Well, folks, we did it. We made it to spring. With the weather warming up, anglers can now turn their attention to an often-overlooked water type this time of year. Ponds. During the spring and summer months, warm water ponds can be some of the most productive types of water, especially for those looking to stay close to home or wanting to fish before work. However, do not let proximity fool you; ponds can be home to some of the largest fish an angler ever chased with a fly rod. While this may be the case, how should an angler approach a pond? Continue reading to learn the basics of pond fishing.
Most of the time, especially in metro areas, such as Denver, CO. Ponds are self-contained ecosystems. This means ponds will often have ample levels of Dissolved Oxygen (DO) which can come from the abundant aquatic plant life or an artificial aeration system. Since ponds are self-contained, the resident fish have the opportunity to grow to enormous sizes, particularly, carp and bass.
Ranging from 5’- 20' in depth ponds are often the remains of old mining operations with varying mineral bottoms. A key difference between a pond and a lake is its depth. While lakes will have distinct life zones due to depth, ponds will not.
Typically ponds are shallow bodies of water and thus only have one life zone, the Photic Zone. This means the body of water is shallow enough for sunlight to penetrate to the bottom of the pond encouraging abundant plant growth - the perfect place for baitfish to hide and where the predator fish linger for a meal. Since ponds will typically have a shallower depth, the waves that occur during a windy day are smaller than those found in a lake.
According to the guidelines set in place by NOAA, a pond is no more than 0.5 acres in area or no deeper than 20' in depth. Even though NOAA has set guidelines, it is still challenging to determine the difference between a pond and a lake. However, if an angler comes to a body of water and wonders if it is a lake or a pond, there are three questions they can ask themselves.
The above question is one we have heard numerous times, and it is one that still perplexes a large number of anglers. If the pond has not been stocked by the local Parks and Wildlife department, birds' are the logical next culprit. Seriously. Whether or not you believe birds are real, it is clear that birds play an essential role in transporting fish from pond to pond.
This comes from the findings of a recent study published in the journal Ecology, which provides insight into how fish end up in remote ponds and lakes.
While many of the ponds found in and around major metropolitan areas are stocked regularly with various fish species, you can thank the birds the next time an unfamiliar species is in the net.
It should go without saying, but ponds should be approached differently than rivers. Due to the small enclosed nature of ponds, the fish found inside them can be somewhat intelligent and have an increased weariness to predators. However, they can hardly resist themselves when a well-presented dry fly, worm, or baitfish pattern is appropriately presented.
As the weather begins to warm, anglers will find the most success during the late afternoon hours and into the evening. Since ponds tend to be shallow and allow ample amounts of sunlight, the water temperature will increase during times of high sun. During the dog days of summer, resident fish will take a break from foraging and seek shelter around mid day. While the water is at its warmest, anglers will find that the pond's shaded areas, structures, or deeper parts will be where the fish are. However, during the transitional temps during the spring months, anglers will find the most success in the warmest parts of the pond.
For those wanting to maximize their time at the local pond, try focusing on structure. A structure can come in the form of a dock, downed trees, large submerged boulders, logs, or drop-offs (abrupt changes in the topography). These structures provide shelter and shade for fish to hide, and are critical areas to target if the focus is a predatory fish. Predatory fish, by nature, tend to focus on these areas because of their ambush instinct. Unlike pursuit predators, ambush predators, like juvenile pike or bass, use the advantage of cover and stealth in order to capture their prey. By staging in these areas, predatory fish avoid fatigue by waiting for a meal (your fly) to come to them.
If the pond does not have any physical structure like the ones mentioned above, do not stress. Remember that most ponds have mineral-rich bottoms and edges, which means many will have abundant weed beds, cattail banks, and lily pads. These are also excellent natural options for fish to seek refuge, and a perfect place for anglers to target when no prominent structure is available.
While many species can exist in a pond's ecosystem, the most common, and coincidentally most fun to target with a fly rod, are Sunfish, Bluegill, Crappie, Carp, Largemouth Bass, and Trout.
Neighborhood ponds are an excellent place for anglers to spend the afternoon, take it easy, and relax. Personally, I find, ponds are an excellent place for casting practice as well. Often ponds will offer space for backcasting and, coincidently, not a lot to get "hung up" on. Ponds are also an excellent place to practice different types of fly presentations. Ponds allow anglers to dial in these two essential techniques before heading out to their favorite river while many times being no less than 20 minutes from their door.
Hopefully, by now, you have a better understanding of ponds and how to approach them for your next day off. When it comes to gear, lighter setups offer a better are better “fight” but, when large predatory fish are on the list a medium to heavyweight setup will be preferred.
If Bluegill, Crappie, or Trout are your target a rod like the IMX-PRO Creek or Orvis Recon are fantastic options. For those who plan to chase Bass, Pike, or Carp, something like an IMX-PRO 6WT, or even a TFO Blue Ribbon 7WT will do you just fine.
If you are heading out for an afternoon or morning strike mission, you can get away with a small hip pack or chest pack. Ones such as the Fishpond San Juan Vertical Chest Pack or Simms Freestone Hip Pack make great options and hold an appropriate amount of gear, making you ready for any species. On Sunday, we mentioned that we received a shipment of Airflo Polyleaders. If you are unsure about polyleaders (sinking leaders), ponds are a great way to try them. Remember that ponds can range in their depth and polyleader’s are a great way to adddepth to your flies–when you only have a floating line–if the situation calls for it. As for flies, you will be able to keep it very simple. Depending on your target species of the day patterns such as jigged Wooly Buggers, Clouser minnows, Parachute Adams, crayfish, and grasshoppers are fantastic options.
There are hundreds of ponds in the Denver Metro Area, and finding one that will be productive could be as easy as throwing a dart on a map. Here at Trouts, we like to pick a pond on the map, see if there is a fish survey report available from CPW or local Parks and Rec departments, grab our gear, and try our hand.
Even though we talked a bit about ponds today, overall, ponds are typically laidback and easy-going bodies of water. You will run into people having picnics, listening to music, or even roller-skating; apparently it is making a resurgence.
This is all to say one thing, do not overthink ponds.
If you are interested in learning more about ponds and how to target them or what flies to use, please swing by the shop or give us a call at 303-733-1434 and we will get you squared away.