How to catch more fish while fly fishing, still waters.
As a professional guide, this is probably the single most common question I hear from frustrated fly fishermen. They feel like they are not catching the numbers of fish that more successful anglers seem to be hooking. While the question seems rather direct, there are a number of reasons why a person may not be as affective at catching fish as compared to another individual. So, before I give an answer to any angler, I like to ask some follow up questions to better understand the knowledge and experience of the person I am speaking with. In this way, I can give more specific answers and hopefully, that will help the querying angler to improve their success.
Photo Rainbow Trout & Cut Throat Trout Caught At Strawberry
|Strawberry keepers for dinner|
I start by asking what type of fly fishing they are engaged in; Streams, Rivers, Lakes, and Spring Creeks (for this discussion I have left out Oceans & salt water flats and bays). Each area requires different skills to be consistently proficient and also requires an investment of time to develop the knowledge and skills to be successful. Once I know the skill levels of a person then I can home in the particular information which may help this angler.
In today’s blog, I will focus on still water fly fishing. When you are accustomed to fishing rivers and when you are used to fishing streams, you have to learn how to read the river and know the insect life there. Still water presents different problems and while river understanding is helpful, river tactics generally do not work on still water.
What Is Bottom Structure
|Catrch & release trophy trout|
Identify The Bottom Structure & The Correct Depth To Fish In
When fly fishing on any kind navigable lake I recommend using a fish finder to be able to indentify bottom structure. Depth is a key here for the fly fishing enthusiast. Depths down to 20 feet are the most conducive for trout. This is because sunlight’s ability to penetrate deeper than 20 feet is marginal. Without sunlight you won’t have weed beds or any form of sustainable biomass. The biomass includes the insects fish eat and thrive and produces oxygen for the fish to breathe. The plants replace the carbon dioxide in the water and consume the biodegradables also contained in the water.
Manually Program Your Fish Finder For Best Results
Back to the fish finder… Now we know the deepest water to concentrate is 20 feet we can eliminate a whole lot of lake. Now we are getting somewhere. Now we know the maximum depth we need to adjust some manual settings on the fish finder to help us identify bottom structure that will support our trout population. Remember we are not looking for fish just yet; we want to know what the structure is so we can find the fish and understand where the majority will be hanging out. In the manual settings of your fish finder you must set the depth deeper than the 20 feet. In fact “double” it! Now don’t go paddling around in 40 feet of water, we already know that is very unproductive for fly fishing. The reason we set the depth to 40 feet is due to the fact your fish finder is programmed at the factory to send out a “ping” or sonar sounding at strength equal to the depth you have indentified. This saves energy and is the most efficient method determined by the manufacturer to insure a long life of the fish finder. So 40 feet is a Photo Cut Throat Trout Caught At Strawberry Reservoir In Winter stronger “ping” than a 20 foot ping meaning it will penetrate deeper into the bottom below. That extra signal strength in the ping will assure you will get structure readings of the type of mud that is below you. This information will be seen on your screen in a gray scale (
unless you use color) and tell you what type of mud is below. The mud bottom is either going to be soft or hard mud (sometimes rocks).
Soft Mud Is Muck, Hard Mud Is Gold
Soft mud will appear as a light gray, hard mud will show as a darker gray line and rocks will be black. You are looking for a thin layer of soft mud that will serve as a good topping for a hard mud base. The hard mud is where the insect buffet table is located and is always open for hungry trout to come and dine. What insects are living in this hard mud you ask? Chironomids live here year round in a larva state until they develop into pupa and swim to the surface to emerge as adults. At latitude of 42 degrees or higher (further north) the larva stage can last up to 3 years. Mud samples taken in various lakes and ponds show populations of chironomids in excess of 3,000 per square meter. Now that is a lot of food. Chironomids build their upright structures in the hard mud, soft mud just won’t do. So find the hard mud in depths less than 21 feet and you are on to a primary source of year round food for trout. So when you see fish on your fish finder around weed beds but they are not actively taking your fly, head on over to the chironomid buffet. You will be glad you did.
Spring Creek Fly Fishing & Too Small For A Boat Of Any Size What Do I Do Now?
Now is the time to get creative. Google the location and check out the satellite maps of the area and zoom in on areas of interest. It is amazing the detail we now receive from satellites circling the earth. Below is an example of my favorite spring creek located in Tooele County, where trout fishing is great year round and open to the general public by the local rancher.
Zoom into the main pond and look at the weed beds and how they flow along the west side of the water. Also note the discharge area and inlet area. Note also that the discharge areas of lakes and ponds usually have the soft mud and the inlets have the harder mud for the chironomid beds.
Photo Rainbow Trout Caught Fly Fishing At Strawberry
What Flies Imitate Chironomids?
Check out the link below to my year round fly hatch chart that will provide patterns for chironomids as well as all other aquatic insects (Look under the headings “Chironomids” as well as “Midges” the adult chironomids).
How Do I present a Chironomid Nymph?
The non adult chironomid will be located no more than a few inches off the bottom of the lake except when it is in the pupa stage and swimming to the top to emerge as an adult midge. Hundreds or thousands emerge at the same time so the flies for adult midges represent “clusters” of midges, which are quite small so the trout are used to feeding on a large group to get a full mouth full. Using a split shot approximately 6-10 inches above the fly that will allow the fly to free float near the bottom where the trout are used to finding them. They move very slowly so a finger roll is the appropriate technique that will create very little action across the mud bed yet move you across a large area to locate actively feed trout. Remember you must be on the bottom and moving very very slowly. Patience is the key to affective chironomid fishing.
Leader & Tippet Set Up For Chironomids
Use a 9-15 foot tapered leader with tippet. The combined length of the leader and tippet needs to be at least 25% longer than the deepest water you are fishing in. This extra length makes up for the line sinking in an arc and assures your chironomid reaches the bottom.
What if the bottom varies in depth? No problem. Once you know the deepest area you will be fishing present your fly to the deepest area first, and then add a floating adjustable strike indicator on the leader to shorten the amount of line between the top of the indicator located on the surface of the water and the chironomid on the bottom below.
A Great Knot For Chironomids
For all bottom insects I recommend using a non-slip loop knot. This allows the loop to remain open near the head of the fly and allow maximum movement when slowly moving the fly in the water and in my opinion creating a more natural appearance to the fly.
Double Your Pleasure Double Your Fun With Chironomids
Another insect that lurks on the bottom of lakes and ponds in and around the chironomid beds is the leech. Tie you leech pattern about a foot to 18 inches ahead of the chironomid. I like to use a second split shot about 6 inches above the leech pattern. Now I have to patterns common to the bottom of the lake working at the same time. Leeches are also slow movers so they make a perfect companion for the chironomid. Takes are very subtle, the fish are cruising and just “gulp” up these guys as they slowly swim above the beds of chironomids so watch your strike indicator to move slowly away from you then set the hook and hang on for some great action.
Sinking Tips, Sinking Line Or My Standard Floating Line
Floating line will work fine in the depths we are talking about. Especially since you are using monofilament or fluorocarbon line for your tippet which will add plenty of sink rate to your leader and flies especially when combined with a single or double split shot sinker.
The Correct Way To Hook A Fish On Fly Line 20’ Below The Surface
Keep your fly rod tip right down just a hair above the water surface so when you do get a hit you pull the rod parallel to the surface of the water. This assures a clean hook up. Raising your rod in the air will only “lift” the line off the surface – away from the fish and allow the fish to escape. By Pulling the rod to your side while keeping the tip barely above the surface assures a clean hook set. You won’t miss very many fish with this technique and you will be glad you know this trick.
So the next time you go still water fly fishing and want to increase your number of hook ups remember to use the chironomid nymph as your go to fly for assured success.
All-Tied-Up (my fly box is full and ready to go and so am I)
Private waters fly fishing for trophy tiger trout and rainbow trout on a family owned and operated ranch located 45 minutes from Salt Lake City, in Tooele County Utah. Spring creek waters that are open year round for fly fishing. The water is always ice free for great winter fly fishing. Trophie trout from 3-10 "+" Lbs. Open to the general public, reservations only!