Tip Title
Written By
"Lower Sacramento Indicator Set-Up" Terry Jepsen
"Shooting the Sac" Tim Fox
"Opening Day Tips and Tactics" Mike Mercer
"Perfect Last Day" Sandy Watts
"A Secret for Hard-Fished Waters" Mike Mercer
"The 3 Key Knots to Flyfishing Success" Woody Woodland
"A Day to Remember" Sandy Watts
"River Etiquette" Shane Kohlbeck
"How to Find Fish on Stillwaters" Zack Thurman
"Common Mistakes and How to Correct Them for Stillwaters" Zack Thurman

"Common Mistakes and How to Correct Them for Stillwaters"
by Zack Thurman

In the last article I talked about how to find fish in stillwaters, using a countdown system to find them in lakes. Here, I want to explore some mistakes that I have observed and address ways to fix them the next time you are out on the water. Finding the trout is one of the hardest things to tackle when you are fishing a lake. And finding fish, still doesnít always mean that you will get them to grab.

The first thing I want to talk about is matching your fly lines to your flies. Many times I have seen people fishing very hard with the right flies in the right spots, but their choice of lines is preventing them from getting fish. More times than not it is someone fishing a fly that requires some sort of retrieve, and using it on a floating line. The problem with a floating line in a situation where the wind is calm and you are casting and retrieving, you are making small wakes on the surface and will put fish down or move them out of the area you are fishing very quickly. As well, when there is wind, your line will have a bow in it and if you get a soft take more often than not you will miss the fish. Floating lines have their purpose, to fish dries or indicators, but a full-sinking line-preferably an Intermediate or sometimes a Type II is a better choices because you will break the surface and prevent wakes in windless conditions, and slack or bows in times when the wind is blowing. Also, you can count your flies down to the fish if the situation calls for it. Sink-tip lines offer a lot of the same problems as floating lines do because the majority of the line floats, it also presents your fly in a different manner than a full-sink. Because the tip of the line sinks it will present your fly at an upward angle, where a full-sink will be more level. This is ok if you are fishing a fly that is imitating an insect emerging from the bottom, but many critters we imitate on lakes donít emerge in that manner. Sink-tips do have their advantages in pockets of weed beds or if you are only retrieving your fly short distances and picking up and re-casting, but try to match them to the proper situation, like any line choice, and you will be ok.

Another common mistake I see people make is moving their flies way too fast, when retrieving them in. Most food sources, except baitfish, move very, very slowly on stillwaters. Almost everyone I have fished with on lakes move their flies way too fast, mostly by using retrieves that are too fast. I have experimented many times to try and get a fast retrieves to work, knowing that I am moving my flies faster than what the trout are feeding on, and have struggled to get it to work consistently. I have found you need to retrieve your flies slowly, sometimes so slow that it hurts. I have even had days where the difference between using a medium pace retrieve and a slow pace retrieve was mind boggling. Another way people move there flies too fast is when they are kicking in their boats and retrieving their flies at the same time. Even if you are retrieving your flies slowly the movement from kicking is moving your fly like you were using a fast retrieve. If you fish out of a float tube or pontoon boat, make sure that when you are casting and retrieving your flies that you are holding yourself in place or anchored-this will help prevent moving your flies too fast.

A basic rule that I have noticed fishing lakes is that the slower your retrieve, the softer the grab will be. I donít know how many times I have been sight fishing and watched a trout eat my fly without feeling a thing! I always wonder how many times we miss fish we donít even feel, especially when there is preventable slack in your presentation. Detecting takes has a lot to do with how you hold your rod during the retrieve. A lot of times fly-fisherman hold their rod tip a foot or more above the water, causing a bow in the fly line. Before you can ever feel a fish grab, all that slack has to be taken out, especially with soft strikes. I know that sometimes fish will hook themselves, but why miss grabs when you donít have to? The simple solution is putting your rod tip a few inches under the water, allowing you to keep a tight line, and feel more of those softer takes by trout. Another situation I have seen create slack in a presentation is being blown ďintoĒ your flies by the wind. This will happen when you are not staying in one place, whether it is because you donít have anchors set or you are not kicking in place in your float tube, and the wind is moving you into where you just casted. When in my boat I always put down two anchors, whether the wind is blowing or not. I want to be stationary and not have to worry about whether the boat is moving when I am trying to fish. In a float tube or pontoon boat if you donít have an anchor down to hold you in place, I find that if you kick every so slightly with your back into the wind it will help you maintain a tight line. The only problem with this, as mentioned earlier, is that if you kick too much you will be moving your flies too fast, so be cautious when doing this.

Matching the leaders to the flies are very important. Leaders inappropriate to the flies being used can make casting difficult, causing your leader to twist and tangle, hit the water too hard, spook fish, or are too close to your line and make your flies look like they are tied to rope. In most situations I fish a 12-15ft leader with 3x-5x fluorocarbon tippets. Typically, with bigger or heavier flies I will go closer to12ft, and lean towards heavier tippets, making casting a little easier. The smaller the fly the longer and lighter I will go. One problem I have come across occurs when I tie on too big or heavy of fly with a longer lighter leader. This not only turns over poorly, but I have found that it will cause your fly to spin and twist your leader. If you want to fish a long, light leader with a bigger fly, make sure that it is not spinning and twisting your leader. The opposite goes for smaller flies. If you arenít getting hit with what you are using it may be because you have too heavy of a tippet tied to your flies. Many times I have gone slightly longer, dropping down to the next size tippet, and experienced more strikes with the exact same fly.

The last thing I want to mention is choosing the right time to be out on the water fishing. Not everyone can be out all day, so if your time is limited, how do you choose when to go? There are many factors that effect when fish will be feeding, like water temps, wind, hatches, moon phases, etc. Water temperatures are the most important because if the water is too hot or cold in a certain area the trout probably wonít be there for very long. Take water temps constantly and know what parts of lakes warm up or cool faster than others, and choose your times accordingly. I fish one lake that varies in temperature almost fifteen degrees in a day, so get out early, before they get too warm. Even though wind usually isnít appreciated by fly-fisherman, on lakes it is your friend. In clear, tough situations a chop from the wind provides cover for the fish and they feel safer foraging and there is a less of a chance of spooking them with your line hitting the water. Many times an afternoon breeze has provided great action, when only a short time before, it was calm, and I was scratching my head wondering what was going on. Hatching insects will almost always get trout going and knowing when a hatch is likely to come off can take a lot of mystery out of things, providing the right timing for the best action of the day. Full moons have always been puzzling and if possible, I try to avoid fishing right before, during, or closely after them. For a long time I thought fishing early and late was the answer to fishing full moons, and at times it worked ok, but at other times it failed miserably. Once last year I fished all day for two days on a full moon and landed less fish than the week before, but landed fish up to the 11-12lb range, so go figure. All I can say is that if you want to go, then go, who knows what will happen.

With my pursuit of trout in lakes these are some of the more common mistakes I have seen made, some of which I had to learn myself. Not every day is going to be one of those magical days that provide great fishing all day long, so if you find yourself struggling, consider some of these hints and hopefully, you will be more successful the next time you are out.


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