Fly-Fishing a New Lake by Danie Erasmus


Fishing a new lake can be a big unknown. To many anglers, it is a deep black hole filled with water and there is no clear place to start. Improve the chance of catching fish on a new lake by keeping it simple with the following steps:

 Ask about the lake

Ask fellow anglers and the local fly and tackle store if the lake is worthwhile fishing. Fishing stores are willing to help and have flies and tackle needed for the new lake. Also use the internet and forums to gather intel. There is always information on lakes, even sometimes details on which flies have worked in the past. 

 Determine if the lake is stocked

If it is a small lake, find out if it is stocked. Stocked lakes can provide more consistent fishing success. To determine if the lake was stocked, go to the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC website: The Society lists all the lakes that they stock, the species and the number of fish.

 Match your fly to the lake

Anglers can also improve their chances by picking flies that match the fish food in colour and size. All lakes vary in colour which is determined by the nature of the bottom, water chemistry and surrounding landscape. Many invertebrates adopt the colour of the lake they inhabit. The colour of leeches, scuds, damselflies and dragonflies often give a good idea of the colour of the lake. To find these macro invertebrates, look along the shore line and by turning over rocks and logs. Naturally use flies similar in colour and size to these food items. 



 Use a bathymetric map

A bathymetric map is essential when fishing a lake, especially for the first time. A depth sounder is not needed, but it helps. A map can be used by itself to find subsurface features of the lake. Bathymetric maps for lakes can be obtained from these sources: or 

 Looking at any map, an angler will quickly learn that lake bottoms are not shaped like soup bowls with fish distributed randomly throughout them. Instead lakes have subsurface landscapes with deep valleys, steep inclines called drop-offs and plateaus called shoals. These features dictate how fish move and where they feed. Fish are concentrated in specific areas of a lake, and drop-offs and shoals are the productive areas to focus on.

 Drop-offs are indicated by contour lines that are closer to one another and shoals are areas with contour lines much further apart. On the lake, the drop-offs are the areas where the water colour transitions from light to dark. It is also important to distinguish shoals from deep water zones. Shoals are 20 feet (~7m) or less and the depth is indicated by the numbers printed on the contour lines. 

 On a new lake, start by fishing along the drop-offs. If trolling flies in a float tube, pontoon boat, canoe or small boat, move along the drop-offs. Take note of where there are bites and if need be, circle back. It is also a good idea to anchor along a drop-off.

 It is also useful to apply knowledge and experience from fishing other lakes. Pay attention to where there are signs of fish and what is hatching, and when fishing a new lake cover as much water as possible.