Jackson Hole Stillwater Fly Fishing Tips and Tactics:
This time of the year, most rivers in the Western United States are running high, fast and have low visibility, creating the perfect alternative: Stillwater fishing opportunities on lakes and reservoirs. Stillwater adventures can produce wonderful fishing experiences with sometimes larger than average fish with limited crowds. Many anglers turn their head at our Stillwater options because they want to be on the moving water of rivers and streams; where they feel comfortable. However, stillwater fishing has the ability to provide and satisfy any anglers needs and wants! Stepping out of your fly fishing comfort zone is not an easy feat, so here are some tips!
Do your Homework!
The most common overlooked step by many anglers is the pre-planning step, especially if this is a new Stillwater to your angling portfolio. Start by finding a topographic map of the lake. Topo maps provide you with depth and structure; key spots where the fish could feed, hold and utilize. If you are not able to get your hands on a topo map, try some web-based tools and applications. Our favorites that get the job done, if not better, is Memory-Map Topo Maps and Marine Navigation and Google Earth. They are free; however, there may be In-App Purchases. Technology can be a wonderful tool, so use it to your advantage.
Also, talk to people that have fished the lake before. Trust us, you probably are not the first person to stumble upon this Stillwater gem. Ask around, talk to the locals, talk to friends. Strength in numbers is an asset. Over the years, we have learned copious amounts of information about Stillwater fishing locations and options from networking and extensive pre-trip planning.
Find and Fish the Structure!
There are four types of structure that hold fish in a Stillwater environment. Ability to identify these structure types and areas will make a difference in effectively and efficiently utilizing your time on the water. Who wouldn’t want to maximize their time in the “strike zone” and increase their odds of finding the fish? Your pre-trip planning comes into play here. Quite often the planning step and pre-indentifying fishy structure can commonly turn your first still water experiences from “ok” to “memorable”.
We like to define structure into 4 different categories:
– Drop Offs
– Inlets and Outlets
Once you arrive at the lake, the last or bonus structure to investigate while on the water are weed beds. Weed beds have an abundance of different food sources. Thus, trout tend to orient themselves around weedbeds looking for a meal. Weed beds can be found at all different depths, so a good pair of polarized glasses can really help you visualize the depth of the water.
Have the right Gear!
Now it is time to find the fish. Yes, find and fish to the structure listed above. However, the fish may be in different sections of the water column. Having different lines that sink at different depths can give you an advantage when targeting fish at different depths around different types of structure. Fish hold and move through different layers of the water column throughout the day and seasons, having a selection of lines that vary in densities and sink rates put more arrows in your quiver for effectively covering every possible piece of water or structure where fish might be located.
Stillwater Anglers should have the following lines in their selection when fishing any of our local area lakes or reservoirs.
– 6 WF Floating Line – used for Dry Fly Work as well as shallow nymph and streamer presentations. Leaders will need to be long, sometimes up to 15 feet in length.
– Full Intermediate Sink (Sink Rate of 1 to 2 inches per second) – also called a slime line, this is commonly the most used line in Stillwater anglers gear selection/kit.
– Type 3 Sink Tip – used for targeting fish around the 15 foot depth mark.
– Full Sinking Tip Line 250-300 grain. This is used for targeting fish deeper than the 15-20 foot mark. Tip: Don’t get caught up thinking deeper is better. Many times you can be fishing below the fish!
The 10 foot rod can be the Stillwater anglers best friend. It helps by giving the angler a little extra length in the rod to make a longer cast and mend or move line on the water easier and more effectively. Plain and simple a 9 foot rod will do the job perfectly, but the 10ft rod will make the job easier. We recommend the 5 to 7 weight range for stillwater applications. It really depends on the size of the lake, size of the fish and the depth of water you are fishing. Small lakes, lighter lines and smaller fish warrant a 5wt while larger lakes, larger fish and heavier lines warrant the 7wt. You will have to play around with your setups until you feel comfortable and confident.
Present the Fly Well!
When it comes to stillwater fishing, patterns and presentation can be extremely important. Similar to fishing in a river or moving water, trout key in certain bugs and food sources at certain times of year at certain depths or water types. Since the water is not moving like a river, fish will have plenty of time to inspect your fly. Your patterns and presentation game has to be on point. Below are our Top 5 Stillwater Bugs/Patterns that no lake angler should go without.
1 – Leeches – One of the most common food sources in our local area lakes and reservoirs. Leeches are a great “searching” or “prospecting” pattern to start out your day. Tie one on when exploring a new piece of water. Greens and olives double has great damselfly nymphs. Black, Orange, Burgundy and other earthy tones are favorites. Experiment with different beads and flash as well!
2 – Callibaetis – The Stillwater Mayfly characterized by it’s speckled wing. This bug is available in all life stages (Nymph, Emerger and Adult) on our lakes and reservoirs. A mix of imitations from Hare’s Ears, Cripples, Parachutes and Spinners should be in your fly box.
3 – Flying Ants – Terrestrials are a trout’s favorite food during the summer! Flying Ants can create awesome dry fly fishing opportunities during the heat of the summer months. Cinnamon, Black, Red – don’t forget to try different colors and sizes.
4 – Damselflies – No joke about it, Damselflies trigger killer instincts in Trout! Mid May through Mid July is Damselfly time, so be ready! They love weed beds and some of our local area lakes and reservoirs can turn into sight-fishing phenomenons as trout look for Damselfly nymphs swimming from and around weedbeds.
5 – Chironomids and Midges – Fished under an indicator or slowly stripped, Chironomids make up a huge portion of a Stillwater trout’s diet. Snowcones and jumbo zebra midges are favorite imitations in red, black, rootbeer and sometimes olive. These are monsters (12’s) compared to most river and stream midges. Don’t forget, ice-out can create some awesome dry fly fishing opportunities with Chironomids and Midges!
Favorite Local Spots!
Places to Go:
Many local area lakes and reservoirs offer great camping opportunities. Make a weekend camping trip out of it and check out some new water!
Jackson Hole: Soda Lake, Lower Slide Lake, Jenny Lake, String Lake, Phelps Lake and Leigh Lake.
Yellowstone National Park – West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake and Lewis Lake.
West Yellowstone – Hebgen Lake, Henry’s Lake, Wade Lake, Cliff Lake, Quake Lake.