It is that time of year where lakes have iced off and the large trout that inhabit them are starting to cruise the shorelines looking to put on some weight. I will be the first to admit I am not the biggest fan of fishing stillwaters, I liken it to the game of baseball, a little boring but filled with periods of intense action. Those periods of intense action are what bring me back to the trout filled lakes and reservoirs every spring. Combine that with a larger average size fish and the far stronger fight they exhibit than the trout living in the rivers filling the lakes and it is a surprise I don’t spend even more time fishing stillwaters. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your time fishing lakes and reservoirs.
- Locating the fish. Start off looking for drop offs or structure. Lakes can be intimidating in trying to figure out where you want to fish. If I am on unfamiliar water, the first thing I look for are points, drops offs and structure. A good way to get some confidence in a stillwater is to see if you can find a topo map with contour lines showing steep drop offs and other fishy features.
- Mud lines. In my opinion, the best time to fish stillwaters is on windy days. Often times the wind will create a chop on the water leading to a mud line just off the shore. This is an excellent spot to keep your flies as fish will cruise the mud lines along the shore looking for their next meal. No need to be casting to the center of the lake.
- Let it jig! Another benefit of fishing on windy days is the extra action the waves will give your flies. During this time of year, most of a trout’s diet in a stillwater is subsurface. One of the most effective ways to fish is with an indicator rig. I hang large chironomid and leech patterns below a bobber. The bigger the waves the more action your flies naturally get.
- Rigging. When rigging my flies below an indicator, I tie my multi-fly rigs eye to eye as opposed to hanging trailer flies off the bend of the hook. This causes them to sit horizontal in the water. If you tie your dropper flies off the bend of the hook, the weight of the last fly can pull your middle fly down and cause it to sit straight up and down in the water. Another way to avoid this is to use “balanced” flies like a balanced leech.
- Rope up. Trout in stillwaters do not need to constantly fight the current causing them to get bigger than their river dwelling relatives. These fish get stacked and fight like it. Show up to this fight prepared. Leave the 5X in the truck.
- Don’t lose confidence. Many lakes are called “light switch” lakes as they can turn on and off like the flip of a light switch. You will have periods where you do very well but you will also have times where you are doubting your choice of fishing a stillwater. Make small changes to your rigs and the location you are fishing but don’t give up entirely. The fishing will turn back on. As you continue to fish specific stillwaters, you will start to figure out the variables that are influencing this complicated light switch.
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