YOUR FAVORITE TROUT streams may be running bank-full and turbid, but melting ice means that ponds and small lakes are ready to roll right now. Best of all, with oxygen confined to the surface layer, most prey is in depths of less than 10 feet. Trout are rarely far away.
The most effective tactic may be to fish from the bank when so many trout are within easy casting range. Start early, because the period during and just after ice-out can be absolutely hot.
Just as important: Know where to cast. This hypothetical trout pond shows nine general areas that typically furnish the best early-spring action.
Rainbows, cutthroats, and baitfish stage off inlet mouths prior to spring spawning. Hit these spots with streamers, spinners, salmon eggs, or egg patterns. Fish may also drop back into outlets if they find spawning habitat, so try there as well.
2 CREEK CHANNEL
In stream-fed, manmade still waters, look for the old creek channel cutting through a shallow flat. This deeper water offers trout a natural ambush point. Hang bait in the middle, or ply the edges with streamers, Woolly Buggers, or spinners.
Aquatic vegetation dies back in winter, depriving insects of cover and exposing them to trout. Work dragonfly nymph patterns just above the dead weeds, or bottom-fish the real thing. You can find the beefy nymphs underneath woody debris.
4 DEADFALLS AND TIMBER
Downed wood is a magnet for insects, bait, and trout. Fish it with shallow-running hardware or Woolly Buggers on a floating line. This is also an excellent place to fish bait such as minnows and nightcrawlers below a bobber.
5 SHALLOW BAYS
The first areas to warm up in the early spring, skinny-water bays can be prospected with leech, weighted nymph, or water-boatman patterns. Stay on the lookout for cruising trout and intercept them by casting well ahead of their line of travel.
Bloodworms–bright red midge larvae–inhabit the soft, silty bottoms on the flats. Rig a small San Juan Worm under an indicator or a live redworm under a bobber, and ride it just off the bottom. Cast and let it drift with the wind.
7 NEW GROWTH
From shore, cast out in open water beyond the new growth of reeds, tules, or rushes. Use a strip-and-pause retrieve with a floating line and a damselfly nymph, Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear, Prince nymph, or leech pattern.
8 BARS AND MIDWATER SHOALS
Work these structures by casting from shallow water to deeper. Rig a floating line with a 12- to 14-foot leader. Count a fairly large (No. 8 to 12) midge larva or pupa pattern down to the bottom, then use a glacially slow retrieve.
9 ICE SHEETS
As the thaw begins, look for open water between ice sheets and the shoreline, particularly in shallows adjacent to deep water. Some anglers cast baitfish imitations onto the ice shelf, then drag them into the water and begin their retrieve.