When studying a river from a Brook Trout fisherman's perspective, I suspect most of us tend to think in terms of rapids, riffles, runs, pools, shallows, bends, water levels, obstructions and current breaks.
But what of spring holes?
Assuming that all of the Trout didn't just up and die, or are hiding out in the trees once the water warms during the summer months, they must go somewhere – and on a river - that somewhere is likely to be a spring hole.
I'm willing to wager that the majority of anglers know little or nothing of spring holes, and for good reason - because precious little has been written about them, and they are very difficult to find. But if you are fortunate enough to come across one, it's the fishing equivalent of discovering King Solomon's Mines.
And a Spring Hole Is…
To the best of my knowledge, a spring hole is a relatively small area where an underground spring bubbles up through an opening in the bottom of a river, lake or pond. They can also occur in places where an above ground spring empties into another body of water.
The area around a hole is usually significantly cooler and somewhat deeper than the surrounding water, and when it comes to river Brook Trout, particularly during the summer months when the water warms, and the level of the river has dropped – cooler and deeper is definitely better.
They are also decidedly inconspicuous, and it's very easy to drift directly over or past them, without ever knowing that you may have just missed the Brook Trout mother load.
How to Go About Finding One
Try asking someone who knows the location of a spring hole to either take you there or share the coordinates.
By the way, good luck with that.
You can also trust to luck of a different kind.
I know of a person who literally fell into one while wading along the riverbank. With his head under the water, and seeing numerous sets of "fishy" eyeballs staring right back at him – he knew he was definitely on to something.
Another method is to drag your hand in water as you are floating along, and if you notice any perceptible drop in the water temperature – stop – and start fishing.
Or consider trying what Esnagami Wilderness Lodge owner, Eric Lund mentioned he plans on doing one day, which is to put on a wet suit and underwater mask, then swim along until he either sees a mess of Trout, or his voice goes up 3 octaves and skin turns blue because the water temperature has just dropped 10 degrees.
Yet another way is to keep your eyes open for any unusual activity on the surface of the water. If you see fish rising or some swirls, make a few casts.
If you happen to notice an Osprey, or other bird of prey working a specific area, it's definitely worth trying to find out what has caught their attention.
Smaller spring holes can be a little bit easier to locate. Make a point of investigating any water source entering a river or stream - usually in an inlet or indentation of some kind - and it may just be a spring, which in turn can create a "hole."
Depending on the depth of the water, and size of the inlet or indentation, it may hold just a few, or perhaps even many fish. The number of fish will depend in part on their access to and from the spring hole. If they can easily move out to feed, and then back in again, even when the water is low, it will likely attract a greater number of fish.
One theory is that they can be found in close proximity to areas where there are acute changes in elevation. While there is no "scientific" evidence to substantiate this, there are 2 spring holes that I am personally aware of that do support this theory.
In summary, if you are intent on finding a spring hole, be alert, keep your hand in the water – and pray.
Having said that, there is a way I neglected to mention that will almost guarantee you access to at least one, if not several spring holes – but more on that later.
Fishing a Spring Hole
This past summer I had the good fortune to fish a spring hole on the Esnagami River with Eric Lund, who as mentioned, owns and operates Esnagami Wilderness Lodge.
Located in north western Ontario, just north of the town of Nakina, Eric offers trophy walleye and pike fishing on Esnagami Lake, and some of the finest trophy Brook Trout fishing you are likely to experience on the Esnagami River.
With thoughts of my very first Esnagami River squaretail on my mind – which just happened to weigh 5 pounds - and armed with a new custom made spinning rod, and my #5 weight fly rod; I was more than ready for our annual trip down river.
Although the Trout were located throughout the river system early in the season, by the time I arrived they had, for the most part scattered, and were becoming much more difficult to locate.
The plan was to fish our way downstream to Eric's new River Camp, and then work some of the water below Camp. What he didn't mention was that we would be stopping to check out a spring hole.
We worked the runs below several sets of rapids, and while there were still some trout around, for the most part, we caught walleye. Now don't get me wrong, catching walleye 2 pounds or better on a #5 weight in fast water is a lot of fun, but it wasn't "Golden Trout" I was after.
While moving downstream, Eric slowed the motor and turned our canoe into a narrow, completely non-descript inlet, which at most may have been 25 to 30 yards long. Seeing the somewhat puzzled look on my face, he said: "spring hole."
Having now got my complete attention, I faced forward, and with my eyes glued to the surface of the water, could see fish rising at the very end of the inlet. Using a hand signal I hoped Eric would interpret correctly, I needn't have worried, because he immediately cut the motor, and quietly cinched our canoe up against the bank.
There were Brook Trout everywhere, and in every size imaginable. I couldn't begin to estimate how many, because groups of fish were constantly moving in and out of the hole, presumably to feed, and then back in again to "chill" – in a manner of speaking.
Given the way the canoe was positioned, and the relatively small area we had to work in, it would not have been practical for both of us to fish at the same time – particularly with fly rods. Being a gracious host, Eric accorded me the honours, and on my second cast, I landed one that would have easily gone 3 pounds.
Eric was up next, and it was not long before he had another trophy size fish in the net. We fished the hole for about an hour, and having caught more than half a dozen very big Brook Trout, we decided to move on.
It was a truly unique experience, not only catching those beautiful fish, but also observing and learning how the Trout actually used, and related to the spring hole.
Now as for that "guaranteed" access to one or more spring holes I spoke of earlier – it's really very easy – simply book a trip to Esnagami Wilderness Lodge.