Report: Hungry holdover trout in the kettle ponds

What’s this!? A new report? This is it, folks. The first official report of the 2019 fishing season is hot off the WordPress. It’s all uphill (downhill?) from here.

This is exciting for a few reasons, namely that right now, at this exact instant, you have the ability to go down to one of your favorite ponds and cast to fish. If you’re lucky (and if the ice stays off the ponds) you might just catch one.

Finding open water

Last weekend, with the temperatures spring-like and the wind calm, we met up with local trout fishing gurus Anthony and Jordan at a local kettle hole. But on the highway, we got disheartening news: “Iced up,” the text said. “Going to try the other side.”

But just as we pulled in to the lot, we saw what we were waiting for: A flat calm and ice-free pond surface. A few midges flew around the parking lot. We were feeling good. A couple beers were loaded into a soft cooler and tippets were tied and we were on our way.

A little bit of midge action kept the tiny flies on the end of the tippet

Let me just remark, for a moment, on the beauty of a late-winter, ice-free kettlepond. There are few sights like it, especially when you have a fly rod in your hand and waders on your legs and it’s one of those unseasonably warm and wind-free days.

The old second-cast curse

Our small band of anglers would be employing three trout strategies. Capt. Bill would of course be casting a worm or a ball of powerbait under a bobber, because “everything eats worms.” Sean, Jeff and I would be casting flies (midge nymphs, hare’s ears, woolly buggers, Goldies and other streamers) to cruising trout, and Anthony and Jordan would be throwing lures on the spin gear. If there were hungry trout, I was positive one of us would catch.

And, on the second cast, while looking two-hundred yards out at the pond at a definite rise, Anthony paused his retrieve for just long enough for a fish to hit his trusty Rapala Jerkbait.

A rainbow came to the net; perfectly lit up and plump from winter feeding. Anthony confirmed that the fish was not caught on his first-cast, so we were free from the first-cast curse…or so we thought.

Movin’ around

We began our trek (and Anthony hooked his fish) near a sandy beach. After some time of inactivity, we began moving around the pond to fish some deeper water. There were scattered midges in the air, so Sean and I continued throwing midge nymphs, and Jeff got a short strike on a Hare’s Ear, but the fish wouldn’t commit.

Over at the other edge of the pond, a rocky shoreline dropped down steeply, so we tried throwing weighted streamers to no avail. A combination of high water and heavy vegetation behind us made a full cast tough–so we stuck with roll casts. I lost a few good flies, including Goldie Hahn, to the branches behind me.

Just when we were about to move back to the beach, Jordan got hit. A cast later, he was tight with another beautiful rainbow. Spin guys 2, fly guys zero. But we were okay with it. Just seeing a rainbow trout has the ability to make February feel like June.

The wind picked up a bit and it stated to actually feel like February, so we decided to call it a day

Anthony’s Tips for trout on lures

Anthony has been absolutely crushing the trout on a variety of lures this winter. While the winter stillwater fly fishing has been slow, the trout have readily been eating a variety of bigger lures. Remember, the trout have to eat in the winter too. And with less insect activity and hatches, they have to get their calories from crayfish and baitfish. Here are Anthony’s tips for crushing the winter trout on spin gear:

  1. First and foremost, find a pond that supports a healthy holdover population. You’ll be looking for the deeper kettle ponds that are stocked in the Fall.
  2. Switch lures often. Try a variety of jerkbaits, stickbaits, and spoons in different color patterns. Trout can get picky in the winter, so it’s best to throw the whole box at them to figure out what will get them to eat. Perch and other baitfish colors have been hot this winter.
  3. When working jerk baits, try a variety of retrieves. But I always find the most success when working the bait just slow enough to make it wiggle. Abrupt pauses can sometimes target a reaction strike.
  4. Stay mobile. If you’re not finding fish at your first spot, continue moving. The trout are moving around. You should be too.

Has anyone else been getting the winter trout to eat? Shoot us a message and let us know! Trout truck official countdown ~10-14 days.

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