How To Fish Stillwaters

July 7th, 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. Stay tuned, you too can master stillwaters! ~ LadyFisher


By Marv Taylor, Garden City, ID

    Hook: Mustad 9672 (or 3XL equivalent), 8 - 14.

    Thread: Light-olive 6/0, prewaxed.

    Tail: Light-olive philo from base of dyed grizzly saddle hackles.

    Body: Dark-olive and gold variegated chenille (dark-olive and yellow will work), medium to extra small, depending on hook size.

    Ribbing: Light-olive dyed grizzly saddle hackle, palmered and trimmed short.

    Head: Light-olive.

This pattern is another of my flies that took years to develop. I wanted a small, light-olive leech to compliment the rest of my Hirudinae collection. While I hadn't found very many olive colored leeches, I figured a few specimens would show up here and there.

The pattern started out consisting of a yellowish marabou tail, a solid colored medium olive chenille, and a light olive palmered saddle hackle. The fly may have caught some fish, I don't really remember. I eventually relegated it to my "maybe someday" box. "Maybe" they will work "someday"...maybe not.

Then a few years ago, I dug the fly out and decided to try it again. I had been using Ruel Stayner's dark-olive and gold variegated chenille for my shrimp pattern, and thought it might pep up my little olive leech. I had been dying my own hackle for the Taylor Shrimp and thought it might also be right for the leech.

I used the new chenille and the dyed hackle (trimmed) on my old leech pattern,! It caught fish. Lots of fish. It eventually became a solid member of my DEADLY DOZEN.

The only thing wasn't a leech pattern. I came to the conclusion that the trout were taking it for a damsel nymph.

Over the past 40 odd years, fly tyers have been vying with each other to develop the perfect damsel nymph for Henry's Lake. I've watched dozens become one season killers and fade quickly out of the picture. Others make it through a few seasons before they too are forgotten. I remember one in the early '80s we called the "Grassy Green." It was by far the hottest pattern at the Big H for one whole season. I came home that winter and tied up five or six dozen. I wanted to have enough so I wouldn't have to tie any the next summer. I'll bet the Grassy Green didn't catch a dozen fish the next summer.

While my Little Olive Leech has not yet become a standard at Henry's, it is more than just hanging on as an excellent damsel nymph pattern. In a Henry's Lake Foundation winter newsletter, Mike Brickner- a good friend from Upatoi, Georgia, and the cover subject on my book, Float-tubing The West - wrote a glowing report on the pattern. He said it had become one of his groups best flies for the Big H in '92 and '93.

Mike first saw the fly the summer of 1992. I had joined Mike and Barbra Brickner, John and Pat O'Neall, and six of their friends on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. While we did fish several other lakes on the reservation, we spent more than half our time fishing Mission Lake.

I had excellent luck with my Little Olive Leech, gave the party a few, and taught Mike to tie the pattern. By the end of the trip everybody was taking fish with the fly, and they had begun to call it Marv's Fly. The name just sorta hung on. ~ 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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