Stillwater Tactics [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Stillwater Tactics

03-28-2003, 09:21 PM
What are your favorite "tricks of the trade" when still water (lake & ponds) fishing for trout?
Most of the time, the lakes I fish are gin clear so stealth is the key. I use my pontoon boat to approach likely holding spots, even if I have to bring it along in the power boat. Long leaders (12 to 16 feet or more) with long tippets of fluoro seems to work best. Slow sinking nymphs and retrieves that make the bug swim lively also seems to get the best results.
What are your tricks?

03-28-2003, 10:11 PM
Unlike most hardcore trout regions we have more stillwater than stream in MA. I fish mostly in Thoreau's waters from a pontoon boat or canoe, the approach consists of three basic methods to match the basic trout guy that I am (not very much practice over the last several years).

In the early spring when they are on to the early stones and black gnats, I fish small dries on calm mornings for rising fish. Griffith's style, or the classic black gnat. I tie them a little differently though, half breed with a mosquito pattern.

Some days they are only after the emerging stage, in which case I go with a small black gnat emerger pattern with floating yarn strands for a wing and goop it up to keep it in the film.

Failing those two, a beadhead wooly bugger fished on a very long leader and retrieved slowly seems to do the trick around here.

One other method that my son and I had a blast with on Cape Cod kettle ponds is to retrieve a tan biot gold beadhead stone among the feeding trout on a floating line. Far from automatic but plenty of action to keep us both having a blast.

I don't think we get the same kind of trout you get out there Pete... looking at your pic! :eyecrazy:

03-30-2003, 05:46 AM
I use a lot of midges.In the spring ,an emerger seems more effective.In the fall an adult usually does the trick. I will also fish with a 20 ft leader at times, so that I can cover a larger column of water. One killer fly that I will cast to rises is a '' Woodie" . # 12 wet fly hook , wooduck tail , peacock herl body , short wooduck wing (like a Zug Bug), and 1 1/2 turns of brown hen hackle to finish it off. This fly is cast to the rise ,and either stripped back or on a long leader let it sink ( up to two minutes) . Many fish will take the fly sinking. This is my go to fly on rising fish in ponds.

03-31-2003, 03:45 PM

03-31-2003, 05:21 PM

Here in BC we are almost exclusively stillwater trout fishermen! The BC interior is world famous for its trout lakes. In fact late April becomes a diificult time for me - I don't quite know when to pull the pin on spring steelhead and head for the monster trout of places like Dragon Lake!

Here, the primary tactic involves chironomids, early season sees the fish shallow 3-10', then as spring progresses the depths will go up to 25-30'. I use floating lines and as much as 30' leaders. There comes a point later in the spring when mayflies make their appearance, but this is not a problem as we fish the nymphs the same way.

I could go into a lengthy description of my approach to fishing chironomids - but I do believe that Juro has an article I wrote on the subject a while ago. Pete, maybe you could prod him to find it and put it up on the sidebar???

03-31-2003, 06:00 PM
Typically, I fish the weedlines and drop-offs with woolly buggers, streamers, and terrestrial patterns. I use smaller flies (size 16-12) early in the season, and go progressively larger as the season goes on. Some of my favorite patterns as the weather gets warmer are dragonfly nymphs and grasshoppers; d'fly nymphs (particularly in the morning, when they're more active) near any vegetation or structure (such as a dock, weedline, or partly-submerged tree) that projects above the water line, and hoppers (particularly in the warmer hours) near any shoreline vegetation that stops at the water's edge. This covers topwater and midwater action. If I don't get anything on either of those, I go to a WB or streamer.
Essentially, I start out using a 3-wt. early in the season and progress to heavier outfits as the size of the flies dictate... I've found it hard to fish a sz. 6 foam hopper in late Summer with a 3-wt. :smokin:
I should mention, these patterns catch me more smallies than they do trout...

03-31-2003, 06:28 PM
I concur with Kush. It is hard to know when to hang up the steelhead fishing and get my butt out on the lakes in eastern washington.

I fish a lot of chronomids but the last few years I have been putting more of an effort into chasing fish with dries.

Early in the season patterns like a griffiths gnat or a raccoon have been good to me. I switch over to a quigley cripple as soon as the mayflies start showing up in May.

A tactic that worked well at times last year was to fish shallow water with a dry fly and a chronomid dropper. Slowly skating the fly on a hand twist retrieve created some tremendous strikes on both the dry and the dropper.

OK you got me going. Time to start tying some trout flies again...


03-31-2003, 08:17 PM
My annual Chironomid Pilgrimage to the Kamloops area is just a long cast away. Most likely in the second week of May. The difficult decision for me is Bow River spring trout Vs. BC Chironomid, just as tough a choice as Steelies Vs. Gerard's.

Kush, I've never used leaders in the 30' range but have seen them used often. 20 feet is about as long as I go, and I have had very good results in waters up to 30 feet deep, I do attach a small BB to the leader to help the smaller flies get down. It's my understanding that most (90%?) of the Chiro's live in water bottoms not deeper than 15/20 feet. Do you have any information about this point?

04-01-2003, 02:10 AM

Chironomids are known to live in depths in excess of 60'. As a general rule the chironomids come out of progressively deeper water as the season proceeds. When I go to my favourite Cariboo lake in early July, my leaders will be set at 20' to start, normally by the time the 2 weeks are up I am fishing 25 -30' of water with leaders normally 5' longer than the depth of the water.

If the fish are shallower, I will fish shorter obviously, when I'm at the same lake in late May, I will fish leaders from 12 - 15' as that is where the fish are.

In some years I've stayed later, and the only place you will get fish is deep. I have seen fish taking chironomids in 50' of water - so deep I could not set my anchors. Though I did manage to get a few by mooching a chironomid on a full sinking line as vertically as I could manage on a slow wind drift.

There is a trick to effectively fishing 25-30' of water, it is do not use a tapered leader ... yes, straight 5lb flourocarbon! Sure, it doesn't turn the fly over, but think about it, a 30' tapered leader isn't going to turn over that well anyway. The puddle of line that happens is actually an advantage. I always use weighted flies, but the thick diameter of a tapered leader really buoys the mono and the sink took forever. With the level leader, the fly sinks with little resistance, in fact I don't need as much leader length to get to the bottom as I used to - and I'm there in less than 1/2 the time! More fishing time=more fish.

04-02-2003, 05:48 PM
i use primarily floating lines with a prince variation cast to rises or let them sink to the bottom of the sink with the floating line. most hits come at the bottom or on the way down. i then slowly "troll" it along shelves and the weedbeds. try using a "marabou bugger". bead heaed with marabou tail and wound marabou body. wire to secure it. no hackle. works great in black olive and yellow.

04-03-2003, 07:40 AM
I've not done any stillwater tout fishing this side of the pond. Back in the UK my favorite technique was trad. loch style from drifting boats most of the time. There was a fairly predictable seasonal pattern on many of the put-and-take stocked reservoirs. Chironomids (we called 'em buzzers) were important year round. Caddis (sedge)would make an appearance during the warmer months and towards fall, the lunkers would start to focus in on baitfish fry. In the summer doldrums, deepwater technique involved a very fast sinking line and a team of three chironomid pupae on a shorter leader - say 6 - 8 ft. A long cast is made down-drift and to the side. The retrieve commences as the boat drifts past the flies position - by this time they're sunk pretty deep. Then the retrieve is made in a series of rapid strips and pauses - six strips pause, strip strip pause - strip - BANG :D Sometimes the strike would come right at the surface as the flies were being lifted of to re-cast. From shore, dries could be deadly if you could be patient enough. A weighted caddis larva on a long leader (20') inched across the bottom was also a great springtime killer.


04-03-2003, 12:54 PM
In Maine, we have a lot of mayflies and caddisflies that hatch in lakes of all sizes, from 1 acre remote ponds to 7 mile long lakes. In May and June I fish a lot of Hendrickson dries with an emerger dropper. In July it is hexagenia and green drake time, plus caddis. Later on, I go to a clear intermediate sinking line and either nymphs or buggers (which probably imitate leeches in these waters). I don't like messing with long leaders, so I use the clear line and a short (maybe 6 ft) level leader. I've not had any problems fishing dries with 9 to 12 ft leaders, but this year I bought a clear floating line (I liked the clear intermediate). We'll see if it ups my catch (or at least strike) rate.

04-03-2003, 06:23 PM
I'm really interested - do the hatches on lakes over here produce prolific rises and surface activity? A nice breezy day and a good rise would make for a great day of trad. loch style drifting - although I don't think the kayak will drift quite as sweet as an 18ft clinker-built wooden craft but it would be fun :D

04-13-2003, 09:23 AM
Since Adrian mentioned windy days I pitch in that I look for foam lines in the surface. These tend to hold the fish's attention better for some reason. Maybe it holds the hatch better. You can often see fish through the sides of a good wave holding waiting for emerging insects.

Also I'll often use 3 or 4 flies with a floating fly on the point. This allows me to fish suspended twitching flies just under the surface.

Attaching a floating fly to the point and using a full sinking line lets me effectively fish the top of weed beds on the bottom of a lake. If the weed structure is say 3 feet tall, I'll have maybe 8 feet from my sinking line to my first fly. This allows files to sink when pulled, then they slowly emerge out of the weed bed. Deadly.....

When fishing "pulled" flies like wooly buggers or streamers, I try to keep the flies "at least" 5 feet apart while fishing more than one fly. I have found quite more frequent takes when the flies are at a distance.

I liked Kush's comments on chironomids. I'd like to see what he wrote if we can find the previous post/article.

The tips for still water fishing are probaly more prolific than are the ones for stream fishing. this could be a lonnng thread.


04-13-2003, 09:54 AM
Here on Lake Ontario, the Charter Captains have long ago discovered that foam lines on the lake are fish magnets for all species of salmonids. Apparently, they are created by a combination of water temps and wind (from the water being displaced), and really draw all sorts of insects, algae, consequently small bait fish, and then larger predatory trout and salmon. And, they are good hotspots all year!, But moreso during warm weather, when temp is a bigger factor.


Doug Wright
04-13-2003, 12:13 PM
My favorite stillwater tactic would be fishing chironomids (the larvae and pupae stages).
Here in BC we are fortunate to have chironomids/midges averaging pretty big, a #12 2x-long hook, for example, and the really large chironomids, which we call "bombers" often exceed an inch. We've used as big as #8 and #6 curved scud hooks (Mustad C49S, TMC 2457) to match these bombers, commanly found in muddy-bottom lakes.

We usually fish chironomids under a strike indictor, set so the fly is suspended about 1 foot off the bottom of the lake. Great for depth control and detecting strikes.

But when we figured out how the fish are feeding, or if the takes are too short and soft to hook-up on, we fish "naked". Dry line with a long leader, and add about 20% more tippet to the leader than the depth you are fishing. The leader is diagonal in ths presentation, opposed to the vertical 90 degree angle when using strike indicators, so you can detect and feel the most subtle strikes with a far better chance of hooking-up. Slower rods are better for this so you can feel the very soft takes and not rip the fly out of the fish's mouth. Instead of casting straight downwind, I like to cast at about a 45 degree angle, allowing the fly to sink and wind-drift, then I start the Dead Slow hand-twist retieve.

For deep water chironomid fishing, we use full sinking lines. The line is perfectly vertical and the fly starts off about 1 foot off the bottom. Using a Dead Slow hand-twist retrieve to raise the fly through the water column, like the naturals, is why this can be so produtive! Chironomid pupae are lousy swimmers, they trap gases in their abdomens, giving off that shiny or translucent look, to slowly rise to the surface. This can take hours, days, even weeks depending on the depth from which they started. Takes are usually solid and vicious using this method.

Of course, nothing beats fishing a leech pattern at night on a weedy shoal.
That's how we spend a lot of our time fishing stillwaters. Good Luck!

04-13-2003, 04:57 PM
Great post! Just was looking for clarifcation, when you say "dry line" do you mean a floating line:confused: I am working on a floating line technique for stillwater. If not, give me some input on the dry line that works for you (size, manufac.,etc) Thanks in advance!

Doug Wright
04-13-2003, 05:04 PM
Hi Deerhaawk,
Yep, by Dry Line I meant Floating Line. Always been a habit of mine to call it a dry line for some reason...
I enjoy fishing floating lines with long leaders, as I mentioned, but I'll use sink tips sometimes as well, to help get the fly down when it's windy or if I'm fishing slightly deeper water. Thanks,