Rigging for Stillwaters - the Canadian Secret

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I have the privilege of living in the centre of world’s finest rainbow trout fly fishing stillwaters. “How fine” you ask? There are approximately 700 wild or stocked quality/trophy small lakes within an hour drive of my house. That fine.

Lakes that have gin clear alkaline water and tea-stained slightly acidic water, all of them natural reservoirs that hold back melted snow water throughout the year. Holding back and creating incredibly nutrient-rich lakes with wide alkaline marl shoals that provide a prolific breeding area for huge numbers of BIG aquatic bugs and more importantly, astounding numbers of chironomidae (midges/buzzers) larva. Astounding, in that, on any given day, in season, a single stillwater will produce five or more distinct hatches of chironomidae and a few aquatic bug hatches thrown in for good measure !

As stillwater fly fishing god, Brian Chan, has been explaining to fly fishers for twenty-five years (or so), chironomidae form about 75% of a stillwater trout’s diet. Doesn’t it make sense to develop the expertise to fish them ?? No brainer, right? “Chironomid fishing” has become “a must” for any fly fisher wishing to round out his/her resume` on the water. The demand for information has spawned the need for the teachings of Brian Chan, Phillip Rowley as well as the innovative new patterns of tiers like John Kent.


Thankfully, in recent years and parallel to the demand for information, the Scientific Anglers brain trust has developed a myriad of fly lines that not only cast and float far better than any others, but, several of the newer freshwater line tapers actually improve the already established chironomid/ultra long leader casting and fishing techniques. Two exemplary floating lines, now in my arsenal are examples of designs that have improved cast performance with chironomid “rigs”. The well-recognized Mastery GPX taper with it’s 38’ long, half-again heavier head that will generate the energy to roll cast a 25’ leader, tippet, swivel & fly some 45’ with effortless ease and the incredible Mastery Textured Nymph Indicator, with it’s high visibility tipped 49’ torpedo taper, that will launch those same long leaders in roll casts or conventional full casts to distances never before achieved.

Here briefly, are the logistical issue associated with chironomid fishing and “getting the fly in the right place” :

-Chironomidae emerge from the bottom mud in depths of 30’ OR LESS. They then slowly migrate to the surface in a cloud-like formation. The logical approach is to “start at the bottom” and gradually adjust the length of the leader to an ever-decreasing depth, in order to find where the trout are feeding in that cloud of chironomid pupa. Not complicated, but somewhat ingenious.

A brief description of “the set up”: 

Attach the 3X leader to the tip of your line. Then, using a triple or quad surgeon’s knot, attach the10’ of 3X fluoro tippet. Slide the strike indicator onto the 3X tippet then attach the #14 swivel. 


Attach the 6’ of 4X fluro tippet below the swivel, then add the fly.

This “set up” allows the placement of the fly to a depth of 25’. By adjusting the position of the strike indicator on the leader/tippet, you control/adjust the depth of the fly from the indicator floating on the surface. The barrel swivel adds weight to the lower tippet and increases the sink rate of the fly as well as reducing the tendency of the leader/tippet to coil and make knots.

The normal technique is to start the chironomid at or near the bottom and raise it(by sliding the indicator down the leader/tippet) in about 18” increments. Each “set” should be cast/retrieved at least 3 times, before resetting.

“What fly should I start with ??” BloodwormBloodworm or Kent John Kent’s ASB Copper are a couple of good bets.

First catch, do a throat sample, then match the patterns that the fish has been recently feeding on.

Jack Simpson lives with his wife of 37 years, Grace, in Williams Lake, BC. He is semi-retired and operates a fly shop, Sandpiper Fly Fishing. He teaches fly fishing and provides advise to many, many visitors and fellow anglers from around the globe as well as writing a weekly fly fishing column in the local online publication: http://welcometowilliamslake.ca/index.php/home-waters/5020-fly-fishing-for-beginners.html He has been enthusiastically associated with Scientific Anglers for several years and is an SA/Ross dealer. He is ALWAYS willing to answer questions: Email: sandpiperflyfishing@gmail.com

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