The Star-Herald

Red, white and blue trolling

Although our final destination was Square Lake, my cousin Mike Wallace and I launched my 20-foot Land Alaskan onto Cross Lake. The road, the ramp and the parking  area are all superior to the Square Lake options and even with the short boat trip through the Cross/Square thoroughfare it’s a quicker trip. And less time in the truck means more time in the fishing boat — win-win situation.

As we motored from the main lake toward the mouth of the thoroughfare, I slowed so we could spool out a couple of lines and lures for the 10-minute cruise along the winding passage joining the sister waterways. Mike was hauling a Rapala and I placed my bet on a small silver Sutton spoon. No action was forthcoming along the narrow connector, but as our baits jiggled around in the current entering the mouth as we exited into the lake, my rod tip dipped deep.

This beauty of a brookie fell victim to a red and white special tied by writer Bill Graves. A gray ghost and the favored Red and White are on the boat seat between the rod and fish.
(Courtesy of Bill Graves)

I snapped the rod up to set the hook and a salmon about 16 inches long flew airborne; my lure went left, the fish tumbled right and it was back to trolling. Mike and I made several passes between Rocky Point and Swede Point, changing lures at least three times, and only boated one short salmon and had one hit-and-run strike. There were two other boats trolling the area and neither hooked a fish, so we reeled in and headed down the lake for “bluer” pastures and more cooperative fish.

Near Yerxa’s Cove we once again dropped lines and set a duo of spinning rods in port and starboard rod holders. After another half-hour of being ignored I had an inkling and uncased my 9’6” L.L.Bean trolling rod, a long limber fly rod made especially for fishing tandem streamers. I used a dropper rig so I could troll two flies at once, tied on a black nose dace and a Colonel Bates and got them in  the water. My inkling must have been indigestion, because another 30 minutes passed as we trolled clear down to Salmon Point and our only bite was from a mosquito.

Goddard Brook inlet and its cove at the south end of Square Lake is a dependable area for trout, often bragging size. Before we made our first pass, Mike changed his lure again and I put a gray ghost and a red and white special on my fly rod, a smelt imitator streamer and a brightly colored attractor pattern. While the red and white is a common bucktail pattern, I tie my own and make the “special” by adding jungle cock eyes as cheeks and a few strands of silver flashabou in the wings and throat.

Red and White bucktail streamers have been one of writer Bill Graves’ favorites for decades, but on one special outing they were the favorite of every fish in the lake, or so it seemed.
(Courtesy of Bill Graves)

Less than 10 minutes later, having just passed the mouth of Goddard Brook, my fly rod got a case of the bends and line jerked from the reel. The lack of aerial action indicated the fish was likely a brook trout and by the head-shaking and deep dives possibly a good one. A few minutes later Mike slipped the net under a 17” trout of about 1 ½ pounds, and from its jaw hung my red and white. A few minutes later as we swung north toward Barstow Point I hooked another fish, this one a 16-inch salmon, and sure enough, it had grabbed the red and white. After a wide turn we headed back toward Goddard Cove, and to Mike’s chagrin I got another strike, about a 12-inch brookie, and sure enough my red and white had fooled another fish.

That was the final straw. Mike got his spinning rod stowed and fly rod rigged in short order. Believe it or not, by the time we motored past the brook mouth Mike hooked a trout of 15 inches on the fly and I had a hit and a miss on my fly rod too. It turned into one of those afternoons that you remember and recount to other anglers the rest of your life.

For the next two hours we never made a single pass around Goddard Cove without hooking at least one fish and on two occasions we each were fighting one at the same time. Trout strikes outnumbered salmon at last 3 to 1 but the silver leapers tended to be larger. Not one other boat came near us during the entire outing and we only spotted three boats far up the lake all that afternoon. And here’s the truly mind-boggling fact: other than one moderate-size salmon caught on a mirror minnow lure, every fish grabbed our red and white bucktail tandem streamers.

Go ahead, try to figure out why all the other lures and flies were ignored. The next day it might be just the opposite. It’s things like this that drive fishermen crazy, and it’s also what keeps them casting day after day regardless of results. Mike and I caught 19 fish and released 16, keeping one 2-1/2-pound trout and a 3-1/2-pound salmon. Fifteen fish caught on a single special pattern during one spring trolling outing, not to mention the missed strikes and fish lost during the fight — that’s a memory maker.

There’s plenty of “blue” water, so all you need to do is launch your boat and add your own “red and white” for a patriotic outing with lots of fishing fireworks.

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