Off The (Weed) Wall

Off The (Weed) Wall

Matt Klara | Sunday, 23 October 2016

Autumn, in general, and October in particular is one of my favorite times to be outdoors and fishing stillwaters. There are many methods of fly angling that work on stillwaters, and there are many parts of a lake or pond that attract trout. Flats, bays, weed beds, drop-offs, and more. There is no way I can touch on them all here today.

That said, a unique fish holding zone that I’ve come to appreciate more in the last couple of years are near-shore weed edges. Not edges along weed beds that have grown up from the bottom of the lake, although those are great spots too. The edges that I’m referring to in this case are actually more like weed walls, formed in the autumn as aquatic vegetation dies off and big winds rip it free of the bottom and push it in large quantities across the lake, piling it up along the windward shoreline. Take a look at the POD for an example. These walls may stay in place until the lakes freeze for the winter, or they may be here today and gone tomorrow. It all depends on wind, weather, and water levels.

It may be the somewhat unpredictable, temporary, and transient nature of these features that draws me to fish them.  It may be their location near shore, often making them fishable without a boat.  Then again, it may be the fish that spend the day cruising and living off the walls, fattening up for winter.  Either way, when I’m on the water and I find a place where these weed walls have formed, I make sure to spend some time either polaroiding for fish along the edge or prospecting for them with blind presentations.

I think these features really attract trout for a couple of reasons.  First, trout love to cruise along bottom contours in general, and the weed wall phenomenon creates a wonderful and abrupt contour, often with the added attraction of a floating roof, like a giant undercut bank on a river.  Second, I’m guessing that the uprooted vegetation is crawling with insects, scuds, leeches, and other trout-food that have been suddenly displaced and are now slowly losing their hiding places as the vegetation decays and additional wind breaks up the weed walls.

Finding a nice weed wall is the hard part.  Typically some luck is involved.  Fishing them is pretty straightforward.  I typically fish these features in one of two ways (assuming that I’m not sight fishing to individual fish).

My favorite method is retrieving a lightly weighted or unweighted fly or team of flies along the edge on an intermediate line.  It’s usually a slow intermediate line, given the near shore location and depth generally less than six feet.  I like the tight line retrieve best because you get to feel the grab.  I make my casts either parallel to the edge, or at an angle no steeper than 45 degrees to the weed edge.  These casting angles keep the fly “in the zone” along the edge for the longest amount of time on the retrieve.  If I am forced to cast 90 degrees (perpendicular) to the edge, I make sure to let the fly sink well and really creep it along while it is still close to the edge.  It seems like the area within 10 feet of the edge is best, with less than 5 feet often being the real “money zone”.

Another excellent presentation method to use along these weed walls involves a floating line and a strike indicator with weighted fly or flies.  The method has a few names – Indicator Fishing, Chironomid Fishing, Hang and Bob, and as my friends and I often refer to it, Chironobobbing.  It’s a deadly method, and it works with chironomids, as well as other flies such as scuds, nymphs, buggers, and leeches.  Fishing a balanced leech (Google it) is becoming common with this presentation.  I like to get the flies right along the wall, along the edge, and twitch them, move them slowly, allow them to bob up and down in the waves, and generally keep them wiggling right in the zone for as long as possible on each cast.  The more time the flies are in the zone, the better.  As such, I tend towards indicator tactics when the fish are not actively, aggressively chasing a retrieved fly, which often happens when autumn water temperatures drop into the low 40s or even 30s.  I also like indicator tactics when the trout become real primadonnas on stillwaters where forage is abundant and slow moving, and they can eat whenever they please without hunting or chasing their prey.  Lastly, I will use the methods when submerged vegetation makes retrieving a fly on an intermediate or even floating line without snagging difficult.

So, there you go.  Something else to hopefully look for and think about next time you are on a stillwater late in the year.  Has anyone else encountered this phenomenon??  These weed walls don’t form in every lake I fish, or even on some certain lakes every year.  But when they do form, look for big trout just off the wall.

Take care and Fish on!