Ross Lake is a huge body of water, approximately 23 miles long extending from the northern Washington border to just inside Canada. The trout and char inhabiting this vast watershed are as wild as can be, having never been supplemented with a hatchery program. Ross, like a lot of high mountain impoundments, is deep and rocky, relatively free of vegetation and shallow shoals, and accordingly, doesn't support the metric tons of insect life needed to grow and sustain truly big trout. What it does have, however, are redside shiners...gads of them.
The shiners are everywhere, dimpling on the surface, balling up in great schools around woody debris, great dark lines of swarming minnows, stretching for yards or even miles. There are a lot more shiners than trout, and the lake's rainbows have the luxury of eating them on their terms, seeking out the best geographic locales to herd and corral them into mega bait wads that make them easy pickings. In terms of fly selection, it's often worthwhile to think outside the box when the natural food source is so vast that it feels seemingly impossible for your fly to get noticed amidst the scores of real McCoys.
Sometimes going smaller or noticeably bigger than the average shiner is the key, sometimes showing off a pattern that is roughly similar but a little off. The maroon or burgundy marabou in the Ross Lake Shiner seems to hold this appeal. So next time you fish Ross Lake or any other fishery where one bug or organism is dominating the menu, imagine the kid that grows up eating only red and green M&M's. Put a few blue ones on the table and see which disappear first.
Ross Lake Shiner Recipe:
Hook: Gamakatsu B10S #6
Thread: White 140 Denier Ultra Thread
Eyes: Medium red or yellow Pseudo Eyes
Top Wing: White Marabou
Bottom Wing: (From bottom) Silver Ice Wing Fiber, Burgundy Marabou, Blacklight Angel Hair, Dark Olive Marabou, Olive Black Barred UV Predator Wrap
Lateral Flash: 2 strands of 1/100" Micro Pearl Flashabou down each side
Head Finish: Thin UV resin or Liquid Fusion mixed with red pearl Loon UV tying powder
The Confluence Beer Pairing: Grab a clean growler, pick up some fresh limes, even a smidgeon of salt and fill 'er up with 64 ounces of icy cold Chuckanut Brewery Mexican Lager before you sit down to tie the Ross Lake Shiner. Few beers taste quite so good on a sweltering day.