How To Fish Stillwaters

May 26th, 2003

Stillwaters, lakes, ponds and reservoirs are the most underutilized fisheries in the North America. Why? Because the average fly fisher doesn't know how to fish them, or where to start. Marv Taylor has a wealth of experience in this area and volunteered to write a weekly column to take the mystery out of fishing stillwaters. Stay tuned, you too can master stillwaters! ~ LadyFisher

When and Where to Fish Henry's Lake
Marv's Fly of the Week - Taylor Shrimp

By Marv Taylor, Garden City, ID

The first three or four weeks of the season (Henry's Lake opens on Memorial Day weekend) is trolling time. The lake is often crowded with "party" boats and multiple (illegal) limits are common. The best trolling areas seem to the green roof hole, near the mouth of Targhee Creek, and at the center lake glory hole. The most popular lures include pop gear, Flatfish, Panther Martins, and Rapalas.

While flies will certainly take fish in June, the cooler waters of early season scatter the fish and larger pods may be more difficult to locate. With only moderate snow packs this past winter, and predictions of a warm summer, the more traditional hot spots, like Staley Springs, A Frame Flat, Duck Creek, Hope Creek and Pintail Point will be good areas for June fly fishermen.

By the Fourth of July, weed beds have begun to take over the lake and the balance of the season pretty much belongs to the fly fishermen and bait anglers. The best fly patterns suggest chironomids, caddis pupas, scuds, damsel nymphs and leeches. The recent drought years seem to have cut back on the damsel hatch that used to be heroic in size. I can remember seasons in the '70s when the hatches were so heavy we wondered why the trout would even consider our imitations when each square yard was filled with dozens of naturals. We now find caddis and midges filling in the niche in the food chain left by the disappearing damsels.

The best spots to fish with flies in July and August are Staley Springs, A-Frame Flat, Duck Creek, Hope Creek, Hybrid Hole #2, the Green Roof Hole, Targhee Creek, and the area near the Stump Hole on the north shore.

The months of September and October usually offer fly fishermen the best fishing of the season. In October the locals experience what they refer to as the "casting and blasting" season. The duck and goose hunting on the Big H can be just as good as the fishing.

The fish of choice in September and October is usually the brook trout. When there are enough brookies to make decent spawning runs up the several creeks that offer spawning habitat, anglers lie in wait and hang some really large brook trout as they gather near the mouths of the these creeks. My favorite brook trout spawning run is the one that gathers at the mouth of Duck Creek in September.

In July, 1989, I borrowed a boat from the late Bill Akers, and fished all around the lake. The second day, I hooked a brook trout at the mouth of Duck Creek that I clearly saw twice (before losing it to the weeds). I got a good grasp of its length and using the accepted formula decided it might have been the 9-pounder Fish and Game had weighed at the hatchery the previous winter. While I did fish other areas on the lake during my two week vacation, I visited my Duck Creek hole twice each day; just in case that magnificent brook trout was hungry. I never saw it again. If I had, there would have been a photo of it with this column.


My rod of choice for the Big H is a 9-foot, medium-fast graphite, built to cast 6-weight lines (I do over-load the rod one line size). On especially windy days, I go to an 8-weight rod.

The heavier rod is a must, if you are to be able to turn large trout out of the weeds. A good single action reel with 100 yards of backing is adequate. The reel should have a good drag, and should have rim control. As weedy as the Big H is, the angler must often turn big fish as they near especially heavy beds.

The angler should have the following full sinking fly lines, all in weight-forward: An Intermediate, Types I, III and IV. While the line most used will be the Type III, there are times in shallower water when the Intermediate and Type I will catch more fish. I use the Type IV when the wind is blowing and I'm fishing from a boat. The angler on a budget can get by with a Type I and a Type III.

Since the angler will be fishing sinking lines, long leaders are not necessary. I fish mostly 4- to 6-foot leaders, with a 3X tippets. If the fish are really fussy, I've been known to drop clear down to 5X.

Since there is no way to fish from shore, the angler needs a boat, float tube, or pontoon boat to cover the lake. While I've written two books promoting float ube fishing, Henry's Lake is a body of water I would prefer to fish from a boat. Some days it takes a lot of running around to find the fish. Some type of fish-finder is almost a must on Henry's. The fish have a tendency to move about.

In 1995 we had three weeks of spectacular action at the mouth of Targhee Creek. On some days there would be 40 or more boats anchored in the area (there is no float tube access. Tubers must hitch a ride if they want to fish the Targhee Creek hole.) Almost overnight this huge pod of fish moved to the Cliffs; where we had a week of good fishing. Then the fish moved to the mouth of Duck Creek.

My specific pattern recommendations include: Canadian Brown Leech, Canadian Red Leech, Canadian Brown Emerger, Taylor Shrimp (shown below), Marv's Fly, Henry's Lake Renegade, Halloween Leech, Black and Tan Leech and the Henry's Lake Leech. These patterns are all listed in my books, Float-Tubing The West, and Fragments Of The Puzzle, Vol. II. Fragments Of The Puzzle, Vol.I also has maps of where to fish the big lake.

If the angler can find a copy of Fishing Henry's Lake , by Bill Scheiss, he should follow Bill's recommendations.



    Hook: Regular shank (at rest) 8 - 14, weighted with .020 fuse wire; Standard 1X long (swimming) 8 - 14, also weighted.

    Thread: Light olive, prewaxed 6/0.

    Tail: Light-olive saddle hackle, tied on by the butt, half way down the bend.

    Body: Dark-olive and gold (Dark-olive and yellow will work) variegated chenille, size small (Danvilles 0 size) tied halfway down the bend, and wrapped forward.

    Legs: Light-olive saddle hackle, tied on at the bend and wrapped forward over the chenille, and trimmed on the top and on the sides.

    HEAD: Light olive.

Most of my favorite trout lakes and reservoirs have one thing in common: they possess some type of staceans. Some trophy fisheries like the legendary Henry's Lake, and Montana's Clark Canyon Reservoir, have enormous scud populations. Others, like eastern Oregon's Malheur Reservoir, have harbored enough crayfish to support a commercial fishery in the past.

Author Dave Whitlock believes that crustaceans are one of the three most important groups of aquatic trout foods. "Most high-quality trout waters I know of," Dave writes in Guide To Aquatic Trout Foods, "would not successfully support the fish populations without populations of scuds, sowbugs, or crayfish."

The body configuration of different scud species remain pretty much the same. They resemble insects in their jointed appendages, with broadly jointed heads and no neck structure. They differ greatly in size and color. From the tiny size 18 and 20 creamish-gray scuds of Henry's Lake, to the larger medium-olive scuds of Clark Canyon Reservoir, the fly fisher is challenged to possess a wide range of sizes and colors in his fly boxes. (I've been told the trout lakes in western Manitoba have scuds as large as 1 1/4-inches). I carry different scud patterns in sizes ranging from 8 to 20.

The dressing listed above is for the medium-olive coloration of the Clark Canyon Reservoir scud. That color phase is one of the most common. At one time in my career (about 10 years ago), I tabulated records over a five year time-frame, and found this pattern accounted for about 45-percent of my fish. It is one of my DEADLY DOZEN.

I tie this pattern in an "at rest" posture (see photo), and in a swimming posture. When the scud is 'at rest' he is sort of curled up. When he swims, he elongates his body. I fish the 'at rest' version more, because fish at times will also take that version for a snail. ~ Marv

About Marv

Marv Taylor's books, Float-Tubing The West, The Successful Angler's Journal, More Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume I) and More Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume II) are all available from Marv. You can reach Marv by email at or by phone: 208-322-5760.

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