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Post Info TOPIC: working a lake

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working a lake

The water is not moving. How do I fly fish a lake? Let it drift around. Make it move? dry or nymph. target = lmb



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I think a good way to start fishing lakes is to throw some bugger out there and then retrieve at different rates and speeds... other than that there are about a million ways to fly fish lakes. In some respects its similar to river... look for edges, tree's, vegitation, and even current... yes many lakes will have a current.


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Look for feeder/outlet streams, points especially on windy days, springs, and drop-offs/shoals.

Consider Gary LaFontaine's "Fly Fishing the Mountain Lakes" and Morris/Chan's "Fly Fishing Trout Lakes." They provide tons of information on techniques, flies, and even quirky stories...

-- Edited by Flying Dutchman at 23:06, 2008-03-13

There's no greater fan of fly fishing than the worm...

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My experience has been to throw dries along the shoreline, or where the river enters the lake. Match the hatch. Below is a funny story I found on another website. All I can say is don't try pouring your beer into a glass while fishing a lake.


Ok, let me set things straight here and now; Im not one to break the law or to encourage anyone else to do so either, but there are circumstances when a little transgression seems to be just the right thing to do.

I wheeled into Deer Lake just before dark and as luck would have it my favorite campsite was vacant. Now this may not seem unusual but on a Friday night in mid June acquiring a campsite can be a real hit and miss thing. Deer Lake is stocked with trophy sized triploid rainbow trout so you can understand the little bit of elation I felt when I stepped out of the truck and caught a glimpse through the spruce trees of a nice trout rising in the fading light, in water all coppery colored by a setting sun and still as a mill pond.

I dont know about you, but the first thing I like do at the beginning of a fishing trip is to take time out to decompress from time spent not fishing. So I opened a cold sweaty can of Guinness, poured it into a big glass mug, watched the creamy head foam up to the rim and parked myself in my favorite chair (one of those folding Wal-Mart specials held together with duct tape) where I contemplated the next few days fishing. I took the decompression thing a step further and lit up a small Cohiba (a pal had just returned from Cuba where he was bone fishing). I know smoking is bad and wouldnt encourage anyone else to do it either but you just cant beat a good cigar in the right place at the right time. The joys of fly-fishing are truly limitless.

By now you might be thinking that I like to fish alone (small cigars, contemplation and decompression), well truth is I really dont. I prefer fishing with other guys who like to fish alone; like my friend and fishing partner Jim.

Now dont go thinking Brokeback Mountain here, its nothing like that, not that I have anything against that sort of thing. Its just that Jim has his Toyota pickup with a little camper on the back of it and I have mine. I have an eight-foot Spring Creek pram and he has his. You see its kind of like this; you are either a married kind of guy or a girlfriend kind of guy. Jim and I fall into the latter category. We like our independence and we like fishing together. But that weekend Jim was tied up with things much less important than fly-fishing

The next day started out pretty much like any other regular day on a weekend at Deer Lake when the Travelers Sedges are going off. At 9:30 a.m. MST (hint as to where I might be) a migration of fly fishers (not unlike that of damselflies) from campsite to lake begins, and if by 10:00 a.m. you are not on one of your favorite spots youre probably **** out of luck (if you have ever been to a White Sale at a department store, you know what I mean snooze and you lose). I dont know if it was the Guinness or the cigar, but I didnt climb out of the camper until almost 10:00 a.m.! It was too nice of a day to start it off bitching and complaining and so once again I parked myself in my chair beside the water, opened a Guinness, called it breakfast and surveyed the situation before heading out onto the lake. My favorite spots along the big shoal were all ready staked out by Deer Lake regulars with enough good sense not to load up on beer and cigar smoke the night before. Without my buddy Jim to get my sorry butt out of the sack I was oblivious to that unfailing campground alarm clock, the first squeak and bang from the crap house door. On a better note however, I observed a light breeze beginning to sweep across parts of the lake. When sedges are anticipated a little wind holds promise and with a shower or two things look even better. I observed too, a few clouds beginning to pile up in the sky. I drained the last few drops of breakfast, then rowed over to a small, often overlooked shoal across from the campsite and anchored there.

So there I was, in paradise, anchored over a marl shoal on water crystal clear and every color of green and blue you can imagine; the valley and mountain scenery drop dead beautiful, trophy rainbow trout and with three fly rods at hand, small cooler jammed with Guinness, hot sun on my back, one more Cohiba in my shirt pocket and nothing to think about except how I might catch the first big trout to cruise by. What else is there in life? Does it get any better then this? Well, without my friend and fishing partner Jim to help partake in all of this god-given-glory and good fortune I was almost overwhelmed by all of it; but we independent girlfriend kind of guys handle this sort of thing by ourselves on a regular basis so I forged on, kept my focus on fishing and rigged up my gear.

The first good fish of the day came cruising out of the dark water and up onto the shoal sixty or seventy feet away. Id been sitting quietly in the pram long enough that it took no notice of me or my anchor lines as it approached. I felt like a naval commander scanning the depths for U-boats. The fish kept its course heading towards me from the two oclock position. I was tempted to go for a long cast, but usually fail miserably at them so I waited a bit longer for it to close in. At fifty feet and still on course I cast from a sitting position a sparkly size 8 olive green caddis pupa on a long leader off a dry line leading the fish by twenty or so feet and slightly off to one side. My bug splashed down without spooking the fish and I let it sink down onto the marl. When I lifted it off the bottom with a couple of slow short pulls followed by several twitches the fish veered towards it. I let the bug hang motionless long enough for the fish to get a good fix on it before moving it again. Another couple of slow pulls and a few twitches and the fish speeded up staying on course honing in on my fly and I could now clearly see that it was truly a huge brut! A good shot at a piece of chrome like this might come along once or twice in a good season. Naturally, I began to sweat, and my pulse rate elevated as the giant trout continued to swim towards my fly. I breathed in slowly and out slowly calming and focusing my entire being for what has to be truly one of the hardest moments in all of fly fishing - a big and sassy refusal! I felt all the rejection and disappointment I felt in grade three when Linda Mooney refused to let me walk her home from school.

If there is one thing the Irish know about it is how to cope with heartbreak and disappointment. One Guinness later, refreshed and full of optimism I pulled up anchor ready to row in search of another good fish. My options along the big shoal didnt look any better now then they did in the morning; it was still staked out like there was gold in the water. A few rods were bent hard and reels zinging. I resisted the temptation to go over and kibitz with some of the boys; anyway, what was I going to tell them? I just got snubbed by what was probably the fish of the season

The wind began to pick up and a few sedges were starting to hatch and fly off the water. Now, I must confess to being somewhat lazy and since the breeze and I were going in the same direction there was little sense in expending needless energy rowing, so I tossed a size 8 Tom Thumb onto the water and began a lazy drift down the lake which proved to be a huge mistake. Between the Guinness and the passive nature of wind drifting a dry fly across a lake on a hot June day I found myself feeling a bit drowsy. Had I placed my fly rod in one of the rod holders instead of holding it in my hand disaster would have been averted; but being a tactile kind of guy I wanted to feel that Tom Thumb at the end of my line get royally smashed, so I drifted until ennui and sleep started to get the better of me. As much as I like to take it easy, snoozing during a sedge hatch would be about as silly as falling asleep in the front row at a Rolling Stones concert. I needed a diversion, so I did the obvious and went for another Guinness.

Now opening and pouring a Guinness into a glass mug while holding a fly rod requires considerably more coordination and dexterity than I have so I set the rod down with one eye glued to it and the other fixed on the task at hand. Some of you might call this
a recipe for disaster or a move only a fool would make while drifting a perky Tom Thumb across a lake with hot trophy size fish in it during a sedge hatch. But with a little luck I call it a darn good way to catch a fish if you are quick enough on the draw. Well, I guess I was a bit slow on account of the Guinness because when the mug was about full all hell broke loose and I missed catching the rod as it bounced off the gunnels right after a bad tempered fish of several pounds hammered the daylights out of my fly. The fish came out of the water like a silver bullet, the Tom Thumb firmly stuck into the corner of its mouth and my fly line and rod trailing behind like a water skier only to sink out of sight fifty feet away into deep blue water.

Stunned with disbelief I stared at my cooler and realized that no amount of Guinness could console the loss of a seven hundred dollar fly rod and reel or ease the embarrassment and humility I felt when a voice from behind me in a thick cowboy drawl said, Bang, yer dead pardner, a little slow on the draw, huh?
Startled, I turned around and there behind me in the most ridiculous pontoon boat I have ever seen was a character I can only describe as out of the smokiest pages of a Montana fly fishermans version of Alice in Wonderland. I looked at half a fly shops worth of wooly buggers, mayfly nymphs, muddler minnows, dry flies and what have yous stuck every which way into this guys ten gallon hat. Oh Jimmy I thought, where are you? The guy in front of me went on to say, I feel fer ya man, had that happened to me once, and for a moment I felt better, that is until he said, Yep, but my fish was a big one, not a little Tike like that one that got you. Now my pride was aching.
Heck, he said, that puny little bugger was real lucky.
I was not in the best shape for a pissing match and looked down at the cheap pair of Fenwicks that remained in my pram, his eyes following mine. Murphy always takes the good ones, I said. It was a Sage. Ill get over it.

By now the guy had drifted right up beside me and the whole scene was becoming preposterous and bigger than real life. Mounted across the front end of his pontoon boat was a set of Texas Longhorns that would have spanned a 1958 Cadillac. He took a huge drag off what appeared to be a hand rolled cigar and with considerable intensity choked back a coughing fit then exhaled a cloud of smoke that momentarily obscured him from sight.
He extended his hand through the smoky veil and said, Care for a *******? I showed him the full mug of Guinness and politely declined his offer.
Now son, he said, you might be thinkin it is the fabulous fishin that brings me up to your neck of the woods and there is some truth to that, but let me tell you the fish you got here dont hold nuthin to this fine ****.  Oh, really, I said.
Yep per, he said, aint a fish in this entire lake that would hold a candle to this good ***** you got here, and let me tell you I know this to be a fact cause I have caught most of the big sons of bitches in this lake at least twice.
Ya those triploids are something else arent they. I extolled.
Piss on triploids! he countered, sucking back some more smoke while I knocked back a rather righteous gulp of Guinness myself. Its all those hot hippy chicks we used to get it on with in the old days, he piped up, aint no different today either.
Bewildered, I scratched my head and said, Hippy chicks?
Wake up man, dont you read the goddamn papers anymore? Well uh sure, I said.
Then you know what I mean, he declared, following it with another huge blast of smoke.
Uh ya I guess so, I said, feeling the effects of more Guinness and his second hand smoke bomb.
Hormones son, hormones I tell ya
Hormones, said I?
Look man, he said, it aint rocket science, nobody but a complete idiot would argue there aint too many of us on this planet and that includes women, where do you think all that piss goes?
Uh, well, ur, mostly down the toilet, I offered, hardly believing this conversation was happening.
Bingo! he said billowing out the biggest cloud of smoke yet. Now son, you aint gonna tell me you believe those crack pots running the hatcheries are making those big fish on purpose so we get bigger toys to play with, are ya?
What do you mean, I asked?
Son, he said, you have got to be one of the densest people I have ever conversed with. Do I have to explain everything? Birth control pills, you dummy, its the birth control pills. There aint a drop of water left on this planet that aint polluted with the damn stuff and where does it end up, in the hatcheries you idiot! Sterile fish! Let the government call them what they want, but I know whats going on.
Wow! I said. Now why didnt I think of that?
Son, you aint never gonna be enlightened chugging back that stuff, you gotta try the *****
I wondered how anyone could feel enlightened after losing a seven hundred dollar fly rod and reel. I couldnt bring myself to telling him I might have felt better had that big brut on the shoal not snubbed me. Instead I said, You got quite some theory there pal.
The obvious aint no theory, he piped up, open yer eyes son, open yer eyes and the ***** will open yer mind. By now I was beginning to question the soundness of his mind.
I best be leavin ya now, he said, theres fish waitin to be caught and we aint gonna do it sittin here and by the way son, another piece of advice, hang on to your rod, you aint that quick on the draw.

And on that note he politely said goodbye and drifted away leaving me to contemplate hippy chicks, triploids, hormones the rest of the days fishing. When I arrived at the end of the lake I heard the cowboys reel zinging in the distance as a big silver triploid rainbow all full of piss and vinegar jumped out of the water. Yippee, he yelled, ridem high.

So there I was, once again anchored over another gorgeous marl shoal only this time minus one favorite trout rod and reel, one Tom Thumb, two cans of Guinness, two good fish.  You might say it was not shaping up to be an average kind of day one would expect at Deer Lake. In part it was on account of Jims absence. I say this because Jim has a sobering affect on all things around him, just like steady barometric pressure. Had Jim been fishing with me I would have put my rod in the rod holder. Jim narrowly missed losing his best rod last year when a big triploid hammered it when he had left it unattended beside the seat of his pram while he was taking a leak. It was a hand built rod the kind you would cry over and so was the one I had just lost. All the best components, tags, braided wraps and feather inlay, all the things you do to fight off the dark demons of December if you live in the north. What began as a day full of optimism in spite of the wobbly start was turning into the kind of day dream you wonder if you should be trying to wake yourself up from.

I looked at the cooler and contemplated another Guinness, but the loss of my Sage hung over me like a hangover. I reached into my shirt pocket for the Cohiba, good cigars affect things similar to the way Jim does.

I caught and landed four nice fish that afternoon and three more that evening and the most respectable of the lot was a cruiser I spotted and hooked on a dry fly. Now every time Im back at Deer Lake and a nice fish comes to hand I find myself kind of looking over my shoulder, half listening for a yippee and wondering about those fabulous triploid trout.

-- Edited by Otter at 00:00, 2008-03-17



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Thanks for sharing a great story Otter - I may have met the Cowboy in Denver airport on his way to buy a wife in Thailand, if not it was his brother!

I clicked on the link to learn a little about lake fishing and learned a few things I didn't expect to!


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I'm no still water expert, Hell i ain't no river expert either biggrin. But I think chironomids are a good pattern for lakes, I just drift em around slowly kicckin the float tube. Has worked on a few sierra still waters that i have fished. Of course the bugger is probably #1, I like to "troll" em along not stripping but just lifting the rod tip every few feet, sometimes a fast high lift, sometimes just a twitch, mix it up, see what works.


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I have done a lot of fly fishing in lakes and have done well. I like to mooch in a row boat. Have a few lines out, depending on the depth put a sink tip, a floating and even a full sink to mix it up and find what depth the fish are hanging out. Woolly buggers and leeches always seem to work well, and a doc sprattley has also been the fly of choice. "The Doc is sometimes in the house" they say. But when you are rowing in the boat, stop every so once in a while and the fly lines will sink and that is when I usually get a strike. Also make turns slowly and a line on one side of the boat may rise up and the other one will sink, and that also switches up the depth. I hope this works well, and hopefully you can get some on the dries at night.
Good luck!

"In the long run, fishing usually amounts to a lifetime of pratfalls punctuated by rare moments of perfection"
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