Teasing a fish up for a strike from just under the surface of a serene pond at sunrise can be an almost religious experience for those of us who really love fishing. The ponds are known for recreational and agricultural purposes primarily but they are also perfect destinations for fly fishing enthusiasts like us!
Small fishing ponds are located all over your state and once you ensure that you're not fishing in a prohibited area or on private property they are some of the most beautiful and satisfying places to enjoy this amazing fly fishing hobby.
We've come up with a number of easy-to-follow tips and tricks on how to make your next fly fishing trip even more enjoyable on a pond that you've never considered fishing in before.
If you have fished other small ponds in the area prior to exploring a new pond, you should have some idea of the kind of gear and bait you should use to target the species living there. Ideally, you would know something about the depth of the pond and the temperature of the water too.
When fly fishing in a pond you don't really have to worry about multiple reels and rods like you might when fishing from a pier over the ocean. You can just bring a simple 7-foot fly rod and reel and an assortment of lightweight lines and a range of flies to target the smaller species in the lake or pond.
If the pond is small enough, you really don't need sophisticated fishing gear or even a boat to fish in it successfully with your fly fishing rod. Ponds are great because you can catch a variety of species like largemouth or smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill, gar, bowfin, or even trout depending on where you are in the country. They are great places to take beginners.
If you can stand the insects flying around your face at night, the evening and nighttime can be a great time to fish ponds, especially if you have some privacy and you can enjoy the moment. Ponds are a great place to fish with close friends and family, especially kids.
If you consider yourself a fly fishing purist you may cringe at the following. Just a heads up.
Though it's called fly fishing and you have a fly fishing rod and a fly fishing reel that doesn't really mean you have to stick to dry flies to fish with. Fishing in a pond with live minnows is one of the best ways to catch big and small fish. Minnows are the bait of choice for me as I fish in small ponds. Almost always!
As you can guess, you don't want to be flinging your lip-hooked minnow around in the air as you try to fly cast it 20 yards or more. Fishing live minnows from a fly rod requires a delicacy in casting and ideally no casting at all, just letting line out and letting the minnow go where it wants can be enough.
There are times when fish will not take a surface fly and you will have to figure out something else with your fly rod setup. If you have some sinking flies/nymphs/eggs that you can use, great! If not and you have a small net, you may want to catch some minnows, stick them on a small hook through the lips, and let them freely swim around vegetation in the pond.
This can produce bass and big trout like nothing else. Your target fish see that the minnows are not swimming correctly so they assume they are injured and they strike quickly.
But If the fish are striking surface or subsurface flies by all means use them.
It can be a special experience to fish small ponds cautiously and stealthily, silently, as you creep in from the bank and make a silent cast to a waiting fish that you can see with your polarized sunglasses.
Fish in small ponds know every inch of the place and they know the environment outside of it as well. You will need to be aware of this as you approach the bank slowly and silently so as not to alert them to your presence.
If you are fishing on the dock of a small pond and making noise, there are many species of fish you just won't catch because they are too nervous that you're up there making noise.
The way you fish a pond is very similar to the way you would fish a larger lake, stream, or river. Look for areas where there are drop-offs to deeper levels, look for areas of vegetation and algae or plants under the water, and look for submerged rocks, wrecks, roots, and trees as areas to target for pond fish.
Fly fish around docks and small bridges or anchored boats but don't fish on top of something on the water if at all possible. Fish from the shore where the fish are less likely to be disturbed by your movements and sound.
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Employ the Right Techniques
A lot of people assume that ponds are only meant for catch-and-release fly fishing. However, if the pond has not had any fish taken from it for years there is no problem in taking a couple of fish from it every couple of weeks or months. If the pond is very small, like 50 feet across, please just practice catch-and-release fishing in the best interest of the survival of the place.
Should you consume fish that you catch in a pond? I usually don't, but then I am usually fishing in a pond that is close to an agricultural/farming area where the use of pesticides is probably common. I have this thing about not eating pesticides if at all possible.
Look online for fishing reports from fly fishing anglers that have visited ponds in the area you are considering fishing to see what people are using for bait, what time of day is best, and what they are catching. Also, see if anybody makes mention of the fish being safe or unsafe to eat from ponds in this area.
Of course, it helps to be an expert fly fisherman, but really all you need to successfully catch fish in a pond is a fly with the right size hook, the ability to cast a fly rod, and the ability to land a fish gently on your fly rod.
There is no reason to know every fly and larva and nymph in the area where you are fishing, but if you have a variety of flies you can try. That is a good way to see what fish are biting on that day.
So, you'll need a basic understanding of fly fishing and tying lines together with certain knots and how to fish and cast various flies but once you know these things, you should be able to catch fish. Fishing at remote ponds can make it easier to catch fish because they haven't seen anglers drop flies in the water before and they may bite anything that hits the surface.
If you are creative and would like to try your hand at tying a few flies you can do so with some thread, feathers, yarn, beads, and wires to make simple artificial flies that may attract strikes from the fish in that pond. Try to mimic a fly you see at the pond for the best result!
You can learn later about advanced techniques like matching the flies you fish with the fish species and the insects commonly found in that area at that time of year. That kind of thing takes time and experience you'll gain by repeatedly fishing in the same area. Don't stress over it.
Just know that to target different species of fish, you'll need different sizes of flies and different fly species. By bringing a variety of surface and sub-surface flies you can effectively fish a pond and catch fish. Sure, you'll be slower to master it than people who are intimately familiar with the place and insect selection, but you'll do OK. Nobody knows it all to begin with.
Fishing ponds require stealth, finesse, lightweight line and flies, a variety of insects and stages of growth, and perseverance. You may not catch anything in the morning. You may come back out around dinner and catch fish. Timing can be crucial too. Fish may feed only in the morning, only evening, or both. Once you begin to figure it out you'll become a better fisherman of the place and catch more fish.
Schedule Your Time
It is generally accepted that the summertime has the best weather and water temperature for fishing fly fishing ponds and lakes. In particular, the mornings and evenings tend to produce more fish in the summer. That doesn't mean that you should ignore fishing in the early winter months because you can still catch fish during this time.
As you really become a master of fly fishing in a certain area you will begin to notice when certain flies hatch and you can start targeting fish with them then. Fish feeding cycles go along with the hatching of flies because they can become a main source of nutrients for them for weeks or even months at a time. Fish know exactly what they like to eat.
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Get Your Gear Ready
A Sage fly rod and reel can be a great choice as the brand has been tested over and over and always comes out as a winner. This is a great setup when targeting trout in a pond in the countryside.
Start out with the basics like artificial San Juan worms and flies like the yellow stimulator fly with tiny rubber legs. Ideally, you won't need waders because wading into a pond really disturbs the fish and may sour your chances of catching fish. Fish from the dirt bank and not docks or boats either, as we mentioned earlier.
A long-handled landing net that is easy on the fish's delicate body is recommended. Trout tend to get quite energetic about getting off the hook as they get close to the bank and realize that something is wrong and danger awaits!
Fish-friendly nets with rubber lining are better than cord or sharp lines that can destroy the important slime layer trout possess and need when released back into the water.
You’ll need to be able to access a multi-tool or some fingernail clippers and needle nose pliers often if you're catching fish. Keeping these tools on your fly fishing vest works well for most people, or you can use a fly fishing lanyard.
It is possible that the ponds you are fishing in your area have already been overfished or at least suffered some fishing pressure each season as many anglers show up to try to catch fish there.
It can be smart to vary the location of your fishing on small ponds and rotate the ponds you go to. Give special attention to ponds that you rarely see other anglers at, this may be the most productive for you in the long run. Furthermore, fish are more likely to stay in the middle-deep area of the pond, so you may need to bring along a float tube and a flashlight to help you reach your targets with ease.
Also consider catch and release in small ponds where the fishing populations may not be easily recovered, even if you take a dozen fish over the course of a week.
Fly fishing in small ponds and lakes shouldn't be a challenge for an experienced angler unless the water has been overfished. If you have visited the same pond for two or three days and caught very little or nothing, it is probably the case that you either have the wrong fly offering or the place is overfished.
Please be mindful that small ponds are delicate ecosystems with small populations of fish, frogs, and other animals that can be greatly affected by taking too many fish. Also, if you can go the extra mile and restrict yourself in applying bug spray and chemicals to stop your skin from burning in the sun, nature will appreciate it.
Many anglers are clueless about this and regularly touch fish with hands containing such chemicals that adversely affect the fish and the other animals and insects in the pond.
I encourage you to catch and release in small ponds when feasible. Ponds in remote locations are their own semi-closed ecosystem that is fragile to outside change and the introduction of new variables. Think about sustainability and the preservation of this fishery for the generations to come after us.
Finally, as is our usual advice, vary your approach and don't get tired of tying on new flies and baits to see what the fish want. It can be a bit maddening to go through almost everything you have and not get bites. Keep going, so at least you know what they're not biting. Then the next time you return, hit them with some new flies. Don't give up until you catch fish!
If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to keep the conversation going in the comments below.