Special Spring Day at Sportsman Park

5-10-17 by Rich Lewis

I made a solo trip to Sportsman Park Wednesday May 10th, 2017. I arrived at 11:30 AM. There were several RV’s parked in the lot; yet no one was fishing. The temps were warm-high 70’s/low 80’s, the winds light and the water clarity was very good. Since the water was calm and clear, I could see trout just about everywhere I looked. There were surface feeders to big dark shadows lurking in deeper water.

I began fishing a bead head nymph with a small dropper wet fly behind it. I started catching fish immediately. These were eager smaller trout and were fun to catch. I then hooked a few nicer trout and one of them stole my dropper fly. The evidence of the curly cue tag end of the dropper line-told me that my knot had failed at the fly. I re-tied, but this time putting on a small Size #16 ant pattern with small rubber legs. I was standing right in the middle of the northern shoreline in pond #1 near the bubbler. I looked down and three feet from shore in front of the weed bed several trout were milling around. I then noticed a sizable hook-beaked trout estimated to be 5 lbs. swim right into that shallow pocket of water. I flipped the ant pattern to it and I was amazed to see it eat it and turn. I set the hook and the big boy took off down the pond like a freight train. My drag was screaming and I was palming the reel to slow it down. It wasn’t working though and soon all 70 feet of my 4 wt. fly line was off the reel and I was into the backing just like that! I should have run along one of the shorelines to follow but instead held my ground. It was all happening so fast. Oops. The line went pop and the huge trout was gone. As it turns out-the line came in with only the bead head nymph and without the dropper line. That knot tied to the bend of the nymph hook had failed. The large trout took the 12” dropper line and ant fly to the depths. Lesson learned to use best practices and tie a 7-turn improved clinch knot and make sure it seats correctly.

Off to an interesting fishing session I’d say! I tied on another Ant-this time without the bead head nymph ahead of it. I caught quite a few trout with the ant pattern. It was very special to be all alone on the pond-especially in these great mild conditions.  Every once and a while a thermal/dust devil would blow by and it would be windy for 5 minutes. But it always calmed back down and the surface of the pond returned to flat and clear. As I walked around the pond and fished, I could clearly see the trout in the water near the edge and also saw them breaking the surface in the middle of the pond. I noticed that the bigger trout, and I saw at least half a dozen that I estimate to be over 5 pounds, swam along the banks and made routine circles around the pond. I’d seen “cruisers” before in many waters-but had not been able to observe them like this day in Sportsman Park pond. I continued to catch trout everywhere around the pond.

By now all the RVs had departed and the bubbler had stopped. The pond was totally quiet and calm. The only noises heard were from the large birds that were roosting and yapping down in the second pond area. I switched to a heavily hackled wooly worm caterpillar type dry fly thinking that it would be fun to catch fish on the surface. The fish were active on the surface but would not take this medium sized dry fly. They must have been eating emerging midges. I soaked the dry fly until it would sink and then allowed it to slowly sink deep and drift. In the calm, clear water I could often watch this fly under water. Boom. It would get slammed very hard. The fish that would hit it were aggressive and sizable 14”-15” trout. The takers were powerful leapers and jumpers. Often the trout took the fly deep in their mouths. They really wanted this buggy fly. I was surprised at how hard they hit this particular fly.

I was continually amazed at seeing these very large trout cruising the shoreline. They were going round and round the pond a few feet from shore. Again, being alone and with no other fishermen there to disrupt the natural flow of things, I observed many large fishes. No wind, clear water and the bubbler being off made for a great view into the water. Of course I was wearing wrap-a-round polarized sunglasses. These enable you to see underwater especially well, and this eyewear is a must for angling. I saw several huge, dark green grass carp up to three feet long wafting around in there, as well as the hundred or so bright orange Koi goldfish floating around in schools. I even caught sunfish occasionally. I noticed a few large Bass that appeared to be guarding nests at the south end of the pond. A very interesting day at the pond for sure.

I switched to very light colored Mayfly nymph size #10 tied using polar bear underfur. It was a new pattern for me and I wanted to test it. It began to produce fish immediately. These fish were sizable-but not like the giants that I kept seeing cruising the shoreline. These wise old trout were not interested in my flies and I’m sure they saw me too. I was able to see the Mayfly Nymph down deep with the bright sunshine overhead. I could see the trout come up, inspect and sometime take it-sometimes not. A little strip of the line made enough movement to get them to usually strike. Sometimes several trout would compete and blitz the fly. There were times I would catch three trout in three casts. Great fun!

Suddenly I noticed a huge rainbow trout swimming the shoreline. This trout had to be at least 8 pounds! It was thick across the shoulders with a massive head. It was swimming along the shoreline towards me. I could not believe my eyes! This monster trout had a 10” trout sideways in its mouth. It just slowly wagged on by carrying its meal. Wish I would have had my camera out-as I have never seen a trout do this before. I know that large trout become mainly carnivorous-and this sighting made a believer out of me. Makes me think that to catch some of these larger trout you might have luck throwing very large imitation minnow flies to them at dusk or dawn.

I had not until this day known that there were so many large trout in this pond. Guessing that these big boys are holdovers from the annual Rotary Club Fishing Derby plantings over the years. Then too, maybe NDOW snuck a few large ones in there too?  The biggest trout I landed this fine day was 16 inches. Most were not the smaller planter size fish. I caught and released at least 20 trout in the 2 ½ hours that I fished even though I was not really counting.  Of course I missed quite a lot of them, or had them on the line for a short time before losing them. It was a special learning day for me at Sportsman Pond. Losing a big fish is something that you never forget: this is the fifth time I’ve had my clock cleaned like this. It keeps me coming back to the water. Seeing all the large trout in the pond was an eye opener. Fishing in perfect conditions and enjoying the solitude was such a reward too. Try to sneak out there mid-week and enjoy this resource. Good luck.