This burly sewer cat was a surprise bycatch targeting windshield wipers in Colorado’s Front Range.
Photo by TK Connor

This spring was particularly cool and wet across much of the country giving mixed results for trout fishing but proved excellent for fishing in warm water reservoirs. The extra rain has meant many of them are full again, creating abundantly flooded coastal areas full of food. The cooler, cloudier days have made the fish feel comfortable there, delaying their need to seek out deeper water. So if you’ve been waiting for the rivers to get back in shape, grab a 6-8 weight and meanwhile head to a nearby reservoir. The transition to this style of fly fishing can be difficult. Here are three tips to keep in mind as you get started.

1. Stay close to shore

It might be tempting to think that longer casts increase the chance of a hook – and occasionally it does – but your fly can only sink so fast or so low, so it’s usually more efficient to focus on the shallower one Concentrate water in it 30-40 feet from shore. Also, adult fish seek out the shallows at this time of year for both feeding and spawning, so it’s likely that many of them are near shore these days anyway. Move calmly, try to keep your shadow off the water, and don’t hesitate to cast at even the slightest trace of a fish as you may only get a quick shot.

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The author caught this carp grazing in very shallow water just a few meters from shore.
Photo by TK Connor

2. Bring a variety of flies and lines

Unless you’re a regular visitor, it’s hard to predict what opportunities will be available at a warm reservoir as so many different species and scenarios can be found there. Sometimes the carp will feed on the surface or roam around in the mud. Other days you might spot a largemouth bass or pike lurking around the jetty, or be lucky enough to experience an outright windshield wiper attack. Whatever happens in the end, you want to have a wide range of nymphs, streamers and poppers to cover every situation. I was very lucky with that The worm, Lefty’s imposterand well dated bass popper, but many different flight patterns work. It’s nice to have two rods set up: one with a floating line and monofilament for sight fishing or popping and the other with a full sinking line and fluorocarbon for fishing streamers a little deeper.

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Wipers are sterile hybrids of white bass and striped bass found in many waters due to their rapid growth rates and aggressive nature.
Photo by Evan Jones

3. Adjust your pace

Even if warm water fishing is good, it can be very risky. The fish are often clustered in schools and/or constantly roaming the lake in search of food, which can reduce the likelihood of encountering them on any given day. And unless they disturb the surface, the fish are often unseen, further reducing your chances of being in the right place at the right time. Remember that a lot depends on chance: you might hit the jackpot on your first cast, but it’s more likely that you’ll go a few hours – or even days – without a fish before you finally get it right. So don’t be discouraged if it works, it doesn’t go together right away.

Evan Jones is Associate Editor of the Orvis Fly Fishing blog.