By: Slim Pickens

“The true fisherman approaches the first day of fishing with all the sense of wonder and awe of a child approaching Christmas.”

Robert Traver

“It’s all about dry flies and leaky waders.”

Patrick Paul Pickens

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness horse races are over but there is another race right around the corner. I’m not talking about the Belmont, either.

Sportsman and outdoor enthusiasts are racing out in droves, placing bets that their tents will still be there after being staked out last weekend, while jockeying for camping spots and wondering about the odds of landing some big ones.

Sometimes opening day here in the North Idaho Panhandle reminds me of being at the track.

I can almost hear the announcer.

They’re all in their gates…and there they go!

Opening day for stream season is Saturday, May 28 2005. Reports are looking good for the big three. Water level, weather, and our favorite, fish.

Those in the area know about the water.

For instance, according to the USGS, water level measured near Shoshone Creek on the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene is running at 600 cubic feet per second. Last year at this time, it was running at 1000. It looks a lot more like late June than May.

South Fork of Coeur d’Alene River

You can look at this as the glass being half full or half empty. Yes, it will affect conditions this summer. However, we’ll get to fish some great water earlier.

Weather predictions are great, forecasting Sunny conditions with a chance to hit the 80-degree mark. With the water low and the sun being out, remember to approach holes carefully. The fish will have great visibility.

Reports for the number of large fish in the Spokane Drainage, namely the Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe Rivers, are the best in recent years. So let’s have some fun, remembering the possibility of a short season.

A collection of different colored attractor patterns, such as a Royal Wulff or Humpy, will probably do fine on opening weekend. Fish may also key in on Green Drakes, although the hatch is periodical right now. Nymphs and streamers will probably catch some of the largest.

Round out your flies with some large black ants. The Carpenter Ant is a staple for many fish species in early spring here in North Idaho. Westslope cutties love em’!

Although I practice catch and release, I have watched other fishermen clean a dinnertime trout at this time of year. You would be shocked at the high percentage of black ants that a trout can consume.

So yes, I do venture out on opening weekend. I just can’t help myself. I am prepared though.

I stay friendly, preferring to talk to people about the day as they march out of what I believe to be my secret fishing hole. I leave the river to give others ample room. I also make sure to obey stream laws as I know from personal experience that the Fish and Game are out in force.

Generally, I just come to terms with the fact that I will not be alone on this fine day. I just might even catch a fish or two.

I would also like to answer some inquiries about Mirror Lake.

Mirror Lake

The Mirror Lake that I have referred to in this report is located approximately 7 miles south of Sandpoint, Idaho.

A friend took me here several years ago and I have been going back the week before Memorial Day ever since.

The only access that I know of is at the Mirror Lake Resort. Expect to find some campers there and the host. I pay 4 dollars for my boat and myself to enjoy the fishing. (They also rent boats.) I guess you can call it pay for play, but you will have to pay if you take the short drive to Round Lake State Park as well.

It has always been worth it. It is a fun lake to fish for mostly stocked rainbow trout, with an occasional brookie. For more information on stocking in the North Idaho Panhandle region, visit the Idaho Fish and Game at Idaho Fish Stocking. This is a motor less lake, which makes it perfect for pontoon boats, float tubes, and canoes.

Rainbow trout caught on Mirror Lake.

To get there, take Sagle Road east off of Highway 95, and continue on Sagle Road one mile until it connects with Talache Road, where you veer right. There is a sign here that reads Sheppard Lake 1.5 miles and Mirror Lake 3.5. You will not see the lake from the road, but you will see the sign for Mirror Lake Resort. Take this left and you will be there shortly.

As the season is just getting underway, this a short report. There is much more to come.

In the meantime, I have lines to clean and a vest to organize.

I look forward to hearing how opening weekend is for the readers of Rural Northwest News.

Remember, always check your regulations before starting out in a new season. There are often changes or restrictions on portions of rivers from previous years.

See you on the river.

Slim