For fishing the smaller, clear, glassy lakes, an 8·foot fast-action dry-fly rod is best, along with a matching DT-5-F fly line and a 12-foot leader tapered down to 4X. With that outfit a small fly can be cast a goodly distance and still drop like a feather.
For bigger lakes where there is a lot of wind, and for casting some of the larger, fluffier, wind-resistant flies, the 81/2-foot medium action fly rod serves better, with a WF-7-F fly line and a 12-foot leader tapered down to a 2X tippet. But if limited to one rod, the smaller one is preferable, and with a heavier tippet it is still possible to throw a line far enough to take plenty of fish.
The 2X tippet is necessary when you are using a big, fluffy fly such as the size 10 or 8 dry, or a skating spider, because a lighter tippet will twist, the twist moving on up into the leader and even sometimes into the fly line. The twist in the leader causes the fly to move erratically on the surface as the twist tries to unwind; or it may result in the tippet covering the fly or bunching around it in such a way as to scare trout from it. Besides that, the twisted leader will become weak and may break when you get a hit.
In the still, clear water of a lake, the leader is doubly important, and the longer and finer it is, the more strikes will come to the fly. Contrary to general opinion, a long leader is not difficult to cast provided that it is properly tapered. Most leaders are too light at the butt section and too heavy at the tippet. The weight and diameter should be where the leader is tied to the line and then the leader should taper down to the fine section. This heavy-to-light taper gives it the guts to shoot out and turn over the fine tippet and the fly.
Because of the way a dry fly is played on lakes, the angler will leave a lot of flies in fish if he sticks to the 4X or 5X tippet, and sometimes it is necessary to choose between more strikes on the lighter tippet and fewer strikes but more fish landed on the heavier one. Usually it is best to start with the light tippet in a lake where you expect the fish to be small, and move to the larger terminal point if necessary.
Probably the most important part of dry-fly fishing on lakes is to have a high-riding line. If the line is heavy and inclined to sink, it is hard to cast, slaps noisily down on the surface, pulls the fly under so that all efforts at imitating a natural are lost in the resultant dunking; and a sinking line delays the strike impulse when you do get a hit, and therefore may cost you a fish. The tip of any floating fly line should be well greased, as this tends to absorb water. Rub the line dressing on with the fingers, then run the line back a few feet from the tip where it is joined to the leader butt through the fingers again to spread the dressing thoroughly and evenly, and then wipe it clean with a cloth.
Fly floatant is also an essential part of lake fishing with dries, or, lacking that, the fly can be greased with line dressing to help it ride high on the surface. A waterlogged dry fly is tough to handle, doesn’t have the verve or dash needed to bring strikes, and is both difficult to pick up and to cast.
The best dry flies for lake fishing seem to be the big, high-riding ones, hairwings, hair-bodied flies, variants and spiders. This may be more important from the angler’s point of view, than from that of the fish, because it is easier to make them perform the way you want them to, and they float better and remain buoyant longer than the small ones. A big fly, properly worked, can be seen a long distance by a trout.
The hairwing flies – the gray, brown, and white Wulffs, are good floaters and have trout appeal, as do the black Wulff and grizzly Wulff. The red variant, the badger variant and the Klinkhammer are good on lakes and so are Bailey’s bi-fly, the G&H Sedge and smaller muddlers. The hairbodied irresistible is also one of the best for lakes. For that matter, any of the flies tied with deerhair bodies float well and handle easily.
Any of the above flies, on hooks from 12 to 6, may fill the bill, but lake fishermen will also need smaller flies, particularly the midges and buzzer on size 16 to 20 hooks, and flying ants on size 20. Sooner or later he will have to match a hatch of one or both of those tiny insects. And while color does not seem to be as important as size, except that trout in lakes perhaps show a slight preference for darker colors, I always carry just as great a variety as I do for river fishing, and then I am ready for whatever hatch may occur.
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