EARLY SEASON TROUT
Stocked trout lakes remain fair game year long. Be it through the sheet of ice, or through the first pockets of water opening up as the ice rots away. For die hard fly fishers and trout-bums an April ice–off is the first remedy to the lingering cabin fever. This spring does not look too promising. As I am writing this, the cold April morning has once again brought with it a layer of fresh snow. Well, there is no better time to look through old photos and journal logs. The memories start to flood back, and that feeling of anticipation begins to mount…
MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS
We crest the hill, and there is that familiar vista I’ve come to love. A small reed-lined bay to the left, a large island in the distance and a parking lot brimming with RV trailers between the rows of poplars. And straight ahead on a picnic table sits a dude with long locks, and a man and his dog.
We jump out of the truck. I walk up to the guys to say hello.
“Fishing sucks right now, better chill and take a seat.” Cam offers me a drink and some lunch.
DOCK FISH FOR THE ROOKIE
“Who’s the young prodigy you brought along this weekend?” Paul asks and points. Nolan has already managed to piece together his rod and has made his way down to the dock.
“You mean Nolan? Yeah he has way more drive than I ever did at that age.” I remark.
“I’m not so sure, the Joel Wiebe I first met was just like that. Casting off the dock during lunch breaks.”
Watching Nolan cast from the Patterson Lake dock for the very first time was refreshing. I can only imagine his thoughts and excitement as he made each cast. I didn’t take long for the rookie to be rewarded with a healthy rainbow trout.
“That was quick. Good job Nolan!” After a few quick snaps with the camera, Nolan returns the trout back to the water. “Alright let’s get the boat in the water. Time to hunt down some mean brown trout.”
Maybe it was beginner’s luck. Or maybe he just wanted the fish more than us. But Nolan went on to out fish all of us so called veterans that weekend.
There is something special about fishing with others, especially younger anglers. Their excitement and energy level can be rejuvenating and infectious. Fishing Patterson with Nolan for the first time will be a fond memory I will look back on for several years.
WINNER TAKE ALL
Another fun memory of Patterson is from my last trip on Paul’s boat. Paul loves to set stakes for the weekend before we hit the water. This time was no different. Longest trout wins. Loser buys Dairy Queen in Neepawa on the trip back home, including a doggy cone for Whiskey.
The morning started slow, but Paul had already claimed an early lead with a nice hen brown. Whiskey was keeping close tabs on me. He has learned over the years that I get sloppy with my casting stroke, especially when I am plain tired or tired of not catching fish. Whiskey will step on my fly line which forces me to stop casting and take a breather. But, more importantly it frees my hands to give him his fair share of scratches.
This time when I saw Whiskey creep onto the bow, he barely had to step on my line and I caved to his will.
“Ok ok. Guess I need a break, right Whiskey? Time for scratches?” I put my rod down, with all my line still left out in the water. Whiskey was loving the attention, until he was momentarily distracted by a splash. I look down at my rod and the line has gone tight. I am hooked up with a brown.
I look down at my buddy, “Thanks Whiskey. Good advice, just slow down your retrieve on the slow days.”
By the end of the day, Paul and I are tied up with 22” brown trout.
Sunday rolls by and Paul regained the lead with a 22.5” brown trout. The clock is ticking. Somehow I manage to make a rat’s nest with my fly line. Maybe it’s a sign. We agree to head back to pack it in. Paul slowly putters back with the Minn Kota and we both hear something. A large trout chasing minnows, tucked in a pocket of water hidden behind a thick reed line. There is a narrow channel leading into it. Just wide enough for a well placed cast.
Paul offers me his rod and takes on his role of expert guide and boat master. He angles the boat perfectly. “You have one chance!”
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
I land a cast right down the gut of the channel. A couple feet too short for my liking, but I retrieve the fly back all the same. Three strips in and a wake centers in on my fly. “Yep! Got him!” The brown trout swam towards the boat with no resistance, and in a last second effort decided to make a sharp right turn and head aerial. SPLASH. The line lay limp.
“Textbook! You couldn’t have written a better ending. In all my years, I’ve never seen you so calm with a fish on your line” Paul exclaimed.
“He didn’t even put up a fight. I didn’t expect it to jump…”
“Haha. Mr. Brown trout fooled you royally. Last chance of the trip too! ”
I sighed, “…well at least it wasn’t a musky I lost at the side of the boat.”
“You know. I gave it a good measure with my eyeballs. 23 incher for sure.” Paul smirked.
There are many stocked trout lakes in Manitoba. The nearest ones are found in the Whiteshell Provincial Park, and then the Parkland region near Riding Mountain and the Turtle Mountains. All of these lakes go through their cycles of glory years and slower years. That is just the nature of managed fisheries for non-native species. My best advice is to fish the “hot” lakes during their peak years. These resources are fragile and sometimes fall off entirely.