No beaver ever gave thought to its piscine neighbors, assuming a beaver gives thought to anything beyond its next cellulosic chew toy. But there is a close and symbiotic relationship between beaver ponds, brook trout … and anglers.
The ecological cuddling doesn’t mean squat to the beaver or the trout, but a beaver pond does add potential for a trout angler. Rather than a tree shrouded little creek or one that meanders through a meadow where the fish crouch under the eaves of grass-hung banks, there is a broad and shallow pond, usually still and murky with tannic acid stain.
Evidence of beaver activity.
Renowned fly anglers have mixed feelings about beaver pond trout and most trout writers don’t mention them, favoring fast water. Writer Joe Bates felt that beavers created a wide, shallow pool that would warm too much for brook trout.
“If they cannot go elsewhere they must die,” he wrote.
Of course, unless beavers dam both ends of a pond, the fish can migrate upstream, although they then would be competing for available habitat with other fish.
High summer water temperatures can limit brook trout in some beaver ponds, especially in meadow streams where shade is minimal. The upper limit of brookie tolerance is considered 75 degrees. On the other hand, another summer problem, low water flow in an uninterrupted stream, is one that beavers mitigate by building ponds.
A baby beaver learning how.
Bates claimed that summer’s heated water lost enough oxygen that it would kill fish. He based his thinking on no flow through the beaver dam and no springs in the flowage (and he assumed extended summer temperatures hot enough to warm the water beyond 75 degrees). Chances are a few ponds do suffer this way, but most don’t. Bates also claimed that similar low oxygen water would affect downstream fishing below manmade dams which are a whole lot larger and less porous than beaver dams. In that Bates was partially right. Missouri’s Lake Taneycomo has had a summer low oxygen problem for years, but other states have outstanding tailwater fisheries for trout.
Regardless of the effect on fishing, beavers are not likely to quit building dams on small streams. Whether that’s “good” or “bad” depends on whether you’re a landowner, angler … or a beaver.
Brook trout are not the most sophisticated citizens of the fish world, but that’s not to say that all you have to do is slop a cast on the water any old way. As naïve as brookies are, they are easily spooked by shadows and vibration. The surface of a beaver pond almost always is still — with no wave action or stream riffles to mask you and your fly presentation. Stealth in approach is imperative. Then you may have a wait while things settle down. Fortunately the fish get over it. After all, deer, moose and other critters, including the beavers that built the pond, slosh around, creating vibrations and commotion.
Often the challenge is to get to where the fish are. Even the act of reaching the beaver pond can be an ordeal and then comes the problem of dropping a lure inside a brookie’s comfort zone. Bankside brush can make a back cast impossible.
Wading in a silted pond is a close cousin to wading in a quicksand bog. An alternative is a float tube. Some tube rigs are simple while others are like aquatic rolltop desks, with all sorts of pockets, rod holders and for all I know café latte dispensers. Float tubes put you almost at trout eye level; they also are comfortable, once you get used to moving in reverse, like a crawfish. The largest brook trout I’ve caught was from a float tube in a pond.
If you opt for a fly rod, and depending on the bankside cover, you might have to resort to all sorts of trick casts, especially the fabled roll cast.
For flies, try a woolly bugger or a Royal Coachman, the quintessential “attractor” fly.
It’s not the easiest or the most scenic trout fishing, but it’s a different challenge and what is life without challenge … or fishing?
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