The majority of fly fishers in this country concentrate on fly fishing in stillwaters, whether reservoir, lake or pond. For many this is simply a choice of convenience, with few or no available rivers containing game fish in their area.
Others, such as I, are lucky enough to live in areas where there is an abundance of good river fishing at extremely reasonable prices, as well as many good lakes and reservoirs. You would think that with so many rivers available one would stick to the Trout, Sea Trout and Salmon that run them and stay well clear of the stillwaters. Whilst this may be true of many, I still get enormous enjoyment when fishing a stillwater, essentially with a floating line and particularly with the dry fly or buzzer.
The buzzer is the angler's term for the pupa of the midge, that is the Chironomid midge, not the wee nasty biting thing of the west coast of Scotland. It forms the major part of the diet of all lake trout and as a result SHOULD be a major fishing technique with any stillwater angler. In its natural state the midge can be eaten by the Trout in four different forms - the larva, the pupa, the emerger and the adult. To be a really successful angler you will need to be able to recognise when the fish are feeding on what form and to be able to imitate the natural accurately, both in what it looks like and how it moves.
The larva live in the mud and silt at the bottom of the lake and are usually found in large numbers. They vary in colour and can be olive, brown, green, translucent or, most common, red (known as the bloodworm). Though forming a major part in the trout's diet the natural larvae swim in a very active wriggle which is very difficult to imitate for the angler.
Much more common and easier to fish is the pupa. The naturals start their `hatch' anytime between March and November and leaves their burrows in the mud on the long hazardous journey to the surface. This may take some time depending on the depth and the currents in the water and this will affect your fishing tactics, It is extremely possible to get a major hatch of buzzers being fed on by the Trout eight or even ten feet deep and one should not ignore the use of buzzers on hi speed sinking lines. As the pupae near the surface of the water the rise forms of the trout will give away the depths they are feeding at; a flattening of the ripple indicates the fish are feeding between 8" and 2', the 'head & tail' rise usually indicates the fish feeding on the buzzer in the top 8" and the full blooded swirl is a sure sign that the fish are taking the hatched adults off the surface.
Having discovered the depth the fish are feeding at, you will need to assemble something make all the difference sometimes. A very valid tip when fishing the dries, always degrease your leader and dropper arms heavily so that they sink into the surface film and not sit up as an outline to 'spook' a wary trout.
Unless you know exactly which size and colour of midge the fish are feeding on you will need to fish a variety of sizes and colours until your are successful. Where legal I would suggest using a team of buzzers to start with and usually a size 12 grey buzzer on the top dropper, size 14 black buzzer on the middle dropper and a size 16 olive buzzer on the point when faced with no evidence of what is hatching. This team has been devastating on many trips and I will almost always start with it when the fish are on wet buzzers, again, regardless of the line used, i.e. Hi-D, Wet Cel 2 or floater, A similar set up can be used when the fish are on top - a size 12 black hopper on the top dropper, size 14 olive shipmans buzzer on the middle and a size 16 brown raider for the point. Not only are you fishing different colours and sizes of flies with this set up, but you are also presenting a different silhouette to the fish with each fly, a fact that can make all the difference sometimes. A very valid tip when fishing the dries, always defrease your leader and dropper arms heavily so they sink into the surface film and not sit up as an outline to 'spook' a wary trout.
Finally, if you are not catching fish, though you know you are fishing the right depth, keep changing the colours and sizes of your team - you will get it right eventually!