Clear Lake, Idaho
When the Water is Hard Everywhere
By Larry Tullis
Float tubing in the middle of winter might sound crazy but a died-in-the-wool
float tuber might think that staying indoors all winter is even crazier.
The truth is probably that the tuber is already crazy and just uses the
"I'm going crazy indoors" ploy to finagle another fishing trip. No matter
what the case, winter float tubing is possible year-round at Clear Lake
The lake is fed by massive springs and the water temperature never gets
very cold. In fact the water temperature is in the 50's year-round. Even
though the air temperature gets quite cool (sometimes down right cold),
ice never forms on the water. And, as you might assume, the lake is full
Clear Lake is a small, privately owned lake that sits between the world's
largest fish hatchery and an 18 hole golf course. It's outlet flows a
short way and then empties into the Snake River. The lake is small by
western standards but can accept quite a large amount of fishing pressure
because of the nutrient rich waters and occasional and accidental stocking
from the hatchery. It's not uncommon for an experienced fly fisherman
to catch and release over 50 fish any day of the year even in the
middle of the winter!
The lakes aesthetics leave something to be desired but this is one of
the best winter spots for just having fun. Even though this is not a pristine
place, the water is clear, waterfowl are usually abundant and the large
fish will provide a challenge for anyone. The novice fly redder can refine
his techniques and the expert can easily compare the productivity of fly
patterns or retrieves. Most anglers get rusty over the winter but a trip
or two to Clear Lake before the regular season will keep your senses honed
and that crazy look out of your eyes.
Almost any fly pattern and fishing style will work at one time or another
but there are several techniques that consistently take more fish. The
pond varies in depth down to about 15 or 20 feet. The Area map showing
Clear Lake, Idaho edge bordering the hatchery has numerous waterfall-type
inlets that aerate the lake and create a fair volume of water flowing
through the small lake. The inlets have enough current to fish as you
would fish a stream. Weighted nymphs and a strike indicator do very well.
Try egg patterns, San Juan worms, scuds, hare's ears, prince nymphs and
midge larvae. The strikes are often fast and subtle, so set the hook quickly
if you detect any unnatural movement to your drift. There are so many
fish in the lake that they must be aggressive because of the competition
but will definitely do what they can to avoid being hooked.
Nymphs also work quite well in the lake itself but a completely different
rig is needed. A type I or II sinking line or a 10 foot sink tip leader
rigged with a nymph often is deadly. Fish the nymph slowly and be alert
for the slightest pause, indicating a take.
A strike indicator and a lightly weighted nymph also do well along the
reeds. The fly is cast in towards the reeds and allowed to sink. Watch
the indicator for a slight twitch. A large dry fly works very well as
the indicator and gives the fish a choice.
Hatches are sporadic but there are almost always fish that are willing
to take dry flies. Fish the current edges near the inlets and along the
banks just above the outlet. Fly patterns may or may not be important.
Occasionally the fish are selectively feeding on midges but they will
often take an attractor fly or midge cluster fly such as a double ugly
or Grifffith's gnat. Occasional mayfly hatches can be imitated by an Adams
or thorax dun dry fly.
Wooly bugger patterns don't work as well as you might expect. However,
small buggers and small leeches often keep the action fast. Even better
are small, sparsely tied, light colored streamer patterns. Size 8 or smaller
streamers are often taken by the biggest fish. I fished a crazy Charlie
bonefish fly one day and caught bigger than average fish because it is
a good imitation of a translucent minnow.
Nearly anything stripped or drifted through Clear Lake is bound to catch
fish at some time or another so it is a perfect place to introduce someone
to float tubing and fly fishing.
The rainbow are feisty and jump a lot. The water is clear enough to see
the fish chasing the fly and it only costs $6.50 a day to fish
so what are your waiting for? This is a catch and release water with a
two fish limit so don't expect to take many fish home with you. Because
this is private land, you don't even need an Idaho State license. Give
Clear Lake a try if the stuck in the house, bored of the job, tired of
winter, need more fun blues starts getting to you.
Get a map and aim for Twin Falls, Idaho. Take the road that heads north
to Buhl. Buhl is a sleepy little farm town where several adequate motels
provide a good place to stay. Near the center of town is a road called
CIear Lake road. Take it out several miles and you'll cross the Snake
River. You're pretty much there. The road to the golf clubhouse is on
the far side of the hatchery. Buy your day permit there and you're ready
Copyright Dave Webb, 2005