The fall hunting season’s are well underway and that can only mean one thing--it's time to fish Strawberry Reservoir.
Fishing success at the ‘Berry was good all summer and is now moving up the scale toward excellent. The water is cooling and the fish know winter is just around the corner. They are eating voraciously because they sense the lean winter months are coming quickly.
I love to fish Strawberry in the fall. Mid October typically gives me some of my best fishing trips of the year. Others I’ve talked to say the same thing. The best action of the year at Strawberry will take place during the next few weeks, when most sportsmen are tromping the hills looking for elk or sitting in the bleachers watching football games.
I fished Strawberry on Sept. 30 with my brother and nephew and we enjoyed great success. We were late getting on the water and only had a couple hours to fish, but they were quality hours filled with fast action for big cutthroat trout. Best of all, we tried a new technique that worked, that should pay off in terms of greater fishing success in the future. (Of course, I’ll have to get up there a couple more times this fall to test the theory.)
I usually launch at the Renegade ramp and fish the nearby bays. If action is slow I blast up into the Narrows. I usually catch more but smaller fish in the Narrows.
I normally troll. During the fall you don’t need any special gear to catch fish trolling. Drag a small lure behind the boat and you’ll get strikes. I usually have kids with me and trolling is one of the easiest ways to get them into fish. Just tie a swivel onto monofilament line on a spinning rod, snap on a Lil Jakes or a Panther Martin lure and let it trail behind the boat. The kids don’t even have to cast. Often the fish hit hard enough to hook themselves.
As the day wanes I cruise back toward the boat ramp and fish Indian Creek Bay until darkness drives me from the water. Just before sunset the bay comes alive with big fish slurping bugs from the water’s surface. Bugs are thick in the air and on the water and you can see fish everywhere. But those fish are difficult to catch. With so much food on the water, the fish are selective. Match the hatch and your fly is just one of a million on the surface. I catch one of those fish occasionally on a woolly bugger or lure, but I haven’t been able to find a technique to catch them consistently.
Until last Friday.
The sun was settling low on the horizon when we launched and so we decided to stay close. I wanted to troll very slowly, testing different fly patterns, and so we used the electric trolling motor to power the boat. We didn’t even start the gasoline engine.
While I messed around with flies, LaVarr and Golden trolled lures. LaVarr tied on a Needlefish, chartreuse with pink spots, and it proved to be hot. The Needlefish is an old favorite that is very effective for rainbows when trolled behind a downrigger. On this trip it enticed cutts when trolled just below the surface. The secret, I believe, is that it wobbles provocatively, even at slow speeds.
Normally I troll with a gas motor, which scares the fish so they move away from the boat. I troll fairly fast, 3-4 mph for trout, and the fish have to hit hard to grab the moving target.
This time we were only moving 1-2 mph using the electric motor, which doesn’t scare the fish nearly as much. Fish hit the wobbling lures almost constantly. I don’t think we ever went 10 minutes without someone getting a bite. But the strikes were not as hard as I’m use to and we missed many of them. The Needlefish has a single hook whereas the lures I normally troll have treble hooks, and that may have been a factor.
In all, we brought 8 fish to the boat. Two were small; the others ranged from 18-25 inches. One was a rainbow and the rest were cutthroats, all were fat and healthy.
I’ve had a few trips at Strawberry where I’ve had faster action. But I’ve never seen that many big fish caught in such a short time period. It was great.
I find it interesting how the fly fishers in the float tubes or on pontoon boats fish slowly and methodically, working a small area. Trolling with my gas motor, I normally blast past them, covering lots of water. When we compare notes the fly fishers have usually caught as many fish as I have—sometimes more.
This time we out fished them. The fish couldn't resist the slow wobble.
Another reason we enjoyed fast fishing is that we had a favorable moon. After being a skeptic for years, I’ve come to believe that the phase of the moon can have a direct affect on fishing success. When there is a bright moon the fish can feed at night and so they are not as hungry the next day — curbing fishing success. I don’t think the affect is pronounced in the fall because fish are feeding so aggressively, but it may be a factor.
Incidentally, the moon will be full on Oct 17. If you can, get up there now before the moon becomes bright.
Copyright Dave Webb, 2005