How To Fish Stillwaters
July 18th, 2005

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

Nymphs for Stillwater Fly Fishing

By Gary LaFontaine


Floating Damselfly Nymph

    HOOK: 8-12; TMC 5262—2X long nymph hook

    FLOTATION: a cylinder of high-density foam wrapped along the hook shank

    TAIL: olive marabou and clear Antron fibers (combed together)

    ABDOMEN: olive fur and olive Antron dubbing (chopped, blended, and dubbed)

    THORAX: olive fur and olive Antron dubbing (chopped, blended, and dubbed)

    HACKLE: grouse fibers (tied as a collar and swept back)

This pattern is designed for the Yo-Yo Retrieve. The sinking, shooting-head line cuts through the weeds, stirring up insects and flushing minnows, and the floating fly swims above the weeds right through this chum slick. This is a fine searching technique when nothing much is happening; and during a heavy hatch of damsel nymphs, when the abundant naturals make it tough for trout to find an imitation, this technique is often the only chance of catching a good number of fish.

Sometimes emerging damsel nymphs swim just under the surface instead of along the bottom. This usually happens in shallow bays. The trout roll and break the surface as they take the naturals. This is the time to fish the Floating Damselfly Nymph with a floating line and a strip retrieve right on top.

Two other patterns, the Floating Emergent Sparkle Pupa and the Floating Marabou Single Egg, also are designed for the Yo-Yo Retrieve. These floating variations are simply the regular flies with a buoyant, foam under-body.

Floating Caddis Larva

    HOOK: 2-6; TMC 5212—2X long and IX fine dry-fly hook

    CASE: brown and gray speckled deer hair (spun and clipped to shape)

    INSECT BODY: pale yellow or pale olive natural or synthetic fur(dubbed)

    HACKLE: grouse fibers (beard style)

This imitates the caddis larva that get air bubbles trapped under its case and floats to the surface. Right after ice-out, when the insects migrate from deep water into the shallows, mats of these caddis collect in the wind lanes and trout feed like pigs at a slop trough. Grease up the fly and allow it to drift dead with the wind current.

Cased Caddis Larva

    HOOK: 2-10; TMC 5262-2X long and 2X heavy nympt hook

    WEIGHT: lead wire (wrapped on the shank)

    CASE: soft hackle feathers (wrapped and trimmed)

    INSECT BODY: pale yellow or pale olive natural or synthetic fur(dubbed)

    HACKLE: soft hackle fibers (beard style)

Fish this fly very slowly right over the bottom.

Rollover Scud

HOOK: 14-18; TMC 9300—standard wet fly hook

WEIGHT: strip of lead wire (tied on top of the hook shank)

BACK: eight pieces of Fluorescent Blue Stren spinning line

BODY: Antron dubbing (dubbed rough and shaggy)

The fly, unbalanced by the strip of lead along the top of the hook shank, flips over when it isn't being retrieved. This is one of the few patterns that will make trout that are "grazing" on zooplankton strike an artificial—the sudden roll of the fly triggers a reaction. It is an indispensable pattern on rich lakes with populations of real scuds. It is a valuable searching fly even on infertile lakes, where trout never saw a scud but still respond to the rolling action of the fly. Olive and orange are the best colors for the Rollover Scud.

Twist Nymph (stillwater version)

HOOK: 10-18; TMC 3761 —IX heavy and IX long

TAIL: two peacock herl tips

ABDOMEN: peacock herl and yellow Antron dubbing (twisted together in a dubbing loop)

THORAX: three or four strands of peacock herl (wrapped)

CREST: grizzly hackle and golden badger hackle (twisted together in a dubbing loop and pulled over the top of the thorax)

One of the most valuable approaches on lakes is the Do Nothing technique. Cast out your nymph and as it sinks watch the line tip for a subtle take. The stillwater version of the Twist Nymph, with the crest of hackle fibers acting as a stabilizer, settles through the water in a lifelike position. It is designed for the Do Nothing method.

A beadhead version of the Twist Nymph, with a stubby marabou tail instead of the two pieces of herl and a brass bead instead of the thorax and crest, is a great pattern for the Hang-and-Bob technique.

Pheasant Tail Twist Nymph

    HOOK: 14-16; TMC 3761 —IX heavy and IX long

    TAIL: two pheasant tail fibers

    ABDOMEN: pheasant tail herl and orange Antron dubbing (twisted together in a dubbing loop)

    WING CASE: six pheasant tail fibers (pulled over the top)

    THORAX: olive Antron dubbing

This is another nymph that uses the Double Magic dubbing tying technique, a way of forming a fuzzy aura of Antron fibers around the herl body. The result is a combination of imitation, the mottled color of the pheasant tail herl providing realism, and attraction, the hint of orange Antron creating a strong visual counterpoint, that always makes a powerful fly. The Pheasant Tail Twist Nymph matches the Callibaetis nymph, and it can be fished over the weed tops like a resident nymph or pulled to the surface like an emerger.

Variegated Midge Larva

    HOOK: 14-18; TMC 9300—standard wet fly hook

    BODY: two colors of marabou fibers and one long strand of clear Antron (spun in a dubbing loop)

    SPIKE: a tuft of white Antron (combed out; extending out over the eye of the hook)

The spike on the Variegated Midge Larva has nothing to do with imitation. It was added so that you can see the fly in shallow water. Try casting to individual trout and pulling the larva imitation right in front of the nose of a feeding fish. Shallow bays have too much natural food and too much empty water to throw and retrieve flies blindly and expect to catch trout. Midge larva migrate off the shallow mudflats towards deeper water after the first hard freezes of autumn. ~ GL

To be continued, next time: Streamers

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