Make a Fly Fishing Lake List

and Catch Fish!

Make yourself a fly fishing lake list – which lakes you want to fish, the techniques you’ll use to catch the big ones, and the flies the lake fish like to eat. Then chart your course and get ready for an experience quite different than fishing in moving water.

The techniques used in lakes differ in many respects from fishing in streams. All lakes in which trout live are not necessarily productive to us fly-fisher types. Some lakes get too warm and the trout remain in deep water during the better part of the season. Others are almost barren of insect life, yet rich in forage fish, and the trout seldom feed near the surface.

Lake cast

However, there are a great many lakes particularly in the western United States with an abundance of bug-life, that passes its larval development within the water. Actually, terrestrials, (bugs which live on the land), such as beetles, grasshoppers, and moths, fall on the surface of all standing bodies of water. But in some regions this wind dispersed fauna reaches grand proportions.

The flies on your fly fishing lake list: flying ants in Maine, butterflies in California, or bees in northern New York often bring on a rise which lasts not for hours but for days! But whether the source of trout chow is from the surrounding land or the lake itself, feeding fish are not always easy to find.

No small part of your success depends on your ability to read a lake – so let’s go there. The calm, glassy water which characterizes mountain lakes in early morning may reveal rising trout everywhere – a good time to be fishing. (Of course – coldest part of the day! Figures.) Score on big browns and rainbows before the wind starts blowing. The fish are easy to see dimpling and rolling in head and tail rises.

Lake Fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado

As soon as the wind starts blowing, start watching for lanes of debris between the ruffled places, which usually appears comparatively smooth, while keeping an eye open for rises. If the surface is too choppy for a lane to form, then look for little calm spots that interrupt the regular wave pattern, and consider each one a possible rise.

Steep banks or cliffs along a windward shore are usually productive because they can support drifting food offshore until it sinks. Look for feeder streams too – great masses of insects may collect where the dissipating current counters the force of the wind. The only problem you have then is that the fish become very selective!


The gear on your fly fishing lake list:

Your Leader

In most cases your leader must sink instantly. If it persists in floating, it will create a wake on the surface when you move the fly and in glassy water this will spook the trout. Consider buying a “Sinking Leader”. Despite the top-water action the basic method of fly fishing lakes is with the nymph. You can have great success if you can just figure out the level or plane in which the fish are hanging out. Weedy bottomed areas at a drop off are perfect.

Experiment with depth, retrieval speed, and fly selection and you’ll catch fish – which is the final step on fly fishing lake list!

Private Fly Fishing Lake Access

Trout Valley Colorado

Take me to Colorado fly fishing lake list

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