How To Fish Stillwaters

June 14th, 2004

Stillwaters, lakes, ponds and reservoirs are the most underutilized fisheries in the North America. Why? Because the average fly fisher doesn't know how to fish them, or where to start. Stay tuned, you too can master stillwaters! ~ LadyFisher

Thoughts on Pattern Design

By Philip Rowley

Chironomid larvae and pupal patterns are simple. As a rule the smaller the pattern the simpler it becomes. For practical purposes most anglers I know stop at a size 16 when imitating the larvae and pupae. However, some tie below those sizes and are successful. Further south, smaller Chironomids become more important. Not all lakes ice over and as a result there are more generations of Chironomids, resulting in smaller sizes. In British Columbia anglers are fortunate as there are many lakes with some huge Chironomids. I have seen anglers use patterns #6 3XL just to make them stand out in the crowd. No matter what the size, it is important to keep the pattern slender. Obese Chironomid larvae and pupae patterns do not work as well. For hooks I use the Tiemco 2457 for the majority of my pupae patterns. The 2457 is a heavy wire hook with a large gape that hooks extremely well. Fish take patterns on this hook confidently owing to its natural look. Other favorites include the Tiemco 3761 and 5262. I use the 5262 for my larvae patterns. For body materials it is tough to beat the bright look of Frostbite, Flashabou or Krystal Flash. These materials do a superb job of imitating the natural glow of the larvae and pupae. People often ask me which material I prefer and my answer is that the deciding factor is always color. Not all of these materials are available in the same color so don't rely on just one material. Other popular materials are the vinyl body materials such as V-Rib or Larva Lace. Some of these materials are hollow and some are not. I prefer to use V-Rib for pupae or larvae patterns size 14 and larger. Many interesting effects are possible by wrapping these materials over other materials such as Flashabou or Krystal Flash. Another excellent material is Super Floss, a stretchy Lycra-based translucent material ideal for both larvae and pupae patterns. By using different colored threads or underbodies many dynamic combinations are possible. Split lengthwise using a dubbing needle Super Floss makes a great divided tail for larval patterns.

Larvae and pupae have segmented bodies. To imitate segmentation use fine copper, silver or gold wire. The wire adds weight and helps simulate the trapped air and gases. As a personal preference, I use copper or gold wire on my patterns that I fish deeper. This includes my larval patterns. For shallower water, and patterns fished in the top of the water column, I lean towards a silver wrap. Fine Mylar tinsels also make for flashy ribs. British Columbia fly-fishing pioneer and author Jack Shaw wrote in his book Tying Flies for Trophy Trout, "On bright days use silver ribbing; dull days spring and fall, use gold ribbing." It is a philosophy I believe in and use as a guide.

I weight most of my pupal patterns, as I prefer to fish the pupa on or near the bottom. I weight the thorax with either non-toxic lead wire or metal beads. My favorites are metal or tungsten beads. They are easy to use and come in a wide range of sizes and color. Again the combinations are endless. Keep in mind that a slender pattern sinks faster than a bulky overdressed pattern.

The prominent white gills of the pupa are important to imitate. There are many materials available for the fly tier. I My favorite is white sparkle yarn but other popular materials include polypropylene, Z-lon, and white ostrich herl. Silver or pearlescent glass beads also work well.

For my adult or emerger patterns buoyancy is critical. Use light wire hooks such as the Tiemco 2487 and the Tiemco 100. For adult patterns employ the same materials that dry-fly tiers use. For emerger patterns I strive to get that half in half out of the water look. This is not easy. You need to use a combination of innovative techniques and material application. For some of my patterns that float in the surface I use bright materials as a sight post to help me see the pattern. Two of the best I have i found are Dan Bailey's Hi-Vis and Umpqua's McFlylon. The bright orange stands out even at a distance. ~ PR

More from Phil Rowley's excellent book, Fly Patterns for Stillwaters next time.

Credits: Excerpt from Fly Patterns for Stillwaters By Philip Rowley, published by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use permission.

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