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Fly Fishing for Trophy Trout on Stillwaters

Denny Rickards - Fly Fisher/Fly Tier/Author

Denny Rickards

Denny Rickards

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By D. Roger Maves

Finding the largest trophy trout can be very easy since they are present in most stillwaters like ponds and lakes, but catching them is another story. They are overly sensitive and they can sense an angler’s presence at astonishing distances. This characteristic makes catching them an adventure in itself.

Listen to Denny Rickards' show:

Fly Fishing for Trophy Trout on Stillwaters

Denny has been fishing, guiding and studying trout behavior for the past 30 years. He's an expert on fish lakes and has developed a selection of suggestive flies that put the trophy trout on the take. Join us to hear about Denny's latest new techniques on fishing lakes.

Read what our listeners have said about the show... 

Denny has remarkable credentials when it comes to fishing trophy trout. Not only has he caught trout weighing over 20 pounds, but he has fished over 400 lakes in preparation for his work on this subject. He started his guiding and fishing career 30 years ago on Klamath Lake in Oregon and spends 250 days a year on the water. He is a co-owner of a production company and his stillwaters fly fishing schools and clinics take him to sights around the country and in Canada. Denny is a regular on the outdoors show circuit and his flies have received praises from outdoor magazines are also on display at Cushners Fly Fishing Museum. He has also hosted Fly Fish Magazine on OLN TV. He is also an author of books including Fly Fishing Stillwaters for Trophy Trout, Tying Stillwater Patterns for Trophy Trout, and Fly Fishing the West’s Best Trophy Lakes.

A stillwater is basically a flat section of a body of water where there is no flow or motion of the current and the water is still. These are usually impounded by man or nature; however, they can also include stretches of rivers that have little motion.

If the flow in the water is sufficient to force the fish to face upstream (where the food will be coming from), it can be fished like a river. However, if it’s moving very slow, even though it’s a river, tactics that are used on lakes can be used. This means that for the most part, the fish won’t be facing upstream. In this case, all you have to do is try to determine which way the fish is going.

Whenever you try to catch big trout, you should always remember to go to the shallow water or close to the surface where they feed. When they are deep, that means that they are not feeding. They are there for another reason – oxygen, temperature, safety, etc. Shallow water is anything 10 feet or less, or, mostly, 6 feet or less.

Anglers are often intimidated by water depth and they won’t know where to start. The first thing to do in this situation is take a look at the lake and determine where to put your cast. If you’re using a cast and retrieve method, go out from the shore and stick it as you go out or use a depth finder and find out what the taper is. If you get 30 or 40 feet and you’re under 10 feet, move parallel to the shore casting in on the shoreline and never place the same cast in the same place. If you do that, you will get a lot of strikes and you would think you’ve found your honey hole.

If you’re using a canoe, belly boat or a pram when fishing, you have to anchor so that you’re not moving or drifting while you’re retrieving. Big pontoon boats that have their rowing apparatus are not recommended in stillwaters because when the wind blows, you have to put an anchor down and you will lose your mobility. You won’t be fishing nearly as much and the time spent when you’ve got wavy action is critical because that is when a lot of those big fish will come on to hunt.

The length of your rod is relative to what you like- there is not actually a right or wrong. Still, longer rods give you more leverage to make a longer cast. It also allows you to do it easier so you can get more distance with less. Longer rods will lose the delicacy and the control if you’re trying to make shorter cast. The time you need to make the long cast with these types of rods is when the water is flat.

When the wind blows, fish face into the wind if there is surface feeding going on. They will be facing you, and if you’re casting downwind, you are lining a lot of those fish. The minute your line hits the water, anything between your rod tip and the end of your line is going to spook the fish and they will go away.

The time to use a specific type of fly such as leeches and buggers is always relative to the conditions and time of the year. Early in the year, you don’t have aquatic insects out, so you're not going to have to imitate a lot of small stuff. In this season, leeches, buggers, minnows are really the best flies and for the most part, you may be able to get by with them all day.

Fish know what’s going on in the water because of the water temperature. It tells them what hatches are coming on so they are going to be prepared for that. The may also leave the leave the area where you’re fishing because it’s no longer safe to be there. They don’t sit there and feed consistently all day long. They feed very early and very late – you won’t have much shot at them during the midday hours unless it is spring and fall, where they will be a little more susceptible. But a lot of them will go down where you can’t get to them.

Listen to our full show with Denny Rickards and find out more tips about fly fishing for trophy trout in stillwaters.

For more information on Denny's flies, materials, books, videos, gear and guided trips visit his web site at

If you have any further questions about stillwater fly fishing feel free to call Denny directly at 541-381-2218.

Listen to another show with Denny Rickards…

Stillwater Presentation

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