5 Top Tips For Small Stillwater Trout Fishing

We all want to make the most of the limited time,we have on the water. It’s why we’re there and we  just want to catch a fish? I think I’d be right in stating that. Though in some cases, just catching one would be great, but just sometimes doesn’t happen.  Here are a few of my tips that may help‎ you to wet a net. They work for me and if you feel they could help you, then give one of them a try out.

1. Always work the margins. Watching a stranger walk up to a small lake, anywhere in UK and you’ll see the same thing everytime. Peel about 30yds of line off the fly fishing reel, drop the flies on the deck, then cast to the other side. We all see this approach and it doesn’t often work. In most cases lining fish feeding on top or just sub surface, with a very evident bow wave on the surface.‎ Then just to top it off, they cast at the bow wave, hoping to hook up? The better approach that pays for me, is to peel a few yards of line off‎, some way from the banks and work the fringes or margins. These areas hold a vast amounts of easy pickings for the trout. That’s why, when your lost in your little world,  a trout rises right under  your feet and scares the pants off you. Easy feeding for very little effort. If your careful with a lower silouhette, these fish will sidle up and you’ll get a chance to offer your flies to them. Sometimes with fantastic results!

This nice trout was feeding right in the margins off a reed bed.

This nice trout was feeding right in the margins off a reed bed.

2. Trout love obstruction. Anything that breaks the flow of water, creating a seam that brings in food to the fish, is a place worth a cast or two. This flow can carry small bugs or bigger items like drowning daddies, hawthorns and even empty buzzer shucks, which the trout can become preoccupied on.  So whether it’s a tree branch, jetty post or a weed bed. These areas house food items, that shelter out of harms way. No need to swim across the lake and risk swimming into open water. Most organisms in your lake, be they Buzzers, Damsels, Corixa, Shrimp etc all live sheltered lives, away from predation. Offering your flies into these areas, can reap you great rewards, often on the very first cast too.

A lake with lots of marginal structures - approach quietly, and fish the features!

A lake with lots of marginal structures – approach quietly, and fish the features!

3. Mix up your retrieve. I was trying to explain this approach, to my  angling buddy Michael Valler, earlier this year. He was casting out, then making a pull, pull retrieve that offered very little in the way of realism or a take trigger.  Ask most Competition Anglers what they do and they’ll tell you. Keep changing your retrieve to fool the fish around. They get bored too, watching the same flies, being pulled at the same speed, with nothing to offer‎ or entice them to take. Fish have no fingers, so the only option they have to test things out for themselves and satisfy their curiosity, is with their mouths. Short fast plucks mixed with longer pulls and stops, work a treat. Mix it up and try the FTA method. Fool them around, is what it stands for and it works. Try it and see if you can get a reaction?

Mark the end of your fly line.

Mark the end of your fly line.

4. Mark‎ your fly line. When you cast out and straighten up your leader. How do you recognise a take?‎ Most wait to feel the bump, bump on the rod tip. Watching your line can pay big dividends in reacting earlier to a take. How do you detect a take on a fly line? Well you need a contrast point. Something that makes your fly line stand out, even at distance. I’ve been marking my fly lines, for some years now. Using a permanent black marker on my floating and Mini Tip lines. Plus silver and gold pens like you see at Christmas, on my sinking lines. I mark bands on the line and at about 10ft, add two very large bands that are visible at distance. Using these bands, I can spot the line stopping. Any jags or plucks are instantly visible and I can react quickly to  these, with a line strike. Simply by chopping my line hand downwards. If I get a thud on the line, I can then sweep the rod up or sideways and tighten in. If there’s no reaction on the line, I can carry on fishing and I’ve only moved my line a few feet.  Quite simple really?

Don't follow the crowds - not another angler in sight!

Don’t follow the crowds – not another angler in sight!

5. Don’t follow the crowd. It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking the easy option. You arrive on the water and everyone is fishing a floating line. They’re catching too, but not with consistency.‎ What you don’t know is, the depth the fish are at. The fly that’s doing the business and the speed of their retrieve. Add into this long leaders and it’s easy to get confused and lose the plot. Watch the water when you arrive. Even two or three minutes spent looking at and into the water, is time well spent‎. Look at what’s present on the surface. Learn to recognise different rise forms and watch for sub surface activity. On a rippled surface this is easy to spot, in the form of a smooth spot on the otherwise rippled surface. Having some of this information, may give you some idea, as to a way forward. When you can make an informed decision,  on your line type to start fishing.  ‎Whether to utilise a Mini Tip, a floating set up or get deep with a sinker.

The end result - a fish on the bank

The end result – a fish on the bank.

Above all else, remember your there to enjoy yourself and have fun. Just like everyone else around you. Fish with confidence and handle your fish gently if at all. I’ll leave it up to you to make some great memories‎. There’s always a “Fish of a lifetime” out there.  You’ve just got to be there to catch it. Tight lines and wet nets. You just gotta get a trout to decorate your net now.


Stuart Smitham


This entry was posted in Fly Fishing, Small trout stillwaters by Stuart Smitham. Bookmark the permalink.
Stuart Smitham

About Stuart Smitham

A Welshman living and working in Shropshire, Stuart is an expert at fishing small stillwater fisheries such as the prolific Ellerdine lakes. In more recent times Stuart has also turned his attention to flowing waters and wild trout and grayling, with his adventures taking him as far away as the beautiful rivers of Bosnia. A lover of dry fly fishing, Stuart says there’s “nothing like casting short but more accurate distances for free rising fish.” A passionate angler with many years of experience, Stuart is never short of generosity in sharing his knowledge and insights. Head over to his twitter to see more.