Often lake fish will gather in schools and cruise around looking for food, but often it is the small fish that rise to take surface insects while the bigger ones feed in deeper water.
Where the fish are
Fish in lakes aren't much different than fish in rivers. Their concerns are still protection from predators and finding food. Lake fly fishing techniques involved finding the areas where both these concerns are met.
Remember that lake water is generally deeper than rivers water, so bottom structures may not be visible. Try fishing where a stream enters the lake. Insects are often carried into the lake here and the fish will be waiting for them.
Structure in lakes includes piers and boat ramps, weeded areas and deadfalls. Fish are likely to be hanging around man-made structures that have been sunken into the waters. Lake fish like to hang around drop off areas. Here they can munch on food that has fallen into the water and dart back into the depths when spooked. Warm water fish gather around natural springs and weeds also.
Dry flies and lake fishing
Lake fly fishing techniques usually involved fishing deep. It takes energy for a fish to take insects from the surface and there has to be a darned good reason for a bigger fish to do so. A big hatch might entice a large fish from the depths to feed, but you are more likely to catch smaller fish when using dry flies on lakes.
Wet flies and lake fishing
If a fish expends more energy than he receives in searching for food, he will not survive long. Lake fishing techniques include knowing how an aggressively feeding fish will behave. He will check out the feeding zones, feed, then return to safe water to rest until it is feeding time again. If you are looking for large lake fish, you need to get your hook down where they are holding.
The larger the fish, the more energy it takes for him to feed, therefore the offering needs to be worthwhile. A big juicy-looking streamer hanging right in front of his nose will often tempt a fish.
The advantage of fishing wets over dries in lakes is that you can vary the depth and the retrieve until you find the combination that the fish cannot resist. Keep a close eye on your line because often the take is subtle. Using a strike indicator is helpful here.
Often a sinking line or sink tip can give you a big advantage when fly fishing a lake. You have a much greater chance for success if you can get your fly to the fish.
About the Author: Dale East is a long time outdoorsman and fly fisher and publisher of Fly Fishing Wyoming