Stillwater Flyfishing Gear Breakdown

Oh spring on the front range. High water is in some respects a fantastic time of year to get out on the river, but we all find ourselves overwhelmed trying to figure out what to do when the water is chocolate milk and in the willows. One of the best parts of living here in Northern Colorado is our access to a plethora of fantastic stillwater trout fisheries close to home. Taking advantage of these awesome lakes and reservoirs is not only a great change of pace in the spring, but a great way to find some trophy-sized trout in the process. I’m going to break down some gear that I find essential in boosting yourself to find success next time you’re out on the water.

First off, I think the utmost important piece of gear to improve your stillwater game is a proper rod setup. Having a fly rod that helps roll casting with ease and managing fish at long distances are elements that first come to mind when I think of an optimal setup. Having a 5 or 6 weight rod at either 9 ½ or 10 feet long really makes all of the difference. That extra 6 inches to a foot in addition to your standard 9 foot fly rod length not only gives you extra leverage for setting the hook and fighting fish, but really provides that extra strength for casting distance and line management, especially in the wind. Some of the rods that we really like here in the shop are the 10’ Scott Centric and the10’ Echo Stillwater in a 5 or 6 weight. Personally, I often use a 10 ½’ two hand switch rod for its extra length, and one I personally like is the Echo SR Switch 10 ½’ 4 weight, but you could definitely use a 4 or 5 weight trout spey rod as well. The biggest advantage of using a two-handed rod is how effortless it makes roll casting, as well as setting the hook at long distances. If you’re looking for a rod catered more towards throwing streamers or casting flies and retrieving them, a 9ft 6 or 7 weight Scott Centric or Winston Alpha Plus are fantastic options as well. 

The next most important piece to enhancing your rod setup is a fly line to match the rod you’re using, as well as the presentation you are trying to cast. A fly line that I really like that helps with roll casting long nymph rigs is the Anadro Stillwater Indicator line from Scientific Anglers. I find it makes a huge difference in turning over my flies when I have a super long leader, as well as punching my cast into the wind. Another line that servesthe same purpose and application but with a slightly different taper is the Single Hand Spey from Rio. If you’re looking for lines that are more for casting and retrieving flies, I often recommend that you have at least some sort of sink tip fly line, or a sinking leader to help get your flies down. Rio makes a 7ft extension sinking leader called a Versileader in a variety of different sink rates, which can be a great option if you already have a floating line. Optimally in a perfect scenario, I carry 2 extra spools in addition to the reel I'm using, that way I can have a floating line, an intermediate sink line, and an aggressive sink line at my disposal. That way I can cover a variety of different water columns as well as present various flies and rigs properly. If you can’t get your hands on an extra spool for a reel you may already have, Lamson provides a 3-Pack option for their Liquid and Remix Reels that comes with 2 extra spools. For a floating line, I really like the MPX and Titan Long Tapers from Scientific Anglers, and the Grand line from Rio. For an intermediate sink line, Scientific Anglers offers a variety of fantastic options but I have found to be super fond of their Sonar Stillwater Clear Camo Intermediate Line. It's got a translucent aspect to it that really helps in reducing its visibility to the fish under the surface. In terms of a sink tip or full sink line, the Sonar Titan Sink Tip and Sonar Seamless Density Full Sink lines are fantastic options as well.

When it comes to rig building, I don’t think there is any type or brand of leader and tippet material that is better than the other. The one thing to keep in mind is if you have any flies that are presented subsurface, the tippet where you tie on your flies should be fluorocarbon 100% of the time. Since there is no current from moving water to hide or make your leader invisible, the fish can take their time and inspect your rig to decide whether they like it. Fluorocarbon sinks and shows up nearly invisible to fish when it is under the water, which makes it optimal for being used in Stillwater presentations. Tippet rings and micro swivels are tools that can make leader building easier as well due to their ease of adding or removing depth to your leader as well. Airlock and Oros strike indicators are great for setting up nymph rigs because they have a screw cap design that won’t kink your leader and make it easy to quickly change depths. If you are nymphing from a boat or fishing in deep water, Slip Indicators have a great feature that allows you to set your flies at 15-20 feet or even deeper in some scenarios. If you don’t have access to a boat or a way to get out on the water, float tubes are a great option and oftentimes can be very easy to set up/take down and transport. Some great tubes that come to mind are the Outcast Fish Cat Cruzer, as well as the Outcast Fish Cat Rise. Getting yourself off the shore not only can get you away from other angler pressure, but help you get out to the zone where the fish may be cruising and feeding. 

Now the most important part above all, the bugs! It’s imperative that you pick flies that you personally have the utmost confidence in, as well as flies that will look natural when presented in water that has no current. Down below, I’ve listed a select few of my favorite patterns that I personally really like, but by no means are the only ones that you should try. If anything, the most important takeaway is to have a variety of flies in your box that covers the wide range of food that trout look for in lakes and reservoirs


Balanced Leech, Hot Head Squirrel Leech, Thin Mint/Copper Thin Mint, Wooly Bugger, Rickards Seal Bugger, Mayer’s Mini Leech


Barr’s Damsel Nymph, Mayer’s Jig Damsel, Hula Damsel, Sierra Damsel Nymph, Adult Wiggle Damsel


Jumbo Juju Chironomid, Frostbite Chironomid, Tak’s Crystal Chironomid, Mayer’s Tube Midge, Yankee Buzzer. Adult Biot Midge, Adult Chironomid Dry Fly, Adams Dry Fly


Rickards Stillwater Callibaetis Nymph, Anatomical Callibaetis, Hare’s Ear, Trigger Nymph, Extended Body Adult Callibaetis, Parachute Adams


Hornberg, Muddler Minnow, Wooly Bugger, Thin Mint, Platte River Special, White Zonker, Goldies, Ritt’s Fighting Craw, Creek Crawler, Snapping Craw

Other Bugs:

Theo’s Boatman, Flashback Scuds, Slow Water Emerger Nymph, Water Floatman


Fishing on stillwaters is definitely one of our strong suits here in the shop. If you have any questions at all or want any further info, feel free to swing by and give us a call! Most of our local lakes and reservoirs are really starting to heat up so now is a great time to get out on the water.