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Dry Lines and Long Leaders – Part 2 – Fishing Rainbow Trout in the Shallows

My favorite fly fishing technique in the late summer/ early fall is performed with a dry line and long leader in rather shallow water using a tiny “hyalella shrimp“.

The onset of cooler weather triggers the fish to start their pre-winter gorge. Hyalella shrimp are plentiful in marl bottoms and along the shallow weed beds. In many of the Kamloops lakes you will find fish cruising in as shallow as 2 feet of water, adding “sight fishing” to dramatically intensify the experience. A good pair of polaroid glasses come in real handy too!

I don’t know why the long leader makes a difference but it does. We tie our own 20′ to 24′ fluorocarbon tapered leaders. The fish cruise through, sometimes in schools, sometimes by themselves, picking their way along the bottom, sucking up the tiny shrimp by the hundreds.

The retrieve is probably the most important. Without using a strike indicator, just cast alongside the weed bed (or to the fish if you see them), letting the shrimp settle to the bottom. Gently tighten the line so that it straightens. With the patience of hanging a chironimid, slowly retrieve the shrimp. Let it settle occasionally and continue to retrieve. Vary the speeds from extremely slow to short, light, 2 inch bursts. If you are casting over the weeds you will have to adjust your speed accordingly to prevent a hang-up.The flies are so small that they move along quite well over the weeds as long as you keep the fly moving.

Hyalella shrimp are a food staple for rainbow trout, particularly in the fall as they flourish in the marl or in weed beds. A few times my fishing buddy K.J. and I have actually seen fish that have committed involuntary suicide pursuing a vein of shrimp in the marl. What appears to happen to them is they chase the shrimp as they retreat into the marl eventually getting their heads stuck in the marl. If the marl goes past a portion of the gill plate, the fish get stuck, like on a barbed hook, and can’t back out. They then smother to death. It’s a rare event to see.

Here are a list of lakes that I like to sight fish with hyalella shrimp in shallow marl in the Kamloops Area. These lakes all have white bottomed marl (except Bleeker)

Peter Hope – Huge marl flats all around the lake

Roche Lake – the south end and south east islands

Black Lake- near Roche Lake – fabulous structure around the lake

Hosli Lake – near Roche – need a 4×4 here if the road is wet or muddy. The mid-lake shoal by the rocks is also known for it’s fabulous sedge hatches in June and July.

Bleeker Lake – near Roche Lake

Community Lake – extensive flats along shoreline and around the islands

…and many more.

Occasionally, when you are fishing large marl flats like at: Peter Hope lake, Roche Lake and even Community Lake, there is a possibility that you may see what I am talking about. My friend KJ and I have found a few 4-5lb fish dead, tail up and head buried, over the last couple of years. It’s eerie to look at.

Be prepared for a crazy fight, especially when the fish are over 20 inches and in the shallow water. The lack of depth takes the vertical dimension away from the fish so the run horizontally, frequently in multiple circles around the boat. My personal record count is 6 complete circle tows before I landed the fish.

Hyalella shrimp have a full range of natural colours with varying degrees of natural shades. Try light beige to brown, light mint green to olive dark green or even gray or orange patterned shrimp. The late Jack Shaw(legendary fly tyer and fly fisherman) tied an “opalescent shrimp” and used it with great success. His pattern is vividly illustrated in the new book by his old friend Ralph Shaw, titled “The Pleasure of His Company”. (see below) Best Fishing gear reviews

Tiemco scud hooks-2487 and Mustad-3906B #12, #14 and #16 seem to work best for me. Body material is usually natural or synthetic dubbing or ostrich feather strands. Occasionally I will put a tiny glass bead head on the size #12’s but I rarely pull a back on them… I usually just trim the material short on the top side of the hook and apply some gloss. A fine rib (clear, red, gold or silver) is acceptable but not necessary.

Another note… rainbow trout will cruise these marl shoals and weedbeds all day however they appear to be most active in low light conditions (overcast) or when the sun is in a low position… 2 hours before sunset or within 2 hours after sunrise.

It takes a lot of patience, even for experienced fishermen to master this technique but when you do, you will be well rewarded and forever smitten.

Dave Ouellette worked with Ducks Unlimited Canada in the British Columbia interior for 11 years and had a virtual run on some of the best fly fishing lakes in BC. While constructing over 200 conservation wetland segments in southern /south-central BC, Dave managed to fish almost as many lakes and streams in his travels. Now, as an avid fly fisherman, Dave spends most of his ice free seasons devoting intense research and development days to the rainbow trout of the Kamloops area lakes.