. Fish the current edges near the inlets and along the banks just above the outlet. Fly patterns may or may not be important. Occasionally the fish are selectively feeding on midges but they will often take an attractor fly or midge cluster fly such as a double ugly or Griffith’s gnat. Occasional mayfly hatches can be imitated by an Adams or thorax dun dry fly.
Wooly bugger patterns don‘t work as well as you might expect. However, small buggers and small leeches often keep the action fast. Even better are small, sparsely tied, light colored streamer patterns. Size 8 or smaller streamers are often taken by the biggest fish. I fished a crazy Charlie bonefish fly one day and caught bigger than average fish because it is a good imitation of a translucent minnow. Nearly anything stripped or drifted through Clear Lake is bound to catch fish at some time or another so it is a perfect place to introduce someone to float tubing and fly fishing.
The rainbow are feisty and jump a lot. The water is clear enough to see the fish chasing the fly and it only costs $6.50 a day to fish — so what are your waiting for? This is a catch and release water with a two fish limit so don’t expect to take many fish home with you. Because this is private land, you don‘t even need an Idaho State license. Give clear Lake a try if the stuck in the house, bored of the job, tired of winter, need more fun blues starts getting to you.
How to get there
Get a map and aim for Twin Falls, Idaho. Take the road that heads north to Buhl. Buhl is a sleepy little farm town where several adequate motels provide a good place to stay. Near the center of town is a road called Clear Lake Road. Take it out several miles and you’ll cross the Snake River. You’re pretty much there. The road to the golf clubhouse is on the far side of the hatchery. Buy your day permit there and you're ready to fish.