Fly Fishing in a Lake

Can You Fly Fish in A Lake? I Find Out!

Generally, the 11 types of lakes found on the planet can be grouped into three classes depending on their biological productivity level. And if you have never caught trout in these different groups of lakes, then I am sure you wonder, can you fly fish in a lake? Well, after thorough research, I found out the following.

Yes, you can fly fish in a lake. To be productive fishing in a lake you’ve got to combine fly fishing skill, reading the water and knowing what the fish will be eating. The fish will be deeper in the water column so learning where and how to get your fly is important.

Fly fishing is a relaxing activity that can be done on a wide range of water bodies. But the lakes with high biological productivity levels tend to have more fish. In this article, we’ll answer the question, “can you fly fish in a lake?” We’ll also show you the different types of lakes to fish and the gear needed to fly fish in lakes.

Can You Fly Fish in a Lake?

Unlike rivers and streams, lakes don’t experience annual runoffs. And with the exception of fall and spring turnover seasons, lakes offer long still water fishing opportunities. And this begs the question, “can you fly fish in a lake all year long?” Well, the answer is no, as some lakes undergo a turnover process twice a year. During the lake turnover process, the lake water turns over from top to bottom. (source)

During summer, the sun heats the upper layer, which means that the lower part remains cold. So during fall, the warm upper layers start cooling down, and as it cools, it becomes denser, forcing it to sink while the bottom layer rises to the top. Now when this happens, fish don’t bite the bait for a few days. And this is the only time you can fly fish in the lakes. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen to all lakes, and the ones that experience this process tend to produce huge sport fishes for fly anglers. (source)

Deep Structure in a Lake
Deep Structure in a Lake is Great for Fly Fishing

And as aforementioned, lakes are classified according to their biological productivity, with eutrophic lakes having the highest biological productivity and oligotrophic lakes having the least productivity. It means that eutrophic lakes have enough food for the fishes to reach their maximum body size. On the other hand, you can get very small fishes in oligotrophic lakes and mid-sized species in mesotrophic lakes. And that is because oligotrophic lakes don’t undergo the turnover process. (source)

So can you fly fish in a lake that doesn’t experience a turnover all year long? Well, you can, but as we have just mentioned, these lakes have a low fish population. And that is because of the low biological activities experienced by these oligotrophic lakes.

What Are the Best Rods for Fly Fishing in a Lake?

You can fly fish in a lake, but you need some specialized fishing rods, lines, and techniques to succeed in lake fly fishing. When it comes to fly fishing in still waters, there is no reason to go for shorter rods. The longer the fly fishing rod, the higher you can hold the backcast off the water level and the longer the lever. Therefore, the best length is between 8.5 and 9.5ft; however, some anglers can go as high as 10.5ft, but make sure the long rods are responsive and lighter.

If you are fishing in the wind look for a 7 weight fly rod and a matching fly line. The extra line weight will help you cast and give you the backbone to land bigger fish.

When exploring different depths of the lake for trout, most experienced anglers would recommend an 8ft long rod for 7wt lines. This rod can cast lots of shooting headlines with varying sinking rates, making it possible for you to explore different depths on the lakes.

Guide Recommendation: I’ve recently been playing with the Moonshine Rod Co. Drifter Series. Competitive prices and can be found over at Amazon. Here’s a link – Moonshine Rod Co. Drifter 7 Weight

Fly fishing in a lake is possible with long rods that work perfectly with slow sinking lines as it can give you more room to tire the fish when fly fishing on a lake. With a long rod, you can steer the fish in any direction and keep it off balance. (source)

The Best Line and Reel for Fly Fishing in Lakes

You can fly fish in a lake using floating lines for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the floating line is the best option for fishing when trout are feeding up towards the surface of the water. And since the weight of the fly offers the needed depth, the floating lines act as an excellent strike indicator.

The best fly line is a floating fly line that matches your fly rod. If the fly rod is a “5 weight” look for a match 5 weight floating fly line. Proven brands like Scientific Anglers and RIO are great.

Guide Tip: One of the most popular fish to pursue in a lake is bass. I’ve written a complete article on what is the best weight fly rod for bass. You can find it – HERE

When trout are feeding a foot below the water’s surface, you need a dry line to showcase the fly at that depth leaving you with a visible tip to serve as an indicator. (source)

When the fish is feeding about four ft. deeper into the lake, a floating line, long leader, and weighted fly can help you achieve that target.

Guide Tip: Get a good fly line. For less than $50 you can get pretty good line. Sure you can buy line for $15 bucks, but I can pretty much predict you’ll be shopping for line again in a year. What would I get? Here’s a link to Amazon – Scientific Anglers Frequency Fly Line

Scientific Anglers Frequency Fly Line
Scientific Anglers Frequency Fly Line

When fishing in still waters, especially the eutrophic lakes with huge trout, your fishing reel becomes more than just a place for storing the line. So it would be best if you had a reel with a smooth drag system and interchangeable spool for holding different lines. (source)

balance fly rod and reel
balance fly rod and reel

A recommended fly reel will balance with your fly rod. Which means the rod should stay level in a loose hand. This will reduce strain on your wrist and help you stay comfortable.

How To Find Fish in Lakes

Anglers ask themselves if they can fly fish in a lake because tracking fish in still water can be intimidating. The vast amounts of features in still water can leave most anglers helpless. But with a bit of education, you can easily track a vast number of trout in any lake. Some of the things to consider when fishing in lakes include:

Fertile Environment

One of the main factors that can make it possible for you to fly fish in a lake is going for water bodies with high biological productivity levels. It means that you must consider the fishing condition and the amount of food present in the lake. When a lake has more food for the fish, you have a high likelihood of catching huge fish. (source) So it would be best if you considered the following:

  • The appearance of the food source from the surface of the lake.
  • The health status of the subsurface veggies, and are they balanced?
  • Huge amounts of shade and cover around and in the water.
where to find fish in a lake
Where to Find Fish Like Panfish in a Lake


If you’re looking to fly fish in an unfamiliar lake, then you should first find out if the turnover process has happened or not. After all, fishing during this period has a low likelihood of catching something. Another factor determining the fish’s water activity is the temperature; therefore, a thermometer is crucial for your fishing trip. The best water temperature for trout fishing in lakes is between 45- and 65-degrees Fahrenheit. (source)

It is the main reason you would hear anglers saying spring and fall are the best seasons for trout fishing.

Guide Tip: Folks ask me all the time – When is the best time of day to fly fish – There’s a lot that goes into this question – Check out this article Best Time of Day to Catch Trout


Anything that helps keep the crowd low is advantageous to you. So, you can fly fish in a lake with rugged or steep terrain, wetlands, swamps, and muddy lakes. Some small lakes are not listed, so it can be a great idea to track these lakes for your next fishing trip. (source)


Can You Fly Fish on a Lake Using Dry Flies?

It would be best if you used dry flies when on a lake when you notice the fishes rising to the surface to feed on some aquatic insects or reduce the numbers of terrestrial insects. Another factor to consider when using dry flies is the aquatic insects returning to the lake.

What Type of Line Should I Use When Dry Fly Fishing in a Lake?

A floating fly line balanced to your fly rod is critical.  Use a 9-foot nylon leader and tippet when fishing dry flies.  If the fish are easily spooked add length. If you are tossing big wind resistant flies like a popper for bass use a size 2X or 3X leader to โ€œturn the fly overโ€.  Shorten the leader length if the fish arenโ€™t easily spooked.

Which are the Best Lakes for Fly Fishing?

The best lakes for fly fishing are the ones with high biological activities. These lakes are called eutrophic lakes, and they usually undergo a turnover process at least twice per year. Unfortunately, eutrophic lakes are not the best sources of fresh drinking water fit for human consumption.


Can you fly fish in a lake? The answer to this question is that you can fly fish on any water body where you can use the traditional fishing methods. But you need to learn to pick the correct type of lake and know the right time to visit the lake. But spring and fall are the best times to fly fish in a lake.

Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How to Fly Fish

Are you looking for some great How To Fly Fish Articles? Checkout this list:


  1. Wikipedia contributors, Lakes,, Accessed September 13, 2021
  2. Wikipedia contributors, Trophic state index, Accessed September 13, 2021
  3. Makayla Trotter, Lake turnover, Accessed September 13, 2021
  4. Dave Hughes, strategies for Stillwater: the tackle, techniques, and flies for taking trout in lakes and ponds, Accessed September 13, 2021
  5. Tim Lockhart, Stillwater strategies: 7 practical lessons for catching more fish in lakes, reservoirs, and ponds, Accessed September 13, 2021
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