We've entered an "in between" time on some of our local stillwaters when the activity of post ice-out fishing has waned, and the warming necessary to spur on "summertime" action hasn't quite fired up yet.
There is still some fun fishing to be had on lakes like nearby Hebgen or Henry's, but you may find yourself digging deeper into your bag of tricks than usual for the next week or so as we wait for warming water temps.
Among the insects out there, the most important early season food source remains chironomids, or midges. Be prepared with pupal and emerger imitations in sizes from 16 to 12 if you plan to spend time on Hebgen, in particular. How do you know when to tie on chironomid imitations? At this time of year, they are a primary food source on virtually all stillwaters, so fishing them "blind" is always a safe bet. That said, it is very easy to be a much more informed angler. When you get to the lake, take a moment to observe and apply the "SSS Protocol". What the heck is that? SSS means Sky, Shrubs, & Surface. Watch the sky for signs of chironomid activity like buzzing insects and swallows zooming around and eating them. If there is a breeze, adult chironomids often head for the shrubs and bushes on the lake margins. You might see clouds of chironomids on the leeward side of the willows, or you might dive in to the brush and see what you scare up. Finally, and most importantly, observe the water's surface. Look for evidence of recent or ongoing chironomid emergence. That means empty shucks (perfect for determining what size fly to tie on), wriggling pupae (color and size), or even actively emerging bugs. You also want to check the surface for rises!!! Calmer conditions play to the favor of anglers looking for surface activity. It is then that emergers will serve you well and perhaps score you the first gulper of the year! Something to really focus on when fish are feeding on the surface - the rise form. Just because there is a surface disturbance doesn't mean the fish are actually eating insect ON the surface. In many instances, trout key in on emergent pupae within 2 inches of the surface or on active emergers that are partially above and partially below water, rather than adult insect on top of the surface. Deciphering the code is part of the fun!