Small Stillwater Tactics

Words & images by Andy McClelland, Guideline Ambassador UK

Small Stillwaters can be hard at times due to lots of angling pressure. There’s a few things you can do during the colder months when things become a lot harder and the fish become a lot slower on the take, or do they? Sometimes, on the hardest days fishing, anglers will take to Bung Fishing when they think the fish have just slowed completely up and think the fish have just gone off the feed. Well, those types of days can be the best days for pulling flies extremely fast.

I’ve personally had those days when every angler around me is either using a bung or pulling small nymphs back slowly. And for me, it’s to Apps Style Bloodworms pulled fast on a Slow Intermediate or Di3 Line. For this style of fishing, I strongly recommend that you go up in Fluorocarbon Breaking Strain, 12lb or thereabouts is recommended.

The takes can be quite savage and heart stopping, you will miss a lot of fish doing this, so if you feel the pull, just keep stripping the flies, and the fish will hook themselves. Using this method will also create a lot of bow waves when the fish keeps coming for the flies, top tip keep stripping until the head of the fish is almost out of the water, then if you time it correctly you can stop and set the hook yourself as the fish will swim straight into your fly with an open mouth. This style of fishing is exciting, and it can really warm you up on those cold days.

Now, back to the “Bung,” we never dis the bung fishing. Bung fishing for me is an absolute must. I will always fish it. This can be such a deadly method at any time of the year. For me, I will have a Rod set for pulling flies and a Rod set for using the Bung. This is a must for Stillwater Fishing. In short; here you use an indicator of some kind and a set of sinking flies under.

For my bung set-up, I will have a mixture of flies to fish under it, and also use a bung that you can change the depths quickly. Finding the depth is probably the key ingredient to fishing the Bung, and this is where the skill of Bung Fishing comes into play. Some people think fishing the Bung is for the beginner or the “Easy” option. Well, it sort of isn’t. I’ve personally had days fishing that I’ve 2 flies under my Bung, 1 fly at 10ft under, the other 4ft under. Getting nothing then I move the Bung up 6 inches and bang I’ve cracked the depth.

For flies, this can be a roulette, I will always try a worm pattern for the point fly a Squirmy Worm is always a good call. For the dropper, you can go with another Squirmy or a Blob, but for me, I think this can spook fish. Sometimes when your local Small Water has had a lot of pressure and the fish have seen every fly go past them the Squirmy on the point with a Buzzer or Nymph on the Dropper fly can be the best option.


The top tip for cold water fishing is to read the water. This might sound like complete madness. But there’s certain parts of the lake that will always fish better than others.

Wind direction // Wind plays a huge part in any fishing. If the wind is blowing into a certain area, you will be near certain that’s where there’s a lot of fish. This doesn’t mean you have to take the hardest option and fish directly into the wind. There’s easier options, fish from the side. So basically cast your flies across the wind so your flies will be drifting across in the most natural way, this method works well for all mentioned methods even pulling.

Depths // This is a huge area that some anglers can get lost with, especially in the cold months. Lots of Anglers think that in the winter, the deepest part of the Fishery will hold the most fish. In some ways, this might be true, and the deepest part will fish, but for me, the shallow end or bays of the lake will almost out-fish the deeper ends. This comes down to food sources, the shallower water will be an easier way to source food for Trout. Lots of lakes will have shallow bays that still have weed left from the summer. These bays will also have silty/sandy bottoms which will push out Bloodworms which are a huge food source for Trout in the winter. So, top tip for catching, get out of the deep water, and hit the bays.


For my rod set up, I like to use 2 rods, I will have one set up with a floating line and one set up with a Sinking/Intermediate Line. Most Anglers opt for a 6 or 7 weight Rod for Stillwater fishing whether that be large or small stillwaters. I personally don’t go above a 6 weight rod but I know for sinking line work sometimes a 7 weight is the best option. A 9.6ft – 10ft is the perfect length for this, but in the summer months when you’re out targeting rising fish, a 9ft rod rated for either a 5 or 6 line is sufficient.

For pulling as I’ve mentioned above, I like to use heavier line. As heavy as 12lb for pulling, especially if your pulling flies back fast. 10lb is also fine if you’re not going as hard and don’t be put off by how heavy these breaking strains are good. Fluorocarbon will be fine in diameter and super in strength.

Guideline Egor Fluorocarbon
2x – 9.79lb is 0.235mm in dia
1x – 11.33lb is 0.26mm in diameter

These are up there with all the leading Fluorocarbon brands, and with this strength to diameter ratio, you will have no worries with pulling using both these weights. The 2x Egor Fluorocarbon is also perfect for using nymphs. Nymph takes from Rainbow Trout can be heart-stopping, but in the winter months I’ve seen these takes to be a lot softer.


For my Floating Line, my personal preference is the Guideline Reach Stillwater. I find this line to be so supple and smooth. It’s an absolute dream to cast with making distance very easy. In some cases, I also like to go up a weight class. This is all dependent on the Rod you are using. The thing I love about Guideline Rods and Lines is they have both the wf and the gram/grain weight on them. Sometimes, going to 17 grams on a 16-gram rod can make such a difference to your casting ability. For my Intermediate Line Set Up, I love the Airflo 40plus Lines. These lines are a weapon for Stillwater Fishing with the shorter heavier heads, they are perfect for those windy days.


If you are just starting out the Guideline Elevation 10ft Models are perfect for Stillwater Fishing. The 10ft #6 is great for all your floating line work and the 10ft #7 for your sunk line work. These rod models are unbelievable value and made to suit the UK Stillwater Fishing. If you fancy stepping your game up , then definitely move on to the Guideline LPX Chrome 10ft Range which is new this year or you can really treat yourself and get the new NT11 10ft Rod.

Once you start going up the ranges on the Guideline Rods, they become a faster action. This, for me, is amazing for a few reasons. Top tip firstly is to slow everything down and let the rod do the work. The less you put in, the more you get out. Next is striking into your fish, and slow this down. Just lifting in will set the hook perfectly. I know this is easier said than done, but it works, and lastly, these rods are built not just to make everything easier but they are built to land fish and put them in the net. This is a must, especially if you are a competition angler, I know from previous seasons a lot of UK Competition Anglers are moving to Guideline for this reason.


For Reel choice, my personal preference is The Guideline Fario. I use this for my Floating Line set up. I love how fast it picks line up from around my feet and how lightweight it is. But a practical reel for Stillwater fishing would be the Favo or Halo, both of which are stunning reels. The Favo is a cheaper model that may be the better option for buying spare spools. And again, if you want to upgrade, I’d definitely say get the Guideline Halo, which is available in 2 different colours.


Bung: Bung flies are either Squirmy Patterns, Blobs, and Wormy Patterns. The White Squirmy or Orange Squirmy is amazing in the winter months. Also, Red works well around January and February. Blob Colours for me is either Sockeye, Pink, Salmon Roe, or Mojito. These are also my go to colour for Wormy Patterns, sometimes for the Wormy Flies. I’ll go for some Chartreuse or Bloodworm Red. For these Patterns, I use ChuckNDuck Squirmy Worm Material and Egg-Tastic and Wormy Chenille Material.

Nymphs: If you are going to fish nymphs in the winter, go to sizes 12-14 and try the Hares Ear or Cruncher Style Patterns. I’ve found tying these traditional but adding a little bling to them always helps. Try a little ChuckNDuck Fly Tying, Hare & Squirrel UV Mosiac and Electric Seal Dubbing. These always create the bling I need.

Pulling Flies: The list goes on for pulling flies. A good start is Flexi Floss Worms, Red, Black, Amber, and Pink are great colours for these. Then you have your Minkie/Zonker Patterns. These for me in colours Black, Natural, or Olive, and if the lake you’re fishing has Roach, try Silver Zonker. You can mix up the bodies on these flies with either some ice Dubbing or Straggle Fritz.

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