How To Fish Stillwaters

December 8th, 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


The Fishin' Buddy


By Marv Taylor, Garden City, ID

Fish-finders? Who needs them? Not me. I sure don't need any mumbo-jumbo electronic crap to show me how to catch fish.

I lived by that credo for years. Other float tubing friends bought and used different types of depth finders - many which also detected fish - and passed me up in their abilities at "reading" water. For years I criticized them for depending too much on electronics, not relying enough on their own abilities at determining where fish "ought" to be.

Then, in 1995, my attitude towards using fish finders on float tubes changed while fishing the legendary Henry's Lake. I spent two months that summer camped at the lake; Arriving in late July and returning home about the first of October. The fishing, for the most part, was spectacular (most of the old-timers I fished with at the lake, told me it was their best season ever at the Big H).

My fishing journal for that trip is replete with descriptions of days when I caught 15 or 20 trout, the smallest in the 2- to 3-pound range. The largest I hooked that summer? I have no idea. I lost most of the really big fish (over 6 pounds) to light tippets, bad knots, heavy weed beds, and bad decisions. I was having my best luck with very small chironomides and scuds (16s to 20s), fished for the most part on 5X tippets.

When you hook one of Henry's Lake's prize rainbow/cutthroat hybrids in the six to eight pound range, fishing 5X tippets is living pretty close to the edge. Most of the old-timers thought I was nuts using tippets that light. I couldn't convince them that hooking and losing lots of big fish on 5X, was infinitely better than hooking and landing just a few on 2X. When you get right down to it, if I'm going to be perfectly honest, I'll admit there were a few days when I questioned my own sanity. Especially that afternoon when I hooked and lost two hybrids in 20 minutes near the Stump Hole, which I'm sure were over 10 pounds. I got a really good look at them. They both broke water with 3-foot leaps. Since I was alone at the time, my shouts of, not on 5X... not on 5X, went unanswered.

But as good as the fishing was, there were still slow days. I remember a week when the fishing in the cliff area, on the south side of the lake, was red hot. Then on the eighth day, I caught only one fish. On the ninth day I got skunked. When I got back to camp, I told my neighbor about my two bad days. We took his boat, with two fish-finders, across the lake and scanned the entire cliff area. We marked only about six fish in what had been prime producing water only a few days earlier.

"I'll show you where they are," Charlie said with a laugh.

We ran over to the mouth of Duck Creek. The fish were stacked in the fishable pockets like cordwood, surrounded by a couple of dozen boats. "The fish moved over two days ago. Since you don't have a fish-finder on your pontoon boat," he admonished me, "you've got to pay more attention to where the boaters are fishing."

Hell...I knew that. When the boats give up on one area, and move to another. Follow them! They've all got fish-finders, and they will find fish unless the trout have all burrowed deep down in the weed beds taking day-long siestas. While the creek holes and springs, like Staleys, will almost always have fish in them, big pods of trout will often move around the lake, keying on the different hatches in different areas.

I knew about the late July brown caddis hatch at the mouth of Targhee Creek, and the "night caddis" that hatches on the west side. While the damsels hatch all over the lake, to some degree, there are certain areas where the hatches are heaviest. This is a no-brainer. The fish will always be where the food is most plentiful.

My big problem that summer, was that I was fishing from a pontoon boat, with an electric motor powered by a standard wheel-chair battery; which has a very short life span per charge. When these big pods of fish were, for example, out in Bill Scheiss' Hybrid Hole #2, or the Green Roof Hole, I couldn't get to them (Henry's Lake is large...some 6,000 surface acres). I was limited to a few areas on the lake where I could row to, and return to my truck with the electric motor. In case the wind came up...and it does fairly regularly (and suddenly) at the big H, I wanted to always have enough battery to get home.

When I returned to Boise that fall, I looked at all the available fish finders, determined to pick up a unit I could use on both my float tubes and pontoon boats. While there were several fish finders available that could be adapted to float tubes and kick boats, the one model that stood out like a sore thumb, was Bottom Line's Buddy II (now called Fishin' Buddy).

Since southwest Idaho has always been the float tubing capital of the world, Computrol, a Meridian, Idaho based eloctronics company, began experimenting with portable fish finders that would work on tubes and small boats more than a decade ago.

FISHIN' BUDDY 2255/1200

Fishin' Buddy

Weighing just five pounds, the Fishin' Buddy is truly portable. Whether you travel to a remote lake, or walk 50 yards to a boat dock, this unit can go with you. It will operate up to 40 hours on three "C" batteries.

You don't even need a boat to use the unit. Its C-clamp mounting system lets you use it on just about any dock and any type of boat - canoes, dinghies, john boats, pontoon boats, rowboats and float tubes (there is an optional bracket designed for use on float tubes). It has a telescoping shaft for ease of transport.

The one feature that sold me on buying a Buddy II, was its "sidefinding" capabilities. The unit's sidefinder sends a 9-degree cone out 120 feet. Since fly fishermen in float tubes and pontoon boats often spend a great deal of their time fishing in water less than 10 feet deep, this sidefinding capability is far more important than the downward cone; whose 9-degree cone in 10 feet of water, covers a very small area. For the angler fishing deep water, the downward cone reaches to depths of 240 feet.

The Fishin' Buddy also has a digital readout on water temperatures.

Although my Buddy II has performed well for me for about 8 years, I will probably be upgrading to the newer Fishin' Buddy. My choices will be either the 2255 or the 1200. The 2255 is the high resolution model, which also offers a magnetic compass and circular scanning, and sells for $270.00.

The 1200 model has all of the features my original Buddy II had (and more), and sells for $170.00.

While my unit has performed well in showing me where the fish are, it has also opened my eyes about lake depths. Most of the smaller lakes and ponds I fish have proven to be a great deal shallower than I had once thought. Many of the ponds I thought were 20-feet deep, have turned out to be only 10- or 12-feet deep.

I have also learned that when trout are lying deep in 25 or 30 foot holes, we had better use deeper sinking lines to get our flies down where they at least have a chance to tempt a fish. My Buddy II has certainly reinforced my deep water trout tactics.

If I worked in a sporting goods store today, one of the easiest products to sell would be Bottom Line's Fishin' Buddy. I wish somebody had sold me one the very first day they were on the market. ~ 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 marvtroutman@juno.com or by phone: 208-322-5760.

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