10 Stillwater Tips
1. Take It All In
When you get to your chosen venue make sure you quiz the fishery staff as to what’s been happening. You need to know, flies, tactics, and how deep/shallow to fish the flies, but most important, are the areas. Check out other anglers, are they catching? If they are, ask them what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. The more you know the better your day will be on the water.
2. To Wade Or Not To Wade
It’s far better to try and catch trout from the margins first before you think about wading out. It’s often early on in the day when you will find that the trout are close in looking for food; if you wade, then you’ll only spook them. You’re far better to target the water’s edge first, just in case. When wading be sure to go easy, try not to stir up the bottom too much. If you do and it’s windy you’ll just end up with a big slick of dirty water nearby and the fish don’t like that!
3. Bring Out The Boobies
These incredibly buoyant flies are great for finding feeding trout. If they are ‘on it’, and taking the Booby then sport can be manic. But you don’t always need to catch on them for Boobies to be useful. Trout may not always take it, but by pulling a Booby across the surface, even early season on small waters, you’ll soon find out if they are in the area. It seems that can’t help but chase and as they do they create large bow waves behind the fly, great stuff and a total giveaway. Now you know that trout are in the area, you can tailor your approach to be successful, changing lines, flies, or retrieves, tailoring the approach to find the key.
There is no excuse for using inferior hooks these days, if you do use flies tied on inferior hooks, you’re going to come a cropper. You need strong, reliable hook’s even more so at this time of year when visiting larger waters, the fish are resident, powerful, and with hard mouths. The last thing you want is to hook one of these beauties only for your hook to bend out or worse snap. I’d also advise that you take a hook sharpener with you when you go fishing. Often you can catch the hook point o something on the backcast or when your fishing deep, the lakebed stones, a sharpener will allow you to put that right straight away with minimum fuss.
5. Step Up Your Leader
I tend to err on the side of caution preferring a stronger leader, fluorocarbon, in the 8 to 12lb range is what you’re after if you’re pulling and don’t go below 6lb when looking to fish a more natural approach. If you go on dries, then only the would I go below 6lb! You may also want to consider tapered leaders, short 9ft ones. It can be windy at times here in the UK and most trout will be on the downwind shore so casting weighted flies can be a problem. A powerful tapered leader will help massively. The taper will allow you to punch that fly hard and low into the wind cutting through it far better than a length of single strength leader.
6. Hang Out The Washing
If you’ve never tried the Washing line method, then you’ve missed out. Rather than fishing a weighted fly on a team of three flies, use a buoyant one. The idea is to keep the flies in a level plain. The washing line can be fished on various lines but a floater or sink tip is often the best. The buoyant fly acts as a kind of controller for the other flies on the cast, keeping them in the taking zone for that little while longer, crucial on tough days. Another bonus with this style of fishing is that the buoyant fly acts as an indicator. If a trout takes one of the droppers the point fly will pull below the surface. It’s a great way of fishing on small stillwaters, don’t think this is just for the reservoirs!
7. Stalk Your Prey
Stalking seems to be synonymous with the warmer summer months but it can be even better at this time of year. A series of frosts and crisp, cold mornings tend to coincide with crystal clear water, even on many of our ‘nonstalking’ venues. Fish will be seen in and around the margins – the great thing here is you can pick your target rather than fishing blind. By using weighted flies, nymphs, or lures, you can get down to them fast. Keep your eyes glued on the fish rather than the fly. You’ll notice a change in its behavior as it becomes aware of the fly. If the trout move towards your offering, watch for the white of the inside of its mouths as it inhales your offering, when you see that white, strike!
8. Slowly, Slowly Catches Fishy
The first, and often most effective, line of attack for many stillwater anglers is to start off with weighted lures, usually on some kind of sinking line. This can work at the start of the day as the fish are not yet used to angling pressure. They soon will be though and a change of tact is often called for. You could go over to nymphs and go down the natural approach but lures are often still the most effective method when it’s cold. Use unweighted ones, lures that utilize a lot of man-made materials like Fritz or Straggles, they are very light and water repellant, so they can be fished far, far slower than you’d think. A slow retrieve or even no retrieve at all – just let the fly fall enticingly through the water column – can keep the fish coming.
9. Don’t Discount Dry Flies
Many of us still associate dry fly fishing with late summer evenings and large hatches of flies, but they will often catch fish year-round. Midge especially will hatch in even the harshest of conditions. On most winter days the temperature rises significantly for these little flies to take their chances. Be mindful of the fact that they are small though, there is no need for large fly patterns, the 10’s and 12’s can stay firmly in the box. Look to fish slimline, CDC’s patterns, either shuttlecock or F-Fly type. The best colour to tie up would be black and look to have them tied in 16’s down to ’20s! When fishing such small patterns, use a good copolymer in light breaking strain, 5lb and lower. It need to be thin and limp to allow the fly to behave properly. A ‘softish’ rod will help when striking and playing fish on such light tippets.
10.Brave The Wind
The wind can be rather cold, it’s often an easterly throughout the winter, and this means it can be rather chilly. We find it far more comfortable to fish on the bank where the wind is at your back, it’s more tolerable. However, if you’re brave enough to fish into the wind you can double your catch rate. Trout tend to gather on the downwind shore on small stillwaters, there’s more food to be found there, due to the undertow. It’s the angler who braves the cold that will often catch most fish. Use lures on sinking lines as they will help cut through the wind, although saying that it’s often the case that you don’t have to cast too far, the trout are normally close in. Make sure you are wearing glasses – you should be anyway – as casing into a headwind can be rather tricky. If lures are not working an indicator with a heavyweight nymph or two can work wonders.