Five Dry-Fly Tips for Trout

As the spring dry-fly season is now upon us, I am reminded of some simple tips that have helped me over the years.  After all, there’s nothing quite like the sensation of watching a trout lurk out of the depths to sip an insect off the surface.  That’s “top-of-the-game” fly fishing in my mind, and the reason many anglers (like myself) are enamored with this sport in the first place.  Keep these things in mind as you wade out there into the spring hatches, and your odds of hooking up should improve dramatically:

  1. Get in rhythm.  Sure, it’s important to have the right fly pattern that mimics the natural insects trout are chasing.  And you want to cast into spots where you know trout are feeding.  But putting the right bug in the right place works best when you do so at the right time.   If you slow down before you make your first cast and watch the trout work, you’ll often discover that they feed in rhythm.
  2. Watch rise forms.  You can usually tell what type of fly to use (match the hatch) by observing what bugs are flying in the air, or floating on the water surface.  But what happens when there are many different insects to choose from?  The trout will give you a clue, if you watch how they eat.  For example, a sudden, splashy rise might indicate a caddis take, whereas a lazy sip from the surface might tell you the fish ate a mayfly.  When you don’t see any noses at all, but still see swirls, assume the trout are on emergers.
  3. When in doubt, go smaller.  If you know you have the right fly (or are at least pretty sure you do) but a trout refuses it at the last moment, odds are you don’t have to switch the fly pattern altogether.  Size down.  Wait a few minutes, then show the fish the smaller bug.
  4. Tippet doesn’t matter nearly as much as drift.  When fishing for selective trout rising to dries, we naturally want to be as stealthy as possible.  Thing is, the stealth you want comes through a graceful cast and a drag-free presentation.  Using smaller tippet won’t cover up a bad cast or drift.
  5. Be mindful of your shadows.  The number one factor that spooks feeding trout are when they sense predators from above.  Always put yourself in the right spot by understanding where the sun is (especially in the evenings when shadows are longer).

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Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and he co-wrote The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing with the late Charlie Meyers.