From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 38 - 5/18/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Rough Weather, Large Crowds Afflict Soda Lake Opening

by Tony Tully

On Wednesday, May 10, with a storm front approaching and the barometer already low and dropping like a stone, the long awaited opening of fishing season on Soda Lake got off to a slow start. It wasn't from a lack of effort as the parking lots, boat ramps, and campsites were packed with trucks and trailers from Rock Springs and Utah. By the day's end a couple of inches of snow were on the ground, a steady west wind was blowing through the camps, and most of the big browns were still in the lake. Local counselor Jack Daniels made the rounds to keep everyone's spirits high.

The fishermen tried various strategies and techniques to cope with the difficult conditions. A boat or float tube is almost mandatory on this lake, especially when the weather is unstable. Few, if any shore or wading fishermen met with much success. Fishermen with spinning gear outnumbered those with fly rods by about ten to one, with both artificial lures and baits being used. Lures used included spinners and spoons, sometimes enhanced with salmon eggs. Baits included shiners, bullheads, and pieces of liver, with a few trying cheese and stinkbaits that seemed more appropriate for catfish than brown trout.

For a fly fisherman, the classic approach to a big lake under poor conditions would be a weighted Wooly Bugger, preferably fished with a sinking leader and a sinking tipped line. All of this is to get the fly down to where the fish are. The Wooly Bugger has a long tail made from maribou feathers, which gives it an enticing action, even when fished slowly as seemed to be working best last week. Wooly Worms and Bitch Creek Nymphs also produced some success. Streamers and other patterns that imitate small fish would also have been a reasonable offering, but I didn't see anyone using them.

As is often true in fishing, the secret was to be there when everyone else isn't. Conditions remained difficult throughout most of the opening weekend, but by Sunday evening were much improved. By then, the crowds had gone back home, and the fish were biting.

Missing in all of the action were large numbers of locals. Because of its unique combination of alkaline water and abundant food sources such as freshwater shrimp, Soda Lake has developed a reputation as the spot for big brown trout. As this reputation has spread, the lake has become more popular with residents of surrounding counties, and even other states. Locals have begun to avoid it. David Smith, hoisting weights at Iron Mike's rather than flies at hungry browns, said that Soda Lake has become like a cartoon with crowds poised at the gate waiting for 12:01 so they can rush in. He noted that "you need a ticket just to get to the boat ramp". Many local fishermen seem to be developing an appreciation for hard to reach mountain lakes and streams where there are no crowds and the esthetics are much better. For these fishermen, the primary ingredient for a successful day is shoe leather.

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