After targeting trout for a few years many fly anglers start to wonder what else is out there. Hiking up a cold, spring fed stream on a hot summer day is time well spent but often days like that require a lot of work & planning. A great weekday or after work alternative is fishing in ponds or lakes. We will omit large lakes like Lanier because those types of lakes require specialized techniques and gear that may not be available to everyone such as a boat, but instead let’s think more about your nieghborhood pond.
Pond fly fishing is as straight forward as it gets in terms of tackle. Any fly rod from a sturdy 3 wt to 5 wt will work along with floating line. Warm water fish aren’t leader shy so keep them short and don’t go below 2x tippet. Similar to trout fishing, there are flies that are used on top and sub surface. Poppers are surface flies that imitate struggling insects or wounded minnows. Poppers are great in low light situations or when fish are actively busting on the surface. Subsurface flies are usually some kind of streamer. There are thousands of crazy warm water patterns but if you’re ever in doubt stock up on black and white wooly boogers.
Species and Tactics
When fishing ponds there are two main species you’ll encounter: largemouth bass and bluegill.
Largemouth bass are the apex predator in pond environments. A bass can eat anything one third of its body mass so this means a three pound bass can eat a one pound fish. With this in mind this really opens up what kind of flies you can use. Brown trout streamers work just fine for bass. Often times though less fancy patterns like a Clouser minnow do just as well and are less expensive to replace. Bass also crush poppers cast near covered areas, such as anywhere near fallen trees, stumps, rock, rip rap or brush because they are are ambush predators. When fishing from a john boat, hit the shorelines that have cover as well as mid lake humps and points. Summer time thunder storms in the Atlanta area create a great opportunity with the sudden runoff. The runoff will washout worms, minnows, insects, and salamanders so bass position themselves where runoff enters the ponds.
Bluegill or bream is a catch-all term that encompasses many different species of sunfish. Bluegill are food for bass but they are also aggressive feeders taking anything from small poppers to wooly boogers. Since the flies are much smaller a 3wt or 4wt rod will be perfect. Bluegill hang around the same type of structure that bass do, so be sure to cast near the areas discussed above. Bluegill will spawn just about every full moon in the summer which makes for a great time to target them. Look for saucers in the pond bottom in shallow water around the full moon. They will stay on bed for a few days and are highly aggressive during this time.
- There are thousands of ponds in the Atlanta area. Most are private but many public parks have ponds full of fish. Ask around your friend circle and you’ll probably find a buddy that can give you access to a great private pond.
- Ponds are magnets for wildlife especially in urban areas. High grass and logs are great places for snakes to hide so don’t go barging into areas. Be mindful of larger wildlife on private lands as well!
- If you plan to take the kids ALWAYS pack some extra snacks and water. We hate to be the bearer of bad news but most kids will remember the snacks instead of the fish but the key is making it fun so they’ll want to keep coming back. There’s no shame in bribing with some Nutter Butter and Gold Fish!
- Pond fishing is meant to be fun and relaxing. Keep your flies to one small box that’s well thought out. There’s no need to flex your Entomology knowledge on your buddies.
- Fish from a john boat, canoe, or kayak if you can. For the athletes out there a stand up paddle board is another great option. Water crafts allow you to fish water that shore anglers can’t access.