The trail into the small lake was a mess. Dead trees were everywhere, and there was a smattering of snow to deal with. Yet expectations were high as we got closer to the small jewel sitting on the very top of the hill.
When my partner got his first look, he said “uh oh.” The reflection of the grey skies made the alpine lake look ice covered, and we knew that it was an unusually late spring.
On closer inspection, however, the lake proved to be ice free. “False alarm,” said my relieved friend. “It’s wide open.” We had no canoe, just rubber boots and time. The trick was to find a good place to cast from shore that would also provide a spot to potentially land a fish. Not an easy trick on a brush and stump lined trout lake. The situation was made trickier by high water. The lake had flooded the shore, turning the sphagnum bog and Labrador tea into a mire. It was not going to be easy going.
Initially, the fishing was slow. We cast for a good half an hour, with only one small trout showing itself. Yet as we continued down the shore, the cool spring air started to warm the frigid water and fish began to show themselves on the surface. I took a position just past my partner on a small rock point covered with Labrador tea. On my line was a gold coloured Northland Fire Eye spoon, and it looked sexy as anything as it wiggled in the clear water. The first cast off the point didn’t make it very far before a sharp tug signaled a strike. The rod bent over, and a fat brookie was soon slapping the surface with its tail. The fish was fought to shore, then swung into the moss in one quick lift. It was a 17 inch beauty.
There is an excitement and simplicity about fishing from shore that is attractive to many trout anglers. Perhaps it’s the child-like feeling that comes from negotiating boulders and rocks, trying to find a good place to cast without getting a wet foot. There is also the potential bonus of walking into a lake that is too far to carry a canoe and finding untapped monster brook trout. Hard work and long hiking distance usually weeds out most modern trout anglers. It never hurts to stack the odds in your favour.
Shore casting for trout is especially effective in the spring as trout are living closer to the bank. As a rule, the shallows will be a brookie magnet from ice out until the water warms beyond the trout’s comfort range in summer. This is due to the abundant food that’s found in the rapidly warming shallows. Aquatic insects, breeding amphibians, leeches, minnows and small crustaceans all gravitate to the shallow shorelines in spring and early summer. Deep banked shorelines will find the trout roaming the edges looking for an easy meal. On shallower shorelines, however, you can expect the trout to be holding near cover. Fallen trees, undercut banks, Labrador tea, large boulders and beaver houses all qualify as excellent trout hiding places.
Fishing the shore on an inland lake requires you be like a still hunter. Because many of the trout will be within feet of the bank, you need to be stealthy and quiet. I’ve spooked many brookies out of the shallows by being in too much of a hurry. There’s nothing worse than seeing one or two big swirls heading away from shore as you stomp down to the lake. It’s not likely those spooked fish will be easily caught. At least not right away. Cast parallel to the bank and draw shallow fish off the adjacent areas. This trick works amazingly well and allows you to fish a lot of shoreline. Most people try to cast as far out in the lake as they can. This is fine in some situations (shallow bays for instance), but the majority of brook trout will be 50 feet from shore or less. About half the strikes you get shore casting for brookies will be a couple of rod lengths away.
Tackle for shore fishing should be picked depending on what kind of water you’ll be working. On small, inland lakes, a 7 or 8 foot medium action graphite rod with a large line capacity spinning reel will fit the bill. On bigger lakes, a medium action 8 or 9 foot rod will allow you to pitch even relatively light spoons some distance on 6 or 8 pound test monofilament. If you plan to do a lot of shore fishing, you might want invest in a three or four piece pack rod. The shorter rod tube fits easily in most back packs, and this allows for fewer headaches on hikes in to lakes. When it comes to shore casting lures, it is really is hard to beat a spoon. Brightly painted spoons of with brass or silver backs have proven to be consistent producers. Have a good selection of spoons from very light to medium weight and make sure the hooks are razor sharp. Use high quality snaps (no swivels) when attaching spoons to your line. Good brand name spoon choices include the Little Cleo, Krocodile, EBG, Gibbs Koho, Tor-P-Do and the Northland Fire Eye spoon. Bring a small pack to carry your lures, pliers, forceps and a hook hone. If it’s warm, a creel or small cooler will keep any trout you keep fresh.
Waders are a definite aid when you fish from shore, and will be especially helpful if the bank is not conducive to casting. On small inland lakes, I usually wear a pair of hip waders. It’s rarely necessary to get in much deeper than your knees. I like to pack waders in when possible, as they usually are very hot and not the best for hiking over hill and dale. Always wear a hat and Polaroid sunglasses when shore fishing, as the sun can be dazzling when you’re standing in or near the water. Polaroid glasses will also help you spot fish that are cruising around near shore or following your lures.
If going one on one with brookies is your addiction, shore casting is one of the best ways to get sweet relief. It’s just you, the trout and countless miles of shoreline.