With the majority of Colorado and Wyoming's amazing stillwater fisheries iced off, it’s time to get out on the lakes and chase the trophy sized trout that reside in them. We have quite the snowpack this year and with runoff here or around the corner, this is the time to learn how to fish stillwaters for trout. To help you better understand how to catch fish in stillwaters, here are 4 tips to up your game:
1. Fish the wind
Ahhhhh wind, don’t us anglers just love it? While, most might get scared off by winds gusting at 40 mph, understanding how to fish the wind on stillwaters can make or break your day on the water. Many may think just put the wind at your back and bomb casts out as far as you can. With stillwaters this is not the case. Position yourself so that you are fishing into the wind.
Find the shoreline where those waves are crashing into and fish it. The wind churns up the lake, disorients baitfish, and condenses all that good trout food. The trout will follow that large food supply… So buck up, bring the 7 weight and launch some casts into the wind. BONUS TIP: Most small baitfish and nymphs don’t swim directly into the heavy current created by the wind so make sure you are stripping in the direction of the waves/wind.
2. Bust out the indicators - It's not the most exciting way to fish, however, fishing indicator nymph rigs can be a seriously deadly tactic on stillwater and there are many ways to go about fishing them. This is an easy way to learn to fish stillwater as the takes are obvious and it does not require as much skill compared to some advanced stillwater techniques.
First and foremost, static indicator fishing (quite honestly the most boring way, but sit back, enjoy a cold one, and wait): simply casting out and letting it sit until the “BOBBER DOWN!” happens. This is a great tactic when you have the so-called "bobber chop" (i.e. waves causing that indicator to bounce up and down giving your flies plenty of wiggle and jiggle that trout love so much).
If you find yourself falling asleep watching that indicator incorporate a twitch. Get that rig out there as far as you can, let those flies sink, and every few seconds give that indicator a twitch and a small strip to keep the line tight. This little bit of added action can produce more strikes when fish key in on this presentation.
BONUS TIP: The slow strip/figure 8: it’s 70 degrees out, no wind, calm water (ahhh, the days we dream of out on the lake). While static indicator fishing may still work on these days it is best to get those flies moving and grooving. After letting those flies sink, slowly (I mean slowwwly!) strip in those flies; the majority of the bugs the trout are munching on cannot swim with much speed. My favorite stripping presentation is to create a small ripple around the indicator with each strip. Another great tactic to learn when fishing with an indicator is the figure 8. Slowly twisting that line around your fingers in a figure 8 fashion to create that slow retrieve and keep your line tight. You can also use this presentation without an indicator.
3. Don’t stress distance
This is more focused on Ice Off and the 4-5 week window that we are currently in with water temps that are perfect for trout to eat, cruise and hangout close to shore. Often, I see anglers wading out waist to chest deep and bombing double hauls out as far as they can. This time of year, there is no need for that. Those people are likely having schools of trout swimming between their boots. Trout will be swimming very close to the shore at this time, like 15 feet off the bank… Don’t worry about bombing those casts out as far as you can, relax a bit get it 15-30 ft out there and enjoy.
BONUS TIP: Don’t always fish straight out from you. If you aren’t getting many takes retrieving straight into the shore fish and retrieve your flies in the direction that trout are cruising the shoreline (wade out a bit and make your retrieve almost parallel to the shoreline.)
4. Bring the right setup! - Sure, you can fish your favorite 9 foot 5 weight out on a lake but having a dedicated lake set up will help your game a lot. With no wind and trout cruising 15 feet off the shore, a 5 weight will get it done. However, a large majority of the time we have some pretty crazy winds going over the lakes. Casting a large nymph rig or streamer/leech setup into 20+ mph winds makes for a lot of cursing and frustration.
My favorite set up for lake fishing is a fast action 7 weight rod paired with a reel with multiple spools or multiple reels. The trout in many of our lakes are larger and pull like a bat out of hell compared to the average creek or river fish. When that wind starts whipping, you’ll be happy to have that heavier rod. I like to have a floating line, an intermediate or full sinking line, and a midge tip or sink tip line.
Being prepared with a variety of lines allows you to conquer any condition that is thrown at you. If you had to choose one just bring that floating line. You can always add weight and increase leader length to get down to the depths that you need to (the rest are added tools to help your game out there). At Trouts, we have all the gear and flies you need two have that perfect stillwater set up. Swing by either of our locations or chat us up online to get that set up dialed in.
BONUS TIP: Have a switch or spey rod you use once every 3 years chasing steelhead or salmon? Bring it to the lake! Two hand rods can be a powerful tool on the lake, especially in the wind. Practice those spey casts for your next steelhead mission out on the lakes and improve your two hand game at the same time.