Mountain Trout

A Fish's Eye View through the Seasons
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If you've never fished for trout before, a good place to begin learning is to experience the lake as the fish does—in the mind's eye of a high-mountain lake trout. Here's a four-season rundown that will help you land these wily creatures!

Winter—Layin' Low
During the winter, the lake surface is covered with snow and ice. The water below is close to freezing, and only a little nourishment flows through. The trout, being cold-blooded, respond appropriately: As the temperature descends, so does their metabolism. Though they continue feeding all winter, they need very little food. If you could get into high country in the dead of winter, you'd work very hard for your fish, first to get through the ice, then to get it to bite.

In early spring, which in the mountains means late May and early June, the fishing is also often lean. Occasionally, we've camped at a high lake just as spring is breaking. Parts of the lake are still frozen. And just five or ten feet from shore, huge trout swim slowly along, evidently there for the taking. But nothing seems to work. Flies, lures and moving bait are universally ignored. Sometimes the fish will feed on a small worm or grub buried in the mud. But basically they're just out sunning, warming themselves in the water's upper layers. There's not much to eat yet and the fish aren't hungry. Neither the spawning cycle (which produces lots of yummy eggs) nor the insect hatching cycle (which produces a living feast) have yet begun. As Br'er Rabbit would observe, "They're layin' low."

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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