Fishing familiar waters is like visiting with an old friend, relaxed and almost always a great time. As much as I enjoy fishing “old friends “, like Horsetooth, there is something inherently pleasurable about fishing new waters. While there is always the risk of a skunk, you can minimize the risk by doing a few simple things, as I did on my recent trip to Hondholz #3
First I did a little research. It included checking the lake page(s) for past conditions reports and stockings, viewing aerial photographs, etc. I also checked reports for other northern high county waters. From past experience, I know that if midges are active on one reservoir, they are likely active on nearby waters, also. And yes, I checked in with a couple fishing buddies.
Second, I found fishing partner. It was my good fortune Lance, a good friend and excellent fisher, was able to join me. Two fishing together allows you to try many more things than one.
Of course it’s even better when your partner has fished the water before.
When we arrived, the parking area was near full of cars. While that may seem a negative, make it work for you by visiting a bit before hitting the water. Doing so, we found the fishing was slow, with only two fish caught that day. Further we learned what had been tried and how it had been fished (retrieves, lines, rods, tippet size, etc.). That information eliminated a lot of things to try, giving us greater focus.
Finally, pay attention to the current conditions and use that information to guide your approach. When we launched we had a stiff breeze. The lake had a heavy algae bloom and moderate clarity. After launching I found the water temperature was around 68 degrees. Further, there was no surface action and none reported. That suggested to me the fish might be deep. So I started working deeper water 6 ft to 20 ft plus with a sinking line and woolly buggers. Not having any takers, I decided to give shallower waters a try, especially weed edges on the deep water side.
I switched to a floating line with a bugger point fly and a couple droppers. After a few casts I picked up my first fish, much where I figured they might be, 6-8 ft of water just outside the weeds. At that point a bit of “misfortune” actually helped me find the best pattern of the day. While rebuilding a leader I was blown almost to shore. Kicking back out I fished the shallow water and picked up a brown on my attractor nymph, partridge and orange. I then noted two other things, I was near the inlet and the swallows were working the area. I’d located a “hot” spot and had good action the next hour until Lance suggested we break for lunch.
After lunch I explored a bit more of the lake and it turns out the real pattern was simply fishing shallows on the windward side of the lake. While the action wasn’t “hot” it was steady, and that was far better than any of the reports we’d heard earlier.
So the next time you go exploring a new water, do your research, take a fishing partner, do a bit of visiting with those already fishing, take note of the conditions around, and lastly be ready to change up until you find a pattern. These are all basic tactics that I used to put together a good days catching on an unknown water (to me), and I’m sure will work equally as well for you.