In late summer, when the water recedes in Minersville Reservoir because of irrigation demands, an interesting biological residue is left along the shoreline. Windrows of thousands of small crayfish shells litter the banks. An extremely prolific crayfish hatch took place this spring. As the hatchlings grow they periodically shed their exoskeletons, which wash ashore. Wading in the shallows will scare up many of these nervous little critters.
The larger trout in Minersville prowl the shallows, gorging on the abundant crayfish feast. The trout are small headed and thick bodied, indicative of rapid growth. Hooking these fish in thin water is a special treat, as they jump wildly and make long lateral runs.
I especially enjoy fly fishing Minersville Reservoir in the fall. Few anglers fish it then. Apparently most fishers put their boats and tubes in storage after Labor Day and get all twitchy awaiting the deer and elk hunts. They are missing the best fly fishing of the year.
With the bigger trout cruising in close to shore it is somewhat difficult to fish for them from a float tube. The fish are often searching in water less then two feet deep. Dorsal fins and swirls are often seen right next to the bank. I have cast from my kick boat into the shore, but the best and most enjoyable fly fishing is accomplished by walking the shoreline and occasionally wading.
A prevailing myth is that trout can't be caught in the daytime on crayfish flies, as the crustaceans are only active at night. The Minersville trout haven't heard that. They feed periodically throughout the day on the little crayfish. A wind ripple on the water helps mask your presence as well as the landing of the fly on the lake's surface.
Crayfish fly patterns come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some ties are very realistic, looking like they might swim off on their own. The goal in tying a crayfish fly is to simulate the action of the natural in the water, as the fly is stripped in. It really doesn't matter what the pattern looks like when dry and in hand. My choice is the ubiquitous wooly bugger. When stripped medium fast, the most successful retrieve, it looks surprisingly like a scuttling crayfish. I prefer various shades of brown and orange. The popular Idaho fly, the Halloween, is also effective.
Crayfish are dormant in water temperatures below 42 degrees F, and shed their cases in growth cycles in temperatures above 55 degrees. On my last visit to Minersville, in early September, the surface water was 65 degrees. Fly fishing should be good well into the fall months.
The wooly bugger is a good crayfish imitation.