Pond Hopping With a Fly Rod? Lighten Up!
Updated: Nov 6
David McKenzie Photo
When the mercury is rising and water temps are edging towards the 70 degree mark, it can often be frowned upon to chase trout. They simply get stressed out in these conditions and catching them just makes things even worse. What's a trout bum to do? Try chasing some local warmwater fish!
Commonly inhabited by fly-munching species like bass, crappie, and bluegill, small lakes and ponds provide oodles of entertainment for really anybody—not just avid trout chasers looking for an option. As someone who has always enjoyed chasing a variety of species, the "you never know what you might hook into" aspect of these spots is a huge draw to me. I've had plenty of instances where I've been surprised by a gar, chunky catfish, or unexpectedly big bass that decided to give my fly a taste test!
Experiencing a variety of species and fisheries is a way for me to keep things fresh throughout the year, but tackle selection has a lot to do with that, too. I absolutely love fishing with tackle that's a bit lighter than what most folks might gravitate to, and I often find that small local waters are perfect places to bust out the truly ultralight gear. Sure, the typical 4 or 5-weight trout rod will work well and be plenty fun, but going even lighter turns up the thrill meter BIG TIME.
I believe that any serious fly angler should own a "fun stick." In my mind, this is a fly rod that's on the short side and carries a line rating of 3-weight or lower. While a rod like this may lack the versatility of a more "standard" freshwater rod, that's kind of the point—it is reserved only for specific places and occasions when you want to increase the enjoyment of fighting fish, with a particular emphasis on smaller specimens. If you've never fished such a light fly rod before, it's pretty eye-opening how stout even a half-pound fish can feel!
On my personal rod rack is a Fenwick Aetos 7-foot 3-weight which I previously reviewed right here. If you click on the link, you'll see that I use the rod for exactly what I'm talking about in this post—ultralight warmwater fly fishing. For its price, this is a stellar little pond rod for casting nymphs, small streamers, and little poppers along the bank. Of course, a rod like this also works well for small streams when in trout country.
With all of this said, ultralight fly tackle isn't always an appropriate choice. If a body of water is full of heavy vegetation and big bass, it'll probably be a smart idea to go with a more muscular outfit. However, water with smaller fish and/or sparser cover presents an ideal opportunity to pull out the lightest gear. Thankfully, when it comes to this kind of tackle there's a bunch of new and used options available these days. In fact, you can get pretty extreme...how extreme? Sage currently offers a DART 0-weight and once made a TXL 000-weight!
If you have yet to try warmwater fly fishing or have done so with more typical rod sizes, consider going the ultralight route if it seems appropriate for where you fish. I think you just might find it worthwhile to lighten up a bit!
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