Chironomid Chronicles: Nunnally Lake, March 24th, 2009

Gil C. and I decided that we’d had enough of the Beda fishery and wanted to sharpen our Chironomid skills, so we decided to hit Nunnally Lake for the first time in 2009. We met up at Gil’s place at 7 am, hitching up my trailer with my Sears 10′ pram and in his truck bed was his 8′ wooden toad of a pram, Smurfette. I call it Smurfette because the boat is painted with several layers of paint, from what I could see was orange, red and then this electric blue top coat. Gil had inherited this boat from his cousin Stone who lives up in BC. When Stone upgraded to a Lowe Jon boat, he ended up giving this old relic to Gil. He only paid $50 for it back in the day, so Gil has put this pram to good use on our previous year trip to the Okanogan. The real test would be rolling both prams on dollys for half a mile over soft sand, rocks, sage brush, reeds and eventually to the water. Boy, were we up for a big test, because the hike in was some of the hardest pushing, pulling that we’d encountered. Partly, because we went under the barbed wire fence which led to a series of big rock outcroppings. We had to lift and hoist the boats over the rock piles. Thankfully, we didn’t end up coming back this route but should’ve followed the other pram fisherman to the other path, which would have been a heck of alot easier. Live and learn!

We finally arrived set up on the water at 11 a.m. The drive over the Pass was snowy, with the Pass temp at 32 degrees and snow and slush on the roadway. We saw a big white Dodge Ram with a pram rigged up on the bed. He’d spun out and hit the center divider, too bad, think his fishing day was ruined! Yikes! After seeing another lady in an Expedition spin out, we were a bit concerned for the route back, as a winter storm advisory was in place. But we continued on without too much worry, as we were headed to a happy place.

Nunnally Lake is reached from I-90, after passing Vantage and the Columbia River, take the first right and head south towards Beverly. After you pass Wanapum dam and go under the large bridge, take a left on Lower Crab Creek road and proceed a few miles til you see the Public Fishing sign and the parking lot for Nunnally Lake. When we arrived, we met up with a group of others who’d camped there the night before. They had set up a nice camp trailer and we could tell they were pram guys. One Idaho state plate and the two others were WA. I briefly chatted with the gent and he said they’d fished fairly well stripping and trolling and one of his companions did well with a hare’s ear under an indicator.

We proceeded to hitch up and make our way to the water ASAP to see for ourselves. The start of the trail wasn’t bad, as the surface is hard and the dollys worked well with the relative light load of the pram + anchors + lunch + drinks + oars, you get the picture. It got hard when we hit sand…bogged down and tough to pull and or push.

From 11:30-1:30 there was a strong chironomid hatch with size 16-18 bugs coming off the water. We set up with our indicators and anchored up in 15′ water near the point of where we’d launched. Within minutes Gil and I were both onto fish. I was fishing a bloodworm pattern in size 16 with good success, Gil was fishing a Rusty Nail. Fish caught were all Rainbows, very healthy and full of bugs, when sampled. In much better shape then the Beda counterparts with more spunk and fight to them. They ranged in size from 16″ to 20″, all nice fish! BTW.. the water temp, was 48 degrees. Anything near or above 45 is good for Chironomid hatches and trout activity, as their metabolisms are much nicer than if the water was @ 40 degrees.

For those couple of hours, we landed a released many fish and then it died down. We decided to paddle over to the Northside into shallower water, 7-9′ and try out luck there. Our choice was a good one, as we landed many more fish on that side, not as big, but alot more action on emergers. We even both caught some spiny rays (Pumpkin Seeds, Bluegills) and I landed my first Tiger trout. It would be 1 of 5 landed today! The fish on the shallower part of this lake were smaller, from 10-11″ for the Tiger, and 14-16″ on the Rainbows. Patterns that worked were our Roche Lake specials (grey with black ribbing), Chromers, and Bloodworms. We didn’t bother to switch sizes, as the fish were really keyed in on those 18’s and our success was fairly predictable. Thats why I was able to get so much video footage.

NOTE: all the feeding trout with the evidence of slurping rings on the video… There were many trout actively feeding on emergers as well as the larval stage.
When this action died down, around 3:30, we decided to paddle over near the inlet, where the other pram fisherman were anchored at, by this time the wind started kicking up and it was harder to row. Not much of hatch was happening, but the swallows were still buzzing around, so we hung around for a little more. I found a drop off between 5-14′ of water and dropped anchor, and ended up with 3 more Tiger trout in succession. There must’ve been a school around! All taken on the Chromie.

We paddled near the big house, I fished the bay near the house, near the shoals, but I didn’t have much else, so we decided to pack up and head home. Boy, time flies fast when youre having fun and we wanted to be on the road before the snow and the Pass. We also tried casting and stripping bugs, but it wasn’t as productive as Chironomid fishing, but it was worth a shot in between hatches and when the fish weren’t too interested in our offerings.

All in all, it was an EPIC day for me, I landed 36 fish, of those 5 were Tiger Trout and the rest were Rainbows. I didn’t count the Pumpkin fish, because, I wasn’t targeting them, so really good day. We’re hoping the action will remain good, as next week we’d like to hit Lenice in search of some bigger fish.


9′ 5 wt. GLX Loomis Max Line Speed
Galvan Torque T-5 with 5 wt. line
Custom Flurocarbon leader 18′ tapered to 6X (3.5 lb) test
Assorted Chironomids
Pop Top Indicators
*** Most importantly *** Sears 1970’s vintage 10′ Pram that I bought for $100 and put on the Scotty anchor locks for another $50.

*** I just got Chuck Gs. report from an outing he did on Friday, Saturday 3/20-21st.  He ended up fishing Nunnally with very similar results.  Posted with his permission:

I went to Burke and Quincy Lakes on Friday and then to Nunnaly on Saturday. Burke was mostly lots of small fish (12 to 14″) so I switched over to Quincy around 1 PM and rowed over to the long arm that runs kind on North East on the far side of the lake from the boat ramp. There were several fly fishermen I could see in Pontoon boats and one in a Spring Creek pram, and lots of Mexican bank fishermen in various locations. As soon as I got my gear in the water I started catching fish, a few of them what we call “Franken-fish”, short (16 inches) and very fat. I caught 10 or 12 and then the hurricane force winds started so I pulled anchor and headed out of there. It took all my strength and endurance to make it back to the launch area.  There were waves breaking over the bow and I was moving about one foot for every sweep of the oars. The guys in the pontoon boats were still stranded on the North shore when I left, waiting for the wind to abate. I decided to stay over night and see if the wind calmed down in the morning and it did, so I headed for Lenice. There were 31 vehicles there at the parking lot at 8 AM, so back to Nunnaly I went. There was only one vehicle there, so I loaded my pram on my dolly wheels and off through the desert I went. Just before I got to the start of the downslope that goes to the lake, the axle broke on my dolly,so I ended up dragging my boat over the rocks and sagebrush down to the lake and through those infernal bull rushes. I loaded all my gear up and went to the West end of the Lake where I knew there was a road I could drive in on so I could get my pram out of there, even if meant having to pay a fine, because the dolly was un-fixable and there was no way I could drag the pram all the way out.I dropped the dolly off and went fishing. The fishing was a tad slow at first, as I tried some deep water leech fishing and then nymphs and damsels. Finally caught a couple on a baby damsel and took throat samples, but found no recognizable bugs but lots of Daphnia. I went to the West end and sunk a blood worm down in 25 feet under an indicator, and started catching fish right away. Amazingly, they were eating Chironomids so I switched over to the chrome with black rib size 16 and 18 bugs that I saw in the throat samples. Caught 10 or 12 more, and then it slowed down in the deep water but I noticed a few rises in the shallows that looked like fish bulging on sub-surface chiromomids. I headed in there and fished with a dry line, no indicator and 15 feet of leader and had non stop action till 5 PM when the fish stopped hitting. I estimate I caught 25 or so in the shallows (8 to 10 feet). I was all alone on that end of the lake and it was delightful fishing. The fish were 16 to 19 inches and some fought well, while others came right to the boat. Most were in good shape, not as fat as the Quincy or Beda fish but bright and clean. I am having my dolly welded and reinforced so I can get back in to either Beda, Lenice or Nunally the end of this week. I may try Quincy again, as those fish are very strong and lots of fun to catch, but not if there is a forecast for winds over 15 MPH. All in all a good trip and the difficulties are just part of the experience and certainly not life threatening. ~Chuck G.

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