photo of mourning doves

While stream troutare hunkered down and lethargic in the cold, high water of the early season,their pond-dwelling relatives have no ice jams to fight. Instead, they have thefirst feeding sprees of the season. If you insist on fishing rivers, you’llmiss them.

River flyfishermen are conditioned to scraping bottom with fast-sinking linesin the early season, but that tactic doesn’t work in many trout ponds. You needa slow retrieve, but there’s no current and your fast-sinking line will sinktoo quickly. Counter this by using a medium-sinking line that will get deep andreach the fish but at a slow enough pace to let you retrieve without hangingup.

Many fish will becruising near shore, so make your casts parallel to or at a slight angleoutward from the bank and not straight out toward the center of the lake. Yourfly thus spends more time in productive water, so you’ll hook more trout.

A size 6 BlackWoolly Bugger streamer or a size 12 Hare’s Ear nymph will work just aboutanywhere. Fish either one singly with a slow-stripping retrieve, or together bytying the Woolly Bugger to a 3X tippet and then attaching the nymph to 18inches of 5X leader material tied to the bend of the streamer’s hook. Troutrising to a midge hatch or slashing at bait-fish near the surface will dictatea change, but otherwise stick with the tried and true.

Although pond trout are feeding in April, they’re not as aggressive as theywill be in May and June. So in-line spinners such as small 1/8-to 1/32-ounceMepps or Panther Martins are better choices than heavy spoons because they canbe retrieved more slowly without running too deeply. The same is true ofsimilar-size marabou or soft-plastic jigs. Black, white, or earth-tone jigsabout 2 inches long, including dressing, can work well. Be alert; trout oftenhit these on the drop after the jig has been twitched a few times.

Pay attention toshoreline structure. Visible points of land will extend below the surface andmay hold large numbers of trout. The mouth of any tributary stream is also alogical target, as is the underwater delta usually formed where any flowingwater enters a pond. Such deltas are generally shallow flats spreading fanlikefrom a tributary mouth, often with a deeper center channel and an abruptdropoff around the perimeter. You probably can’t see this from shore, but keepthe apparent underwater topography in mind and fish accordingly.

Finally, use lightline. Four-pound-test is perfect and will provide good casting distance withlight lures. Tie your spinners or jigs directly to the line; trout will shyfrom snap-swivels.

** I almost hate to say this, being a flyfisherman at heart, but you can doextremely well with Berkley Trout Bait. It often works even better than thetraditional worm in early-season ponds.

Rig a singlepellet of Trout Bait on a size 10 or 12 hook, put one small split shot on yourline 12 inches above the bait, then cast to water a few feet deep 15 or 20 feetfrom shore. Now, wait. Trout Bait floats, which means the pellet will besuspended above your tiny sinker and in plain view of fish cruising theshoreline. A worm, in contrast, will sink to the bottom and be harder for troutto find. This is a deadly tactic, especially for recently stocked hatcheryfish.

**Lead split shot and sinkers are banned in somelocations because they’re toxic. The regulation is indicative of a growingtrend that’s bringing a variety of nontoxic alternatives to market. Optionsinclude eared, tin-based split shot from Water Gremlin ( orBullet Weights (shown;, and the Dinsmore brand, egg-shapedtin shot popular with flyfishermen. Most are available in stores or fromCabela’s (