Tried-and-true tactics for catching stillwater fish on the fly
#4 MIND YOUR RETRIEVE
In a river, the current animates your fly and moves it along. That means stripping back line is mostly just a task to complete before your next cast. In stillwater, however, the retrieve is everything. It’s your job to make the fly look alive, vulnerable and edible.
Some fly anglers believe a stillwater retrieve should imitate the natural world. I disagree. Instead, I imitate time-tested conventional lures, such as spoons and crankbaits, which dart and wobble like injured prey. To do that, I move my streamers fairly quickly and erratically, and I always pause between strips. On the pause, subsurface flies suspend, undulate and come alive unlike any other lure, and that’s when you’ll get two-thirds of your hits. For common Canadian lake species such as bass, walleye and pike, my go-to patterns are two- to four-inch long baitfish and crayfish imitations.
If your goal is to hit the lake, limit out and return home in time for the game, fly fishing probably isn’t the way to go. But if you’re eager to air out your fly rod, lakes open up a lot of new fishing opportunities. Just keep your fly in the water and play to your strengths, and you’ll be able to hold your head high among the hardware chuckers at the dock.