Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A report....

Laurance Lake - early June:

I suppose if we received more reports from members we might publish them more for other members – as the case is, we don’t receive that many and I don’t seem to make the time to fish all that often these days to make reports. Who does right? I do however, have a group of people whom I consider fishing friends who invited me along on an annual trip of theirs. Mostly coworkers and work acquaintances, this crew has been fishing annually for 21 years – I was first invited in 2012. The premise, started by a now retired structural engineer, was to take a day in the middle of the week and leave work behind – as he states “it’s a reason to play ‘hooky’ for a day”.

For as many years as I have been involved, this so-called “Shut Up and Fish” gathering has been going to Laurance Lake...
on a Wednesday in June. The weather can be iffy or it can be nice but the lake and associated campground/day-use area is never crowded. And so, upwards of 18 friends and coworkers have the run of the place. So it was this year too – except the crowd factor that is.
A couple of years ago, the Forest Service turned control of Kinnickinnick to an outside vendor – the self-service fee campground/day-use area is close to Hood River and the impact was getting significant – including calls to the local authorities too numerous to ignore; not to mention a lack of participation in the ‘self-service fee’ aspect of it. So, in moved a camp host and then improvements came shortly after along with an increase in camp sites and services available. These were all great improvements with a visible impact which has created a much more settled and clean area to enjoy. 

Of course, the crowds have responded. I’m not really complaining, just noting that this little impoundment tucked away on the Middle Fork of Hood River is now more widely known and utilized than the little ‘hidden’ lake it used to be.
Laurance, if you do not know, is a fly/lure only lake with only electric motor option on boats. The lake boasts protected Bull trout, native cutthroat, wild rainbow, stocked rainbow [fin-clipped] and rumored smallmouth bass introduced by the bass bucket-brigade ‘opportunity’ enhancers….though, I’ve never caught a bass nor heard/seen anyone do it either. There is no limit on smallmouth and only the fin-clipped trout may be kept – everything else is off-limits [except to the bald eagle and ospreys that have taken up yearly residence]. The lake is also notorious for being in the direct path of winds from both the gorge and also the slopes of Mt Hood. More often than not, you will see whitecaps frothing this little lake by 1:00 p.m. – and I’m talking whitecaps that will break over your shoulders if you are in a float tube! Trust me, this I know.

I have caught every species of available trout in Laurance – though never a bass – in the past. On occasion, the numbers have far exceeded normal with catches upwards of seventy-five plus fish in a day. The challenge was to find the pockets of wild/native fish and have them outnumber the stocked trout. This year was a bit different though – no bull trout and no cutthroat trout came to hand – everything was rainbow. And though the numbers were there – around 30 fish on the day – everything seemed slow/sluggish; perhaps the water, noticeably cooler, was the reason. Both fin-clipped and wild played the game though, the stocked version far outnumbered the wild.

The wind never got unreasonable, the temps were great, the crowds not horrible on the water [though every site and several unofficial ones were taken]. The water is high and it was still colder than I have seen it [even in late October]. The fish were sluggish and though aggressive to hit – not aggressive to take. We found letting them chew as if they were spring chinook on the Willamette would result in a solid, perfectly nose-hooked fish. They ranged from 7 inches or so all the way to 14" - a solid showing by the cookie cutter 11"-12" fish was the norm.
As always, the woolly bugger streamer was a producer, orange and brown may have slightly out-fished olive this year, black and brown following those. Caddis imitations produced – the wet version sparkly pupa in a brown was the apparent choice. Bead head prince nymphs also took their share of fish often being reduced to a mere ribbed dark body furr covering a hook.