There are few things more rewarding than a wary trout rising to a dry fly.
Seriously, who doesn’t love fooling fish on a dry fly? Rising fish are like puzzles waiting to be solved and when they are, the angler is rewarded with one of the greatest visual displays in fly fishing. The rise.
Unfortunately, there is also the agony of defeat. All too often your offerings may be refused or worse, just plain ignored. Hold on, don’t go for the cherry bombs just yet. Our buddy Ronnie Hall (Yoda in residence at the Fish Hawk in Atlanta,) has 5 tips to help you unlock the puzzle of rising trout.
#1 Presentation is always the most important aspect of fly fishing, especially when it comes to dry fly fishing. As the British say, “It’s not the fly, it’s the driver.” Practice making the proper casts to achieve a totally drag-free drift. Practice your reach cast. Take the time to get into position. Accuracy is a part of presentation too. Getting your fly to float directly in the fish’s feeding lane is a must. Large trout will not waste energy moving any distance to eat a small fly. Trout are very efficient in their eating habits. They don’t waste energy!
#2 Color, know when it matters. On bright days trout see color more accurately. During some hatches, like tricos, trout may use color to target egg-laden females. Color is not always the most important consideration in choosing a fly. Often silhouette is more critical, especially when fishing opaque imitations, such as beetles or hoppers.
#3 Size matters. When unsure of dry fly size, always go smaller. Selective fish will always more readily accept an imitation which is too small over one which is too large. Often mistakes in size are angler error. It is a human shortcoming to imagine things larger than they are. If you can, catch an insect and compare.
#4 Watch out for masking hatches. Don’t assume that the most obvious insect present is the one that trout are eating. If you’re getting good presentation and the trout is ignoring your imitation look closer to see if there may be a smaller, less noticeable insect, like Baetis, hatching. Trout don’t necessarily key in on the largest emerging insects.
#5 Get your tippet right. Using the right size tippet is as important as fly choice. The best way to determine this is to divide the size of your fly by three and use that X designation for your tippet. For example, a size 12 imitation: 12 divided by 3 = 4, so you would need tippet no larger than size 4X. Go smaller and longer with your tippets in slow water or when fishing over super selective fish. I sometimes use tippets three feet long and leaders with lengths of 15 feet.