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Lake Nighthorse open, and the fly fishing is great

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Friday, June 1, 2018 4:31 PM

Lake Nighthorse is now officially open to fishing from a power boat. In order to write an unbiased column about fly fishing Lake Nighthorse, from a motor boat, I felt it was my duty to research that subject. So, my fly fishing friend Sam and I launched his flats boat to check everything out. I can tell you it is GREAT!

Before I go any further about fly fishing on Lake Nighthorse, I want to say to Cathy Metz, her staff and all the various agencies involved who never gave up and kept working to get the lake open, THANKS. Y’all did a good job.

OK, enough sentiment.

We launched at the brand new concrete boat ramp that has a metal dock for easy passenger loading. Also, close to the ramp and dock are bathroom facilities. Once we launched, we headed west through the open use area as fast as we could. That would have been about 20 mph. Once we arrived at the no wake zone, we throttled back to stay legal. It didn’t take long to find an area that looked and smelled fishy. (You have to fish to understand that.) We lowered the trolling motor and began our research project.

For rods, we used 6-weights, lines were floating with 9-foot, 4-pound test leaders. As usual, I tied on a dry fly. I just had to see if I could coax a big trout up to eat my fly. I couldn’t. So, I joined Sam in using something that sank. I tied on my favorite bead head– green Woolly Bugger. It worked great.

At the west end of the lake, there are two islands and lots of little inlets that hold trout. The water was so clear that even 10 feet down we could watch a trout take the fly. The one drawback to that was, as I watched a trout follow the fly, I couldn’t decide if I should slow my strip down to allow the trout to catch up or speed it up as if it was a green minnow trying to get away. This is one area that will need lots of practice.

As we fished around the islands and inlets, we caught brown and rainbow trout. All were fat and very healthy. I guess that’s what you’d expect when a lake has just opened. I’m told there are kokanee salmon in the lake, sadly I didn’t catch any of those. Again, I’ll just have to keep exploring the lake.

After fishing at the west end of the lake, we went east to fish the shoreline between the boat ramp and the dam. Wouldn’t you know it, we had the same experience as we did at the west end. Clear water, lots of trees with places for trout to hide, it just seemed to get better and better. Here, I tied on a small popper and actually had a trout or two follow it. I know this because the water was so clear I could see the fish trail my fly.

On my next outing, I plan on trying a mouse pattern. I have fly fished areas where mice are a big part of the trout’s diet. I guess because there must be lots of protein in mice.

We are now in possession of a real gem. I saw people fishing from the shore, paddle boarders, kayakers, canoes and motor boats. I talked with people who were so excited about the new lake they had a hard time finding enough positive adjectives to describe it. Here’s my challenge to everyone enjoying Lake Nighthorse: let’s keep it pristine.

When I write a follow-up column next spring, I want to be able to say I didn’t find one plastic thing floating along the shore line, there were no worm containers left where folks had enjoyed a day of fishing and all trash had been placed in the garbage cans in the parking lots.

We have waited a long time for Lake Nighthorse to open, let’s make that wait worthwhile.

Reach Don Oliver at durango_fishing@frontier.net.

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