Back in my college days, the arrival of spring weather and its warmer temperatures meant much more than an end to snow and early mornings behind the wheel of a snowplow. The change in seasons meant it was time to enjoy some of the best trout fishing of the year.
Our favorite destination was two lakes located near the top of a canyon about an hour from campus. Once the ice was gone and the road was passable, not even the need to study for midterm exams held us back. It was time to go fishing.
We didn’t carry large tackle boxes because, when it came to ice out trout, all we needed was a couple of spoons and spinner or two. Those fit nicely into an old prescription bottle along with a spare swivel or two. Sometimes it would take a while to unravel their treble hooks when we needed them, but everything fit in our pocket.
My choice of spoon was the original Daredevle in red and white or blue and silver. When it came to spinners, I started out carrying a Mepp’s. That was always a good producer until one of my friends introduced me to the Panther Martin. Not only did he use them in high country lakes but also in small streams. All he did was change the size of the lure to fit the conditions.
So I gave the Panther Martin a test drive and have owned a small collection of them since. The one I prefer is all silver with no other accent colors.
Of course, to throw those lures, we needed a good spinning rod. But being students, our idea of a good fishing rod was something that could throw a lure without breaking the bank to buy it.
Mine was a 6.5-foot Denco Super II by Eagle Claw. It came with a cork handle and an aluminum reel seat. Both are still in excellent condition, and I bought it for $18 at the local drug store — a far cry from what I have paid for rods in recent years.
The rod is yellow with its guides wrapped in orange thread. Well, most of them. One now sports a red wrap because I managed to break it somewhere along the way and had to use what I could find to fix it. In this case, it was red thread and clear epoxy. That guide sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb, but the fish never seemed to care.
I fitted it with the Mitchell 300 my dad gave me the day I turned 11. It was a combination that did just what I needed it to do — catch fish. It wasn’t until I took up fly-fishing years later that it found a place in retirement. Today, it is surrounded by bass rods, but I still have it. The old Mitchell is there more for memory’s sake than anything else, but I believe that old rod still has some fish left in it.
As the ice begins to melt on trout waters, anglers can find fish holding along its edges. Here the fish can search for something fresh to eat and take advantage of the surge of oxygenated water that comes when the water’s icy lid begins to fade. The remaining ice also gives the fish a sense of security. By sticking close to its edge, they can feed out in the open and then quickly dart back underneath the canopy provided by the ice when they feel threatened from above.
Shoreline action also can be good just after ice out. The fish will be there looking for bugs as they start coming to life in the warming waters of the shallows. It sometimes takes a week or two before the fish really begin to feed, but when they do, anglers will experience some of the best trout fishing of the year.
Right now, there is open water at the Kirch Wildlife Management Area, the ice is off Echo Canyon Reservoir and it is melting quickly at Eagle Valley Reservoir. Reservoirs in Southern Utah won’t be far behind. So you might want to break out that trout rod, some lures or worms and head north.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the department. Any opinions are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.