Round Valley Reservoir Trout in Shore Casting Range
Round Valley Reservoir is excellent trout fishing year round—so long as you have a boat. With most of its 2350 acres of gin-clear water deeper than 50 feet—the deepest about 180 feet—trout have huge ranges of cool, oxygenated water through the hottest summer weather. Brown and rainbow trout suspend in 20 to 30-foot mid-reservoir depths, while larger lake trout typically inhabit summer depths of about 90 feet. All the action is out of range of shore casters, and during summer most of the bass fishing is too.
None of the three trout species reproduce, but they do behave as if they would. Sometime around October 10th the first rainbows sweep in so close to the bank they easily get spotted, but not so easily enticed to strike. Better to eyeball and contemplate these fish than get all worked up trying to catch them. Most will be 14 or 15 inches, some 20 inches or even much larger—in recent years some 30-inch rainbows have been caught from shore, usually in 10 to 30-foot depths rather than at your ankles. On occasion a lake trout surprises an angler.
Use six-pound test line for maximum casting range, and send half to full-ounce egg sinker rigs as far out as you can get them, most times, although sometimes it's better fish closer to the edge. If you buy a map it will show deeper water in Ranger Cove than to the left of the main ramp, but the key is to get the bait away from where trout may see you—plenty trout get caught in ten feet of water near the boat ramp, and sometimes much shallower by casting diagonally along the edge. A 7 to 9-foot light power rod is better for casting range, but I’ve always managed with 5 ½-foot light and medium power. It’s a good idea to use as many as three rods per man.
Run the line through the egg sinker, tie on a barrel swivel, tie to it a 24 to 48-inch length of leader, and a size 6 plain shank hook to the leader. Shiners work, but tend to get caught in aquatic vegetation. (On a rare occasion a pickerel strikes and cuts the line with razor-sharp teeth.) The most preferred bait is M&M’s—marshmallow and mealworm combinations. Power bait becomes more popular, but to abandon the more home-spun approach entirely might be a demise. As absurd as this may seem, shore-bound trout eagerly hit these small marshmallows tipped with a mealworm. Some anglers swear by Halloween orange. But the real purpose of the marshmallow is to float the mealworm. Whoever thought of this was very clever. And it works. You certainly will not catch a bonus bass on M&M, possible on shiners—I saw a three-pounder caught in December—but most likely you will catch more trout, and even fish well over 20 inches hit this offering.
It’s an odd way to go about fishing for species renowned for entomological selectivity, the art of imitations to tempt them subtle and refined. But so is dropping herring down from over a boat gunnel and drifting without any need to cast at all. The truth about still fishing, as it’s called, is that anticipation builds when fishing is slow, and when fishing is fast it is exciting. It gives an angler objective to just sit for once in this busy world. Most trout caught are around 15 inches, so expectation extends towards the possibility of a large fish that trumps the usual size.
I’ve enjoyed sitting on a comfortable boulder or fold-out chair and looking long out over immense water, taking it in deeply. To take in space is to widen and deepen my consciousness. Sometimes I’ve brought along a book to read. That can be an antidote to getting lost.
As mentioned, most of the action is in the boat launch and Ranger Cove areas, and the shorelines accessible from Lot 2. To get to Ranger Cove, go through the open gate as you approach the dike walkway and cross the dike, go through the far gate, and walk to the left. From the immediate corner and for a long way around the shoreline is productive fishing. You can also make your way down among the huge basalt boulders along the dike and do well—just respect those rocks, since a broken leg would easily result from failure to heed their danger. Lot 2 is accessed through the main Recreation Area gateway, and if you get information on trails leading to the back of the reservoir, trout can be caught far away from where you park.
This fishing lasts into May. The spawning urge has gone, but trout stay close. The reservoir rarely freezes and serves a number of people through the winter—day or night, since the main launch area remains open.