How To Fish Stillwaters

March 22nd, 2004

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

Float Tube Magic
Float Tube Fly Fishing Strategies, Part 4

By Patricia C. Pothier

Exploratory Casting

Since fish usually travel around the lake in schools searching for food, your challenge is to find out where they are at a particular time. Much of the lake does not hold fish, thus you need to locate spots that are most likely to attract fish. Chapter 4 gives you more information on trout habitat to help you with your search for fish. Once you have found a likely spot, position yourself about 30 feet off shore or where your soundings indicate a drop off.

When you are ready to cast, remove the fly from the keeper and while remaining stationary, begin to work out line by false casting. You should try to cast out most of the fly line on your reel so that you will have a longer retrieve. When you are executing the false cast to let out more line, try to make your casts in a different direction from the one that you plan to fish in order not to frighten the fish. When you are ready to release the fly, turn your body in the direction you plan to fish. For example, if you are searching from left to right, you would false cast further to the left than where you plan to fish. If you have limited casting ability and want more line out, simply strip more line from your stripping apron and toss it into the water as your line is sinking. At the same time you are paying out line you need to kick backward in order to keep the line well ahead of you.

Also, in regard to casting, you need to know that sinking lines are quite heavy and cannot be easily lifted off the water especially when they have sunk to the bottom. To counteract the weighty line, you need to strip most of the line in onto the stripping apron before attempting to execute another cast.

After the cast let your fly sink down to the bottom (the line will straighten out at the end of your rod tip). Or if you know the depth from your sounding and the sink rate for your line, you can count your fly down to the bottom or to a spot just above a weed bed. For example, if the depth is 10 feet and the sink rate is 2.5 inches per second, when you count 48 seconds, you should be on the bottom. Then slowly retrieve your fly. If no fish strikes the fly at that depth, try different depths by decreasing your countdown.

Fan Casting

From a stationary vantage point 30 feet out from shore, make casts in increments that assume the shape of a fan from your left to right facing toward the middle of the lake. Then turn facing the shore and do the same thing toward the shoreline. Using this method, you will be able to cover the water where trout are most likely to be either cruising the shallows or near the bottom around weed beds.

Parallel Casting

Another exploratory method is to kick and fish parallel to the shore, staying about 30 feet out from shore. In this method, cast from a stationary position, but kick backwards when retrieving. Alternately cast directly ahead, toward the middle of the lake, or toward the shore. And, by kicking in an S pattern as you parallel the shore you can also take advantage of possible drop offs where fish might be looking for food. When fishing in a relatively small lake and casting toward shore, it is more convenient to fish counter clockwise around the lake if you are right handed and clockwise if left handed. This way you never need to cast back handed. You should also vary the speed of your kicking to see what effect that has on attracting fish to your fly.


Trolling is an excellent way to explore a lake. Although this method is not considered by some to be fly fishing, it is another way to find fish and it is quite relaxing. For trolling, simply cast up to 50 feet of line and let your fly sink to the depth you want without retrieving. Keep the fly moving at different speeds by adjusting your kick. If you want to fish on or near the bottom, use a line with a fast sink rate and troll at a slow speed so that the line will sink deeply and you are able to keep your fly on the bottom longer. If you are trolling for fish nearer the surface, use a slow sink rate line and a fast kick speed. Sometimes, you can be quite surprised by a big fish when trolling, so while not having to retrieve, do be prepared to strike. It is amazing how many times a fish will strike when you become distracted perhaps by watching something else or talking with a fellow fisherman. If you have tried different depths, different speeds and different types of retrieves with no fish pulling on your line, then it is time to try a different fly to see if that is the missing variable in your search for feeding fish. A good rule of thumb is to thoroughly fish a fly for 20-30 minutes before changing to another fly. ~ PCP

More Strategies next time.

Credits: Excerpt from Float Tube Magic By Patricia C. Potheir, published by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use permission.

Previous Lake Fishing Columns

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice