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Fantastic Five Stillwater Flies

Every spring Stillwater season begins with the anticipation of ice coming off the lakes. We crave the chance to get our gear out, and test our skills after a long winter. Sometimes the winter makes us a little stir crazy, and even the slightest bit of open water is a welcome sign to get out there and try for some early season success. There might be 90% ice on the lake, or it could be a nice warm spring with a fully open lake...either way the following are five essential lake flies that I wouldn’t be without on opening day (or the rest of the season for that matter).

Conehead Mohair Leech

Conehead Mohair Leech

Hook:Streamer or Swimming Nymph #2-12

Tail:Marabou (all colours)

Body: Leech Yarn (Mohair, various colours)

Head: Gold Conehead Bead

Optional: Tinsel or flashabou in tail

Ever since the first day I used this fly, it has yielded many fish. After its initial success on pothole lakes, we took it out on many different lakes around Alberta and British Columbia, and many times it is the first fly I put on when fishing unfamiliar water. Many different fish love this fly. The mohair body and marabou tail give the fly a life-like motion that fish can’t resist. Often, when other patterns aren't working, this fly will come through once tied on. My favourite ways to catch fish with this fly are to suspend it under an indicator on a floating line, or with the use of a full sink line (preferably intermediate sink). Experimenting with different retrieves and depths is the key to success on the sinking line, but once you find them, hold on tight and be prepared for some good fishing.

Black Chironomid

Black Chironomid

Hook: #6-18 Scud, Egg, or straight shank nymph

Body: Black thread

Ribbing: Thin wire (various colours)

Head: Bead (various colours)

Optional: Coat the fly with a clear finish to really make the rib stand out! (also for added durability)

This fly needs no introduction as at least 60% of a trout’s diet can consist of chironomids. Fish this fly at various depths, and in different colours as well. I chose black for this article as that is the colour I prefer most of the time. The reason for the wide range of hook sizes is that spring is an excellent time for the big “bomber” chironomids in a lake to hatch, and trout actively seek out these behemoth flies with aggression. These flies are mostly fished on a floating line with the use of a strike indicator; however, some people do use them on full sink lines.

DB Floatman

DB Floatman

Hook: #10-16 Nymph or Dry Fly (straight shank)

Body: Black and Light Tan Sheet Foam

Legs: Black Rubber Hackle

Underbody: Tinsel (various colours)

Head: Sheet Foam (from body)

Optional: Use a Sharpie to make custom markings on the back of the backswimmer fly

As I have wrote in a previous article, I have a passion for chasing trout with Backswimmer and Water Boatmen fly patterns. The fish love to chase them aggressively when they are actively feeding, and the strikes can be anywhere from a simple tap to a hard slam of the rod tip! This particular pattern is my favourite of all-time, and was developed by my brother Andy Tchir. It is true that Fall is usually the main season for fishing these flies, but spring is often forgotten by anglers as a great time to fish these as well. Often times when the ice is just coming off the lake, there are only a few staple items available to trout since the hatches haven’t yet begun to heat up. These are one of those staple food items! Fish this fly on an intermediate sink line in depths of 3-15 feet of water, and see for yourself.

Micro Leech

Micro Leech

Hook: #12-18 Wet Fly

Head: Glass Bead (I prefer red, but any colour can be used)

Tail: Marabou (various colours)

Body: Diamond Dub (various colours)

Ribbing: Fine Wire (various colours)

Optional: Flash or tinsel can be tied in a few sparse strips with the tail to give the fly more of an “attractor” look

I know that I already have a leech fly on the list, but this just shows how important of a food item they are in a lake throughout the year. The micro leech, when tied in various colours, can imitate anything from a small leech, damselfly nymph, shrimp/scud, minnow, etc! The fact that this fly can imitate so much is what makes it so versatile, and why it is on my “top 5” list for stillwaters. Some of my larger trout in lakes have come on a micro leech in a maroon colour with red ribbing, but every lake seems to have a different colour combination that works best. This fly can be fished on a sinking line, but I have had much better success with it fished under a strike indicator at various depths. Experimentation is the key whether it is for size, colour combinations, or depths with these flies!

TNT Pheasant Nymph

TNT Pheasant Nymph

Hook: #10-18 Nymph

Head: Black Bead (Preferably Tungsten)

Body: Fine Copper Wire

Tail: Ringneck Pheasant

Thorax: Dark Olive Diamond Dub

(Optional) Shellback/Wing Case: Blue or Silver Flashabou

Many fly fishermen overlook nymphs on lakes, as they are associated more with stream fishing. Every avid Stillwater fisherman will tell you that early season until the end of June can be some of the best fishing with small nymphs in lakes. This fly can imitate mayfly, caddisfly, and small damselfly nymphs; as well as chironomids and scuds. Whatever it is imitating, the trout seem to key in on these at times, and it is important to be well stocked. I prefer to fish this fly under an indicator, but placing it behind a leech as a “dropper” fly (where the regulations permit) is a great way to catch trout on floating or sinking line. In June, when the mayflies begin emergence, the blue or silver flash on the back and wing case really seem to make a difference. I’m not sure if the flash imitates a gas bubble, but it definitely does the trick. Fish these flies right at ice off and at other times when the previously mentioned flies are not working.


As you can see, experimentation is the key with these five proven fly patterns. Match colours and shades to those found in your local lakes, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to be “non-traditional” in your tying. My friends and myself have tied all of these patterns in fluorescent green, pink, and a flashy blue and all have taken nice trout! There are no rules governing what a trout will feed on, but these five flies give you a great chance of success this upcoming season!

Tim Tchir, WesternSportfishing.ca

Written by: Tim Tchir

Email: tim@westernsportfishing.ca