The greatest difference between my stream fishing equipment and my lake fishing equipment is the number of fly lines in my arsenal. For stream fishing there are two types of lines, a floating line for dry flies, shallow-water nymphs, and small wet flies or streamers, and a slinky rig, which really isn't a fly line at all but a monofilament running line with a slime line coating (Dai Riki Shooting Line), for bottom-dredging nymph fishing. I use floating line 98 percent of the time. For lake fishing I carry nine lines and, while the floating line is still my mainstay—the choice for roughly 70 percent of my stillwater fishing—I use the other lines a lot during a season.
- Floating line—full, weight-forward line
with a dull, olive finish for the 8-foot 9-inch,
3-weight rod (Teeny Professional Series)
On calm days trout in lakes, with no current
riffling the surface, spook easy. A fly line,
more than anything, shouldn't hurt my chances
of catching these fish. It has to be light, a
3-weight dropping more softly than an 8-weight
on the water. It has to be a dark, not light,
and it has to have a dull finish, not a shiny
one. It has to be a weight-forward because
sometimes on stillwaters distance casting is
- Floating line—shooting head for the 9-foot
6-inch, 8-weight rod (Scientific Angler Ultra 3
Shooting Taper Floating Line)
Sometimes distance casting is really important,
especially when fishing from the bank. This is
not a dull, dark-colored line (there are no dark
shooting tapers in a floating line on the market).
It gets dipped in green Rit dye. To hide the
splash of the heavier line I make the leader at
least sixteen feet long.
- Floating line—full-length, special-taper
weight-forward with a mist green finish for the
12-foot, 7-weight rod (Scientific Angler Mastery
Steelhead Floating Line).
I carry this full-length line with its long
rear taper for smoother roll casting, for the
long rod. This rod and line combination allows
for those sixty-foot roll casts.
- Floss blow line—90 feet for the 12-foot,
7-weight rod (no brand—it's just dental floss)
This is flat, unwaxed dental floss, wound on a
plastic cassette, for blow line dapping. The
floss is available in bulk rolls from a dentist.
- Sink-tip line—weight-forward, pale
fluorescent yellow line with a 15-foot, dark
brown sinking-tip section for the 9-foot 6-inch,
8-weight rod (Orvis Hy-Flote Sink Tip Line)
Slow retrieves with a nymph often inspire subtle
takes by the fish. With a regular sinking line
even the most intent angler will miss these strikes.
With a sink-tip line the juncture between the
floating and sinking sections acts as a strike
indicator, signaling the slightest tug on the fly.
I use a sink tip for slow retrieves and a full
sinking line for moderate and fast retrieves.
- Sink-tip line—weight forward, yellow line
with a 5-foot sinking mini-tip for the 8-foot
9-inch, 3-weight rod (Teeny Mini-Tip)
Jim Teeny put on a lake fishing presentation in
a large, glass-sided tank at a sportsmen's show.
He demonstrated how different sinking lines act
in the water. As he cast the mini-tip line, he
said, "I love to spot fish cruising along the
bottom, and this is the line that I use to get
a fly in front of them quickly. The 'quickly'
is the important thing."
The mini-tip is the perfect line for presenting
a nymph in six feet or less of water. It doesn't
plummet right to the bottom, pulling the fly
below the fish, like a full-sinking line. It's
better than a floating line and a long leader
because it gets a fly near the bottom faster.
The problem with deep cruising trout is that
they are hard to spot until they get close.
With a sink rate of three to five inches per
second on the mini-tip, you don't need much
time to get a fly near the bottom. You can
control the exact depth of the presentation by
changing the weight on the fly or the length
of the leader.
- Intermediate line—weight forward, neutral
density, amber line for the 8-foot 9-inch,
3-weight rod (Orvis 82-foot Intermediate Line)
This neutral density line is only slightly
heavier than water. It sinks just under the
choppy, wind-driven current on a lake. It stays
straight during a retrieve, instead of bellying,
and this allows much better hook setting with a
shallow, subsurface fly.
- Full sinking line - weight forward, black
line for the 9-foot 6-inch, 8-weight rod (Scientific
Anglers Uniform Sink V with a sink rate of six inches
per second or, as an alternative the Teeny T-400
shooting head with a faster sink rate of eight inches
- The modern lines sink uniformly. The tips
are slightly higher density than the belly, eliminating
sag in the line for better, direct-pull hooking. These
are the lines I use for the countdown method. When
the bottom has large rocks or sunken trees that eat
flies, carefully counting down before retrieving is
the only reliable way to skim the fly over fish-holding
- Lead core - 30-foot, shooting-head, green line
for the 9-foot 6-inch rod (Cortland 450-grain Kerboom).
- For me this line is not for plumbing the deepest
waters imaginable with a fly rod. It's possible to
catch trout in thirty to fifty feet of water, and
sometimes - especially when goldens are sucking minute
organisms - it's tempting to fish those depths, but
the fly rod is not an efficient tool for deep
presentation. I limit my bottom fishing to depths
of ten to fifteen feed (depending on my boredom
threshold that day.)
- The lead-core line is for a special technique
called the Yo-Yo Retrieve that is indispensable on
valley lakes, and only occasionally useful on mountain
lakes. The reason for this disparity is that rich
valley lakes have soft, mucky, weed-covered bottoms
and, with a few exceptions, mountain lakes have open,
weedless bottoms. The Yo-Yo Retrieve works on rich,
high-country stillwaters that are formed in soft earth
instead of scraped out of rock. With the Yo-Yo
Retrieve the lead-core shooting head drops to the mud
bottom. In some mountain lakes it woudl get tangled
on a boulder or log strewn bottom.
- The depth doesn't matter as long as a spot
holds trout. Use the heavy lead-core line even in a
few feet of water; the shooting line behind the lead
core is always monofilament rather than floating
running line. The leader varies from five to twelve
feet, depending on the thickness of the weed beds -
the heavier the weeds the longer the leader. The fly,
a specially tied pattern with a foam underbody, such
as a Floating Damsel, Floating Emergent Sparkle Pupa,
or Floating Marabou Single Egg, floats up over the
weeds. With every strip of the retrieve the floating
pattern dives and with every pause it bobs up, but
the teasing action of the fly is only part of the
- The other secret of the Yo-Yo is the lead-core
line pulling through the weeds - not tearing them up
but sending up puffs of mud and scaring out insects,
crustaceans, leeches, and minnows. The heavy, lead-core
shooting head creates a thirty-foot chum line as it
slightly disturbs the bottom. This triggers feeding
by the fish as the floating and diving fly swims right
- There are dozens of mountain lakes in my region
with the right bottom characteristics for the Yo-Yo
Retrieve. The specialized line and flies are worth
carrying for rich waters because the technique often
works on those dead fishing days when nothing else
takes trout. ~ GL
To be continued, next time: More Equipment for Stillwater Tactics