Living in the middle of some of the best alpine lake fishing in the country has given me the opportunity to learn a lot about stillwater fishing, and how to go about it. Obviously it’s incredibly different than the trout streams I’ve traditionally stalked. And I’m not a master at either, but I have picked up a thing or two that may be worth sharing.
In my opinion the hardest part about stillwater trout fishing, is the first hour at a new lake. There’s rarely an obvious hole or chunk of water that congregates the majority of the fish like a deep run on a river. The trout have more places to hide, and depending on the lake a lot of them may be out of range of the average bank walker. So to find fish quickly I start one of three ways…
Number 1: The Classics
Wooly buggers and leech patterns aren’t just for beginners, they’re for trout too. Some people tend to forget that. They’re easy to tie, simple to fish, and effective. I’ve walked down to a lot of little lakes, tied one on, and fished it for the entire day with consistent success. They are a great way to cover water and hunt fish. Take a couple casts, take a couple steps, then repeat.
Personally I prefer tungsten beaded wooly buggers, and leeches. They sink faster and deeper than a brass or beadless fly which often proves to be the difference on stillwaters, especially in early spring. That said casting parallel to the bank, in the shallower water, will often times produce the most fish, because that’s where the reachable structure typically is. These long casts down the bank are often overlooked by anglers fishing straight out to deeper water.
Number 2: The Drift
When the conditions are right stringing up a deep nymph rig with a leach or nymph tied on a 1/64th oz jig hook is deadly. But, for it to work there needs to be
at least a ten to fifteen mile per hour wind whipping across the lake. Harder winds will work too, but it makes for significantly more difficult casting. The heavy chop bounces the fly along with a natural action that fish can’t seem to resist.
Finding the right structure for deep nymphing is also important. Look for steep slopes with significant chunk rock or deadfall that extends into the water. Depth is important, but not nearly as important as structure. Without it, forget it.
Number 3: Stop and Watch
Before rushing down to the water's edge and chucking something out it's always a good idea to stop and watch the water. Go to an elevated position and simply scan the lake for rises or nervous water. On sunny days there may even be opportunities to sight fish to cruisers or fish hunting in the shallows. Spotting pockets of activity before even casting a fly can eliminate a lot of guesswork and wasted time.