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Discussion Starter #1
Hi,

I've been fly fishing for about 4 years and after a steep learning curve, I've gotten reliable at catching in most stream environments. Yesterday was my first attempt at high alpine lake fishing and I got schooled!

I did a day hike to Loch Vale in RMNP. Gorgeous day, incredible hike and beautiful lake, but I only brought one fish to net in 3 hrs. I missed 2 other strikes - saw the fish coming to fly and got too excited anticipating the strike :smile:

I fish a Sage fast action 5wt 9'. I tied on: beetle, ant, para adams. I tried dual dry and dry dropper with rainbow warrior, san juan or RS2 underneath.

There were tiny white midges flying around (I'd say size 20 - 24) but I didn't have anything in my box to match them. The fish were splashing further out in the lake. Most of the shore cruisers were staying on bottom with the occasional rise.

The one trout I caught was on the beetle. The two rises that I missed were on the para adams.

I'd love to massively increase my success rate and I'd appreciate any tips.

Should I consider a 3wt rod? Pack midge dries? I'm sure my presentation needs work to get stealthier

thanks for any input you have!
 

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Add in some pheasant tails, hares ears, scuds and some leeches. Count down, start with a slow hand twist. If that does not get them start playing around with the retrieve speed/action until you find something that works. Usually alpine trout are not real pattern specific, it is more presentation. Unless you see lots of rises stay subsurface.
 

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Go to your nearest book store or Amazon and pickup/order "Fly Fishing the Mountain Lakes" by Gary LaFontaine. It has a wealth of information about fishing alpine lakes and is a good read to boot. One of the gems I picked up from reading was to always be prepared with some ant patterns. Believe it or not, ant falls happen quite a bit on mountain lakes and can be a fun time when it's happening.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the tips so far. I came with an assortment of ants and was surprised at how the trout snubbed them. They would come close, take a look and win away. I'm sure my presentation could use some work.

Newbie question: Bugz recommended a wrist twist for the flies. Was it a no brainer mistake that I just let the flies sit still on the water?
 

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Newbie question: Bugz recommended a wrist twist for the flies. Was it a no brainer mistake that I just let the flies sit still on the water?[/QUOTE]

For dry flies you want to leave them still on the water. The only exception to that on still waters would be caddis. But for nymphs and other subsurface flies you will want to do some kind of retrieve. Also check out the book that was mentioned.
 

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I've found that on still water you have to wait a hair longer to set the hook compared to moving water. They grab the fly fast on moving water, because it going past them so fast. On still water they're more relaxed about taking the fly. You might be pulling out the fly too soon on still water.
 

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I've found that on still water you have to wait a hair longer to set the hook compared to moving water. They grab the fly fast on moving water, because it going past them so fast. On still water they're more relaxed about taking the fly. You might be pulling out the fly too soon on still water.
^^ ^^

This
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks everyone for taking the time to give some tips - all taken to heart and the book is on its way. I'm heading back up on Monday to try again
 

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Quite often on still waters you will find fish will hit a fly but not take it initially. They hit the fly (insect) thinking they stun it and then come back and take the fly. Thus don't immediately start reeling in thinking to recast. Wait a second to see if the fish does come back and take it a second time.
 

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I caught several cuttys at 11,200 ft the other day on a huge Madam X . A big Tarantula is often my go to fly-

I don t know crap about flailing except what works-
 

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My friends and I used to hit a high lake every year that saw very little pressure. We'd catch a bunch of fish on tiny little midges and such, but the third year we tried throwing streamers and hoppers and absolutely slayed it! Try something bigger if they aren't going for the little stuff...
 

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May not be the fly but tippet and leader length.. Flat water can be tough on top, a gentle breeze will improve hookups...
 

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Still-water Cruisers, Use a two fly rig, a scud and a nymph, I like Marabou in the tail. Watch from the tree lined shore where the fish move, cast your flies out to that general area and let them sink, get behind the trees and wait. When a fish comes cruising by twitch the flies along the bottom, when they come and pick one up set the hook.
 

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pappy
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Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 842

Default Re: Can't Catch Trophy High Mtn Cutt's I can see...Need Help from experts
Boss,

OK! That's it.

First thing I learned was that nothing I already ‘knew’ worked… and it took several trips up to figure that out. Tried many of the common flies on a fly rod, then with a spinning rod (I always carry the 6-piece with me up high - flies with a bobber, for distance), then various lures, then worms, both on and off bobber. NOTHING! I don’t think they made power bait back then, and I have never used salmon eggs, but would have tried them if I had them with me. Could see the Cutts (‘logs’), but just couldn’t interest them with what I had.

Then I finally decided that what I should do was go up there with a sleeping bag, NO rods to tempt me, and just study the lake and ground surrounding it for a weekend. It was a frosty, occasionally wet, weekend with a small tent to keep the wind off. Pre-made sandwiches for 2 days, and iodine tablets for the COLD water. (Yum!)

Looked in the water everywhere to see what bugs were under water. Walked/kicked/tripped over the land surrounding it, to see what moved. There was again, little to see. Sat on the edge of the lake for hours, moving around on occasion, and watching the surface for ripples, or the fish stalking whatever the hell it was they were eating. Was not much to see. Boring! Threw a small rock here and there to see the reaction, they did not spook, just sunk a bit lower on impact… same way they did when I stood up (clue?).

But, as I was getting ready to hike out Sunday evening, something hit me in the face, and I could see little things flying around here and there. What hit me was a small grasshopper/locust (1/2-5/8”), and the things flying around were actually tiny caddis (1/4-3/8”). Smallest I have ever seen. Then I remembered the gnats the night before, that I swatted at but never checked out. Pesky things, but they didn’t bite! (clue?)

Got 'sick' the following Thursday, and decided the best cure was to get to a high altitude. Spent Mon and Tues prior practicing with the fly rod (rained heavily that Wed), while lying down or sitting low, just so I could do it if I ever happened to get so 'sick' that that was all I could manage. (Took part of an old plastic leaf bag filler with me to help slide around on… remember I was 'sick'.)

Since I already knew the top ripples or fish movement didn’t start until a bit after 2pm, I slept in Thursday am (just to be sure I could get better in time to go up). Used tiny (16-18-20) elk-hair caddis, and (14-16-1 grasshopper like critters… had to tie them prior, as I could not find them that small at the time. Presentation was very important, as any impact ripples caused the Cutts to lie a bit lower (but not run off). Breezes/Wind didn’t seem to matter, but if it was an unusual ripple, they dropped down! Caddis worked a bit better than the hoppers, but it was more important to switch them off fairly frequently (2-3 casts), and not do many casts at the same spot (8-10 max)… learned that over time. (PITA-switching flies every few casts, thus my preference to carrying 2-3 rods in the high country-a very slightly lesser PITA).

First hookup came on the third cast I tried that sick day, Slam!, and then the band played on. Sad thing was that I was so proud of myself that I kept that first one to eat. Got him home, wrapped and packed in old grey snow, very late at night, and the next evening I could not stomach eating him. Felt I was ‘not worthy’, called my neighbor, and he happily cooked it that evening, said it was great. Over the next few years I kept one here and there, and they were delicious, but I shudda let that first one go. I pulled the dumbest one out of the gene pool, and the rest keep getting smarter.

Main point is, that at high altitude, there is not much (almost nothing) in the way of forage fish, dragonfly larvae, or other large critters, etc., and not many critters up there disturb the surface of the water. (Never ever even saw a swallow dipping). Didn’t use midges back then, but suspect they might work as well… just, no ripples. Just let it drift ---slowly---gently---down--- on--to--the-water. Slam! And, if there is no slam, let it sit motionless, for a couple minutes, and then a slight twitch, and wait, and then a twitch… etc.

And if that doesn’t work, get sick for a couple days, and watch the lake… learn the lake… watch the fish… learn the fish… look for bugs everywhere/anywhere… and when you get the first fish… let him/her go. That is the dumbest one, and if you want to catch more over the years, it needs to reproduce heavily!
 

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I have found wind is your friend on alpine lakes (above timberline). When I'm fishing alpine lakes, that breeze is what brings in the food. As the winds shift from the normal down slope to upslope, this marks the end of morning and the beginning of the feast. Bigger insects are lifted from the valleys and dropped into these lakes by these winds. Keep in mind that these lakes are extremely oligotrophic. Very few insects actually live in these waters. Midges are the most abundant and following a distant second would be mayfly and caddis species; not to overlook the mosquito!

Now why would big be the ticket? We'll these fish have a very, VERY, small window of open water and those terrestrials the wind has so nicely dropped off can become the biggest source of nourishment for actual weight gain and growth. Those "mirror" water days can be the hardest to fish. 1) The sun is intense at these elevations 2) Easy predation. These fish may take a risk for a high calorie meal and rise, or cruise the shore with a deep water escape. When the surface is a bit disturbed, give a little life to your fly. When you fall into the water do you just give up and die or do you try to get out? Hand twist in that midge larvae and wag the dog on larger terrestrials. Long leaders. 12' is a "good start". No line ripple near your fly. And remember, every alpine lake has differences, just like rivers. Good luck and rip some lips.
 

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Are the rises loud, splashy, and almost violent? If so, the chances are good they are after caddis, maybe adult but more likely emerging caddis. Try subsurface caddis patterns. More often than not, nothing more than a body of bright green or tan dubbing with a shaggy head of dark brown or black dubbing will do the trick.

Joe
 

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Patience. Toss out that big dry and let it sit/drift. 5-10 minutes sometimes and they will hammer it.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks everyone for all the advice, it has been very very helpful. I think my next key step will be to start fishing a little later in the morning and to spend a full day on the lake. I started just before 8am and had to quit at 11am and I think the lake hadn't "woken up" for most of the time I was fishing.
 
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