Diversify for Trout by Scott Haugen
Silently, the driftboat moved at the perfect pace across the flat, deep lake.
On bodies of water that don’t allow motorized crafts, there are still plenty of options when it comes to getting to where the fish are.
The tranquil sound of water dripping from the oar tips was mesmerizing.
The sounds of osprey calling in the distance, combined with a rising sun, reminded me of why I love fishing; and the best part, I was sharing the morning with my lifelong fishing partner, my dad, Jerry Haugen.
Usually, Dad and I are intensely pursuing steelhead or salmon this time of year, but with poor runs in our area, we decided to go after trout. As we age, we’re finding it’s not the size of the fish, nor the numbers, that make for a successful day, rather the time spent on the water, enjoying nature as it’s meant to be. Thus, our regained interest for trout fishing, something we did a lot of when I was a kid.
Soon the silence was broken when Dad set the hook and started reeling.
“There he is,” Dad piped, almost as excitedly as he does when hooking into a big springer. As Dad continued to reel, the tandem setup of 4” Big Al’s Fish Flash came into view, followed by the flashing of a chrome rainbow. Prying the chartreuse Silver Magic spinner from the fish, Dad put the fish in the cooler. “That’ll be good eating,” he smiled as he began threading another worm onto his hook.
We were fishing Oregon’s Clear Lake, a cold body of water nestled into the western side of the Cascade Mountains.
Just an hour from our home, Clear Lake can be fished from shore or non-motorized crafts, thus why we were in the drift boat. Many lakes throughout the West have such restrictions but don’t think just because no motors are allowed, the fishing will be easy. As with fishing rivers, boats and watercrafts allow much more water to be covered on lakes, and we all know the more water you can cover, typically, the more fish you’ll catch.
While Dad and I trolled the deeper sections of Clear Lake in our drift boat, other anglers relied on pontoon boats. Pontoon boats are a great way to cover water in silence and their ease of handling makes them very efficient in such situations.
Pontoon boats have come a long way over the years.
Their technology and craftsmanship make for safe, sturdy, efficient handling, meaning they’re great for fishing lakes and ponds. One person can load and unload them, and with the many models and designs on the market, you can find what best fits your personal needs.
Pontoon boats are light, stable, quick reacting and allow for multiple fishing techniques to be easily applied.
One of the appealing aspects about pontoon boats is they fall somewhere between a boat and float tube, both in comfort and performance. For those unsure about fishing from a float tube, a pontoon setup is a great starting point. For anglers who like fishing from a driftboat or lake boat, you’ll be impressed with the efficient handling offered by a pontoon.
Not only are pontoons much like a boat in terms of rowing, they’re stable and quick react to oar movement. Their light weight also allows for fast reaction, so it’s easy to precisely positioning yourself where you want to fish.
Sitting in a comfortable seat low to the water takes some getting used to, but with practice, soon you’ll be confidently fishing in comfort. A great benefit of a pontoon boat is it allows you to fish multiple ways, with whatever gear you’d like.
Trolling is easy and due to the light build of the craft, fast speeds can be achieved. A light anchor is all that’s needed to keep the boat in place should you want to float bait off the bottom or thoroughly cast over an area. Be it trolling or casting, it’s easy to work flies from a pontoon, too.
Because they are so easy to maneuver, pontoons allow you to cover a great deal of water. Lakes often have pockets that offer good fishing, be it due to weeds, cold water upwellings or concentrated food sources, and getting from point A to point B is simple in a pontoon.
Float tubes are also an option for fishing lakes and ponds. It’s no secret some of the best fishing in these waters occurs near shore. The challenge is, fish often congregate in areas too far to reach from shore, sometimes a long way from the nearest boat launch. Enter the float tube.
The biggest benefit of a float tube is its portability. Toss it over a shoulder and start hiking to your fishing spot, then hop in and get to work. Rather than pulling a trailer, launching a boat and rowing halfway across a lake, simply hike to the honey hole and start fishing from the float tube. It saves energy and optimizes your fishing time, which is the ultimate goal in boosting catch rates.
If new to float tubing, stick close to shore when starting out, making sure to keep out of the wind.
Take your time and work on maneuvering the craft. It’s not a bad idea to make a test run without a fishing pole, allowing you to focus on operating the craft and nothing else. Familiarize yourself with how the tube reacts to your every action and become comfortable with it.
Many fly anglers rely on float tubes to access prime water, but gear fishermen can capitalize on them, too. Built to accommodate both fly and hard tackle casting methods, float tubes are stable and efficient. Their real worth comes in accessing waters bank anglers and boats can’t reach. At times, it feels like you’re in your own private fishery, thanks to the access float tubes offer.
Once fit with a float tube, practice and be patient. Keep to ponds and calm lakes before progressing to more challenging waters. Don’t push it, maintain control and have fun, as these crafts have a lot to offer eager anglers.
Not only do drift boats increase access on rivers, but they also allow anglers to cover a great deal of water on lakes and ponds. If you’re already a drift boat owner, then you’re set for trout fishing many lakes and ponds. On bodies of water that allow a motor, invest in a kicker and you’ll be surprised how well a drift boat performs.
Driftboats, be they in rivers or lakes, afford access to prime water most bank anglers can’t get to. Here, the author’s son, 12 year old Kazden Haugen, is all smiles over this limit of rainbows taken from a boat.
Of course, if fishing big lakes or having to run long distances, then a lake boat with a bigger motor is a must. But if you’re looking to access small arms on some lakes, or cover a good deal of water on smaller bodies of water, a drift boat just might do the trick.
Electric trolling motors can also be attached to a drift boat, and work surprisingly well. For most trout trolling situations, the speed achieved by pumping on the oars is enough to reach the desired speed.
One of the biggest benefits a drift boat offers is comfort and room.
A lot of tackle, rods, snacks, clothes and more can comfortably be hauled in a boat, meaning comfort and fishing tactics are easy to maximize. Looking to troll, cast lures, fish with a bobber or float bait off the bottom? A driftboat allows for all the needed gear to be easily stored and put to use.
On those cold days, it’s easy to carry along a heater, and if taking kids along, a hefty lunch and snack can be packed; we’ve even Dutch oven cooked lunch in our drift boat. A depth finder can also help swing the odds in your favor, and plenty of clothes, including rain gear, can be stowed for those sometimes cold, early season mornings.
Kayaks have come a long way in recent years, and are safer than ever to fish from. With wider, more stable hulls, foot-pedal power and rudders, controlling a modern-day kayak is easy. The first time I set foot in one of these high tech’ crafts, I was amazed by its durability and ease of maneuverability.
Not only did it take me a matter of minutes to figure out how to operate the craft, but I was highly impressed with how stable it was when casting to the sides and landing fish. With the multiple controls, getting from place to place was easy and fast, optimizing time. With the pedal power, both hands can be free at times, to cast when and where you want to.
In recent years, fishing from kayaks has become a big thing in many oceans and bays, but don’t overlook them when it comes to trout fishing.
Figure out the bodies of water you’ll be fishing then start looking for a kayak to fit your needs. True, kayaks are more pricey than they used to be, but they’re built much better and are worth the investment if you’re serious about increasing your fishing time in years to come.
Bank anglers make up the largest percentage of trout anglers.
While bank access is usually ample in most rivers and streams, it’s not always plentiful. Prime trout water can be bordered by private land, places that can’t be accessed or far away from shore. While there’s not much that can be done about private land and impossible access points, sometimes there is a way to reach distant sweet spots.
Chest waders open many options for bank anglers, and keep you dry and warm.
Chest waders allow anglers to wade an extra three feet or so in depth, and keep dry. While this may not sound like a lot, it can make the difference in whether or not you bring home a fish.
Last spring I fished a small lake from a boat, watching bank anglers trying to reach the water I worked, where fish were plentiful. A couple anglers in tennis shoes didn’t want to get wet in the ice-cold water, but could not cast very far. They caught one fish, that was it.
Then a guy came down in chest waders and worked his way toward where the fish were rolling.
There was plenty of water for all of us to fish, and there was a lot of trout showing.
Eventually, the man in waders covered nearly 50 yards from shoreline and was soon catching fish. Though he was a long way from shore, it was shallow, allowing him to cover a great distance and get to where the fish were. He soon had his limit and headed home, something he couldn’t have done without chest waders.
Extended gravel bars, shallow riffles and the upper end of riffles are all places that can normally be waded into and fished in river settings.
In lakes, look for flats extending to a drop, rocky bottoms reaching out from shore and creek mouths, all of which can often be wade-fished.
If serious about increasing your trout fishing time, think about what waters you most want to fish. From there, determine how to best access those waters.
The author with a pan-sized rainbow that couldn’t resist a green Rooster Tail. Note the shallow water in the background, perfect for wade-fishing to reach deeper, prime water.
If it means investing in a boat, float tube, waders or some other craft, see what the pocketbook allows. Think of it as a long-term investment, something that will yield benefits for years to come, then gear up, head out and experience all the joys trout fishing has to offer.
- written by Scott Haugen