Alberta Stillwater Adventures

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Floating Lines For Stillwaters

Floating lines are by far the most popular fly lines amongst steam fly anglers. Being so versatile, these lines allow anglers to present several techniques and tactics whether fishing dry flies, streamers or nymphs. But are you aware of just how versatile these lines are when fishing stillwaters?


Crossing over from fly fishing streams to stillwaters can look intimidating. Although the techniques used for stillwaters are not exactly the same, it isn't quite as problematic as it appears. A lot of the same flies, terminal tackle and equipment can be used and are just as capable in stillwater situations than in moving waters making the leap to stillwater fly fishing fairly easy.


Dry lines or floating lines are one of those tools that can be utilized effectively in both situations. Many stillwater experts have been quoted as saying that if they had only one line to use in stillwater situations, they would choose a floating line.


The most obvious tactic when fishing a floating line is when fishing dry flies. Just as in your favourite streams, hatches of mayflies, caddis and midges as well as seeing terrestrials falling onto the surface of the water all takes place. Knowing what species, sizes, colors and the times of these hatches is the key to being successful but really, other than not having to worry about a drag free drift but rather placing your fly (leading the trout) in the direction it's swimming after seeing a rise, stillwater dry fly fishing is very similar.


Catching fish during an emergence where the fish are taking bugs just below the surface will also be seen on stillwater fisheries. A floating line and a lightly weighted emerger pattern works just as well in stillwaters. Tactics like greasing your leader, using a strike indicator or a high floating dry fly to keep your point fly in the strike zone is just as productive in stillwater situations.


Fishing streamers, wet flies and nymphs in stillwaters are extremely affective. Patterns that represent: water boatman, backswimmers, mayfly, dragon & damselfly nymphs, scuds, leeches and minnows catch a lot of fish. Most active fish in stillwaters are found in shoal areas of a lake. The shoal is usually 20ft deep or less and is the market place for feeding trout. A floating line is a powerful tool for working these shoal areas. By simply increasing or decreasing leader length and weight, as well as using the countdown method, flies can easily reach areas where active fish are found.


One big difference between moving waters and stillwaters are the speed in which food is presented to the fish. In streams, the current moves the bug life to the fish that hold in a lie suited to their three basic needs: Food, protection and comfort. These needs must be met in stillwaters as well but instead of the food coming to the fish, the fish search out their meals. Because there is no current pushing along the bug life, the trout have a lot more time to inspect their food and will gain the knowledge that a lot of these simple life forms are slow swimmers. The stillwater fly angler can match this natural movement by fishing patterns using a static presentation. Floating lines work perfect for this technique and patterns can be dropped down to 20 or even 25ft with or without the aid of a slip indicator or when shallow, a hopper-dropper type set-up. This method works well when fishing chironomids, leeches, scuds and a host of other simple life forms.


Upgrading your knowledge and techniques from streams to stillwaters is important but for the most part, the equipment and tackle you're already using will suffice. If you've been contemplating moving over to stillwaters from streams and you're only line is that of a floating line, this versatile tool maybe the only line you need to find stillwater success.


Mike (Doc) Monteith is the owner/guide of Alberta Stillwater Adventures, specializing in one-on-one introduction to stillwater fly fishing clinics.