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Fly & Bubble Rig For Lake Fishing

lake fishingLake fishing is perfect for flies this time of year...but most of the time, the fish are jumping way beyond the range of the amateur angler.

Beginning trout fishermen are pretty apprehensive about fly fishing, thinking that they will have to make yet another expensive investment in equipment and gear. They just got the basics down with the spinning rod, and don't even want to think about learning an entirely different casting style and technique.

Fortunately, the clear plastic bubble opens up a new dimension of fly fishing for both the novice and amateur fisherman.

Avoid discount flies

Your basic equipment can be found at any good fishing supply store:

  • spinning rod with 4-6# line

  • 2-4# line for leader

  • clear plastic bubble

  • small swivel

  • assorted good quality wet & dry flies

Here are some good "starter" flies to look for:

Dry flies: Ginger Quill, California Mosquito, Red Ant, Renegade, Royal Coachman, Black Gnat, White Miller, El Capitan, Adams Irresistible, Gray Wulff.

Dry flies are intended to imitate bugs landing on the water surface. Some dry flies, like the Gray Wulff, can be rigged as a wet fly to imitate an insect submerged and drifting. Dry flies should use a bubble filled halfway with water to keep them afloat and to lessen the "plunk" when hitting the water.

Cast the rig using a side-arm technique. Overhead casting may cause the leader to snag behind you or to whip and snap off. The side-arm lets the bubble lead and allows the fly to land without tension.

Wet flies: Wooly Worm (brown, olive), Wooly Bugger (black, black & olive, olive, brown), Joe's Hopper (grasshopper), Muddler Minnow.

Wet flies imitate various shrimp and hellgrammites found in lake waters, as well as minnows and larval insects. Submerged flies need a bubble completely filled with water.
The bubble will hold the fly at the same level throughout the retrieve.

Overwhelmed? Get a few Adams for topwater, Wulffs for top & submerged, and Olive Wooly Worms & Buggers for submerged. Start with these and add to your collection as your enjoyment progresses.


1. Pull four feet of line from the rod tip to work with.

2. Slide the bubble on the line and tie one end of the swivel to the line.
The bubble should be free to slide but will not pass over the swivel.

3. Measure leader and tie to swivel. Use six feet of line for submerged flies; use nine feet of line for dry flies.

Easy measuring technique: Use a tape measure and measure the span of your stretched arms (mine is six feet). Now pull line from left hand to right using the span as your guide (half span is at the tip of your nose).

4. Tie fly to end of leader.

5. Fill bubble with water.


Cast the rig using a side-arm technique. Overhead casting may cause the leader to snag behind you or to whip and snap off. The side-arm lets the bubble lead and allows the fly to land without tension. Retrieve with the pole at the side so hooking the fish can be done with a snap of the wrist and arm.

Dry & wet flies should be retrieved very slowly as if the bug was drifting towards the shore with the waves. Slight twitching may be added to stimulate struggle.

The bubble should make a slight wake to ensure sufficient tension on the line. Strikes will then be felt and distinguished over "bumps". The bubble also acts as a strike indicator, so watch it carefully to hook the smart fish.

Submerged flies are a different game. Before casting, drop the fly & bubble in the water and count as it sinks. Note the amount of seconds per foot. After casting, count off the depth using your predetermined seconds per foot gauge.

Most submerged flies and streamers work best at 5-10' depth, but sometimes a greater depth might be desired. When at the depth chosen, the bubble will keep the fly at this level for the first three-quarters of the retrieve. The bugger or streamer will imitate a swimming action, so use a 'stop & go' action or add slow pulls while reeling.


Use a very short set when you feel the strike. If the fish is missed, keep reeling slowly. Trout will often return for another look and a more vicious follow-up strike.

When a fish is hooked, it is important to keep constant pressure on the line to cut down on the possibility of the fish throwing the hook. Keep your line and rod tip near the water to minimize the chances of the trout becoming airborne. This creates a lot of surface tension between the line and water which makes it harder for the trout to leap with both the weight of the bubble and the wet line.


Use a net or beach-land the trout. The leader is long and often tempts a novice to grab the line. The fighting fish is fighting the tension and action of the pole. If the line is grabbed, the spring action ends and the fish fights only the strength of the line. Nine times out of ten, the leader will snap. Rule of thumb: NEVER GRAB THE LINE! Play and tire the fish out, then land or net the trout.


This form of fly fishing can become a productive strategy for catching trout in lakes. Often, the fish will be rising for flies, dimpling the surface a considerable distance off shore. The traditional fly rodder simply can't reach these trout unless floating in a tube. The bank angler who is proficient with a fly and bubble rig can really excel at putting on a great show.

There's nothing like the thrill of landing a fighting trout amidst an audience of bait fishermen and considering whether or not to answer their question: "So, what's your secret?"

About the Author... Greg Howard, Publisher

More about fly and bubble fishing around the Web:

How to Catch Trout : Using Casting Bubbles as a Trout Fishing Tool

All About Bubble Fishing Rigs


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