How To Fish Stillwaters
April 25th, 2005

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


Floss Blow Line

By Gary LaFontaine

In the United States, stillwater anglers react to wind differently than do United Kingdom lake specialists. In the U.S. most fly fisherman will quit the water when the wind rises to anything more than a mild breeze. In England many anglers won't fish in a dead calm, even if trout are rising, but they'll rush to the water when it's blowing a gale and churning a lake to white froth.

That afternoon with James Harris at the Hog Hole a strong wind kicked up, sending spray into the air, and within an hour every angler on the pond rolled up his tackle and left. This left James and me with all the water, which was probably a good thing since we were going to use a method no one there had ever seen before.

I'd read about the Floss Blow Line, and had even thought of trying it. But I never acquired the right equipment, not bothering because I decided it was probably a limited technique that would only work in perfect dry fly situations. From what I had read, the method was an anachronism even on United Kingdom fisheries.

James strung up two long fly rods, each one more than 11 feet, and put reels on them filled with flat floss. Knotted at the end of each floss line was three feet of 4X leader material. The flies were palmered dry flies, a Soldier Palmer on his and an Orange Asher on mine.

The wind ripped the surface of the pond, peaking at twenty miles per hour. In this weather it was almost impossible to do anything other than dap a fly, but I had doubts about whether it was worth fishing at all.

James said, "It's easy," getting the wind at his back, lifting the rod straight up, and unfurling line. His fly bounced on the water a few seconds and then vanished in the swirling silver of a large rainbow trout.

Twenty anglers on the Hog Hole had caught seven fish in six hours that day. In four hours, the two of us landed fourteen trout—two cutthroats, six rainbows, and six browns—averaging more than four pounds in weight. Every fish came rolling or jumping at the bouncing fly.

The Blow Line Technique is no anachronism. It is an amazingly effective stillwater method in a heavy wind. My doubts about it were absolutely wrong. On mountain waters, where winds blow more often than not, it is almost an everyday strategy. While it's true that it is only useful in a perfect dry fly situation, strong winds on a pond or lake nearly always create that perfect dry fly situation.

It is one of the simplest fly fishing methods, but there are a few tricks to the technique:

  • Get a fly rod longer than 11 feet and fill a reel with 90 feet of unwaxed floss (available in bulk rolls through a dentist).

  • Use a light, hackled dry fly (a Bivisible is always a good choice).

  • Position yourself with the wind at your back.

  • Hold the rod straight up and feed 20 to 30 feet of line out into the wind.

  • To touch the fly (or flies — it's possible to use two or three) on the surface, lower the rod slowly.

  • Make the fly touch repeatedly in exactly the same spot. Don't let it skip randomly over the surface.

  • Don't strike when a fish rolls on the fly. Do just the opposite — bow first, dropping the rod momentarily, and then strike. This movement will double the number of hook-ups.

It is important to pick the right area for the Blow Line method. The fly has to touch where the trout feed on top. The best spot in a strong wind is down wind from a point of land. No other place produces strikes more consistently with the Floss Blow Line. The wind pushes the surface layer of water, creating a current, and when that current hits a jutting piece of land it compresses and squeezes around the point. Trout concentrate behind the point to feed on the drowned insects swept along in the flow.

On the Hog Hole that day, James and I fished off the tips of the islands. Both ends of every island acted like a point of land, compressing current and collecting drifting insects. The trout positioned themselves like stream trout, letting the flowing water bring food to them. ~ GL

To be continued, next time: Hang-and-Bob

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