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ORVIS – Fly Fishing Lake Shores and Shoals

ORVIS – Fly Fishing Lake Shores and Shoals, a video by The Orvis Company, provides valuable insights and techniques for successful fly fishing in lakes, particularly targeting trout. The key to effective fishing in lakes lies in locating the food supply, which is typically found in shallow water along the edges. This instructional resource offers a simple yet effective method for finding these feeding zones and catching trout. By understanding the importance of shoals and drop-off zones, anglers can strategically position themselves and increase their chances of success. Additionally, the video introduces the concept of using indicators and quick release indicators for maximum depth control and flexibility. Overall, this video aims to equip fly fishers with the knowledge and skills necessary for a rewarding experience in lake fishing.

The video emphasizes the significance of shoals, which are raised areas of the lake bed that are easily identifiable and likely to harbor feeding fish. By recognizing the edges of shoals, anglers can target the drop-off zones where trout are most interested in feeding. The setup for fishing a shoal is simple and reminiscent of childhood fishing days with a worm under a bobber, yet with a deeper understanding of fish behavior and depth control. The video also demonstrates the technique of casting and drifting along the drop-off zone, taking into consideration wind direction and using the right gear for effective line control. By following these techniques and principles, anglers can improve their fly fishing experience in lakes and increase their chances of catching trout.


Fishing in lakes can be an exciting and rewarding experience. The vastness of these bodies of water often hides hidden gems, such as bountiful fish populations, including trout. However, finding these fish can sometimes be a challenge. In this article, we will explore the art of finding fish in lakes, with a particular focus on shoals and their significance as targetable features.

Finding Fish in Lakes

Importance of Food Supply

When it comes to finding fish in lakes, understanding the importance of the food supply is crucial. Lakes support various ecosystems, ranging from the microscopic algae to insects, crustaceans, and small fish. These form the foundation of the food chain, ultimately attracting larger predatory fish, such as trout. By locating areas where the food supply is abundant, you increase your chances of finding fish.

Concealed Structure in Lakes

Lakes contain concealed structures that can be advantageous for fish. Underwater rocks, fallen trees, and submerged vegetation create hiding spots for fish, providing cover from predators and a potential food source. These structures often attract shoals, making them ideal areas to explore when searching for fish.

Shoals as Targetable Features

Shoals, or shallow areas in lakes, are significant targetable features for anglers. They provide a variety of benefits, including a thriving food chain, strategic positioning for anglers, and potential refuge for larger fish. Understanding how to fish shoals effectively can greatly improve your chances of success on the water.

Understanding Shoals

Definition and Characteristics

Shoals are shallow areas in lakes, often characterized by slightly deeper edges and gradual slopes. These areas may consist of sandy or rocky bottoms and are typically found near the shoreline or submerged structures. Shoals attract fish due to their proximity to food sources and the strategic advantages they offer.

Significance of Shoal Edges

The edges of shoals are particularly significant when it comes to fishing. They act as a transition zone between shallow and deeper water, providing a prime location for fish to feed. The edges offer depth variation, which can influence fish behavior, as well as create areas of concentration for both predator and prey. These edges are crucial areas to focus on when targeting fish in shoals.

ORVIS - Fly Fishing Lake Shores and Shoals

The Productive Littoral Zone

Explanation of the Littoral Zone

The littoral zone refers to the nearshore area of a lake, where sunlight penetrates the water column, supporting photosynthesis and a thriving ecosystem. It is characterized by shallow water, often extending only a few meters from the shore. The littoral zone is where shoals are commonly found, making it a prime location for fishing.

Sunlight Penetration and Oxygen Mixing

One of the key reasons the littoral zone is productive is due to sunlight penetration. Sunlight allows for the growth of aquatic plants and algae, which in turn provide food for various organisms. Additionally, the close proximity to the shore allows for oxygen mixing, resulting in a well-oxygenated environment that supports a diverse range of fish species.

Thriving Food Chain

The littoral zone’s abundance of sunlight, vegetation, and oxygen contributes to a thriving food chain. The presence of small insects, crustaceans, and baitfish attracts predatory fish, including trout. These fish rely on the littoral zone as a feeding ground, creating ample opportunities for anglers to target them.

Basic Setup for Fishing Shoals

Simple Setup

When fishing shoals, a simple setup is often sufficient. A medium-weight rod and reel combination, matched with an appropriate line and leader, is recommended. A floating line is generally suitable for fishing in shallow water, allowing for easy manipulation of the fly.

Importance of Knowing the Depth

Knowing the depth of the shoal is essential for successful fishing. Different fishing techniques require specific depths, and understanding these depths can help you present your fly at the optimal level. Utilize a depth finder or consult local knowledge to determine the depth of the shoal you intend to fish.

Indicator Setup for Fishing Shoals

Positioning the Indicator

Using an indicator can be an effective way to fish shoals. Position the indicator above the depth you wish to target, allowing your fly to suspend at the desired level. This setup enables you to present your fly precisely and monitor for any subtle strikes.

Targeting the Transition Zone

When setting up your indicator rig, it is crucial to target the transition zone between the shallow and deeper water. This is where fish are often concentrated, as the depths provide access to both the littoral zone and deeper hunting grounds.

Using Quick Release Indicators

Utilizing quick release indicators can enhance your fishing experience on shoals. These indicators allow for easy adjustments to fly depth and quick releases when the fish strikes. Ensure you choose an indicator that is easy to adjust and release for maximum efficiency.

Choosing the Right Fly Line

Selecting the right fly line is vital when fishing shoals. A floating line is most often used, as it allows for precise control of the fly’s depth and presentation. However, consider the wind conditions and the type of fish you are targeting when choosing the appropriate line weight.

Techniques for Fishing Shoals

Step-by-Step Approach

When fishing shoals, it is essential to take a systematic approach. Begin by fishing the inside cast, working your fly parallel to the shore. Then gradually move to the middle cast, aiming for the deeper areas of the shoal. Finally, explore the outside cast, targeting the transition zone between the shoal and open water.

Working Inside, Middle, and Outside Casts

By working your way through inside, middle, and outside casts, you cover a greater area of the shoal and increase your chances of locating fish. Each cast allows you to explore different depths and present your fly in various ways, maximizing your potential catch rate.

Importance of Drifting and Mending

Drifting and mending are essential techniques when fishing shoals. Allow your fly to drift naturally with the current or wind, mimicking the movement of real prey. Proper mending of the fly line helps control the presentation and reduce drag, ensuring a more natural and enticing presentation.

Considering Wind Direction

When fishing shoals, it is crucial to consider wind direction. Wind can impact the drift and presentation of your fly, making it necessary to position yourself accordingly. By aligning yourself with the wind direction, you can optimize your casting and presentation, increasing your chances of enticing a strike.

Catching Lazy Big Trout

Advantages of Moving along Shoals

Moving along the shoals while fishing can offer advantages when targeting big trout. These larger fish tend to be more cautious and remain stationary, making it necessary to cover a larger area in search of them. By moving along the shoals, you increase your chances of locating and enticing these elusive trophy trout.

Targeting Stationary Trout

Targeting stationary trout requires patience and a keen eye. Look for subtle signs of movement, such as slight shifts in water color or the presence of smaller baitfish. Use stealthy approaches combined with accurate presentations to increase your chances of hooking these trophy-sized trout.

Catching Big Trout

Catching big trout often requires a strategic approach. Utilize larger flies that imitate their preferred prey, such as minnows or leeches. Present your fly with precision and patience, allowing the big trout time to assess and strike your offering. Mastering the art of catching big trout on shoals can bring a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment to any angler.


Fishing shoals in lakes can be a rewarding experience for any angler. By understanding the importance of the food supply, the significance of shoals, and the productive littoral zone, you can increase your chances of finding fish. Utilizing the appropriate setup, targeting the right depths, and employing effective techniques will further enhance your success. Remember to be patient, observant, and adaptable, as fishing shoals requires a strategic and methodical approach. With these insights and techniques in mind, you are well-equipped to embark on your next lake fishing adventure and reel in an unforgettable catch.

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