Fishing the Numerous Species of Salmonids in Lemolo Lake by Larry Ellis
It is a rare sight when an angler can stand on the bank of a lake, begin casting a favorite spinner or spoon, and never know whether a rainbow or a German brown trout is going to smack the lure and start peeling off line. But that’s exactly what fishermen can expect when they cast, jig or troll in the numerous areas that make Lemolo Lake the most pre-eminent brown trout fishery of the Pacific Northwest.
German browns are what put Lemolo on the map. Whether you’re a novice, intermediate or a purist, if want to catch a brownie, this is the place in Oregon where a person can put the most trust into. It’s especially great because it’s easy to get to and is accessed via a paved highway. You don’t have to trudge through thickets, briars and snow to get here, which makes Lemolo my favorite place to catch Salmo Trutta.
And then there’s the lake’s robust numbers of holdover rainbow trout, a highly piscivorous strain of Oncorhynchus Mykiss developed at Rock Creek on the Umpqua River called a Fishwich rainbow. When a Fishwich ‘bow hits your lure, you better be married to your outfit for better or for worse, or until very expensive rod-and-reel do you part.
ODFW put the aggressive Fishwich strain of rainbow into the lake so that they would eat the Tui chub – and they do, to a certain degree. But to carry the good-riddance-to-Tui song to the next stanza, Scott Lamb did a much better job himself. But Fishwich rainbows are a blast to catch; of that there is no doubt.
And last but not least, there’s the most revered and best-tasting freshwater fish that swims, which of late, has been multiplying in copious quantities throughout the waterbody.
“The kokanee have been a huge bounce back,” says Scott Lamb, owner of Lemolo Lake Resort; “And I think that we’re going to have good numbers of kokanee this season”
“I walk up Spring River and Spring Creek with ODFW every year in September/October and count kokanee redds,” he notes. “We counted about 400 redds up there two years ago, and we counted 800 redds last year. In one year they’ve doubled in quantity.”
I asked Lamb what the reason was for the sudden influx of kokanee.
“We took out all the Tui chubs,” he said, about the aggressive netting that he and his family started doing back in 2008. “The kokanee aren’t being out-competed by them anymore.”
And neither are the German browns, which have come back with a vengeance.
So Scott Lamb did in fact save Lemolo Lake. Which is why you can hear the rogue cowboy’s spurs constantly jingling and jangling – yee-haw!
Consequently, in the last five years, the fishing at Lemolo has been totally off the charts, so if you haven’t fished this lake in half a decade, now is the time to do it.
So here’s the inside information on how to catch all three species of salmonids in this lake, from a guy who has fished this lake for the last 10 years, and from Lamb himself, who is now the premier guide at Lemolo and who knows the lake’s nuances better than the back of his hand.
I can tell you this with assurance. There are some whoppers in this lake, although most fish will be in the 11- to 17-inch category.
But just for the record, during an ODFW netting last year, while pulling the net, a large brown had accidentally attached itself to the outside of the net with one of its teeth. ODFW took a quick pic and threw the brown back in the lake. The estimated weight of the fish was at least 20 pounds, easily. So you can look forward to possibly hooking up with Brownzilla whenever you go to this waterbody.
On any lake, German browns are caught primarily during the magic hour, which is one and one-half hour after first legal light, and one and one-half hour during last legal light, the reason being – browns feed primarily at night.
But sometimes the magic hour at Lemolo is any time you feel like casting, which happened to me the last time I fished the lake with Lamb’s son Quinton. We caught so many browns, our fingers were practically worn to the nub. It was like catching rainbows directly near the hatchery truck, only these were all browns, and they were all wild!
We easily threw back 60 browns, and there were 10- to 15-pound brownies (at least) rolling and porpoising all over the place, daring us to make a cast.
Face it. A brownie is a brownie, so you can catch them at Lemolo on just about any lure known to man. Spoons, flies, plugs, spinners, Bingo Bugs, Frisky Flies, and bass tackle (lipless crank baits, Shad Raps, rip baits) – they all work on this lake. However, my favorite all-time technique of fishing for browns at Lemolo is by jigging. I have my own personal preference for “jigging spoons”, but anything that is less spoon-like and more bullet-shaped, like the kinds you use for bass are my favorites.
Good examples would be the 3/8 ounce gold Cotton Cordel C.C. spoon, the Bass Pro Shop’s XPS Tungsten 1/2-ounce gold jigging spoon, War Eagle spoons and the 1/4-ounce gold-plated Hopkins Shorty. The theme here is using a piece of metal that requires the fisherman to impart the action to the lure, not to depend on a deeply dug-in spoon that wobbles on its own. For browns, the jigging is in the jigger.
My favorite all-time lure for catching browns is one made by Lamb himself called a Viscious Voodoo. It looks like the brass casing of a 22 magnum, is approximately the same diameter, and it is made of solid brass. When you polish up this baby with a little Brasso, it shines brighter than gold and gives off a flash that browns cannot resist. There’s something about brass!
ELLIS’S JIGGING CADENCE
I have a specific technique that I use when jigging for browns, and it all has to do with what I call a jigging cadence. So here’s the author’s jigging cadence in real time down to the micro-inch, millimeter and second. This technique works especially well while wind-drifting up the North Umpqua Arm, especially where it starts shallowing up, because a silent-but-deadly technique doesn’t scare away the high-strung brownies.
First of all, I always let my jig fall all the way to the bottom on an almost-tight line on the initial cast. I use the expression “almost-tight” because there is very little slack in the line which allows you to feel the bite more directly. If the line were taut, the lure would not flutter to the bottom with the right action, but would fall toward you and you would not get any bites at all.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, if you have too much slack in the line, you’ll get lots of bites but you won’t be able to feel them at all, and the fish will have spit your lure out in the interim.
This falling action allows the jig to flutter to the bottom on its own action, looking like a dying baitfish, and the opportunistic brownies just love to annihilate a wounded fish that is falling to the bottom.
This falling action will also allow you to see imperceptible twitches in your line, which always warrants a hookset. It also allows you to have that specific “feel” for a bite. You will be a “line-feeler”, gently pinching the line coming off of your reel between the thumb and forefinger of one hand. If you feel anything on your fingertips that feels like a piece of sand hitting your finger, set the hook and hold on!
After the lure hits the bottom, I take up the slack and lay the rod tip close to the water. From there, I start my jigging cadence, which is a quick-twitching method, lifting the jig and then letting it fall ever so slightly at precisely 12 lift-fall movements in 2 seconds.
Your motions will be quick but sweet. These twitch-fall mini-movements happen so fast they are barely perceptible to you, but they attract the eyes of a brown 10 feet away in the gin-clear water of Lemolo. After you have finished your cadence of 12 twitches, your rod tip should be about 34 inches above the water.
Just imagine raising your rod 34 inches from the surface of the water in 12-quick twitches in 2 seconds and you’ve nailed the upward part of the technique.
After two seconds are up, let the jig fall back to the bottom (which takes another 2 seconds) on a nearly-tight line, and repeat the procedure. While the lure is falling back to the bottom, I like to give the jig another mini-twitch while it is sinking about half way down.
Master this technique and watch your catch of brownies and rainbows soar. It not only works for browns, but is also a master technique for largemouth bass, walleye, salmon and Mackinaw.
OTHER TECHNIQUES FOR CATCHING BROWNS AND RAINBOWS
Whenever I have fished with Lamb’s sons Quinton, Shane and Scotty, all three of them have caught both browns and rainbows while casting and retrieving frog- and fruit salad-colored Tasmanian Devils. Browns love anything that looks like a frog, and the fruit salad lure sporting a yellow body with black and red spots just drives them berserk.
Voodoos and Devils all work well in the stump fields toward the back of the arms, which the browns use as cover, but remember that they are also good places to lose lure. However, if you’re not hanging up or losing a lure now and then, you’re not really fishing correctly.One of Scotty’s favorite and most effective techniques for catching holdover rainbows (and I’ve seen him do it on numerous occasions) is to troll a black Ant about 150 feet behind the boat on 2-pound monofilament. He will pinch one or two split shot weights onto the 2-pound main line, which gives him a more direct feel of the strike. Woolly Buggers are also highly productive flies to troll in this lake as well.
These Fishwich-strain rainbow trout really hammer a fly with a vengeance, so make sure your rod is either in a holder or you are holding onto the rod firmly with both hands.
Some anglers also like to troll the traditional lake trolls for rainbows such as Beer Cans, Ford Fenders or Cousin Carls, with a 28-inch leader of 4-pound test leading to a frog-colored Needlefish or some kind of a spinner. It always helps to tip a spinner with a small piece of night crawler. But don’t tip a Needlefish, as it would kill the action of the lure.
For kokanee, a lot of people like to use a long lining rig such as a steelhead rod with 30-pound braid main line, leading to a 2-ounce banana sinker which then snaps onto the Cousin Carl lake troll.
On the back of the lake troll, snap on a bright-orange 3/16-inch rubber snubber made by Mack’s Lures. On the end of the snubber, tie a 28-inch monofilament leader of 15-pound test. On the end of your leader, tie a bright pink or orange spinner tagged with white shoepeg corn.
For kokanee, downrigger fishermen will like using a very limber fiberglass rod with 8-pound test monofilament leading to some sort of dodger such as a Poulsen Cascade Arrowflash, a brass/chrome dodger made by RK Spinner and Hoochies, or one made by Shasta Tackle.
Behind the dodgers, if your lure does not have any action of its own, such as spinners and hoochies, use 8 inches of 15-pound mono. If the lure has its own action such as an Apex or Wiggle Hoochie, run it 28 inches behind the dodger. Don’t forget to tip all kokanee lures with corn.
WHERE TO FISH FOR EACH SPECIES
Browns and rainbows can be caught anywhere in the lake, but traditionally the Lake Creek and North Umpqua inlets have been the primary targets, especially for brownies. That being said, here’s a little tour of the lake starting from the dam and working clockwise.
Directly behind the dam till about Bunker Hill is where the deepest water lies, about 100 feet deep in places. Here, on the north side of the lake, anglers fish deep for big browns, trolling with downriggers and big plugs such as rainbow trout-colored Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow Magnums and MagLip 4.5. This is also a good place to troll for kokanee.
Starting just west of Bunker Hill Campground, anglers will slow troll flies, spinners and Bingo Bugs all the way to the middle of the North Umpqua inlet for rainbows and browns. This is a long stretch for trolling aficionados, and is a great spot for pitching and retrieving lures for browns and ‘bows, throwing toward the bank and working your lure back to the boat.
Also, on the north side of the lake, from the beginning to the middle of the North Umpqua inlet, anglers will rip-troll large plugs for large brownies.
If the wind is pushing to the east, you can wind drift up the North Umpqua inlet, jigging spoons or casting and retrieving Tasmanian Devils for browns. When the arm narrows up, pick up your gear and motor back to the beginning of the North Umpqua Arm and repeat the wind drifting techniques.
If the wind is pushing to the west, you can try wind drifting to the west, or deploy a controlled motor drift with your trolling motor, moving to the east up the arm. This is where I caught some 60 browns one day using Viscious Voodoo brass jigs. It’s also a great spot for casting and retrieving Tasmanian Devils.
Continuing clockwise, you will come to the south end of the lake, near the East Lemolo Campground. At this campground, there are lots of coves with submerged structure. When shaded, these coves are hot spots for German browns.
Continuing to the west, there is a spot between the North Umpqua and Lake Creek inlets where bouncing lures on the bottom for big browns can be very productive. Make sure to kick up sediment while slow-trolling this area.
When you get to the Lake Creek inlet itself, you can pitch and retrieve jigs and Tasmanian Devils near the stumps for both rainbows and browns. The back of the inlet is called Brown Town, for obvious reasons.
As you approach Poole Creek Campground, and on the south end of the lake, fly fishing for browns and rainbows is the most popular activity. One year, I recall one fellow in a float tube in this spot catching and releasing browns about as fast as he could strip his fly.
There is also a long stretch in front of Poole Creek CG where you can troll for rainbows, browns and kokanee. This is also a popular spot for bank anglers using PowerBait for rainbows, or air-injected Super-Secret Scented nightcrawlers for browns, a special concoction sold by Lamb at the resort.
Of course, trolling with black ants and Woolly Buggers is highly effective in both of the arms.
THE RESORT ITSELF
Lemolo Lake Resort has numerous high-quality cozy cabins and also operates an RV Park, a store, restaurant, and rents various kinds of fishing boats including aluminum boats and pontoon boats, as well as renting canoes and jet skis.
The food is superb at the café, and I always look forward to dining on their famous Lemolo Burger, a scrumptious treat that every burger aficionado should experience.
But what I like best about Lemolo Lake, besides the fishing, is that the resort is owner- and family-operated by Scott and Dianna Lamb, as well as their kids, all of whom are extremely friendly and a pleasure to be around. This is family-oriented fun at its best.
Scott is always upgrading something, whether it is remodeling one of their very cozy cabins or recently installing 300 additional feet of boat dock.
This is also one of the best places to enjoy the night-time sky when the skies are clear during the spring and summer months. So definitely bring your favorite pair of binoculars, your spotting scope or your Newtonian reflector and delight in the spectacular images of the planets, stars and galaxies, brightly highlighted against an inky-black sky.
Scott Lamb also guides on the lake and nobody knows Lemolo Lake better than Scott. When he isn’t guiding, he’s more than happy to show you how to rig up and where the fishing is hot.
Lemolo Lake is 10 miles west of Diamond Lake. Heading west on Highway 138, turn right on Bird’s Point Road which is between mile marker 72 and 73 off of Highway 138. Follow Bird’s Point Road 5 miles to Lemolo Lake Resort.
Written by Larry Ellis