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Thread: Deadly stillwater tactics and secrets

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  1. #1
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    Default Deadly stillwater tactics and secrets

    Having fished a few understocked stillwaters this past weekend in cold and blustery conditions, with no visible signs of trout around, I found myself going through my flybox more than a few times, and racking my brains all the time.

    One of the dams I have fished and caught trout in before, (albeit a few years ago, so I was not sure if any fish remained in it or not) I found myself fishing this one a bit more confidently and thoroughly than the others, yet the fish were not forthcoming. Studying the submerged grassy beds on the fringes extending to the drop-offs, I got to thinking about a snail pattern that I once had alot of success with. Shortening my leader down to two foot with a one foot length of tippet material, I attached the #14 neoprene snail, with its soft fronds of marabu bellowing out the sides, to the 4x tippet. I proceeded to cast my sinking line a few metres past a drop off and let it settle down to the bottom. The wind was blustery and clipping my left ear, so I angled the cast to the left and watched as it started drifting off the the right. I imagined the bouyant neoprene fly drifting 3 feet off the bottom, as this is just where I wanted it to be. Two minutes later I had a vicious take and I was into a sizable fish. Drawing the fish closer, I noticed that the fly was firmly lodged in the scissors. I was extremely satisfied to see the fat well conditioned 1.8kg hen at my feet, and thanked her as I released her, especially as three of us had battled the whole day without a touch.

    The fly had lost a lot of its bouyancy after I released the fish, I think the problem being that the strip of neoprene had been too tightly spanned over the top of the hook shank during the tying process for starters, thus making it too dense. Once it became waterlogged, it would not perform the same way, continuing to sink all the way to the bottom everytime and I had no more takes. We packed up for the day at that point.

    The next morning I was back, but this time I attached a #14 neoprene beetle to my tippet and proceeded to fish it the same way. Allowing my line enough time to sink all the way to the bottom, I proceeded to fish the beetle extremely slowly back, using the figure of eight. I visualized the beetle dipping downwards as I twitched my rod tip, pausing the retrieve momentarily to allow the beetle enough time to rise back to the three feet above the bottom suspended position and basically just taking up the resulting slack with the figure of eight. Half way back my line became slightly heavy and sensing that this was possible a fish, I released some of the coils from my thumb while lifting the rod tip. Suddenly my line cut a arc through the water to the right as another sizable fish rushed off with the beetle. Unfortunately, although I sensed the fish, I sensed it too late and had allowed the fish to take the beetle deeply into its throat. My forceps could not reach it and I was faced with the decision to cut my line and set her free with the fly lodged in her throat or kill her. The thought of my smoker gathering dust in my garage entered my mind at that point and I thought, "what the hell, it has been a long time.....this one's for the pot!"

    I would like to finish off by saying that I have caught many many trout in stillwaters using this approach, so much so that many a time I have put my rod down to relieve my bladder, only to come back to a fish on the line. My mate Gary will vouch for this. The suspended fly is incredibly effective, but requires the most patient and dead slow approaches.

    I would love to hear from you guys what techniques and tactics you resort to when the going really gets tough. Let's use this platform to share some of our secrets. I have just shared one of mine! Sean,how about one or two of your 'unconventional' methods?
    Last edited by Chris Shelton; 02-10-06 at 02:40 PM.

  2. #2
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    Question #14 neoprene beetle

    Can you please post a pic of this fly.It sounds perfect for my next trip to Oaklane cottages. Thanx

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by chriss View Post
    Can you please post a pic of this fly.It sounds perfect for my next trip to Oaklane cottages. Thanx
    I'll see what I can do Chris. I will take a pic for you

  4. #4
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    My most effective tactics are nothing new:

    I like fishing a floating line on stillwaters so I usually fish small (size 16) nymphs or unweighted buzzers below a big bouyant dry fly or a more visible strike indicator in windy conditions. I am convinced that in heavily fished dams the fish notice the resistance of a strike indicator on the surface when they take a fly underneath it and so prefer dry flies that have much less resistance.

    I start with two nymphs/buzzers 50cm apart and 50cm below the dry fly, and just let it drift, watching the dry fly. If it sinks, I lift and I'm in. If I get no interest I drop the nymphs by another 50cm below the dry so the top one fishes where the lower one used to fish and the bottom one is 50cm lower down. I continue adding 50cm until i get interest, which is usually on the lower nymph, and then I keep them at that depth until the majority of fish are caught on the top nymph, or I get no interest. If there is no interest, I keep lengthening until I hit the weed beds or bottom, but if I start catching on the top nymph then I shorten again by 50cm, so I can always follow the fish to the depth they are feeding at which changes throughout the day. Obviously you end up with a long leader at midday and a much shorter one at the beginning and end of the day.

    When fishing with a sinking/intermediate line my most succesful tactic is a retrieve I found on one of the US sites. Basically it's a fast figure of eight retrieve with lots of pauses. I count the nbr of figure of eights i do, and then pause for the same amount of seconds, eg: 4 fast figure of eights, pause for 4 seconds, 2 fast figure of eights, pause for 2 seconds, etc etc, varying the nbr of figure of eights throughout the retrieve. Most takes are on the pause or on the initial set of figure of eights. In my case this retrieve works best with bigger flies like fritzes and wooly buggers that push a lot of water and also other dragon/damsel immitations.
    Another succesful retrieve for me is a slow steady pull on the line but i jerk the line with my thumb to impart some movement. A very good fly for this is a waterboatman immitation, but dragon/damsel immitations also do well.
    A buzzer on intermediate line fished over weedbeds with a very slow firgure of eight retrieve works very well for me in the evenings too.

    As I said these are nothing really new, but they work best for me.
    "So hereís my point. Donít go and get your ego all out of proportion because you can tie a fly and catch a fish thatís dumb enough to eat a car key.." - Louis Cahill - Gink and Gasoline

  5. #5
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    Hi Grant. I must say, I like your idea of dead drifting and progressively lengthening the trace between your droppers and your surface dry until you locate the fish very much. I would imagine that there is a limit to how deep you would be able to probe the depths with this technique though?

    The water level of the dam I was fishing was high and the depth I was probing was in excess of 5 metres. The prevailing weather conditions indicated a drop in atmospheric pressure and I suspected the fish would be feeding right on the bottom if at all. Turned out I was right, although I wish i had realised it earlier and not wasted so much time trying every other technique. But this is what fishing it is all about, ringing the changes until the fish are discovered. It makes for a much more satisfying fishing experience at the end of the day.

    It also goes to show, there is no single be all and end all technique/line for all occassions. Although my preference is usually always for the floating line aswell, fished much the same way as you do for the most part, (with the exception of lengthening my bottom trace as you described) there are times when the sinking line definitely has it's place. This was one of those occassions.

    Thanks for the tip by the way. I am definitely going to experiment more with lengthening my droppers in future.....if I can work out how to cast them without picking up too many tangles that is! Any tips in this regard?

  6. #6
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    Yep - when the length of the droppers gets too long, I start shortening the length between dry fly and flyline, but that is limited too and if I reach that limit then it's time to get out the fast sinkers.

    You're right - the tactic works much better in shallower lakes or ones with large weed beds that you can fish over and around, but when the fish are feeding closer to the surface this technique is a good way to keep in touch with whether they're coming up or going down.
    "So hereís my point. Donít go and get your ego all out of proportion because you can tie a fly and catch a fish thatís dumb enough to eat a car key.." - Louis Cahill - Gink and Gasoline

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by chriss View Post
    Can you please post a pic of this fly.It sounds perfect for my next trip to Oaklane cottages. Thanx
    Hi Chriss

    I have posted a pic of the beetle, straight from the fish's mouth so to speak!
    As you can see, the legs still look a bit bedraggled.
    You can view it at 'shared flies'

  8. #8
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    A simple bit overlooked method is to fish streamer type patterns, dragons and damsels with a non slip mono loop. The fly has much more fish catching movement and swims the way its intended to.

    Also longer leaders up to 15ft/18ft with droppers placed 4/5 ft apart. The heavier fly on the point.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for raising this point fish. I neglected to mention the mono loop. I use this all the time with the kind of fishing I have been refering to. I definitely agree that the fly sits much more naturally in the water, as it is not dictated to by the set of the tippet's grasp on it

  10. #10
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    Chris, Your experiences with the snail pattern are very similar to my own. One thing I have noticed about fishing this pattern, is that the fly is normally taken viciously. I remember a day a couple of months ago at a stillwater in the Kamberg valley where my rod was nearly ripped out my hands by a 7lb rainbow steaming off with my #12 Peacock Snail pattern !! Definitely a very underrated pattern, considering what an important food source snails are in many stillwaters.

    Incidently, a mate of mine took a fish in the same stillwater as mentioned above and also decided it was one for the pot. On gutting it, he counted 104 snails in its stomach. How or why it had still taken his fly boggles the mind !

    For waters that have a lot of platana (Common River Frog) which seems to be most of the waters I fish on here in KZN, I find a Black Marabou Muddler fished sunken, to be a brilliant pattern. I caught a 6lb rainbow hen last weekend on the Muddler that proceeded to regurgitate 8 of these frogs, some of which were nearly 9cm long. This fly is fantastic and very versatile in that it can be fished sunken as mentioned above, but the cool thing is that the deer hair gives it a bit of bouyancy/neutral density once waterlogged, so it will stay normally stay above the weed. To me it is more effective than flies like the Woolly Bugger in this regard. The other way, probably more traditional way to fish this fly is on the floating line, at last light. I have experienced some of the most incredible takes on this fly at last light when stripped back in short, sharp strips, so it "plops". I've had trout come rocketing up out of the depths and somersaulting into the air with the fly in its mouth on many occassions using this technique. Truly heart stopping stuff !

    My other "go to" technique which normally gets me out of trouble on those slow days is fishing a suspender midge on a shortish leader, around 8ft, sunken on an intermediate or sinking line, and retrieved incredibly slowly. This has often meant the difference between a blank day and 1 or 2 fish. Very very effective, but with a lot of patience required, and the takes are often very soft, almost as though you need to "sense" that there is something on the end of your line, rather than feeling it.
    Last edited by ShaunF; 03-10-06 at 05:21 PM.

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