Today we got Phil Rowley to get you prepared for approaching new lakes on your next trip. He shares his expertise and provides invaluable tips and techniques for anglers looking to tackle unfamiliar waters.

According to Phil, the key to success all starts with meticulous planning and preparation. In this blog post, we’ll dive deeper into Phil’s advice and explore how it can help you improve your fishing game.

New Lakes with Phil Rowley. Hit play below!

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(Read the Full Transcript at the bottom of this Blog Post)


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New Lakes Show Notes with Phil Rowley

5:54 – Phil tells about that time in 2007 when he participated in the Canadian Fly Fishing championship with a team and they won the gold medal. He had never fished the venue lake before that.

8:24 – The framework of success starts with planning and preparation. Skeet Reese, a world-class bass angler, said that proper preparation prevents poor performance. Talk to friends, colleagues, or guides in local fly shops that have fished the lake before. You can also check online forums and social media. Phil recommends a private Facebook group called Stillwaters.

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11:33 – Hi gives tips on using Google maps when looking at the lake. This provides a 3D graphic that shows the low-lying and mountainous areas. When fly fishing lakes, it’s best to go to areas that are 20 feet deep or less. With this, you can be assured that sunlight penetrates up to the bottom of the lake. This stimulates plant growth in the area where fish feed from.

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Hebgen Lake on Google maps in terrain view

13:31 – Another advantage of fishing in shallow waters less than 20 feet deep is you’ll have a lot of presentation options and techniques.

15:43 – He talks about navigating the lake using Google Earth view.

17:01 – He also recommends using a bathymetric or underwater contour map. His go-to website for a host of different bathymetric maps is You can print the map and bring it with you.

20:11 – When the contour lines in the bathymetric map are compact and tight together, that indicates a rapid change in depth.

Example of a bathymetric map (Photo via:

21:26 – We dig into the preparation of equipment and gear. Typically when Phil gets on the water, he likes to have a minimum of two to three rods. Look for a fly line that is capable of throwing indicators and long leaders.


24:07 – He mentions the drogue. It is an underwater parachute that slows and controls the drift of the boat. This controls your boat and enables you to focus on your presentation. He also recommends other must-haves such as a sounder, polarized sunglasses, thermometer, throat pump, vial, and nets.

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Photo via:

27:55 – Make it a habit to have an aquarium net with you. You can use it to get a sample along the shoreline or catch something with it.

28:40 – Make sure that all your accessories are topped up too like your swivels for your indicator rigs, tippets, and nippers. Make sure also that you have binoculars.

Nippers designed to clip easily to hats, waders, bags, etc. (Photo via:

30:23 – Bring a notebook or your smartphone with you to make notes about your adventure such as the location, weather, the food sources that you pumped from a fish, the hatches, and the equipment you used among others. This is because you could probably return to the same lake one day and use your notes as a reference so as not to start all over again.

31:36 – When you get to the shore, pay attention to what you see and hear. Slow down and look. Spend about 10 to 20 minutes on the shore. Listen for moving fish, birds, those kinds of things.

36:59 – When you’re already out on the water, go slowly and look around. Give the sounder a few minutes to settle and adjust after you put it into the water, then check the temperature. Phil ideally looks for water temperature for trout at 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re fishing for other species, make sure you’re familiar with the temperature ranges.

38:10 – Pay attention to bird activity, especially when they are flying low to the water. That’s a sign that they are feeding on something emerging from the water.

39:19 – When out on the water, look for the factors that provide trout with comfort, protection, and food. Phil talked more about these in the Littoral Zone #1 episode.

41:12 – Lakes go through distinct seasons. Here he talks about thermocline.

44:46 – Phil’s favorite spots when it comes to structure are drop-offs, little channels, and troughs. The seam between the light and the dark water is a great place to prospect and drift along or anchor.

45:46 – Your sounder is critical because it helps find these subtle differences in depth that don’t show up on a bathymetric map or Google Earth. Phil uses the Humminbird Helix 7.

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48:26 – Phil digs into the food factors. A throat pump, used correctly and properly, can be invaluable because it tells you what prey the trout are feeding on. You want to get samples from the trout’s esophagus, not its stomach.

50:50 – He gives a step-by-step process of how to properly use a throat pump so as not to be more invasive than necessary.

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Container where you put the samples you got using a throat pump (Photo via:

54:31 – Cover as much water as you can until you find fish or have some consistent success. He walks us through how to do that vertically and horizontally.

59:15 – We dig into navigating your fly through the water. Trout are sight feeders, so they can be easily attracted by the movement of the fly. Letting your fly still is also very important because the trout then has that opportunity to pounce on your fly when it takes a break.

1:01:19 – Droppers are a great tool to use. It will allow you to fish different depths, pattern types, colors, and two flies.

1:04:03 – He talks about fly patterns. He breaks his flies into three basic categories: suggestive flies, imitative flies, and attractive flies.

1:04:19 – He talks about the purpose of suggestive flies and mentions some examples.

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Balanced minnow, an example of a suggestive fly (Photo via:

1:05:21 – He talks about imitative flies. The most imitative ones are chironomids.

1:06:13 – He has an analogy that he follows called the DRP which means Depth, Retrieve, and Pattern. Phil believes that presentation is much better than the pattern itself.

1:08:02 – He gives a tip on changing fly patterns. He has a little day box with a magnet where he puts his flies on and lets them dry out so he can see his fly progression.

1:08:39 – He digs into attractor patterns or attractive flies.

1:10:33 – He summarizes the steps and tips on approaching a new lake.

1:14:19 – If you want to learn more about Stillwater fly fishing, check out Phil’s book, The Orvis Guide to Stillwater Trout Fishing.

You can find Phil on Instagram @PhilRowleyFlyFishing.

Facebook at Phil Rowley Fly Fishing

YouTube @PhilRowleyFlyFishing

Visit his website at and

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Resources Noted in the Show

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Related Podcast Episodes

Littoral Zone #1 with Phil Rowley – Finding Fish on Stillwaters, Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks


Littoral Zone #2 with Phil Rowley and Brian Chan – Stillwater Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks

Read the Full Podcast Transcript Below


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New Lakes Conclusion with Phil Rowley

This episode on approaching a new lake was a treasure trove of tips and techniques that every angler can benefit from. By emphasizing the importance of preparation and planning, Phil highlighted the need for anglers to take their time and be intentional with their approach.

Additionally, his philosophy of constantly learning while on the water is a reminder that no matter how experienced we are, there is always room for growth and improvement. So the next time you’re on the water, remember Phil’s words and take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow as an angler.