Gone Fishn – Swan Lake
Gone Fishn – part 1
We arrived early afternoon and we were greeted by a friendly campground staffer who was just leaving and advised us there is now a $20 per night fee including firewood. This campground was free last year! Our 21-day stay cost $420 Cad as the first of our unexpected expense! Sorry motels, to stay on budget 4 motels will not see us this trip to make up this cost. Note: your Swan Lake stay is a maximum of 14 days in any one campsite. So if you are staying longer than 14 days you must move your campsite to a different site.
Swan lake is a relatively small lake with an earned reputation for its MONSTER Rainbow Trout!!! This fact draws serious fly fishermen for the early ice-off fishing as this is when the large trout are still active in the top 10 feet of the lake water. These fishermen use barbless hooks and pride themselves on having a 100% of caught fish must be a healthy release. A water fountain runs in the lake all winter long. This aeration provides the trout with year-round oxygen and a smorgasbord of shrimp. It is these shrimp that give Swan Lake trout their deep pink to orange-coloured flesh. It is the catch and release by the fishermen that allows the trout to live long enough to become MONSTER TROUT! The serious fly fisherman can and do catch and release 30—50 trout daily at this time of year during the chironomid hatch! At this time of year, it is likely that 80% of their catch will be 2 kg to 7 kg.
This is an electric motors-only lake. You can have a gas motor on the boat and in the water but you can not run that motor on an electric-only lake. The reason for electric motor only is to remove gas motor pollution from the lake and to reduce shoreline erosion caused by boat wakes, The 3rd benefit is no motor noise! Swan Lake is a self-registration campground with a $20 per night (wood included) camping fee. There is no water other than the lake and no power. Two routinely cleaned outhouse-style toilets, and a fish cleaning station are provided.
Saturday morning we wake to the not-stop squawking of Franklin’s Gulls talking to each other while they pick off the emerging
chironomids. THe entire lake surface was literally covered with Gulls. Hundred’s perhaps a thousand of them covering the surface of the lake. At first look, the lake appeared to be covered in white caps. This was most unusual and was as a result of a huge chironomid hatch. Millions of these male mosquitoes look-alike float to the surface on an air bubble. Under the water the fish gorge themselves. On the surface, the Gulls paddled about and sipped up the emergers all the time squawking to each other! Somewhere in-between the fishermen use hooks called flies to represent the colour and size of the insect larvae and or surface hatch. They have a great time with fly rod fishing the feeding frenzy taking place 5-11 ft below the surface. The chironomids change their colour as the day progresses. My guess as to why they change colour is that a large portion of the colour-changed chironomid will make it to the surface before the fish figure out there was a colour change. The most successful fly fishermen pay attention to what insects are coming to and off the surface of the lake and know what the insect in their nymph stage look like under the surface.
We arrived on May 13th, 2022 we found the campground mostly empty and chose campsite #7 so we had visibility of the lake and could watch for fishermen leaving the lake as they are the best source of what rigging worked for them. All had little luck and all used different techniques so these fishermen were of not particularly helpful with what to use and how to present it.
Our long-stay campsite setup required the boat be emptied into the storage tent in the bottom of the boat, 4—5 hours later, and then the camper is off-loaded from the truck. Then it is time to make firewood, start a fire and fire dry the wood as it is always wet and wet wood is smoky and burns poorly. The now dry firewood pile needs to be protected from the coming rains. When the campsite is set up it is time put the boat in the water then rig up some rods.
This time of year the fly fishing action is under the surface with chironomid flies fished on a fly rod. The fly rod is rigged with a floating line tipped with a strike indicator (bobber) where the leader is attached to the fly line. The leader is set so the fly will gravitate to the length of the leader. The leader was set to be 1 foot above the bottom of the lake. For most of this trip, a 9 – 11 ft leader was fished in 10– 12 feet of water. This rig is then cast out into the lake and if the hatch is properly matched by the fly and is presented in a slow-motion a fish will soon pick up the hook. The strike indicator will disappear below the surface of the water. A quick jerk of the rod is required to set the hook in the fish’s mouth. And the fight begins. 22 plus inch rainbows on a fly rod take some 20 minutes to bring boat side as they truly battle to survive! Their favourite move is to burst the water surface and do a head shake to dislodge a hook that was not kept tight to the fly rod.
Barbless hooks require more skill to land a fish than barbed hooks as any slack, yes any slack in the line during the fight results in the fish getting off. Landed fish are kept in the lake water in large rubber landing nets while the hook is removed. This allows the exhausted fish some recovery time before it is released back into the lake. Moving the net back and forth in the lake with the fish’s head facing the open end of the net does help push water through the fish’s gills and does speed up its recovery before the fish voluntarily swims out of the net as a healthy release. The release of caught fish helps the fish to live long enough to become monster rainbows that can exceed 30 inches and 13 KG! Ice fishermen have stories of not being able to bring a caught trout up a 10-inch diameter ice fishing hole. My husband tells stories of ice fishing Swan lake where the trout are so large that they simply straighten out the hook on their pass by.
My husband is introducing me to the trolling style of fly fishing. For this, we used a 9 ft fly rod with a fly rod reel loaded with backing and then a weight forward full sinking line (grey) to which we tie an 8 ft. leader made of an 8 lb monofilament line finished with the fly of choice. Our fly was a medium-size not large black woolly bugger (bloodsucker leach look alike) with silver pin striping around its body. We let out all our fly lines behind a moving boat. All except for some 20 wraps before the backing. We troll this at varying speeds between 1 mph and 1.2 mph (GPS) and varied water depths (sonar) to find where the fish strike our presentation. We also drive curves as opposed to straight. At irregular intervals, we pulled the fly rod tip toward the front of the boat (this speeds up the hook and raises it). Then we drop the rod tip back towards the back of the boat and this lets the hook sink like an exhausted leech might react. This changes the motion of the flies being trolled as they rise and fall on outside and inside curves. My husband prefers this style of fishing as you get to feel the strike (the fish bite). Then you jerk the rod and set the hook and the fish repetitiously explodes to the surface and does its life or death head shake and fight is on! Bobber fishing you watch your bobber and set the hook when the bobber goes down. You do not feel the strike when bobber fishing.
Note the lack of leaves on the shrubs and trees in our campsite. It’s still drops to zero C overnight! The good thing is that there are no bugs and the few there are are cold stupid! Cold stupid is to say the insects are not fully aware of their surroundings and they are super slow. Mosquitoes hatched yesterday freeze and die while tomorrow’s mosquitoes have to survive a few days before they have eggs and want blood. The plus is … NO BUG OFF required!
In a month there will be all sorts of blood-sucking insects like no-se-ems, black flies, horse flies, yellow jacket wasps and black hornets. All of which enjoy a bite of flesh and blood!!
Beware this is bear country! This young black bear was in our campsite 1st day! It is on its own for the first time in its life as its momma kicked it out of her care as she readies for breeding. They do this to all their 3-year-old cubs. If she goes into heat with cubs by her side every male bear ready for breeding will straight off kill all the cubs with her.
My husband is bear aware and chased this bear out of our campsite with a boat paddle real loud shouting and then sound of splitting wood. You do not want to tree the bear as then you have to wait for it to come down. If treed a game warden may be needed to tranquillize and relocate the bear. This bear is only 1 meter up the tree and came down before chasing it off.
When in bear country here are some simple tips and this link takes you to more in-depth information.
- Do not leave food laying about your campsite.
- Garbage goes in the bear-proof container or if no container then burn it in your campfire.
- Fish are cleaned at the fish cleaning station and you wash the fish cleaning stand when finished or on the lake. Not the lakeshore!
While fishing from our boat I spotted a black bear on the opposite side of the lake. It was hunting/fishing on Crown land. Crown land is owned by the Canadian Government and is available for use by all Canadians. From the safety of our boat only 100 yards away we followed this 4-year-old black bear fishing the shoreline for nearly 2 hours t (see the swan lake video). The day before a female bear on the same side of the lake was in the lake and retrieved a 3 kg Rainbow trout from a pair of seagulls noisily announcing their find. The sow took the trout back to shore where she ate it. She did not share it with her 2 cubs who were playfully climbing trees and wrestling with each other.
The reason for fly rods is simply to make the proper presentation and to truly feel the strength of the fish fighting for its life! The use of barbless hooks means there can never be slack between the hook set and the netting of the fish or the fish will get off the hook!
The chironomid hatch lasted about 10 days. On May 14th the water surface temperature was 42 C. The very next day May 15th the water temperature changed overnight and was 50 C. Did this mean the lake turned over? Turned over means the surface water and the bottom water switch places. The lake’s surface temp when we left was 56 C.
We fished for only a few hours in any one outing and only a couple of times daily as it was FRIGGIN COLD on the water!!! Snowsuit and felt-lined boots are required for comfort on the ice-cold water this time of year as outside temperatures seldom exceed 10 C! Hey that’s the same as or colder than the lake water temperature. Brrrrr!
We caught as many as 9 fish in a single day of 2 three hour outings. Most of the fish we caught were 2—3 kg. 20 inches to 24 inches. One fish came in at nearly 27 inches. One of the fishermen said “ his 22-inch trout weighed in at 10 lbs. You can add 1 lb per inch of fish that would make our 27-inch trout near 6 kg!
The fishing grew ever slower (fewer sticks) as the days passed and the chironomid hatch became spotty. For the last 3 days of our stay, we shared the campground with a group of fishermen that return every spring for this fishing experience. Some of these fishermen fly rod bobber fished in the lake’s shallows. Their lifting their anchors tore up the bottom weeds. These weeds are then both floating and submerged clumps of weeds blown to all parts of the lake. Trolling (dragging a hook behind a moving boat) then requires the fisherman to check their hook for weeds even in 18 feet of water. Retrieving your line and putting your line out every 15 minutes to check for weeds results in your hook not being properly presented in the water near 50% of the time you are fishing. This is what ultimately put us into a time-to-move mode. THANK YOU shallow water bobber fly fishermen!
Swan lake also offers birding. Many different species of birds including yellow warblers, ducks, bald eagles, Franklins gulls and many more.
Internet is hit and miss at the lake so we had to drive outside the campground to get internet service. We had to travel approximately 1 km to obtain phone service and to obtain a strong internet connection for my Zoom English classes we had to drive near 10 km back to the main highway.
A fish stocking truck arrived 3 days before we left and put some 15,000 rainbow 3—5 inches into the lake. This is a smorgasbord for all fish over 1 kg.
The chironomid hatch is over! The algae were already showing up on the sonar and will before long turn into a thick green soup. There have been reports of blue algae mid-summer. You can not eat the fish during a blue algae bloom! The water surface temperature is now mid 56 C was 50 C when we arrived. The fish have gone down deep waiting for the next big insect to hatch before they frenzy feed again. This is our cue to pack up and proceed to the next lake …
FISH-ON the video of 6Kg rainbow trout, 46 cm brown trout, 46 cm eastern brookies, and non-stop walleyes on the hook.
Next Lake – Piere Grey’s Lake Provincial Park.
Have you watched Gone Fishn – Swan Lake ….. The video?
Here is Swan Lake’s – related picture album.
Pierre Grey’s Provincial Park picture album.
Gone Fishn— Related Blog Posts
- Introduction—the why we are Gone Fishn
- How to make a leech trap video.
- Swan Lake Recreation Area
- Pierre Grey’s Lakes Provincial Park
- Fairfax Lake Provincial Park
- Muskiki Lake
- Dolberg Lake
- North Country Fair
- Young’s Point Provincial Park
- Swan Lake Take 2
- Pierre Grey’s Lakes Provincial Park Take 2
- Gregg Lake Provincial Park
- Buck Lake Provincial Park