Fly fishing on still water presents a whole different challenge to most fly junkies. I know that I had a hard time with even small lakes when I first started approaching still water. The biggest reason is reading the water, on the river I can almost always tell you right where a trout is going to be.
In still water the trout are constantly on the move and it can be very difficult to tell where there going to be. Once you figure out the basics tho, fishing still water can be very rewarding and you have a chance at some giant trout.
I first started still water fly-fishing in the high alpine lakes in Colorado, chasing the beautiful cutthroat trout that are locked away high in the mountains.
Some days when the fish were cruising the banks and were looking up for drys I had great success. Other day tho the fish would be low and cruising shelf and I could catch a darn thing.
I quickly figured out I needed more techniques for catching on those tough days because walking back five miles empty-handed was getting very old. As I learn some new techniques the fishing became way easier every day I was up there.
Having a boat when fishing still water does help especially in the hot summer months but almost all the same principles apply when looking for where the trout are located. So if you don’t have a boat you can still get out there and be effective.
I soon realized I could use these same techniques on much bigger bodies of water and started really pulling in some nice fish. Stillwater fly-fishing definitely comes with patients but will make you a much more complete angler and you’ll be able to catch much larger trout.
Reading the water
Just like on the river, you need to learn to read the water when fishing still water. This process is definitely a little different because there are no moving parts. A lot of the same principles due apply tho, use your eyes and look for cruisers. And don’t start wildly casting until you’ve surveyed the water.
I almost will always start at any of the inlets or outlet, this brings in a good source of food for the trout and you will almost always find trout near this source.
Next I look for structure, this could be almost anything that’s down in the water. An old stump a rock or anything that will give trout something to hide behind and ambush prey. Grass and weed beds are also a good source of structure so use them to your advantage as well.
If you don’t have any of those things around it’s time to look for buckets or shelves. Basically anywhere there is a change in the depth of the water. Trout will cruise deep and come up to eat, or they will cruise the shallows and that drop in the depth for protection.
Once you have taken a look around the body of water it’s time to pick your optimal position and start fishing.
Rigs and Line selection
Now that you have figured out the main points of water you are going to be focusing your effort on, the next step is picking out your rig type and the fly line you’ll be using. I generally carry with me a float line and a sink tip line of some sort. When I’m fishing big lakes I carry multiple types of sink lines. I’ll even carry multiple rods so I can switch from my float line to my sink line without changing everything up.
The next question I would ask myself would be have I seen risers or braziers, or have I not seen any fish which might suggest to me that the fish are hanging lower in the water.
If you’ve seen fish feeding on the surface, it’s probably in your best interest to put a dry of some sort on, this means the trout are looking up and will probably come up to take a look at your fly.
Try to match the hatch right size and color, as close as you can. The next thing I would do would put a nymph two to three feet below my dry, lots of time they will see the dry and come to investigate and eat your nymph on the way up or down.
If the surface is rather quiet I would that assume that the fish are feeding lower in the water column, so I would start building a nymph rig that would cover multiple levels of the water. Maybe a two or three bug rigs with a good two to three feet in between each fly. You’ll be able to cover different depths and be very effective this way.
If that’s not working I would that move to my sink tip set up and start throwing streamers. Here you want to vary your sinks count after the fly hits the water let it sink to different depths and go from there. Count to five and begin stripping on your first cast that count to ten and so on until your reaching the bottom. Also, varying the speed of your strips is something to try as well.
You can do these process in any way you see fit but these are the three major rig that will be successful on most still water fisheries for trout.
Depth, Depth, Depth,
figuring out the depth at which the trout are is vary important when still water fishing. If your flies are too high the fish will not move out of there cruising path generally to eat. Again if your flies are too low they will not move down to eat so nailing the depth will make a huge difference.
Running and adjustable indicator will help you move your depth quickly and effectively, If your not getting bites change your depth. Changing depth should be your first move after fishing your indicator with no response. I’ve noticed that trout will generally feed more to the right depth over the right bug so keep adjusting until you start getting strikes.
Same goes with streamers make sure you aren’t constantly using the same retrieve and the same pause unless it is working. Some of the best still water fishermen I’ve ever met are the best a making slight changes to there depth until the have locked in the fishes zone.
Depth in still water is everything so remember to make it a priority when your out there and your hook up rate will increase tremendously.
Understanding food sources
Every body of water has different food source, so learning the bugs in your chosen water will also play a huge role in how many fish you bring to net.
Most stillwater fisheries have scuds, chronimids, caliebatis, leeches, and many different types of bugs you find out the river. I have a lake box that I use specifically for when I’m fishing still water.
The flies you use on the river will work in lakes and ponds but if you dial in on what’s in your home water you’ll be amazed at how much more fish you begin to catch.
Attractor patterns are also huge in the still water game I like running a dead drifted leach as my attractor in most still water situations. But a San Juan worm or and egg pattern will also bring fish over to your flies and help bring in more fish.
Keeping and eye on the bait fish in the water is also very important and understand what the larger trout are feeding on will help when you are stripping streamers. If there is crawdads or leeches or are they simply eating smaller trout. Understanding the food sources in your particular fishery will help to land some amazing trout.
Time of year
I find that spring and fall are the best times for fishing for trout in most still water fisheries, this is due to the trout cruising in shallow water. During hot summer months the trout will some times be so deep it’s hard to get to them with a fly.
Spring is probably my favorite and right after the ice comes off the water the trout are normally cruising hard looking for food after a long winter of eating small bug.
Summer becomes a bit more challenging but you can definitely have success, stripping streamers is normally my go to with a vary heavy sink tip line. Having a boat or float tube helps a lot during the summer as the trout tend to be out towards the middle of the lakes
Fall the trout move back to the banks and are look hard for food before winter sets in and can be a great time to land some big tout.
Still water Rewards
Still water fly-fishing is definitely a challenge, there is a lot to learn and things can change on a daily basis. But once you start to nail in your rigs and bugs the fishing can be amazing. Some days you won’t be able to keep the trout off the line and it can be as fun as any river in the world.
The other bonus to fishing still water is the trout can grow much larger in big lakes so you have a chance at some true trophies. Some of the biggest fish in my life have come out of still water
Still water can also give you some where to go when the river are dirty and or running too high, this is probably the major reason I got into still water fishing. Trying to stay on the water even when the conditions weren’t right on the river.
The major thing is to give it time and have some patients because it’s a much slower process that the river so don’t give up when you’ve had a hard day. Take it as a learning experience and keep after it. If you have any question about Still water fly-fishing leave a comment at the bottom and ill get back as soon as possible.