5 best high lakes lures

Forums Forums Public High Lakes Forum High lakes discussion 5 best high lakes lures

Viewing 25 reply threads
  • Author
    • #81403

        I thought I would get this site a bit more active and see what your top 5 high lakes fishing lures/flies are. I’ll start with mine but I haven’t put a ton of thought into my selections.

        1. Rooster tail (black, brown, or red)
        2. Mepps Anglia (gold blade with orange on body)
        3. Fly and bubble (usually a wooly worm and a clear bubble that can be hard to find as I hate the green and red ones. They can scare every fish in a small lake real easy)
        4. egg and splitshot (mostly creeks)
        5. mosquito/Adams fly (when fly fishing)

        What’s your top 5?


      • #85516
        Brian Curtis

          Great topic. It is interesting that my list will be far different. I’m going to have to separate fly and lure fishing. Conditions and circumstances dictate which I use so I’ll cop out and separate them.

          1. Wyoming Whoopie. More properly known as Jakes-Spin-A-Lure. Brass is best followed by black and white. I rarely use silver. These spoons cast a mile and have erratic darting action that is very effective. I’ve seen lakes where it didn’t matter what color lure you used, but the Whoopies were effective while other lures couldn’t catch a thing.

          2. Flatfish. Orange, red, or black are my favorites. These are my preferred lures for trolling.

          3. Kamlooper Jr. Brass and orange or red and white. These 3/16 oz spoons are good casters and have a lot of action when retrieved slowly. My preferred spoon for shallow situations.

          4. Krocodile. Brass with a red stripe is my favorite, but lots of others are very effective. My favorite lure for fishing very deep.

          5. Rooster Tail. Black. I rarely use Rooster Tails because they are fussy to fish and don’t cast well. The blade has to be started with a jerk of the rod tip and they are severe line twisters even with a snap swivel. But when fish are keying on black ants and I can’t fish flies they can be extremely effective when nothing else will work. So they mostly sit unused, but sometimes they are needed.


          1. Elk Hair Caddis. Easy to tie, floats well, visible and effective.

          2. Adams. A good general fly.

          3. Carey Special. Sometimes you can puff them to drive fish crazy.

          4. Hopper. Fish don’t seem to hit anything quite so hard as a hopper.

          5. Black ant. Similar to the Rooster Tail, I don’t fish this fly often, but when they’re keying on ants they often leave everything else alone.

        • #85517

            1. size 12 soft hackle hares ear
            2. size 12 zug bug
            3. Acme Kastmaster blue/silver
            4. mepps spinfly
            5. size 8-10 black wolly bugger

          • #85518

              Yes, everyone tends to have vastly different favorites.

              Here are mine:
              1.(maybe this is 1 to 3) 1/4oz Z-Ray, “brass” pattern (gold with red spots painted on one side). Z-Rays have a spectacularly irregular and enticing action that a fishing friend of mine once said “dang, it even makes ME hungry watching it”. I use Z-Rays on something like 99% of my casts. The “brass” amounts to my default lure, if fishing lakes with rainbows or brookies, the two most common species in CA high lakes. For goldens, my default is a 1/4 oz Z-Ray pattern known as the Z-Hooker, which is gradient shaded from purple through whitish to orange with black spots on one side (all silver on the other). For cutthroat and browns, I tend to use the 1/4 oz brown trout Z-Ray pattern which is gradient shaded from dark brown to yellow to whitish with black spots on one side, silvered on the other.

              2. Golden or Silver/Blue Kastmasters (1/4 oz). These are most of the other 1% of my casts. The casting range of the Kastmaster is unmatched for any lure I’ve tried of equivalent weight (a 1/4 oz Kastmaster will outcast a 1/4 oz Z-Ray by a good 20%). I think the action of a Kastmaster is better at ultralow speed retrieves than a Z-Ray, although, on the average, I still tend to stick to my Z-Rays for my slow bottom-hugging retrieves. The Kastmaster is probably the most popular lure among the high lake lure fishers I know in CA, and many I know have done exceptionally well using it . A special mention goes to my “Gilmore Lake Special” which is the gold 3/8 oz Kastmaster. This is the lure that claimed a 32.5″ mackinaw out of Gilmore Lake, and the only lure in my box that could reach the area the fish were hanging out on that particular day.

              3. Honorable mention lure. There was this 1/4oz Wonderlure pattern that I saw back in 1980 and (sadly) haven’t seen since: green shading to yellow overprinted by a red honeycomb pattern. When you fish a lot of lures certain color combinations you simply know will be deadly (I was so sure about the Z-Hooker when it came out, I ordered several dozen from the manufacturer without ever having tried it in action). This particular Wonderlure was one of those. I picked it up in a store in Hamilton, MT, when I was working up in those parts in the summer of ’80. It consistently outperformed my Super Duper and Z-Rays (in those days, the only Z-Rays I had were silver/red and fluorescent red) in fishing the high lakes of the Bitterroot Wilderness. Sadly, I lost the last of those sometime in the summer of 1981 and have never seen one since.

              I like the description of that Wyoming Whoopie. I wonder if I can find those anywhere in Calif.

            • #85519
              Sandy McKean

                1. Elk Hair Caddis. Easy to tie, floats well, visible and effective.

                2. Adams. A good general fly.

                3. Carey Special. Sometimes you can puff them to drive fish crazy.

                4. Hopper. Fish don’t seem to hit anything quite so hard as a hopper.

                5. Black ant. Similar to the Rooster Tail, I don’t fish this fly often, but when they’re keying on ants they often leave everything else alone.

                Jesus! I guess I’ve been fishing with you toooooo many times Brian. These are EXACTLY my favorite flies. I don’t remember us talking about this in the field. Great minds think alike I guess!

                Everyone should note that these flies are for HIGH LAKES (in nearly any western state). River fishing can be quite different where the fish may key on a specific pattern only on that day and at that time.

                For high lakes, the bottom line for me has always seemed to be that you only need 4 types of dry flies: light, dark in small and large. Having lots of patterns is more interesting to fisherman than to high lake fish.

                P.S. I will argue against myself (yep, already :D) in one way. I do like to have several terrestial patterns besides black ants and hoppers. Little beetles, even a small mouse! Nymphs are another story, but Carey Specials (especially with red….thanks to DaveW) are still my favorite.

              • #85520
                Ken Masel

                  This is a fabulous topic. It’s interesting to learn what others are using. I’m pretty set in my choices because what I choose to use works for me most of the time. But I’m always open to other ideas.

                  I don’t like spinners but I will usually toss spoons:

                  1 – 1/4 oz Little Cleo in brass customized with a strip of red prism tape. This is my goto spoon, especially when fishing for cutthroat, that I will use most of the time.

                  2 – 1/4 oz Little Cleo in silver customized with a strip of clear prism tape. For me, I found silver works better when chasing rainbows.

                  3 – 1/4 oz Hot Rod in brass. I used to have Hot Rods in pink with a white stripe that worked quite well. One afternoon, a pink Hot Rod hooked thirty-four fish in thirty-five casts. But, I don’t think pink are made anymore so I use brass.

                  4 – For brookies, a small Super Duper has always worked for me when other spoons wouldn’t catch fish. I haven’t found one particular color that works better than others. I think I have either brass or brass & red in my box.

                  5 – In the bottom of my box, I have one spoon called a Phoebe. It’s silver and is cut to resemble a silhouette of a fish. I remember buying this spoon with my allowance when I was about 8. 30+ years later, I still have that spoon and it gets used every once in a while.

                  For bugs, I go with dry flies 95% of the time whenver I choose to use a fly. For some reason, I’ve never spent much time using nymphs in mountain lakes:

                  1 – A black, foam-backed Humpy. I figure the shape and color either resembles a black fly or a beetle. I’ve also used yellow when I’ve seen fish take drowned yellowjackets. And, the foam-backed version is virtually indestructible.

                  2 – Elk Hair Caddis with a peacock herl body.

                  3 – Parachute Adams. I like the parachute version because I find it easier to see.

                  4 – Any sort of terrestrial pattern.

                  5 – Black beadhead chironomid. While I’ve spent way too much time fishing chironomids in lowland lakes, I only resort to chironomids in mountain lakes when everything else has failed.


                • #85521
                  Brian Curtis

                    As far as spoons go, so far we’ve all listed brass and red as our first choice of color. It probably isn’t coincidence that we’ve we’ve settled on that color combo as our first choice. Shawn’s spinners are more split between brass and silver (depending on what color blade the red Rooster Tail has. Black has a silver blade and brown has brass).

                    I’ll be trying out some of the other lures people have listed here.

                  • #85522

                      Well, mine are,
                      1. Thunder bug red
                      2. Mepps red
                      3. Fly bobber, any good impitation fly
                      4. Black leach that I tie up
                      5. Flat fish, last restort.


                    • #85523
                      Brian Curtis

                        I’ve never even heard of at Thunder Bug. Do you like the brass or silver blade? With the plain or dressed hook? 1/4 oz?

                      • #85524

                          Now that I’ve had time to put more thought into my top 5, I thought it would be good to separate the lures from the flies. I fly fish about 90% of the time so I found many of your lure choices interesting. I also neglected spoons in my first post and have listed my favorite, the krocodile.

                          1. Rooster Tail (black or brown) – yeah, I get lots of line twist but they were the first lure I fished high lakes with when I was a kid and they are fun to fish. The shine from them is exceptionally bright and in many lakes you can watch the take.
                          2. Mepps – Many have listed specific mepps lures but I usually just use the gold or silver ones with a red/orange bead on the body.
                          3. Fly and Bubble – It’s technically not fly fishing but this is my “go to” method for fishing trout. This works great in lakes that you can’t get a clear back-cast and are too small for a type of watercraft.
                          4. Krocodile – gold/brass and orange. From Lahontan Cutthroat to the cutts in high mountain lakes, it just works.
                          5. Egg and splitshot. For outlet streams and creeks, it works great.

                          1. Elk Hair Caddis – I try and fish dry flies 99% of the time. This is my favorite in a size 18-24. It doesn’t fool all the trout, but it’s ability to float high and be highly visible make it my favorite.
                          2. Mosquito/Adams – Ever been to a high mountain lake that doesn’t have mosquitos? Sz 16-20 are great
                          3. Wooly Worm – I like the wooly worm without the tail usually, but Wooly Buggers can also work. Black and olive green are my favorites. I tie them with lead on the body so they get down to the fish in deep water.
                          4. Griffiths Knat – size 20-24 – I use this pattern for stingy trout that are cruising the shallows. It can represent everything from a mosquito to a chironomid.
                          5. Ant – I prefer to fish my ants low in the water film like they are drowning. If they float too high, they don’t make a great ant imitation, rather they imitate something more like a beetle. Just under the surface is the way to go. I also usually fish them near the edge to cruising fish.

                        • #85525

                            I’ve done most of my high lakes fishing with a nickel/blue 1/8 or 1/16 oz. Kastmaster. It’s always worked, and I’ve never read into high lakes trout enough to actively seek out alternatives.

                            Based on my fishing experience elsewhere, though, I will agree with Brian in that the Roostertail is a pretty tough spinner to fish effectively. Or, to put it blunty (my words now), the Roostertail is not a good spinner, and has only become so widely used because of its availability in most every tackle shop from here to California. Specifically, it is underweighted, has a bad clevis, and the too-thin blades are made with cheap finishes.

                            Harsh words, I know, but the point is, a well-built french-bladed spinner in size #1 or #2, brass or copper finish with lure tape and hackle tail or hook tubing of your choice (black hackle is my choice) will outfish a Roostertail every time, often thoroughly (esp. in streams). Also, you can make these spinners for about 50 cents apiece.

                            Good topic.


                          • #85526
                            Dave Weyrick

                              Gold 1/4 oz. Thomas Bouyant. Usually the only lure I fish.

                              Just had a blast in Lincoln Pot (Skokomish Wilderness) catching CT to 13″ with a size 8 stimulator. Poor bastards couldn’t leave it alone,

                            • #85527
                              Sandy McKean

                                You’re back, you poor wet bastard!

                              • #85528
                                Curt Peterson

                                  Great idea for a thread! Nice to see the board getting more posts lately, too!

                                  I fish almost exclusively fly and bubble. I keep wanting to get into fly fishing, but pretty much every puddle of water I go to seems impossible to backcast on. Are high lakes flyfishers all using flotation? I’d be curious if any are shore fishing.

                                  Anyway, in the past 4 months I’ve got down to about 5 flies that I use. I keep trying others, but none come close to what these catch:

                                  1. Beadhead Hare’s Ear Nymph: probably 3/4 of all fish caught are on this. Pretty much every high lake population has been interested in this. Often when nothing else works, this is the fly. Usually size 14-16.

                                  2. Adams: if they’re rising, this seems to work. Not nearly as effective as getting under the water, though.

                                  3. Elk Hair Caddis: another one like the Adams. If they’re rising but not taking the Adams, I’ll switch to the EHC. If that doesn’t work, I go to the Nymph.

                                  4. Midge: essentially a furry hook, this is pretty successful. Even though the fish rarely get bored with the Hare’s Ear, I do 🙂 I’ll pull out the midge and they’ll go for that pretty happily.

                                  5. Ant: If I have a nice angle on overhanging vegetation, fishing underneath it with an ant can be a lot of fun. The fish seem to just hang out there and wait for them to fall. Must be a lot of nutrition in them, because they hit them pretty hard, too.

                                  I have a bunch of other patterns, but they spend their life in the fly box. I keep trying one out here and there, but have little luck. One of these days I’ll re-do my box with just the flies I mentioned above in all kinds of sizes and variations. If none of those are working, it’s usually time to stop fishing.

                                • #85529

                                    Lots of ideas for things to try out here for me. 🙂 The Thunderbugs were a part of my smallmouth bass arsenal when I lived in Ohio but I’ve never heard of them used for trout either.

                                    Here’s what usually produces for me:

                                    1. Jakes Spin-a-lure (any color except black)
                                    2. Olive Bead-Head Wooly Bugger
                                    3. Frog-colored flatfish
                                    4. Blue and silver Phoebe
                                    5. Prince Nymph

                                  • #85530
                                    Brian Curtis

                                      This is another interesting example of how different people have different experiences with the same lures. I’ve had good luck with black Spin-a-lures and I’d put silver at the bottom of that list. I really like frog patterned flatfish in low lakes or lakes that are technically high lakes but have conditions like low lakes, but I’ve never had good luck with frog patterns in higher waters.

                                    • #85531
                                      Ken McLeod

                                        …a huckleberry: blue for rainbows and red for cutthroats .

                                      • #85532
                                        Paul Campo

                                          Hi – I’m new here and think this is a great group doing great things….and this is a GREAT question! I really enjoyed reading others top choices. Firstly, I think people can have equally good results on the same water at the same time using completely different lure patterns. I say this because I’ve witnessed it with fishing partners in the past, so I guess it comes down to technique and the speed/style of retrieve. Personally, I pretty much use spoons in gold finishes 95% of the time, but sometimes will use plugs too; especially Rapala minnows. I usually use gold finish spoons and Rainbow trout finished plugs. If there is a known crayfish or other baitfish population, I’ll try to match the general coloring with a plug.
                                          While I list trolling spoons, I never troll and these are used for slower shallow stretches of water usually in inlet, outlet or connecting stream situations, lake shallows at dusk, or very cold water where you really need to slow down the retrieve for lethargic fish. 90% of the time, I use a gold finsh 1/4 ounce Little Cleo with excellent results. If the water in very very clear and bright sunlight, I notice they dont seem to go for the Cleo as much as they like the very detailed Rapala rainbow trout or the Excel spoon. I’ve consitently taken trout 16-20 inches in very very clear water in bright sun (Rubicon River California) on the Excel spoon in the rainbow trout finish. I think no matter what tackle you use, if you figure out a way to really work the lure to imitate what its intended to imitate, you’ll do just as well as any lure or fly pattern out there. Of course there are those days that nothing will work. If thats the case then, just work on your cast and maybe you’ll get a nice surprise while enjoying the beauty of the backcountry!

                                          1. Acme Little Cleo – Gold 1/4 oz.

                                          2. Rapala original floating minnow -F9 size- Rainbow trout finish

                                          3. Seps Pro Secret spoon – Gold finish(1/16 oz)

                                          4.”Excel” trout spoon (like a needlefish with a detailed eye and finish) rainbow trout finish / Nickel (apx 1/10 oz)

                                          5. Thomas Colorado Spoon Gold / Nickel 1/10 oz.

                                        • #85533
                                          Jim Welch

                                            Wow, lots of great info, this image captures all the lures on this thread. Please let me know if I got something incorrect.
                                            I am going to find pictures of all these so when I run across one of them I will recognize them (I am kindofa picture guy).
                                            It would sure help if you see something that you posted to put the hook type-size or lure weight (or both) down (unless you want to keep it a secret).

                                            I tried to upload the spreadsheet but the site would not allow me to, so if you want the file (with the enabled hyperlinks), just email me (mojoduck@comcast.net)

                                          • #85534
                                            Larry Anderson

                                              Here are some of mine

                                              1. 1/8 or 1/16 Chartruese (spelling?) Rooster Tail with brass blade. Killer on Sea run cutts, and good in beaver ponds. My friend has outfished me a couple times with a 1/8 black rooster silver blade, so now I keep a couple of those in my box.

                                              2. 502 Super Duper brass red head. 503 Super Duper silver, red head

                                              3. F4 orange flatfish with either black spots, or the two eyes.

                                              4. Olive leech fly with bead head for weight and attractant.

                                              5. Small mosquitos and black gnats.

                                              6. Can’t beat Pautzke green label!! ALWAYS carry them. Don’t leave home without em’

                                            • #85535

                                                How about fly/lures?

                                                As a tier, I heavily weigh the shank in the upper half with lead. I use marabou tail which, similar to a kite, serves to keep the fly riding correctly (as explained below).

                                                I originally got the idea from the acid rain studies I was involved with in the Wind Rivers of Wyoming (we were sampling lakes in the Popo Agie and Fitzpatrick Wilderness Areas). We would drop Van Doren (sp?) bottles over the side of rafts (flown in by US Forest Service helicopters) to take samples from deep in the alpine lakes. We were originally getting baseliine data because of oil sweetening plants and oil rigs which were planned for east of Pinedale with westerly winds potentially carrying the acid rain into the winds. Note, this was back in the 80’s. We used small plankton nets too dropping them over the side and drifting across the lakes. In most cases, at least in the large deep lakes, we would find both daphnia, cyclops (both considered zooplankton) and some very large fresh water shrimp. In one lake with large golden trout, we were bringing up fresh water shrimp that were an inch long. I kid you not. One need not wonder anymore why the trout get so big in the wind rivers.

                                                As an aside, the real question is not in the shrimp but in the precipitation (IMHO). With much lower rainfalls, the fertility of the waters in the rockies is more concentrated. I know some have said it is the mineralogy, but zoo plankton needs biomass not minerals to grow and serve as food to the shrimp. So there has to be a carbon based fertility in those waters different from our own lakes which are heavily flushed from high precep. Note, I have also seen goldens swimming around clouds of zooplankton with their mouths open much like whales in the ocean. The zooplankton balled up into light clouds but I do not know if the fish did that or some other phenomena at work here in the high lakes.

                                                In any event, I watched the behavior of the shrimp in the Van Doren bottle. If you have taken the time to observe them, they are quite acrobatic in the way they change direction and can drop quickly head down or come back up. This is why you weigh the fly heavily in the front, you drag the fly a short distance then let the weight dive the fly. Your goal is a rather smooth yet erratic changes in direction. There should be enough drag in the tail that it goes heads down when you go slack. Similar when you lift the fly, it should rise heads up. There is a balance there between the size/drag of the tail and amount of lead you use. And so we have a fly/lure. The larger flies can be cast with a bait pole using 2 lb test line.

                                                I got a few more secrets after working as a ranger in the US Forest Service (including six years here on the Wenatchee in the Alpine Lakes, Glacier Peak and Henry M Jackson WAs). The biggest hint is that the harder it is to get to the lake, the better the fishing. And that includes busting your butt to get to the backside of popular lakes and leave the shoreline along the camping areas for the city slickers. If anyone has walked the backside of Colchuck Lake, you know what I am talking about (rock slides and willow thickets all the way to waters edge). I actually got in the water and UNDER the willows because the rock slides were too steep in some places – chest deep at times – the shade from the willows allowing me to watch the fish come up and grab the fly dragging 3 feet from my face (the pole underwater and pointed out into the lake but the fly dragging behind my hand. Sure, it is hard work, but I will tell you what, there are some big rainbows in Colchuck Lake. I am not afraid to tell folks as it is under limited use permit camping (being part of the Enchantments permit area). Cook those fish well though as they do have worm/parasites in their abdominal cavities.

                                                Ken Boettger

                                              • #85536

                                                  You can add #12 Grey Callibeatis Nymph to that list. That is what I caught those Cutts on.


                                                • #85537


                                                    Small all black blue fox. Im sure a black rooster tail would work here too. I just never tried it.


                                                    Black elk hair caddis for surface or black nymph caddis subsurface. Strip it back any way you want.

                                                    The lake I fish, they dont like gold, silver or red. Sure you can catch 8 a day on those, or you can catch 30-80 a day on black.


                                                  • #85538
                                                    JOSHUA BURCK

                                                      Ok top ten here we Go!

                                                      1. A small olive bead head.
                                                      2. Kastmaster the holographic trout color
                                                      3. RK Spinner
                                                      4.if fishing for brookies a small piece of worm
                                                      5. A rapala small normally trout colored or pink( good for some big cuts and bows!)

                                                    • #85539

                                                        New here. Have really enjoyed the topics.

                                                        This may be a silly question, but does anyone know where to buy z-ray lures, now that they are no longer in business? EBay is my first thought, but I just wanted to see if any of you had suggestions.


                                                        Charlie J.


                                                      • #85540
                                                        Brian Curtis

                                                          @Vigilguy wrote:

                                                          This may be a silly question, but does anyone know where to buy z-ray lures, now that they are no longer in business? EBay is my first thought, but I just wanted to see if any of you had suggestions.

                                                          Hey Charlie, I was just going through a box of lures I got from my dad’s house and I found one slightly used Z-Ray. I think it is the small size. It is 1.5″ long and probably 1/8 oz, or so. Bright red.

                                                          If you want it I’d be happy to drop it in the mail. Just send me an email off the link on this post.

                                                      Viewing 25 reply threads
                                                      • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.