Monday, June 13, 2011

Fly Fishing Still Waters (Lakes and Ponds)

First off I apologize for not posting in a while.  It has been a very busy year and admittedly I did not get to go fishing nearly as much as I would have liked to.  However I do have a 2 month old daughter to show for all of that time off so the tradeoff was worth it.
Recently I had a chance to stay at a cabin on a private lake near Grand Lake, CO.  I had heard that this lake was stocked with 3-4lb rainbow trout every year and that the getting was really good shortly after ice-out which is when it was stocked.  This timing happened to coincide with my 10 year anniversary so the family and I headed to the cabin for what turned out to be a fantastic time.  Now… since this is a blog about fishing I will spare you all the good family fun we had and focus on what I learned about fishing still waters.

In the past my approach to fishing lakes and ponds was to put some sort of spoon on my spinning rig go out there and cast, reel in, drink a beer and repeat.  But I am a fly fisherman now… or at least trying to be so I wanted to educate myself on fishing this type of body of water.   I bought a book called “Trout Rigs & Methods” a long time ago when I was first starting out and so I figured I would see if it had anything in it about Stillwater fishing boy did it ever.  As with most sections in this book you can get lost in the information that it provides or extract out what you need from it and try to apply it.  I chose the latter.

Locating fish

This particular lake was a ground water lake which means there were no streams feeding into or out of it.  This means that there is literally no current other than what the wind provides.  This poses a few issues, mostly when trying to locate the fish.  Depending on the time of year and day the fish in a lake like this will change their position drastically.  The reason for this is because with no current the food will not come to them, so they have to go find it.  This is why in the early mornings and late evening fish in lakes and ponds will cruise around the shallow areas because the temperature of the water is warm but not to warm.  When it gets warmer during the middle of the day the fish will move to the deepest parts of the lake and they become much harder to catch.
Unlike in streams where there will only be one or two fish in a particular good holding spot, fish in lakes and ponds often form a pod and will cruise around together.  This means locating the fish is the most important thing, and then not moving on right away after you catch one is a good idea.
Now when you can spot rising fish it makes locating the fish easier but I found a very good way to locate fish in deeper waters that were not rising.  The answer is… trolling.  Now this may sound totally un-fly-fisherman-like but it is very hard to argue with the results.   If you have a float tube or a canoe then toss your line in the water let it sink to the right depth and then paddle/kick your way around the lake.  Once you get a bite you have likely found a pod of fish and know where to cast for a while.

Fly Selection

I tried at first to throw some dry flies.  There was a decent amount of caddis fly activity going on all over the lake and the occasional fish could be spotted sipping them off the top.  This is where I learned that fish in still waters are extremely selective.  The caddis hatch was tiny.  Somewhere around a 22 sized hook.  I had nothing but 18s and 20s and I could not get one single fish to take a dry.  I think this is due to the fact that they can see a lot better and do not have to make their minds up right away like they would have to in a rushing current.
After failing for a while with dries I spoke with another fly fisherman who said that he hardly ever got takes on dries on this lake either and that was because mostly they were eating mosquitos off the top and not the caddis.  Along with that suggestion he suggested that I switch to a leech pattern as the lake was completely overrun with leeches (side note: good thing I told my daughter no to swimming in it).  Once I did this I was getting hits left and right, especially using the trolling technique mentioned above.
At one point I tried a tandum rig and had great success.  I was using a leech pattern I had just tied that day and also a Mysis Shrimp pattern behind it.  A lot of times in these stocker lakes they will throw in a ton of Mysis shrimp to keep the fish alive and happy.  I actually took two fish at once!  I have never had this happen before and I almost thought it was impossible but apparently it is not.  Due to the aforementioned tidbit that the fish in lakes will pod up there is actually a good chance of this if you come across a pod.  Now I didn’t actually bring in the fish but watching two fish jump out of the water at the same time was worth it.  I think halfway through the battle the figured out how to pull together and it was to0 much for my 5wt rod/line. 


All in all I had a blast learning how to fish still waters.  Now the guys around me with the spinners were killing it but I have faith that once I get my presentations down and fly selection I will be able to be just as good in the future.