Ten Tactics for Catching Spring Trout in Ponds or Lakes
When early-season runoff turns your favorite stream into a chocolate milkshake, go catch big fish from a pond or small lake.
In early spring, big flat-water trout are shallow, accessible, and hungry. The key to catching them is to focus on the change spots—changes in current, in depth, and in cover and structure. Here’s how to identify and approach these still-water fish magnets to score more spring trout.
Early Spring Trout Fishing
1. Shade and Ice
Shade and remnant ice provide overhead cover for trout. Try working a soft-hackle pattern along the shadow line or ice line, with slow, methodical, 2-inch strips that make the long fibers pulsate and twitch. The grab can be sharp and sudden.
Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail
**Best Bet ➞ Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail **
Though not yet in full bloom, subsurface weed mats offer a change in cover and generate plenty of bug life in early spring, especially midges. Twitch a small red nymph over the tips of the plants, and set on the slightest tug.
Best Bet ➞ Chironomid
3. Rocky Flat
This is a prime spot to look for cruisers sipping on top. Take the time to note where your target fish is headed. You don’t want to land your fly in the rings where a fish just ate, but rather in the zone where it will likely eat next.
Best Bet ➞ Grizzly Cluster
4. Boulder Garden
Large rocks offer vertical structure where ambush feeders can shoot up from a deeper lair to nab baitfish. From a belly boat, work the rock edges and vary your stripping cadence from long-and-slow to short-and-choppy.
Best Bet ➞ Barr’s Slumpbuster
The Right Spring Presentation
5. Deep Dropoff
Cast to the color change, where feeding trout trade between the darker depths and the lighter-colored shallows. If you don’t have a belly boat, use a dock to extend your reach, and throw a shiny lure that will sink fast and wobble on the retrieve.
Johnson Silver Minnow Spoon
**Best Bet ➞ Johnson Silver Minnow Spoon **
Rocky edges where there’s a difference in both cover and depth often hold big fish, and slowly working a jig from shallow to deep is a sure way to hook up. But pay attention: Strikes often come as the bait falls and are tricky to sense.
Best Bet ➞ Lindy Fuzz-E-Grub
Foamy seams created by inflows are among the best places to look for the heads of rising trout now. Cast a do-it-all dry fly near the bubble line where natural insects collect, and do it from the shore so you don’t make waves.
**Best Bet ➞ Parachute Adams **
Wind blowing against an island creates a windy, wavy side, and a lee side. In a gentle breeze, cast to the wavy shore, where forage collects; in a stiff breeze, tuck into the protected side. Start deep, then work shallow.
Panther Martin Classic
**Best Bet ➞ Panther Martin Classic **
9. Overhanging Bushes
Willow bushes are often caddis factories at this time of year. From a belly boat, fire casts close to the branches. If you get hung up, give your line a gentle tug to pop the fly free, and then skitter it on the surface when it lands.
Elk Hair Caddis
**Best Bet ➞ Elk Hair Caddis **
10. Shallow Sandbar
Early-season trout will cruise along the deep-edge dropoff, looking for baitfish. Work this change in structure and depth with a lure either from a float tube or from shore. Occasionally stall the retrieve near the color change.
Mepps Aglia Marabou
Best Bet ➞ Mepps Aglia Marabou
Illustration by Andre Malok. Photographs by Cliff Gardiner & John Keller. Flies courtesy of Umpqua.