Fly Fishing Tips 5 min read

Can You Fly Fish in a Lake? Expert Tips and Recommendations

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

September 1, 2021

can you fly fish in a lake

Can you fly fish in a lake? It’s one of the most commonly asked questions by anglers interested in picking up a new form of fishing.

If you’re also wondering, you’ll be glad to know that you can fly fish in lakes. Instead of trying to find a river with rapids, fly fishing in still water is possible with the help of a few tips.

Why Do Fly Fishers Fish in Lakes?

North Delaney Lake Colorado

Fly fishing is an art style, especially as it requires different casting techniques to catch unsuspecting fish. If you want to take the experience a step further, learning how to fly fish in lakes is a great place to start.

Not only is still water fishing more challenging, but it can also be more of a time investment.

There are a few great reasons why fly fishing in a lake is something you should consider. You might want to learn more about local ecosystems or if it’s the only body of water nearby.

Interest in Research

As an outdoor enthusiast, you’re going to want to grow your knowledge of your surrounding ecosystems. With this information under your belt, you can learn more about fish species, their preferred habitats, and more.

When fly fishing in still water, it’s essential to figure out where the most fish activity will be. You’ll also need to know the best places to fish so that you make the most of your time out on the water.

When researching, you’ll become more educated in underwater structures, preferred habitats, and available food sources. It can also give you insights into traditional fishing, as you’ll figure out what fish are available in your area.


For many, rivers might not be an option for fishing, especially rivers packed with healthy fish. You might find that these areas are inaccessible or restricted to recreational anglers. In these instances, you’ll be faced with the challenge of learning how to fly fish on a lake.

With the right level of information, you might even find your local lakes are stocked with more fish than the rivers. If you have limited fishing spots near you, taking advantage of lakes could be your best option.


When fly fishing on a lake, it’s not guaranteed you’re going to make dozens of catches. With that said, when you do land a fish on the end of your fly, it can be an incredibly exhilarating experience.

Remember, you won’t have running rapids and water direction to use to your advantage to pinpoint active areas. Not only does the chance of catching fish keep you entertained, but it can also help you to refine your angling skills. For fly fishers who want a more rewarding experience, fly fishing on a lake is a great option.

Can You Fly Fish in a Lake?

With an idea of the many reasons why people opt to fly fish on lakes, let’s get into how you can get started. These tips are a fantastic way to ensure you’re able to attract the highest number of fish on your fly.

kayaking on Ross Lake

Tip 1: Know the Difference

Differentiating between river and lake fishing is the first responsibility of still water fly fishers. You won’t be able to use the same methods you’re used to, especially as lakes have various food sources.

Whereas in rivers, you’re likely to use flies that relate to a specific type of food that lands on the water’s surface. As you can imagine, this is a tremendous advantage, especially because it means you’re more likely to find larger species of fish.

You’ll need to refine your angling skills to be prepared to capture big fish so that you’re not taken by surprise. Ensure you have the correct type of line and rod at your disposal, mainly to accommodate heavier fish.

Tip 2: Choosing the Lake Type

If you’re one of the lucky few to be surrounded by different types of lakes, you’ll need to consider this. As a fly fisher, the two lake types you should focus on are eutrophic and mesotrophic lakes, each with its own benefits.

Mesotrophic lakes are easy to spot thanks to their clarity, which can help offer better visualization. We highly recommend having clearer water when you’re starting out, as it can help you spot movement quickly. Also, it can be an easier alternative when it comes to adjusting your angling style.

Eutrophic lakes, on the other hand, are often rich with various types of underwater life. You’re likely to find plenty of algae paired with fertile lake bottoms, giving fish many hiding spots. If you’re on the hunt for the largest possible catch, focus your sights on eutrophic bodies of water.

Tip 3: Capitalize on Movement

Although fishing in lakes is referred to as still water fishing, it doesn’t mean the water won’t move at all. In fact, spotting fish movement on lakes is often easier than rivers because the water is more still.

You’re likely to see small ripples with fish movement as they come closer to the surface. Taking advantage of these sightings can help you properly position your fly.

When you begin to see these ripples appearing, be precise with your strikes and cast as deep and smoothly as possible. There’s no doubt that casting precision is one of the most critical tenets of fly fishing on lakes.

Tip 4: Watch Insect Movement

When fly fishing, it’s vital that your bait moves just how the fish’s regular food source moves. With that said, you’ll need to pay close attention to how insects move along the water’s surface.

Remember, certain species, such as trout, are likely to be picky with the food they go for. You’ll want to ensure that you’re casting as naturally as possible to trick the highest number of fish.

In lakes, there’s a diverse ecosystem that presents several food sources to fish. Meaning, they’re more likely to know all of the best places and ways to get their hands on a good meal.

By observing the movement of natural life, you can refine your skills to be as normal as possible. Also, you’ll be able to better pinpoint where fish travel to find the highest number of insects.

Tip 5: Be Prepared to Move

When fly fishing in a river, you can likely stay in the same position and make several catches in a row. However, when fishing in a lake, you’re competing with water with an endless supply of food.

You must move throughout the day, typically every 15 to 20 minutes, depending on fish activity. The fish you’re going after are likely to move from spot to spot, searching for the best possible food source.

By making sure you’re always on the move, you’ll be far more likely to get bigger catches. You’ll want to alternate between deep and shallow water as well, as different depths could be more productive.

Tip 6: Pack Your Flies Accordingly

By observing the movement of wild food sources for fish, you’ll have a unique type of knowledge: fly color and style. Using this information, make sure you pack your flies accordingly so that they match the natural food source.

If it’s your first time out to a specific spot, try to bring as many variations of small nymphs as possible. Ensure there are multiple types of patterns paired with different colors that look most like real food. You can test out the different types you have on hand as you move from spot to spot to find the best pairing.

Tip 7: Increase Retrieval Speed

Mastering your retrieval speed is one of the best ways to make sure you get your hands on some fish. Considering lakes don’t move nearly as quickly as rivers, fish are likely to stay in one area for longer. You won’t want to use the same retrieval routine as you typically would in rivers.

Certain fish species like trout are more aware than you might think. Therefore, your fly must keep them on the edge of their seats by mastering slower retrievals. The faster you pull your flies out of the water, the more noticeable they’ll become.

Instead, a better alternative is to use a slow-roll retrieve while mimicking the pace of real insects. Mastering the art of micropatterns is sure to get you more fish than ever before.

Fly Fishing in Lakes

So, can you fly fish in a lake? You certainly can, even though it takes a little more effort. With the help of the tips in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to making the most of every fishing trip. Also, you’ll be able to target larger trout and bass than what you might find in local rivers.