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Fishing Stillwaters from Shore, with Thomas Larsen

Description: This week, my guest is Thomas Larson from the Orvis Outfitters team. Thomas is a stillwater expert and gives us some great tips on how to find trout, and how to target them, when you don’t have the benefit of a watercraft. Maybe you don’t have a boat, can’t afford a raft, or backpack to high mountain lakes—this podcast is for you.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi and welcome to the "Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast." This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer. And this week we're gonna be talking to a member of the Orvis Outfitter staff, Thomas Larson. And Thomas is gonna be talking about a subject we've never discussed before on the podcast, and that is fishing lakes, specifically for trout. But these tips could apply to anything, fishing lakes for trout from shore. And, you know, not all of us can afford a watercraft or maybe we don't have one. Maybe you hiked in, you backpacked, and you didn't have room to pack a raft or something like that. And so you're faced with fishing a lake or a pond from shore. What do you do? And where do you look? So, I think a lot of you will find this interesting, particularly as a lot of people have moved into more lake fishing as our trout streams have gotten relatively crowded, at least the more popular ones over the past few years. So, I hope you enjoy this and I think you'll get some good tips from it.
Speaking of tips, let's do the Fly Box, and Fly Box's where you ask me questions or you just make comments, and I try to answer them or thank you for your comments. And if you have a question for the podcast, you can send me an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And you can either just type your question in your email, or you can attach a voice file and I might read it on the air and try to answer your question. So let's start with an email. This is just a comment.
The first one is from Matt from California. "Tom, just wanna thank you for turning me on to the Griffith's Gnat. I used it for the first time here in California in February in size 14, catching a few 12-inch browns. It will definitely be a fly kept in my box at all times. Well, thank you, Matt. That's very nice of you to write and tell us what success you had with the Griffith's Gnat.
Here's another email from Jeremy. "First off, thank you for all you've done for the podcast. This is arguably one of the most helpful resources for learning about fly fishing. I'm 22 years old and definitely fall within the younger generation of anglers. I have a bit of a story that will lead to a rather controversial question. Being somewhat new to the sport and completely self-taught, I attended a Euro-nymphing 101 course at my local fly shop. The guide who was teaching the class put emphasis on how Euro-nymphing helps you get to the fish in non-typical spots. Due to the fishing pressure in our area, trout are especially stressed. Euro-nymphing is the apparent solution to bagging more fish. As someone who is constantly torn between catching trout and preserving these magnificent creatures, why do we anglers always want the most efficient way to catch them? If the fish are already pressured into abnormal behaviors, why are we adding to this with a new and improved nymphing technique? It seems like overkill and a surefire way to stress the fish even more. Instead of admitting that there's a greater issue, i.e., the unprecedented levels of people chasing trout, it seems like Euro-nymphing is a desperate effort to cling to the past when the fishing was more abundant. So my question to you, am I being irrational by fishing a less efficient indicator rig instead of converting to Euro setup?" We humans already have such an advantage over trout, though it might not seem that way at times. And so why do we do it even more? I hope this email makes it to the podcast. I'm eager to hear your thoughts on this."
Well, Jeremy, that's a very interesting and thought-provoking question. You're not the first one to ask this question. A lot of people agonize over becoming more efficient in fly fishing, and that decision is really gonna be up to you. You know, a better way of looking at this is not the gear you use because Euro-nymphing is a different way of fly fishing or sort of fly fishing, but it's fishing with a fly. It's a different way. And yeah, it's pretty efficient, but there's no reason that you have to count fish or try to rack up a lot of numbers if you're Euro-nymphing. You know, it's efficient.
Maybe you're having a bad day, maybe you're having a really tough day, and you can't get fish on indicators, and you can't catch fish on dry flies or streamers, you just wanna catch a couple fish. Sometimes putting on a Euro rig, which is often more efficient, will allow you to at least catch a couple fish. You know, it's really up to the angler. It's not the method that you use. It's up to the angler to police themselves. And I do agree with you that with more pressure put on our trout streams, that we all need to just limit the number of fish we catch. So just because the method is more efficient, doesn't mean we have to hurt the resource with it. I hope that answers your question.
Ray: Hey, Tom, this is Ray from Georgia. I've been fly fishing for about 13 months now, so I'm a relative beginner. I wanted to call in and offer some advice to other beginners, as well as ask you a question. So generally, almost exclusively, I fish nymphs. I've always been a little intimidated with dry fly fishing and just thought I would learn more nymph fishing, catching more fish. This week, I had the opportunity to camp at the stream I frequent. It's a freestone stream in the north Georgia mountains, holds wild rainbow mostly. And I decided to dry fly fish. And what I found was I was able to learn a lot very quickly based on all of the action and everything kind of being on top of the water. So I was able to see the accuracy of my cast, the quality of my drifts. And anytime a fish moved on the fly, I was seeing that. So, I got a lot of visual feedback that I was able to learn from and react to very quickly. Whereas with nymph fishing, as you know, everything's happening underwater, and you're not getting as much information as you do on top.
So, I would encourage any beginners out there to make sure you're working in dry fly fishing as much as possible from a learning perspective. And, you know, obviously, when you're catching fish on top, it's a blast. I feel like I have been missing out based on my experience this week, I was able to move a lot of fish and catch some of them as well, which was very cool, very exciting, very fun. So my question is, what's your approach...? How do you approach kind of changing out flies? If you're fly's moving fish, and, you know, maybe 2 out of 10 are hitting, do you see that as success? Or is it time to move on? Is there something about the fly that the fish are ignoring? I just kind of wanted to hear how you approach that. Otherwise, thanks for all that you do, I find the podcasts extremely valuable, your fly-tying videos extremely valuable. Everything that you and Orvis put out in terms of education is super helpful. Thank you so much.
Well, Ray, thank you for that tip. That's a good piece of advice. And something that I probably have neglected to mention is that, yeah, dry fly is all visual. So you do learn a little bit more about fish behavior. Even better is if you can ever nymph fish to visibly feeding fish. That can be really, really eye-opening. It's a rare occasion, a rare treatment, the conditions have to be just right. Regarding how to approach changing out flies, if you're rising or moving 2 out of 10 fish with a dry fly, I wouldn't change a thing because a lot of times the fish are either in between rises, they're pausing to handle their food. There's a handling time in between each time a fish feeds because they have to kind of chew it and swallow. They don't chew it, but they have to swallow it and get it down there. And sometimes they don't see the fly, sometimes the fly's dragging. But if you get 2 out of 10 rising fish moving to your fly, I wouldn't change anything.
You know, when to change out flies is always situational, and it's really gonna be up to you. And I can't give you any reasonable guidelines for that. If you make 30 casts over a fish, and it doesn't take your fly and you think you're getting a good presentation, then it's probably time to change a fly. But if you're getting 2 out of 10, I'd stick with whatever you're doing. Just make sure you have a good presentation. Don't worry so much about switching out flies until the fish really tell you that it's the wrong fly.
All right, another email. This one's from Lee from Rock Hill, South Carolina. Yesterday, I spent the day with an Orvis endorsed guide in western North Carolina. The owner of the guide service is a past guest of yours, Brown Hobson of Brown Trout Fly Fishing. My guide called the night before. I ran down the list of what I wanted to accomplish. We got on the water early to beat the crowds. Water temp was 50 degrees Fahrenheit, air temp 55, and overcast, sounds perfect to me. The first fish was a 12-inch brook trout, my first ever, followed by a 10-inch rainbow, and a 14-inch brown, my first ever trifecta. We continued to catch a nice variety the rest of the day. He offered to take pictures of me holding them, but I said, "No, keep them wet."
The stream is typical of what I used to fish in Vermont for many years, 20 to 30 feet wide, lots of boulders, ankle-deep to 4 feet deep. I told Jamie, my guide, I wanted to work on my nymphing. So we were using a dry dropper with a cinnamon size 14 Chubby Chernobyl as the dry and a beadhead nymph size 16 as the dropper. Even though nothing was hatching, we caught about half on the dry. In fact, the fish were coming up through 3 to 4 feet of water to take the dry. All those dry fly takes were very hard, thanks to the Orvis store in Charlotte, North Carolina for recommending Brown Trout Fly Fishing. I had my best day on the water ever and I learned my iPhone really is waterproof. Jamie was using a hip pack. I'm trading in my vest for one.
Well, thank you very much, Lee, for your story and glad you had such a great day.
Here's an email from Steve B somewhere in Michigan. Hi, Tom. My wife and I have developed a severe case of late-onset fly fishing. It is something we talked about doing for a couple years and finally took the plunge this spring. We went out with a guide, and my wife was hooked, pun completely intended, after catching her first trout. I tried off and on to fly fish since I was young but was never successful at mastering it. Having a guide teach us the finer points of casting, mending, and all the other skills was so worth it. We have acquired clear water rods to get us going along with appropriate leaders and tippet. Here are my questions. First, what are the next five or six items you would consider must-have items for someone getting started in fly fishing? I'd asked the same question to the proprietor of the fly shop we were revisiting and would be curious as to your recommendations, hoping I didn't buy something that isn't really necessary. Second, I know you prefer not to recommend flies, but I'm still gonna ask. If we were searching for the most versatile fly nymphs or streamer patterns to start our collection, what five or six would you recommend? We will be doing the majority of our fishing in Michigan for brook trout and brown trout along with panfish and smallmouth bass close to home, if that makes a difference.
As far as your gadgets or accessories, Steve, you know, the things that I would consider absolutely necessary, a pair of snips or a small pair of scissors, something to cut your leader with so you don't use your teeth. Now, you probably already got that. A pair of forceps for removing hooks from fish that are kind of deep. Sometimes even if they're just hooked in the jaw, it allows you to get a little bit more leverage on the hook. Sometimes forceps will ruin a fly when you use them to get the hook out but at least you've...hopefully made less damage to the trout. But, you know, I use them mostly for debarbing hooks. A stream thermometer, you know, trout are cold-blooded, you really need to know what's going on and how it affects them. If you're constantly taking stream temperatures and then observe what you see in the river, you'll be able to predict in the future what you see out there. So stream thermometer is essential.
And then probably a net. You know, it makes it a lot easier to take a picture of a fish when it's still in the net in the water, makes it easier to handle a fish when you're trying to get the hook out, it makes it easier to release the fish. Get a landing net with a rubber net basket, not a nylon or a coarse polyester, you want one that's got rubberized webbing because it'll be easier on the fish, won't split their fins, and it won't be so abrasive. Those are the main things you need. You know, there's lots of other gadgets you can buy. Some of them are useful, some are not, and it depends on your own individual needs. If you have trouble with notch, you might wanna try a knot tying tool. I can't use the damn things but that's because I've not practiced with them. I've seen people use knot tools that have practice with them and are really good at using them.
You need a couple of fly floats. If you're gonna fish dry flies at all, you need something to initially treat your fly, such as fly dip or fly gel. And then you definitely need a desiccant powder, the dry shake powder that you use to get the slime off of a fly once catch fish, or if the fly just has absorbed a lot of water and won't float, that desiccant powder is essential. So, those are things I would run out the door with. I don't carry a lot of other gadgets but I carry a lot of other stuff on and off just to experiment with them to see how they work. But those are things I think you need for nearly any kind of fishing. Well, one thing, if you're fishing for pike or musky, probably want a pair of pliers to get that hook out of that toothy mouth and some wire. But that's it.
Regarding flies, there's a video that I just put out. It's probably just hitting YouTube and the Orvis Learning Center as this podcast is published, and it's my recommended 12 trout flies for anywhere in the world. You asked for six flies. So I'm gonna give those to you here, and they may not even agree with what I said in that video because my recommended flies change weekly depending on what I've had success with recently. In the video, those are all flies that have been around for a long time, and you can buy at any fly shop anywhere pretty much anywhere in the world.
Here's a half dozen I'd recommend particularly for your area in Michigan, black tungsten head or Beadhead Woolly Bugger, size 8, Parachute Adams Dry, size 14, Beadhead Hare's Ear Nymph, size 14, Beadhead Pheasant Tail Nymph, size 18. And I'm gonna mention two of my own patterns. We just started selling some of my signature patterns a few weeks ago on the Orvis website. And these are two patterns that I'd recommend. The TR Eck Caddis, ECK, it's a new pattern, size 16. This is a really generic caddis imitation. It floats really well but it floats lower than an Elk Hair Caddis, and I found that it's a lot more successful for me anyway, during caddis hatches than an Elk Hair Caddis.
And then the last fly is another one of mine. The Ter parachute beetle, size 14. It's a highly visible beetle. It's a good-looking beetle from underneath, looks like a beetle, looks like a Japanese beetle, and it has a nice high vis post. So ordinarily, I wouldn't recommend my own patterns because you can't...before this year, you couldn't get them anywhere. So I didn't wanna be telling you about my patterns when you couldn't buy them. But those are available now. So they're on the Orvis website and probably in most Orvis stores. Those are the six patterns I'd recommend you start with. You'll get lots more, guaranteed. I hope those help.
Here's an email from Mark from St. Louis, Missouri. My home water is a spring creek located on the edge of a national forest in Missouri. Trout predators that I have seen around the spring include blue heron, bald eagles, river otters, mink, and humans. On an outing last year, I was lucky to land a beautiful large rainbow. In an effort to give that fish some recovery time, I held it by its head...held by its tail, head pointing upstream. That is when disaster struck. From out of nowhere, a large snapping turtle surfaced and grabbed the trout by its face, and pulled it out of my grasp. I was stunned. What a disappointment it was to see the apparent end of that fish. It made me wonder just how much damage we catch and release anglers do to fish populations. I would like to hear more about catch and release best practices and the impacts of fly fishing on fish populations. What do you think? A fish that swims off after it is caught is likely a little stunned and no matter how careful the angler has been. Since the turtle incident, I have made it my practice to revive every fish inside my landing net, land them quick and protect them in a landing net until they are ready to be released. I would appreciate your thoughts.
Okay. So, Mark, first of all, I don't know why we should value rainbow trout more than a snapping turtle. I kind of like snapping turtles. I used to have them as pets when I was a kid. And the fact that you fed a hungry snapping turtle probably was a female with some eggs. I wouldn't feel bad about that at all. You know, the snapping turtles have to eat too. You know, I would not change my behavior on a trout stream, worrying about the next snapping turtle to come along and eat my trout because it's the first time I've ever heard of it. So, you know, I really wouldn't worry about that. We do. We do definitely damage trout populations, we try to minimize that damage. But when we're jerking a fish around and stressing it, and then we release it, yeah, it's a little bit stunned and a little bit slow. It's ripe for being attacked by a predator. And, you know, there's no place that's more apparent than bonefishing at times when you get a bunch of sharks surrounding the boat, and you have to move your boat because all you're doing is feeding the sharks.
So, yeah, we do, we do damage fish populations, no doubt about it, we try our best to minimize that. And we do the best we can. And I'm not gonna apologize for it because, you know, fly fishing is more or less a blood sport. And some of us like to eat fish and we kill fish. So we definitely have an effect on fish populations. But again, we try to keep that to a bare minimum. And again, I would not change your behavior just because of the snapping turtles because I don't think you're gonna have it happen again, so good luck.
Ben: Hi, Tom. Ben from Michigan here. I have four different long-winded questions. First, I've heard you mentioned multiple times that you believe fish can always see the tippet no matter how fine it is. If this is true, how much of a difference is 6X versus 5X actually make to spooky fish? This goes back to the classic if the trout are counting the number of legs on our Pat's Rubberlegs, we've got bigger problems. We've all seen spin anglers catch trout of all sizes on cheap 10-pound gas station mono and a mepps spinner. So is it really the tippet size that is affecting our success rates? Next, I was curious when you decide a fly line needs replacing versus when it just needs a cleaning. Obviously, if it's nicked up, then it's time to replace it. But I feel as though I've had marginal success with restoring a floating line's buoyancy just by a simple cleaning. Next, I was curious about the actual line strength, the differences between a standard and modified Clinch Knot. Old habits die hard. And having learned the standard, not at a very young age, I'd be lying if I said I took the time to tie the modified version every time I switch flies. The standard version has treated me quite well over the years. But hearing you mentioned 100% line strength pertaining to a specific knot on a recent podcast has me curious about what I'm missing out on. Lastly, I was wondering if you had any thoughts on catching multiple fish out of the same run, and more specifically, the catching the first fish has potential to get them "riled up." I think I first heard about this jokingly in a John Gerak book. But I've noticed a pattern in my own experiences that sometimes it's the second, third, or even fourth fish I catch out of a run that turns out to be the biggest, and presumably, the apex trout in the area. Thanks, Tom.
Tom: Well, Ben, those are great questions. And I'll try to answer. First of all, I still believe fish can always see tippet even 8X. I believe that it's the obnoxiousness of the tippet compared to the fly, and more importantly, the flexibility. So, there isn't a lot of difference in visibility to me and you between 5X and 6X tippet. But there is a difference in diameter. And that difference in diameter determines the flexibility of the tippet on the water and how much the currents will affect that fly and possibly make it drag or possibly make it behave unnaturally on the water. Now, on the other hand, when you're pulling something through the water, whether it's a mepps spinner, or a streamer, or even stripping a nymph, you don't have to worry about that flexibility because you are putting motion on that fly. So you can use a much, much heavier tippet. And when I fish streamers, I often...for trout in relatively clear water, I'll often use 16 or 20-pound tippet because I'm manipulating the fly, and it doesn't matter. But when you're fishing dry flies and nymphs, that flexibility is important because you're trying to get the fly to look natural in the current. So, that's the reason there is a difference between 5X and 6X. Maybe not a great deal but enough so that I know that when I've switched from, say 4X to 5X tippet in some circumstances, I've had much better luck one dry fly in nymph fishing. So anyways, there's the answer to that one.
Fly lines. If they're dirty, clean them. If they're cracked, replace them. There's no way to repair a fly line, period, end of story. Standard versus Clinch Knot. Knots in general, don't ever believe any percentages were knot as such and such percentage break strength of the smaller line. Knots are too inconsistent. You have to do hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of tests to get a reliable percentage breakage of a knot. The only knot that I know of that's 100% is the Bimini twist. And I'm not even sure if it's 100%. But I've tied Bimini twist on both ends of a line and stretched him and had the line break in the middle. So I assume it's pretty close to 100%.
But the Bimini twist, it's not a connection knot. It's only used to double over a line to double it for other purposes. So, I would not believe any of those percentages. And I don't know whether a standard or an improved clinch is stronger, I think it depends on the wire size on the fly-eye and the tippet size and the flexibility of the tippet and lots and lots of other things. I use a standard clinch. If I don't feel it's strong enough if I feel that the eye of the fly is a little too heavy for a clinch knot, I will use a Trilene Knot, which I recommend a lot which can be found on YouTube in many places. But it's basically a clinch knot where you go through the eye twice before you start.
Multiple fish out of the same run. That's common. What happens is the smaller fish are generally more aggressive, they're generally gonna move farther for a fly than a bigger fish, they're generally going to rise to the surface from a deeper depth. They're just more aggressive, they're grabbier than the larger fish. A larger fish get a little bit more lazy and efficient in their feeding. So, if you don't spook the larger fish by catching the smaller fish first, then your fly is hopefully gonna be in a zone where the smaller fish won't get to the fly first. So, that's pretty common, and that's a good observation.
Okay, another email. It's from Matt. "Thank you for sharing so much knowledge in such a practical and no-nonsense way. I primarily fish Rocky Mountain trout, but occasionally find myself in Florida or the Carolinas for nominally non-fishing visits. I would like to start bringing a setup for fishing from the beach and also from inshore, docks, canals, and creeks. I have a 10-foot 7-weight rod that seems like a reasonable enough tool, but I'm unsure what line would make the most sense. Given the ocean waves, it seems like a full intermediate might be the best from the beach. On the other hand, for shallow and calmer inshore waters, a floater seems preferable. Maybe it makes sense to split the difference and use a floater with an intermediate tip. My guess is that any of these could be made to work, but I certainly would appreciate your expert opinion."
Yeah, Matt, you pretty much answered the question exactly the way I would. Intermediate's great in the waves because it gets your fly down a little bit below the turbulence. A floater is probably best in backcountry fishing where it's calmer, although you can use an intermediate, you can use it if the water's deeper in those inshore waters. I think that a floater with an intermediate tip might be a good idea if you only want one line. Probably best to have two lines. But if you only want one line, I would say for all those things, floater with an intermediate tip would be a really, really good line. Now, the one thing I would recommend is that 10-foot 7-weight maybe not quite enough rod for fishing in the surf. You're gonna have more wind, you're gonna have bigger waves, you're going to be fishing bigger flies in the surf. You probably want an 8 or 9-weight or even a 10. You can make the seven work. But if you have another rod, I would take a heavier rod as well for the surf. But all those other things sound great. And I think you solve your own...answered your own question.
Here's an email from Nick. "First off, I wanna thank you for answering my question back in March, it was very helpful. And with some technique refinement, I'm finding much more success on my home water. You and Orvis are a wonderful resource for anglers like me, that are predominantly self-taught. Now for my question. First, as the weather is attempting to get warm up here in the Boise area, I'm finding myself getting out on the water more and more. With this comes the usage of more leaders, which can get expensive over time, which brings me to the thought of tying my own leaders. I have fluorocarbon tippet spools of 1X, 2X, 3X, 5X, 6.5X, and 7X. Is it just as simple as starting with the 1x tippet as my butt section and then working my way down? Or is there another piece to the puzzle? Also, would double surgeons not be sufficient for connecting the sections? Or do I need to sit down and finally learn the Blood Knot? My second question is, my dad is taking me to Island Park, Henrys Fork of the Snake River for my birthday in May. Neither of us have been there before. And I was wondering if you had any advice for fishing there that time of year. And which fly shops in that area to stop in and check out, anything helps as we are not getting a guide and we'll be fishing on foot. Once again, thank you for all you and Orvis do for the sport.
All right, Nick, your first question. I think you're gonna have to rethink what you're doing. If you're gonna tie your own leaders, first of all, I wouldn't tie them all with fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon sinks pretty well, particularly in the heavier sections. And if you're going to be nymphing or dry fly fishing, and doing anything but streamer fishing basically with your leader, you're gonna want nylon, not fluorocarbon for most of your leader. Fluorocarbon tippet is fine, you can put a tippet ring on the end and add a fluorocarbon tippet. Or you can Blood Knot fluorocarbon and nylon, it'll hold if you tie your knots carefully, but you're gonna need a lot more diameters. Unless you are just Euro-nymphing, in which case you don't necessarily need heavy butt section, but if you're dry fly fishing, nymph fishing, indicator fishing, you're gonna need to're going to need to get nylon starting at either 21,000 or 23,000ths of an inch, which is like 50 pounds. You're gonna then wanna go down to 2000ths of an inch. So you're gonna want some 19, some 019, some 107, Some 015, some 013, and then I think that gets you to your 1X. I would look up some leader formulas. There are a bunch of leader formulas online. Most of them are gonna start with a fairly heavy nylon butt section.
And the other thing is that double surgeons or triple surgeons knots are okay for down toward your tippet. But if you start tying those in the heavier sections in the butt section of your leader, it'll work but it's gonna be pretty clunky, those knots are not as smooth and neat as a Blood Knot. And Blood Knots are not that hard to tie the heavy stuff. If I were you, I would practice and learn some Blood Knots because it's gonna make your leaders...if you're gonna tie them yourself, it's gonna make your leaders much cleaner, and much more attractive and they'll cast better.
Regarding your trip to Henrys Fork, it's one of my favorite places in the world to fish, but I don't fish it enough to be able to give you any advice on it. There are lots of good fly shops in Island Park and in Last Chance. They're all good and I'm not going to play favorites and tell you which one to go to. Just pick one that looks nice and go in there. And they'll give you good advice both about where to go. You can't go wrong anywhere really in that area on the Henry's Fork. You can't go wrong. There's lots and lots and lots of good walk-wade fishing miles and miles and miles of it. And it may be crowded at that time of the year. And you have to be careful because the railroad ranch part of it doesn't open till I think late May. So just check the regulations and make sure you're not fishing...if you're there in early May, make sure you're not fishing where you're not supposed to. But find a fly shop. They'll give you good advice, and I know you'll have a great trip.
Here's an email from Nate. "Looking to try to target some early season lake trout on the fly within the next couple of weeks. I have a few lakes here in Colorado that I plan on trying to hit after ice-out, which is gonna be, again, very soon. Two questions. First, will a wire shock leader be too much for these fish? Would a fluoro or nylon leader be better, 3x 7.5-foot leader, wasn't sure how leader shy lakers or bigger browns or rainbows roaming the shallows after ice-out are. Second question, what size of flies should I be looking for? I'll be fishing from shore with my 8-weight, so flies size 10 or higher won't be an issue for me. I've never caught one of those fish on anything other than a charter boat in Lake Michigan. So I'm really hoping I can grab one here soon. Any insight would be appreciated."
Nate, first of all, you don't need a wire shock leader for lake trout. They have some teeth, but they're not gonna cut through your leader. And I wouldn't go 3x. I'd go much heavier. I'd go like 1x or 0x. You're gonna be stripping the fly. You don't need to have a light leader. You know, use something heavy. It'll cast better in the wind and it's not gonna spook the fish, and they're not gonna be leader shy probably that time of year. I would go with a 9-foot leader though, at least a 9, maybe a 12. Anytime you're fishing lakes, you wanna keep that fly line away from the fish, and even though it's early season, a fly line landing on top of shallow water is going to spook them. So, the farther you can keep that fly away from your fly line, the better. So I think 3x 7.5-foot is too light and too short. I'd go heavier.
Regarding flies, God, I can't tell you what kind of flies are gonna work for lakers in Colorado, but they're almost exclusively bait fish eaters. And I have caught lakers on lots of different kinds of streamers. I think I favor white or gray. But I've caught them on black streamers too, caught them on all kinds of things. You can't be the game-changer for...they're expensive and hard to tie, but can't beat a game change for a fish that eats baitfish or white zonker. I know I've had good luck big white, biggest you can get big white zonker. I would try both light and dark flies. And you just want baitfish imitation. So, you know, if the lake trout are there, they're not gonna be very picky probably, anything looks like a baitfish, they're gonna eat. But leave the wire leader at home and take a heavier nylon leader or fluorocarbon leader.
Here's an email from Rob, "As always, thanks to you and the Orvis team for all you do for the sport. But I want to do a special shout-out to the Orvis team in Phoenix, Arizona, they have provided me with a ton of advice on gear techniques and what flies to use on my local trips here in Arizona. Summer isn't that far away. And I was thinking about the extreme temperatures we had last year across the West. It's not unreasonable to think that we could have a similar situation this summer, but hopefully not as hot. A lot of us know to carry thermometers, check the temps, and not fish when the water temps at the 60s. My question is, how long does it take for fish to recover after a high heat event? I would think that if it was forecasted for a few days in a row, one could just back off for those consecutive days. But once the stream temps are back in the 50s, Is it okay to go back on the water? Should we give the fish a day or two recovery time after it cools down? Or do they recover faster than this? In general, I really opened up to more float tube fishing in alpine lakes and targeting warm water species like smallmouth, thanks to the podcast to help keep the pressure off when I can. Keep up the great work.
So, Rob, I'm not sure how long it takes fish to recover from high water temperatures to get back to normal metabolism. I would think it would be fairly rapid. And I haven't seen any science that indicates, you know, how long they take to adjust. But I do know that fish don't like rapid changes in water temperature. So, you may wanna wait a couple days anyways when the water cools down because even though it's cooling down to a more comfortable level for the trout, they're cold-blooded and a cooling water temperatures still tend to put them off the feed until they adjust to it. So I would wait. And don't forget also that it's water temperature, not air temperature that affects them, and water holds heat quite well. Water is a great insulator and has a high thermal something or rather. I forgot the term. Anyways, water takes a long time to give up heat, so you may wanna wait a few days. Anyway. So that's all I can tell you. If I ever find out anything about how long it takes fish to recover with water temperatures, I will report here on the podcast. And if anybody else knows, please let me know. Not speculation. I want some science here.
Here's an email from Liam. "I am a college student from Northern Indiana. I first wanted to thank you and Orvis for all you do for the fly fishing community. I'm relatively new to your podcast and fly fishing in general. So the wealth of information you share is invaluable. Especially love listening to your podcast on conservation and the importance of protecting and maintaining our environment. I have a couple of questions about trout fishing. I spend late spring and summer back home in Northern Indiana and spent a lot of time fishing a small river in the area. It contains mostly stocked rainbows and fingerling browns, but there are wild trout present. I have tried many different fishing techniques. But by far I have had the most amount of luck catching these fish wild and stocked on micro crankbaits and jerkbaits. First, is this normal? It seems like these fish would much rather go after a mini Rapala or crayfish crankbait than a worm or trout nugget. Next, how can I translate this to fly fishing? Should I try streamers? If so, what would you recommend? Or do you suggest I go a totally different route? Thanks again. You are the voice uniting anglers and conservationists of all generations. And it's easy to see that you're passionate about what you do.
Well, thank you, Liam, that's very kind of you. And I would say, again, you're answering your own question, yeah, streamers. Those fish that are eating mini Rapalas or crayfish crankbaits, they're chasing stuff, they're attacking stuff, they're not sitting and waiting for a bug to float into their mouth. So, you need to fish something with an act of retrieve that looks like a Rapala or a crankbait. You know, don't worry about it imitating the baitfish in there, imitate the lures. So, find out what colors and sizes Rapalas and crankbaits are working and get some streamers that imitate those colors. A lot of people have spent a lot of time in flies...developing flies that imitate spinning lures rather than imitate something in nature. So, you know, the game changer of which I keep coming back to is, it's a great pattern. That's a perfect example of a fly rod lure, a streamer that was designed to imitate a spinning lure. So, I would look at that. I can't tell you which patterns to try. Take a look at what's working in those lures and imitate it as best you can.
Mike: Hi, Tom, Mike from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I have a question for you. I recently picked up an Orvis Recon Rod 8-weight and paired it with a Hydros Reel and have the line on it being a scientific angler Amplitude Anadro's fly line, very much like the outfit. When I took a guided trip recently, the guide, you know, put the leader on. And when I took it off once I got back home, I noticed that however he had attached it, it cut into the welded loop on the fly line on both sides. The one side cutting completely the circumference of the welded loop, the flat line on that side, the other side, pretty much cutting almost the complete circumference of it down to the core on both sides. I'm getting ready to take a trip of a lifetime up to Alaska. My question to you is, with those cuts on that perfection loop is that the strength of that loop compromised? Should I cut that loop off and replace it with maybe some maxima with perfection loop attached with a nail knot? What's your advice? First of all, should I worry about that? I think I probably should and if so, what's your advice on fixing it up? Thanks, Tom.
Tom: It sounds to me like the guide kind of took a shortcut or maybe doesn't like perfection loop, but instead of tying a perfection loop in your leader, and then going loop to loop with the line, it sounds like he just tied a clinch knot around the welded loop. And some people do that, but it does tend to cut into the coating. And yeah, you gotta cut that loop off. If the coating is exposed, if the dacron core is exposed, the loop isn't gonna do any good. So, I'll cut the loop off, attach a piece of mono with a nail knot as you suggested, tie a perfection loop in that, and you'll be good to go. Or, you know, if you use the same length leader all the time, you could just nail knot a 9-foot or 12-foot, whatever leader right to the fly line. But yeah, that loop is toast, it's not gonna work anymore, and you might as well replace it. Okay, that is the Fly Box for this week, a long one, but I've been gone for a couple of weeks. So I had a lot of questions, and I got a lot of them left in there. So don't despair if I didn't answer your question this week. Let's go talk to Thomas about fishing lakes from shore.
My guest today is Thomas Larson. Thomas is a member of the Orvis Outfitter team, and the Outfitters are the fine people who answer your emails when you send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or answer your chat questions on the website or take your phone call. They're available to answer questions, to help you with product selection, fly selection, leader selection, whatever. If you have questions and you need some answers quickly, don't send a question in the podcast because I might not answer it for a month or so. These are the people who are going to get you the answer right away. They're all experienced anglers, and we wanna showcase some of their talents. So, Thomas, you're a stillwater expert, right, or you're a stillwater aficionado?
Thomas: Yeah. You could say that. yeah, I do definitely enjoy fishing stillwaters. I grew up fishing lakes and with a spinning rod and flying a bubble. So it's kind of transitioned to when I started fly fishing and I continue to fish lakes a lot. So, it's always kind of been what's been familiar for me. So, I still enjoy fishing rivers. I do enjoy doing that. But it's stillwaters definitely. There's a lot of fun for me.
Tom: Tell us a little bit about your background, Thomas. Tell us, you know, what you did before you were with the Outfitter team.
Thomas: Yeah. So, I guess to start off, I grew up in Central Utah. Well, there's not a lot of rivers, there's not a lot of water there. So we do have a lot of lakes and reservoirs. So that's one of the reasons I fish them a lot. And after I graduated from college in Utah, I moved to Ohio, and that's where I started working for Orvis. I enjoyed fly fishing, and I had a job there and wanted something else to do on the side. So I walked into the Orvis store there in Columbus and asked if they were hiring, and they said sure. So I started part-time and eventually became a fishing manager there in the Worthington store and was there as a fishing manager for a few years and then eventually moved out back out west because I missed the West and moved to Reno, Nevada to be a fishing manager in the Reno, Nevada store, where I really enjoyed that area. But I then got married and my wife and I wanted to be closer to family. Her family's from Idaho. And again, I'm from Utah. So we decided to move to southeast Idaho to be closer to family. And the fishing isn't so bad here in southeast Idaho. So, that was pretty easy for me to leave Reno. I had an opportunity to join the Outfitter team and work remotely, which is really nice, and be able to continue to work for Orvis. I'm working on...I just think I passed eight years with Orvis. So I can continue to work with Orvis, which I love, and still be closer to family and close to some great fishing.
Tom: Yeah. So, you know, just so people know, when you call the technical line or the Outfitter line Orvis, you're not gonna get some call center person who's been hired out. You're getting people with, not only longtime experience with fly fishing, but longtime experience with Orvis products. Thomas says, you know, a long history of working with customers of Orvis products. You're getting the good information, you're getting better information than you get from me, that's for sure.
Thomas: I don't know, Tom, although I do get mistaken for you sometimes when people call in.
Tom: Oh, you do.
Thomas: Hi. Thanks for calling Orvis. This is Tom. And they're like, "Is this Tom Rosenbauer?"
Tom: You should say yeah.
Thomas: No, you're [inaudible 00:50:11]. You don't have to talk to Tom Rosenbauer. [inaudible 00:50:13] talk to me.
Tom: That's great. No, you should tell them you're me. That's great. You know, we're gonna talk of the things I get questions on fairly frequently are people who wanna fish a lake for trout generally. And they say, you know, "I wanna go to this lake, I don't have a boat. I don't have enough money to hire a guide, I'm gonna fish from shore. Where do I look? What do I do? How do I start?" So, let's talk about fishing stillwaters from shore.
Thomas: Yeah. That's a great topic because, you know, a lot of the proficient stillwater fishermen out there experts, if you will, they all fish from boats. It can be intimidating with not having a boat. I don't own a large boat, I fish out of a float tube quite frequently. I don't own a big boat. I have friends that have them, which is nice. I'll bum a ride with them every once in a while, but a lot of the times, I do prefer just to fish from the shore. It is very possible and easy to do.
So, one of the things that I will do, especially if I'm going to a new lake is, you know, I will do a little bit of research beforehand, I will look up, you know, the size of the lake, I'll look at it on Google Maps, kind of get an idea of, you know, what it looks like, typography, you know. Really, what I'm looking for, especially from shore is either a distinct drop-off that is close enough to cast, you know, within 30 to 50 feet. A lot of times I would like it closer if I can. I'll look for weed beds, you know, weed beds are a great, I like to call them the kitchen of the lake, that's where a lot of the food will be. So that's where trout are gonna be eating. And then I look, you know, for different types of structure, whether it be rocks, whether it would be fallen trees, points that come out...jet out into the lake, any sort of structure that maybe would conjugate fish. For instance, if there's a point the fish is gonna have to swim around that point. And if they're in a school, that school will kind of compress a little bit going around the point, things like that would maybe draw more efficient and make it easier to find fish. So, that's what I'm looking at researching on the internet, just seeing if there's anything that I can see. Sometimes there is, sometimes there's not.
I also will look at the area around the lake, not just inside the lake, I'm looking around the lake, looking to see if I can see, you know, is the steep is the shoreline going into certain parts of lake. If it's steep, that's a good sign because it's gonna drop off a little bit more quicker. If it's more gradual, that means it's probably gonna go gradual into the lake, and it's not gonna be very deep. You're looking for some sort of...I don't know, just looking for those types of clues as much as you can on the internet.
So, after that, I will also...I guess I will also look at you generally will be able to find, you know, what the major food source is, whether there's a lot of baitfish in the lake, is there a lot of crayfish, you know, different insects. You know, some lakes have a really prolific damselfly or a dragonfly population. So that's a clue of, you know, kind of flies you'd want to use. So this kind of, I'd say, almost any research that you do at any...if you're going to any fishing spot, whether it's a lake or a river, as far as that goes as far as entomology and things like that. And so, yeah, that's kind of the research I'll do before I go. Now, once I get to the lake, you know, that's where you can really look around and see what's going on. And see, where do I wanna start? And it can be very, very overwhelming, as I'm sure this because there is just a big body of water, right?
Tom: Yeah.
Thomas: You know, a lot of people... So, living in Reno, Nevada, we have a very, very large lake close by to us. Pyramid Lake, it's very, very popular and known for the cutthroat trout fishery that it is because there's very large fish. But when people come to it, they get there, and they're like, "This thing is huge. Like, what do you do?" And really, what I should tell people on what's worked for me is to break that lake down and not look at it as one big body of water, you know, pick a spot and go to it and think of it as a little pond if that helps you. Imagine you're going through a pond and fishing for bluegill. And think about that. And so don't get distracted by everything else. And just look for the clues around you. So, you know, I'll pull up to a lake.
For instance, I guess an example, I went to a lake when I first moved here to Idaho, I'd never been to and it was pretty well known, at least in fishery. And so I went and I walked the shoreline a little bit, it's a pretty sizable lake, you couldn't walk around the whole lake, but I just picked a spot and started walking and, you know, I noticed, oh, there's a color change, you know, it starts off pretty light. And then you can see where it gets dark, where it's dropping off. This could be a pretty good spot. You know, fish like to...they like to have that deep water nearby, they'll come into the shallow water, you know, but they want to have some refuge to be able to get...if know, pray or something is there, they wanna be able to feel safe. So having that nice drop-off shallow water where there could be a lot of bugs, a lot of insects, leeches, they can come and feed, but they can escape really easily. So, you know, I see, oh, there's a drop-off probably 20 feet off the shore. I, you know, cast out there and fish along that drop-off. And, you know, that where fish are cruising, generally gonna be right along that drop-off. And I found a few fish.
So it's, you know, looking for those things and just not...just paying attention to where you are, you know, oh, there's a downed tree. You'll be surprised at how many trout will even just, you know, hang out around a tree and wait to ambush something. So throwing some sort of woolly bugger or something in there and stripping it back, you could pick up some fish, they like to cruise around rocks, that's another source of protection for him. So, you know, looking for those little clues trying to find or fishing and standing out on a point, you see a point that sticks out. I will go stand out on that point and fish out that point and generally will find some fish, and especially in the springtime, I will look for feeder streams, you know freshwater coming into the lake. You know, that's gonna be pushing, you know, clean water, insects, things like that. Any sort of stream that's, you know, getting some good flow, especially during the springtime, generally can be really productive.
Tom: Okay. Let's say you're going to a lake, never been there before. You found your spot. We've already talked about that. You don't see any insects. You don't see any baitfish. You don't see anything around. What's the first fly you're gonna put on, and what are you gonna do with it?
Thomas: That's a good question. And that would maybe be dependent on the kind of mood I'm in too. So, one thing that I might do first off is I would probably start off with fishing a floating line and with an indicator or a glorified bobber fishing if you will. As a stillwater fisherman, I like to call it bobber fishing. And I would probably fish, either a balanced leech or a little micro leech underneath an indicator. And, you know, leeches are in most lakes that I've found. There are a lot of leeches in lakes, and fish love leeches. And so that is a great way to start.
And if listeners don't know a bounce leech, is just a fly that's tied...a leech pattern that's tied on a jig hook using...and then on lash to the hook is a pin with a tungsten bead out sticking out in front of the eye to help counterbalance the fly so it is sitting in the water parallel or I guess horizontal instead of vertical. So it looks a little bit more realistic. It's not hanging, you know, vertical under the water because leeches will swim horizontally. A balanced leech is a great way to start. And just, you know, kind of, you know...especially from shore, we don't generally have...we don't have electronics like fishfinders, and sounders to be able to know how deep it is.
So generally, I would say from the store, you're gonna be fishing anywhere from 5 to maybe 10 or 12 feet is kind of where I get... All right. My experience is showing is I'll generally be fishing in water about that deep. So I'll generally try to guess how deep the water is, or I think it is, and try to get that fly as close to the bottom. But for me, a good place to start is about 7 feet of depth. I'm catching weeds, I'll shallow that up a little bit. If I'm not getting anything or if I feel like, you know, about 15 minutes, nothing's happened, I may change the depth of that fly, either bringing it up or down and just messing with it. You know, a lot of Stillwater fishermen that I know and of an advice I've heard from other people that we don't change flies a whole lot, we change the depth more than anything. That goes with sinking lines and with indicator. Changing the depth is going to get you better gonna be better off than trying to change your fly a ton. It's trying to find that right depth where those fish are feeding. And once you find it, it can be lights out and fish every cast sometimes. So, it is crucial. That's I say about every 15 minutes or so, if nothing's happened, I will change the depth of that indicator when I'm fishing with an indicator.
Tom: Okay. Now, a couple questions. First of all, what color will that first leech be?
Thomas: Okay. I would usually say dark olive or some sort of blacks. So, olive and blacks are I would say definitely my confidence colors in leech colors or leech flies. I would say most of the time, it's going to be like a dark olive kind of coloration. So now, next.
Tom: Do you move that indicator at all? You cast it out there and you let the leech sink. Then what do you do? Do you watch it like a bobber?
Thomas: Yep. So that's a great question. So a lot of people with implies, like when they think about indicator fishing or bobber fishing here is like, "Oh, this is boring. I'm staring at this bobber." You know, it can be that way. I would say that if you're bored, you're probably doing it wrong. I like to fish that indicator. I'm looking at that indicator. I'm moving it. I'll twitch it. Sometimes it's just a tiny little twitch. Sometimes I'll move that indicator 5 feet, you know, pull that fly up, and then let that thing settle back down. And we'll do that. It's just, you know, trying different things until you figure out what works. If you're just staring at it, that is very boring.
And so I tried to say, "This's the indicator, use that indicator as your tool, and you can move it. And that's okay." Sometimes the fish don't like it moved. So you have to play around, obviously but... And with stillwater fishing, wind is our friend. We love winds, wind is very, very important because if there is no wind, it can be a struggle. But though that wind can cause some waves on the water, which will move the indicator for you. So that thing will start bouncing with the waves and start creating that fly, making sure that it' know, making sure that fly is kind of fluttering and like making it look like it moves.
And I think people don't always understand this instant we do call it stillwater fishing. But there are currents in the lake, whether it's wind currents, or sometimes we may be closer to a feeder stream where it's gonna push...there's a little bit of current. I do mend quite a bit when I'm fishing indicators. So I'm watching my line because if that line starts to throw a big belly or starts to form in that line, one that won't be tight to me indicator. So setting the hook when I need to is gonna be a little bit more challenging, but it also will start pulling the indicator. It could, especially if it's moving fast enough, bring that fly up out of the zone, that zone that you think you're fishing. So your fly may not be in the right depth if it's moving quick enough. I know like at Pyramid, there is a lot of current. And so there is a lot...I will mend quite a bit there just to keep a little bit of slack in the line. So I do make...I am confident that my flies are at the right depth.
Tom: So you're casting up wind usually.
Thomas: Yep. That's one thing that I will try to do is cast up wind and kind of let it drift in front of me. At Pyramid, that current is a little bit more strong than other lakes. But yeah, that is something that you want to be aware of. If you're just sitting there and watching it, there are things that you could be doing to help improve your chances of catching a fish.
Tom: Okay. Do you have a favorite indicator that you like to use when you're doing this?
Thomas: More recently I would fish, the Airlocks have been very popular in our area here. I know a lot of people especially up in Canada, and British Columbia, which is very popular. As far as stillwater fishing goes, they'll use a lot of slip indicators. I don't tend to fish as deep as they do, mainly because I don't fish out of a boat. So for many shore, you don't need that slip indicator because you're not going to be generally fishing 15 to 20 feet deep where that will become a problem if you set the hook and your indicators, you know, 20 feet from your flies, you can't land the fish at that point. I've always liked the Airlock indicators.
Recently, I've actually started I can't think, we sell them, the cork indicators, corki, I think they call it. They are a little bit more challenging to adjust the depth. In fact, I've taken some broken Airlock indicators and epoxied that little screw-top into those cork indicators. Little hack there, you can cut out the little rubber band on those cork indicators and put an Airlock screw in there to epoxy that in there. And it works really well. I like those, they're a little lighter. I think they land. They're not quite as, you know, abrupt when they land. And they float. I can use a smaller one and float a little bit more weight I feel like. But I do like an indicator that I can adjust pretty easily because, you know, every 15 minutes or so, if I need to, I wanna be able to adjust my depth.
Tom: And what kind of leader are you using when you're fishing like this?
Thomas: That's a great question. So when I'm fishing with an indicator, really what we want is a pretty short butt section of the leader and long tippet section because we want to be close in contact with our...the flies want to be in contact with that indicator as much as we can. So if you have a standard tapered butt section, or tapered leader, that butt section generally is gonna be a little too long. And so you put that... Let's say you have a 9-foot or even one of our 12-foot leaders. And you put that indicator, you know, closer to the top of that, our flies don't have enough weight to pull that line straight down underneath...our leader straight down underneath our indicator. So there's gonna be a slight, you know, curve to that leader. And so there's gonna be a little bit of slack. And so one, there's gonna be one problem is that you're not as deep as you think you are. So if you think you're set at 9 feets, you're probably only gonna be fishing about 7 feet or so.
And the second is a fly with an indicator and...with indicator rigs, a fish can either fly, spit it out, and we'd never know about it. Unfortunately, that's part of the downside of the indicator, it's not as sensitive have to almost be right on top of it because you I'm sure you know, Tom, as well, that fish can suck a fly in and spit it out real quick. So if you have that slack in there, you're going to end're going to miss some takes because they will do that, and that indicator will never move. So having a long piece of tippet, you know, 3X tippet, and your indicator's attached to 3X tippet, and your fly is attached to 3X tippet, your fly and indicator are perfectly in line. It's gonna be much more sensitive. And so I generally don't fish a leader that has about a 2 or 3-foot butt section, just to help turn the indicator and the flies over. And then it'll just have a long piece of tippet, and I generally will use 3X. And for the most part will use fluorocarbon, I like it being a little bit more stiffer, because it is a lot of level tippet. That stiffer material is gonna be able to turn over more and prevent less tangles.
Tom: So you're attaching a fairly heavy butt section. Do you just use the butt of an old leader? Or do you just use some level heavier tippet material? What do you put on for your butt.
Thomas: Yeah. That's a great question. I will do all the above, sometimes whatever's most convenient I have in my bag. There are specific leaders out there that are designed for indicator fishing that I will use. I know that likes Scientific Angler makes some that I will use and love and love using those. Actually, they call them stillwater indicator leaders. And they're a great option. If you don't want to buy a whole new leader, you can build your own leader. That's pretty easy. I think the easiest is to take an old leader and get, you know, the butt section of an old leader and just build it off of that, I find that the easiest. But you could, you know, 25 pounds, or even 30 pound to get material and create a leader or a butt section. And a lot of times I will even...when I do it that way, I'll just attach a tippet ring to the end of the butt section, and then just have my tippet come straight off of that just to help so that connects. You know, when you're trying to tie knots to those different diameters, it's not gonna sit very well. So having that tippet ring will help, so your knot security is much better.
Tom: Yeah, that was gonna be my next question, if you're trying 25 pound to 3X, I was gonna find out what knot you're using if you're not using a tippet ring. Okay.
Thomas: I'm using a tippet ring for sure. I generally don't do it that way just because it's a little bit more clunky and not as...I don't like it as much. So that's where an old butt section will work, or just one of those, a specific leader designed for indicator fishing. And for me, I'll be honest, I have, you know, being able to...I'm lucky enough over the years be able to collect a lot of gear, and I have a specific reel with a specific line on it that's I want for...I use indicator fishing and I actually know, I've cut the loop off of it and done a needle nail knot for my leader onto that line. So it makes that transition a lot easier. It casts better, especially if I have to fish a longer leader, you know, 20-foot leader if I'm in a boat or so...I can bring that leader connection into my guys without worrying about breaking it off. But not necessary from when you're unsure. You know, a leader that's 10 to 12 feet will generally...will probably do...would get you by if you're fishing from the shore. That loop-to-loop connection shouldn't be a problem for most people if they're just fishing on the shore.
Tom: Okay.
All right. So let's say you found a point, there's a tributary coming in close by, there's a weed bed, and there's some big rocks, you gotta believe there's some fish there. And your bounce leech on the indicator doesn't work. What's next? Will you move to a different spot? Or will you try some other technique?
Thomas: I might try another technique. I may look around and see, you know, do I see bugs? Do I see, you know, chironomids? When I say chironomids, it really means midges. Chironomids and midges is the same thing. We just call them chironomids in lakes for some reason. But they're generally a little bigger. Midge, you'd find in a river. But I'll look for, you know, do I see bugs? Do I see chironomids coming off? You know, are birds around eating? You know, I'm looking for those signs, if not.
I guess I should say if I do see some sign of hatch, I may change to, you know, fishing with the chironomid and a leech together. So two fly rig just to see if that helps see if the fish are keying in on a specific hatch. And I'll do that with an indicator. I may also change it up and change my line. I wouldn't even need to change my line, I guess I made this with my floating line. I may put, you know, a woolly bugger or some sort of small streamer on there, especially if there's rocks around and, you know, slowly start stripping that around, you know, picking spots, you know, casting against that tree, slowly bringing it back, casting towards those rocks, seeing what happens. And see if that will pick up some fish. And trying that with a floating line. If that doesn't work, I may change that to an intermediate line or even a type three-line or a line that sinks at 3 inches per second just to see if that will help because, you know, floating line's gonna keep pulling that fly up, and I'm not gonna be able to get as deep...I may not be able to get as deep as I need to. Where if I was fishing like a type three-line, that's gonna keep that fly deep. And I'm gonna be able to keep it moving on a more horizontal presentation.
Tom: Okay. Cool. Those sound like some great suggestions. Do you find any difference between the species in a lake? So if you know there's just brown trout or just rainbows or just cutthroats or just brook trout, is there anything different you're gonna do for those different species?
Thomas: Yes and no. I mean, I find that I've caught fish at least as far as trout goes, I've caught them all doing the same techniques in the same lake. But for the most part, most of the lakes and reservoirs for me around here, especially in the Western United States, are gonna be stocked with a lot of rainbows. So they all pretty much have rainbows in them. It's an easy fish for hatcheries to raise and stock. And a lot of these lakes are managed as a put and take fishery. A lot of them do have rainbows. I will say that I do find that brook trout and I would...browns, I've caught more on fishing streamers. When I say streamers, in lakes especially, we're not talking huge articulated 6-inch streamers. They're more, you know, woolly bugger style and just 3 inches as it gonna be a large streamer that I use, so smaller streamer. I'll catch more brook trout that way. And brown trout, it seemed to catch more on those streamers where I would say...and also, another fish that's pretty popular that is stocked in a lot of lakes, especially cutthroat lakes, are tiger trout, which is a hybrid between a brook trout and a brown trout. They will also eat a streamer pretty well, but all of them will eat bugs too as long as you present it right.
But yeah, to answer your question, I do find that a little bit, some distinctions between the two of them. Although I will say there's a lake that I like to fish in Northern Nevada that, you know, it has a ton of rainbows, but it also has smallmouth in it some, you know, wipers or hybrid striped bass. And I've cut so many smallmouth bass fishing chironomids underneath an indicator. Yeah. So even a bass, a smallmouth we'll eat these insects. Now, I remember one time catching one and thinking like, "Oh, this is a bigger rainbow," and then I see it's a smallmouth. And I got really excited, you know, living in Ohio, I got really excited about smallmouth, they're a ton of fun. So I got really excited, I'm like, "Yeah, this is awesome." I pulled that fish up, that thing was just loaded with leeches. You could open up his mouth and it just...completely could see leeches all up in its throat. And it still ate a little tiny size 16 midge pattern.
So I would say any of these tips that...or anything I talked about today will work for smallmouth. So if you have smallmouth in a lake, even largemouth. I know there's guys in California that use a lot of this, you know, they call it afloat and fly in California but essentially bobber techniques, you know, fishing balanced or jig flies underneath an indicator. It's a great way to catch some largemouth bass, especially in the wintertime when it's cold.
Tom: Yeah, I can imagine. I got some carp spots. I think it will work. Some carp lakes, I think it'll work too.
Thomas: It works in carp. Yeah. My family was on a vacation this last fall. My dad caught a carp with a balanced leech underneath an indicator. So, it will work with carp. Wasn't trying for it, but if you're targeting them, I think it would work.
Tom: So I had another question. When you're fishing chironomid with a balanced leech, do you tie the chironomid on a separate dropper above it, or do you tie it to the bend of the leech fly?
Thomas: That's a great question. So generally, when I'm fishing know, so chironomids will generally, you the adults lay the eggs, the eggs fall down into a muddy silty bottom, and then wait till they hatch. And so they kind of stage right at the bottom of this muddy silt, and that's where fish will really key in on them. So I generally like to fish my current a bit on the bottom just because it is closer to the bottom so I get it closer to the bottom of the lake. And then I will fish that leech and I will tie off the tag ends. And a lot of times, I use a swivel on my system, my leader system if I'm using two flies just to help...especially if I have balanced leech on the top off of a dropper just to help with less tangle. That's micro swivel and we sell them on our website from Scientific Anglers. That helps everything rotates, so you get less tangles of that dropper wrapping around your leader, especially with a bigger, bulky fly like that. And then like I said, so I'll have that carbon on bottom and the leech on top. Most of the time that will change obviously, and there's never a perfect solution or answer for every situation as you know, Tom.
Tom: Oh, so you tie the leech on the upper dropper.
Thomas: Exactly.
Tom: And then put the chironomid on basically the end of the tippet. Ah, okay. So it's kind of reverse of the way you normally do two fly. Okay.
Thomas: Yeah. Again, I will do it differently. I would put the chironomid on top in certain situations. Like for instance, if I do see that there are adults hatching off on the water, I would say, "Okay, there's a hatch going on." So those chironomids are swimming up to the surface. So there may be some in that mid-column. I may put it on the top in that situation just, you know, give you an example where I may change that up.
Tom: Okay. Good stuff. Good stuff, you're giving me lots of ideas. I haven't tied any balanced leeches in a while. I gotta tie some up because that...
Thomas: They're a fun fly. I don't love tying them, but they're a fun fly to fish. They just seem to work well. And, you know, like in Pyramid, we try and colorways to imitate baitfish, so whites and tans, you know, two tones, or you'll have a tan or a greenback with a white underbelly just... It's a fun style fly you can play with and do a lot of different things. Like I'll tie balanced damselflies as well. So that's another one that I will do a lot, especially on lakes with a lot of weed beds where there's a lot of damselflies.
Tom: Yeah. Now, I have to ask the question. When you fish Pyramid, do you fish from a ladder?
Thomas: I do. I will sometimes. It's a necessity that I wish I didn't have to do but you kind of have to at times. And the reason why we're fishing from these ladders, it gets twofold here, or yeah, I'd say twofold is one is to get us out of the water so we're not freezing to death and then also to be able to cast much easier. At Pyramid, there are certain areas or beaches where you need a fish and you need to get to that drop-off like I talked about earlier. Getting to that drop-off is crucial to be able to catch some fish. Well, to get to the drop-off, you'd have to be able to get the casting range still to drop-off. You may have to wade out to, you know, above your waist and to be able to do that. That's why we utilize ladders or even you go out there and there's some fancy chairs. People got chairs. You know, they got the cup holder there with their beer on it. They got snack bar. No, there's no snack bar. But yeah, just to allow us to get out of the water because we're generally fishing in colder weather, so you're not as cold but be able to cast. And so you're not having to cast...I'm sure people who've tried to cast when they're up to their belly button in water, it's not the easiest way to do it.
Tom: No, not easy to double haul either.
Thomas: It is not. So using these ladders allows us to get up a little bit higher to cast and be able to get to those spots. And I will say there are places at Pyramid and other lakes where you don't need to do that. There's places you can stand on dry ground and not even being in waders and still catch fish because the drop-off is that close or it gets deep, comes right off the...up some rocks or something, and, you know, it's really deep. So you don't need it to go out and fish Pyramid. If anybody out there is wanting to go out there and fish and think they need to have a ladder, it's not necessary. It can be helpful fishing in certain spots.
Tom: And do you use a stripping basket when you're up on the ladder?
Thomas: I do a little. Yeah, sometimes. That's something that I would mention fishing on a lake, especially if you're going to be fishing with sinking lines. If you're fishing from shore, a stripping basket is nice, even with the floating line I find. You know, we've all been there, we've been casting, and you go to shoot that line and it goes, you know, half the distance, and you look down, and you're stepping on your fly line, or it's stuck on a twig that's sticking up, wrapped in the weeds or rocks, especially in rocks. Nice fly lines aren't necessarily cheap, and you don't want to ruin them by, you know, stepping on them by your own rocks and things like that. So I like to keep them out of harm's way that way and not get as tangled. It allows it's not as a frustrating day dealing with tangles on your feet and such.
Tom: Do you have a favorite brand of ladder and style?
Thomas: You know, I don't. I think a ladder that I have, it's a little giant ladder. I'm lucky enough to have some family in the hardware business, and I was able to get hooked up with a little giant ladder. So that one works for me.
Tom: Okay. So you generally don't have to drag them too far, right? You're parked fairly nearby and you just walk out there.
Thomas: Yeah. Generally, I'm probably...the ladder is probably 20 feet or such off the shore. You're not dragging them in very far. You know, you could even go and get a cheaper know, just like a three-step footstool, and that will work as well. Your feet will still be in the water but your ankle or shin-deep rather than, you know, up to past your waist.
Tom: There's a guide on Cape Cod. I don't know if he's still there. He used to drag a ladder for miles on the flats sight fishing for stripers. I mean, literally, miles wading through shallow water, he drag a ladder and he'd stand up on the ladder and spot fish for the client.
Thomas: I mean, that's dedication, good for him. That sounds like a rough day.
Tom: Yeah, that's like real work.
Thomas: You're right. That is absolutely real work.
Tom: All right. Any other tips you would give somebody? I mean, these have been really great solid pieces of advice, Thomas. Any other tips you would give people that are going to a lake and fishing from shore that we missed?
Thomas: Yeah. So there's one other way that I personally will...I fish a lot when I'm fishing from shore that has proved effective, especially during a hatch time or, you know, when you're fishing a little bit more shallow water. A lot of the techniques we talked about today have been deeper, you know, fishing 10 to 7 feet deep, but sometimes we may be fishing five, four, 5 feet, 4 feet, even 3 feet. And one of the techniques that I like to utilize in that is going to be what we call the washing line, where I will put, you know, a more buoyant fly at the end of my leader as you see my point fly. I personally will have two flies between that. So I'll have a three-fly rig, and I will only do this in places that's legal to fish three flies. There are some places you can only fish two flies. So be aware of that. But having a three-fly rig with a more buoyant fly on point and then, you know, two nymphs between the fly line and that buoyant fly.
Now, this is gonna be a longer leader, so with the three flyer 15 even 20 feet long sometimes. So I would say don't start off that way if you've never done it. You can cut it back to only having one nymph or only doing a two-fly rig if that makes sense. But, you know, having a buoyant fly like what we call a booby fly, which is very popular in stillwater fishing, some sort of a fab, which is kind of just like a big [inaudible 00:31:35] attractor looks almost like a big egg fly. Something that's a little bit more buoyant that's going to hold between that and your floating line, and you slowly strip that across a shallow area, especially if there is, you know, a hatch going on, it can be very, very deadly, especially for picky fish. You know, a lot of these bigger fish that come into the shallows to feed on scuds and mayfly nymphs and, you know, dragonfly or damselfly nymphs, they're obviously...they're big for a reason. And so plopping a big fat indicator in there can spook them and fish. So this is a way that you can fish, you know, smaller flies more stealthy. I mean, just slowly stripping that in. This is slow, you can do it as slow as you can stand. And that can be a lot of fun. You feel the tug, you feel those takes. It's a ton of fun to fish that way.
Tom: You have the big attractor on the end and then you tie two droppers on your tippet and attach nymphs there. How long do you make those droppers usually?
Thomas: About 6 inches. I'd say 6 to 8 inches really because they're gonna sink a little bit especially if you're going to be fishing like a booby fly or one of these blobs. I'll even do it with the Chubby Chernobyl to be honest with you. I've had some success with it. It's a big fat Chubby Chernobyl on the end. They're gonna sink a little bit but again just right below the surface, especially if there's a little bit of chop on the water where the fish feel a little bit more comfortable, you know, you get that chop on the water. It's like putting a curtain over the window for the fish. They can't see out of that, and so they feel a lot more confident because they know that predators can't see them as much. So they will come up and eat that shallow especially if, you know, you're fishing in that 4 to 5-foot depth. That's a fun way to fish and a way to try out...something new for people to try out.
Tom: Okay. Great. Cool. Well, you've given us some great techniques. Thank you.
Thomas: Yeah. You got any more questions for me, Tom?
Tom: Oh, God, I think I'm fresh out of questions. You answered them all though.
Thomas: I will say...real quick I guess I might touch on. As far as equipment, there are some, you know, just people know, you know, your standard 9-foot 5-weight is a great rod to go and fish a lake with. You do not need to get any new rods, you know, a 9 foots. I generally wouldn't go below a rod shorter than a 9-foot rod but a 9-foot 5-weights, even an 8-weight. All these rods will work. They're great rods. I personally fish a lot of 10-foot rods when fishing lakes just helps with casting especially if you're in a float tube or... It will cast things easier and we generally will roll cast with the indicator rigs more than we will overhead cast. So if you really enjoy fly fishing lakes, you may eventually gravitate towards a 10-foot rod or a longer rod, but don't let that stop you. A 9-foot rod will work just fine.
Tom: Aren't we supposed to be selling people rods, Thomas?
Thomas: Oh, well, okay, my favorite rod is a 10-foot 6-weight H3F. And you need that rod to [inaudible 01:35:24].
Tom: No, I'm often in the podcast talking people out of buying a new rod when I think they don't need one. So that's fine. I agree with it.
Thomas: Yeah. I understand. We're just having a little bit fun. We're having some fun here, Tom.
Tom: Yeah. We got it.
Thomas: It's fly fishing so it needs to be fun.
Tom: Yeah. It does. Absolutely. And it sounds like fun. The stuff you're doing sounds like a lot of fun.
Thomas: Yep, it is. It is a ton of fun especially now that's, you's a great way to pass some time if your trout stream is blown out and it's runoff, or if it's, you know, sometimes like we had this last year with drought and things closed. This is a great way to go and spend some time. Even if you're fishing for smallmouth or largemouth or carp, don't forget about lakes. They're there and you can still get that fly fishing fix.
Tom: Cool. All right, Thomas, well, thank you so much. We've been talking to Thomas Larson of the Orvis Outfitter team. And when you email or chat or call up, you may have the pleasure of talking to Thomas, and I'm sure a lot of you have.
Thomas: Yep. I'm sure there's been a few of them out there. We're happy to help. We enjoy talking fishing and answering questions. So please ask the way. It helps the day go by much better.
Tom: All right. Thank you, Thomas, really appreciate your time. Thanks for listening to the "Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast" with Tom Rosenbauer." You can be a part of the show. Have a question or a comment? Send it to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in a body of an email or as a voice attachment. You can find more free fishing tips at