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Essential Fly lines for Success on Stillwaters

by Brian Chan


Consistently successful stillwater fly fishers have a basic understanding of trout biology. This means knowing the seasonal habitat preferences of the fish and importance of the different habitat (depth zones). Simply put, trout do not spend all their time in one depth zone. Because of this, one fly line will not cover all trout food source presentation techniques.

However, there is no question that the majority of trout feeding occurs in water less than about 25 feet in depth. This shallow water zone known as the shoal or littoral zone is simply the most productive fish habitat within the lake. It coincides with the maximum extent of sunlight penetration which equates to photosynthesis and aquatic green plant growth. This underwater foliage provides superb habitat for many of the common stillwater invertebrates that trout forage on. There are always exceptions to the rule such as deepwater chironomid emergences and late fall water boatman flights. In these situations anglers can have great success fishing water as deep as 75 feet.

Regardless of the fishing situation there are basic fly lines that should be in every tackle bag. Probably the most versatile is the floating line which today are made for very specific fishing situations. In general they can be used to present dry flies, nymph fish using varying leader lengths to get the fly or flies down to the proper depth or used with strike indicators to suspend patterns at precise depths. The RIO Gold and Perception lines are designed to present flies delicately and so are ideal for presenting dry flies and emergers. I find the RIO Grand is better suited for casting long leaders and punching weighted or bead-headed flies out in windy conditions. As the name implies the RIO Indicator line makes it easy to cast even the biggest strike indicators.
Another must have line is the intermediate sink line such as the RIO In Touch Hover or Camolux, both of which have very slow sink rates. They allow casting and retrieving such imitations as scuds, damselfly nymphs, mayfly nymphs and leeches that are found in water 10 feet deep or less and often in 3 to 5 feet of water.

Covering the deeper parts of the shoal to depths of around 20 feet can be done with type 2 or 3 full sinking lines. This would include imitating dragonfly nymph movement, leeches, caddis pupa and scuds. Searching the edges of the drop-off and out over into deeper water can be effectively done with type 5 to 7 full sinking lines. Fishing with sinking lines means employing a countdown to determine where your fly line and fly is at in relationship to the bottom. This method takes into account the sink rate of the line and the depth being fished so that you can calculate the right amount of time to wait before initiating the retrieve


This fishing season I had the opportunity to fish with the new In Touch Xtreme Indicator line prior to its formal release. This ultra low stretch line and short head certainly made casting indicators easy. I especially like the lengthened bright orange tip section and the quicker hook setting offered by the low stretch line. I indicator fish a lot on my local lakes as much of our fishing is done in the shallower areas of the shoal. This latest version of the Indicator line is now has already earned a permanent place in my tackle bag.