Chironomid Fishing in Lakes - Bring Snacks.

June 2, 2015

I went and did some lake guiding this past week and it reminded me how cool lake fishing is.  I want to encourage others to get out there and get after it.  There are BIG trout in lakes, lots of public water, and it is easy to get started.  Before I get down to business, let me give a few would be lake anglers a little background.

In the years that I was "pre-guide" and all my fishing was completely independent of any guiding, I personally fished lakes a lot.  I didn't have any buddies to row a river boat, I couldn't afford a drift boat, and the river would get muddy from time to time.  Plus I could use the $50 float tube that I bought at the local hardware store and get my money's worth.  Now, instead of a freaking inner tube I get to row, kick, a better boat.  I really like both the Watermaster and the Outcast Scout

MUST HAVE!  Fly Fishers Guide to ....(your home state here)

First off, buy this book. Fly Fisher's Guide to Washington. If you don't live in our home state, you can purchase a book for your home state here at Wilderness Adventures Press - Fly Fisher's Guide Books.  Most lakes don't change a whole lot and these books are an amazing resource!  The majority of the "quality" lakes that are managed with fly fishers in mind our outlined here.  There are Catch and Release lakes with trophy trout within striking distance for a weekend that you don't even know about.  They are amazing, and what tantilized me the first time I peeked over a bluff and watched 24" Rainbows sipping Calibaetis (a lake Mayfly) in stillwater!  I'll never forget that first trip to Lake Lenice (an example of a quality public lake near my home).  These books have great intel on how to catch fish, what flies to use, fishing laws, where to stay, and there are even maps

Basics on General Lake Fishing

There are four main techniques for lake fishing with a fly rod.

1.  Leech fishing - This incorporates a sinking line, and you cast or troll a leech pattern.
2.  Dry Fly Fishing - This can be when there are hatches, or you can use terrestrial insects.  Flying ants in the mountain lakes are a very common and important food source.  You might be surprised how well hoppers work in the early morning on lakes in the summer.
3.  Stripping nymphs - Unlike most river bugs, nymphs in lakes SWIM.  Sinking line or floating line, you cast and slowly retrieve a swimming nymph.  The first time you feel and see a trout tackle a Damsel Fly Nymph mid strip near the surface you will never forget it!
4.  Chironomid Fishing - This can be incredibly productive and something that you need to learn!  It is so rewarding when you get the depth and presentation dialed in!

In Defense of Chironomid Fishing!

Ok, all you haters keep quiet for a moment.  I can't wait to read all your humorous comments about how you pass the time bobbing around watching a bobber.  Lake fishing with an indicator setup IS fun, its just different than the river.  Just bring snacks and if you have serious ADD then try a book on tape in your iPod. hehe.  Joke.  I personally like Dave's Dill Pickle Sunflower Seeds to keep me from fidgeting my flies around too much.  Any other suggestions to keep you from going crazy?  Please comment.

I know the casting isn't super exciting, in fact there isn't much of it, and YES you are staring at a "bobber" but that isn't the point here.  Good Chironomid fisherman are strategizing all the time and deducing where the fish are, what depth they are at, and what flies are working.  When you get the "system" down and find a group of trout that are cruising and feed at a particular depth and spot it can get flat out silly!  That is the challenge.  Figuring out the system and intercepting a group of circling fish takes thought, testing, hunches, and some patience.  It will make you a BETTER fisherman all the way around.  

Basic Outfit for Chironomid Fishing

  1. 1/2" Thingamabobbers - Ok for your first few trips, eventually if you want to fish deep than 9' you will want some "break away" deep water indicators.  
  2. Floating Fly Line
  3. 5 or 6 weight rod - Longer rods are soooo much nicer.  A 10' rod is great if you plan to sit down in a float tube.  The Sage ESN series rods, like a 10' 3 weight is ideal!  If you want a quality 10' rod but are on somewhat of a budget for a "lake specific" rod go with a 9'6" 6 weight Redington VAPEN.  
  4. Chironomids - You don't need a ton to start.  Just get a dozen in varying sizes and learn to tie your own.  Once  you get the materials they are pretty easy to mass produce.  The first fly I ever tied and successfully caught a trout on was a black Chironomid.  Which was LITERALLY black thread on a hook with a silver bead.  #16 Zebra Midges also work quite well.   Make sure to go heavy on RED.
  5. Fluorocarbon Tippet
  6. Boat or Float Tube - Optional, we do this from shore a lot on lakes that can be walked around the edge of.

  1. A flask of Macallan tops sunflower seeds and when you eventually catch one on a Chironomid, the trout seem ever so much bigger ;-) Mike
  2. Flask is a must have, especially in March and April when your legs are numb hanging down in the water under your float tube.
  3. A basket a Flasket I drank my fricken 80 proof Bulleit ! Really? Any moron knows the Opposite of the implication is true - & in fact you will get Colder. But as I started trying to be humorous, I must say (or ask?), you were (also) having a bought of Tongue-in-Check humor going on there !? ps; full disclosure, I must admit I do on occasion partake of the finer spirits in my fly fishers flask - but just a SIP now and then just before & after a meal or snack break.
  4. Joe- Do you give that chromonid some action every once in a while? Such as lifting your fly rod up or just giving it a quick twitch?
  5. How long of a leader/tippet should I use. I'd like to get out on Clear lake this weekend and try some nymphs.
  6. Joe, In your video on leader's & Tippets, you mention NOT to use fluorocarbon under a strike indicator. You say "lot's of anglers make that mistake". However in this article on Chironomid fishing, your suggesting a fluorocarbon leader with a strike indicator. is it just a case of lake verses river??? I'm confused a little here. Could you explain please? Thank you ..... Keep up the good video's.
  7. I am researching lakes to take my 25 ft 300hp Ranger bay boat to chironomid fish freshwater lakes. I live in Southern CA and use my boat ( as all the guide pros do) at this lake. I was researching lakes in the Cariboo area of British Columbia. I have always had a dream of keeping my boat at a small cabin and fishing when the season is right for catching trout still water fly fishing. I am retired and have a fiancée who also enjoys this type of fishing. I was hoping you might have advice for someone like me to find that one special lake I could enjoy in my Gokden years. Thank you !! Brice