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The Jewel at First Ice

The Jewel at First Ice
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The Jewel at First Ice

I am with my friends Wayne and Leonie, and we decide to take an adventure and go check out some first ice possibilities.  It’s November and with each day the ice gets thicker and now the smallest of ponds and lakes are locked up with enough new ice, it is strong enough to hold a person.  This is a golden time.  And while there are several possibilities, we have our hearts set on trying to catch one of the prettiest trout that swims, and that is the brook trout.

First ice brookies are jewels.

First ice brookies are jewels.

Brookies are shallow at first ice, which has everything to do with their spawn.  I often find them in just a few feet of water, which makes for exciting fishing, as I can see the fish in clear detail as they come in to look at my hook.


We figured them out!

We figured them out!

We arrive at the lake to see it is a perfect sheet of glass, which not so much as a blemish.  It’s an ice skater’s dream.  And on cue, there is a couple who are just coming off the ice with huge smiles.  "The ice is fantastic!" they excitedly tell us, and add, "While we were skating we could see trout darting away from us as clear as day."  That catches our attention! "Where did you see the fish if you don’t mind me asking," I quickly blurt out.

They point down the right shore, "Over there," and then towards a bit of a bay, "Over there," and to a non-decript piece of shoreline across the lake and said, "Over there as well," adding, "I’m sure if you guys walk around, you will be able to see them easily."  "Thank you," I say with a smile and with that, we were super excited and started our way down the right shore.


The ice was super clear and we could easily see the trout swimming below.

The ice was super clear and we could easily see the trout swimming below.

"The ice is so clear!"  I say to them, "I can see everything!" It wasn’t 100 meters distant and I see our first trout, a handsome male, probably 16 plus inches, lazily swimming in a few feet of water.  It was hanging out overtop of some light weed growth.  Without a doubt it saw me to, as it did a course change and made its way out to deeper water.

We see more fish, a pair here, another single, then "Oh boy Freddie, here’s a bunch!" Wayne announces. I make my way to him just in time to see a flight of 20 to 30 beautiful trout gliding out to deep water.  Impressive and inspiring seem to be the right words for the moment. We did have a problem though. Every fish would move away from us the moment we were visible. We are being actively avoided.


Just a beautiful fish

Just a beautiful fish

Given the sightings, we call it and set up camp.  We put out a couple of set lines with light line on JawJackers and stick some bait on.  I never know what might be the flavour of the day when it comes to brook trout, so I’m packing worms, maggots, shrimp, and PowerBait.   I settle in over a hole in about six feet of water and get ready to wait them out.  It seems kind of ridiculous, since everything is so clear, but I figure if I don’t move, I may not spook fish as they draw near.  Well...that backfired.

I had a couple of maggots tipped on a small fly and Wayne, who was 50 feet distant says, "Get ready Freddie, a school is heading your way."  Excited I wait, and then every so lightly give the fly and maggots a tiny 1 inch jig, to suggest life.  "Holy crap!" Wayne said, "They saw your wrist move and the scattered!  They’re gone."  It was demoralizing.  But the ultra-clear conditions combined with the ultra-clear ice were keeping the trout on edge and they were bolting at the faintest hint of trouble.  This was a problem.

It was readily apparent that this was going to be our biggest challenge of the day, so I went for a walk.  I was circling the entire lake to see if there was any white or cloudy ice that might conceal our presence.  No such luck.  My next thought was to move some lines out deeper, in ten or more feet of water to see if this would help, but we could easily see that deep and the fish could easily see us too.  No dice with this either.  Finally we set out our lightest lines on JawJackers and put them a good 100 feet away from us, hoping that this would not spook the trout, and it worked.


The JawJacker and light line was our ticket to success!

The JawJacker and light line was our ticket to success!

Maybe 10 minutes after we walk away from our JawJackers, one of them springs to life. We run over to clearly see a beautiful male brook trout under the ices pulling against the line, twisting and turning. I marvel at its beautiful markings and colours; its vibrant white edged fins glowing in the clear water.  Wayne is on the rod and he patiently waits for the fish to tire, applying light pressure.  It takes a couple of minutes, but the brookie is losing some of its steam and is not running as hard when it is near the hole.  With the fish tiring, the timing is right so Wayne dials up the pressure and the brookie easily comes up the hole and slides on the ice.

A trophy in every way. What an amazing experience!

A trophy in every way. What an amazing experience!

"It’s gorgeous!" Leonie exclaims. "It’s a beauty," Wayne adds. "It certainly is," I say.  We take a few pictures and send him back, a beauty of a male.  It was enough to catch this fish, and on this day, that’s all it needed to be.  With our solution to spooky trout working, we set out our JawJackers again and walk away.  In 10 minutes another rod springs to life.  The fish, another beautiful male, is caught, and for the rest of the day we get a steady parade of bites with equally big and beautiful trout doing the biting.  
Brookies are my first ice jewel, and make for some fantastic fishing experiences.  I am eager to get out on the early ice this year and have another set of cool experience with one of the prettiest fish that swims.

 

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