Although I have previously written in more detail about many  of the topics below, it seems that most fly fishers prefer their information drilled down to a short list of tips, not to exceed ten. Perhaps on another occasion I’ll explore the implications of that. But for now, I’ll venture into the genre of “ten tips”. It’s possible that organizing information in this fashion provides more clarity, or perhaps a better perspective. Therefore, I offer the following tips to catch more trout, listed, in my opinion, roughly in their order of helpfulness.

Be at the Right Place, at the Right Time

There is no question that casting to feeding fish is more productive than searching the water. But to consistently arrive in time for a hatch, with the right flies, requires some homework. If doing it on one’s own, a yearly diary is helpful. Otherwise, one can read books and fly fishing magazines that provide hatch charts for local streams. And many fly shops have  websites that provide this information as well. All of the above help. So do your homework in advance, and arrive streamside at the right place and at the right time with the right stuff.

midge hatch

perfect timing- a heavy midge hatch!

Fish When and Where Others Don’t

With the increased popularity of fly fishing, many streams are fished daily, and sometimes several times a day. Needless to say, in such streams, the trout become quite wary of fishermen and their artificial offerings. The solution to finding more willing fish, is to find waters that experience less fishing pressure. It takes a bit of work, but with the use of a gazetteer and one’s feet, less pressured water can be found.

Most anglers won’t walk for more than fifteen minutes before jumping in. Therefore, routinely walking fifteen minutes from an access site puts one onto water less often fished. Better yet, find streams without posted access sites.

Blueridge trout streams

take the less traveled trails

Another tactic is to fish when other anglers are less likely to be present. Most angling, especially with guides, occurs between eight and five. Therefore, fish before or after this. Fishing at night is even better!

Be Stealthy

The best cast and presentation in the world aren’t worth a diddle if the fish have been put down with a sloppy approach. Always remember trout’s visual capabilities, and approach a piece of water out of their view. If possible, approach from downstream, as trout orient themselves looking upstream, into the current. Keep a low profile, use streamside structures, and avoid casting a shadow over the water. Minimize false casts, and keep them out of the trout’s view. Dull colored clothes probably help as well. Save the bright stuff for fall!

stealthy approach

a stealthy approach

Take a Moment, & Study the Water

Before plunging into the water to fish a good looking run, stop and carefully study the water. Look for active or feeding fish. Determine what they are feeding upon. If no feeding fish are seen, locate the prime lies, those that offer both cover and food. Make a plan, and carefully select a position from which to begin fishing the run. Are the sun or wind factors that must be accounted for? Think of where and how to make the first cast. Plan how to play a big fish, should one grab your fly. Visualize a progression of casting positions to fully fish the run. In sum, slow it down, and think it through before making that first cast.

Make the First Cast Count

Spooky fish are put down with sloppy or errant casts. A frightened fish alerts others, and an entire run can be ruined with one bad cast. So slow down, and make the first cast a perfect cast- it may be the only cast that has a chance to catch a fish.

Fish the Film

You’ve done everything right; arrived at a run with a hatch in progress. Dimples reveal surface-feeding fish. So do you tie on a dry fly? Such a tactic often works, but may also be met with refusals. For every fish feeding on the surface, many more are feeding just below the surface, in the film. Therefore, fishing an unweighted nymph, a cripple or an emerger pattern will catch more fish than a dry fly. Better yet, fish a dry fly and emerger tandem.

artificial flies

emerger patterns

Adjust; Don’t Keep Doing What Isn’t Working

Most anglers understand this, and make adjustments when they aren’t getting strikes. Unfortunately, they most often limit their adjustments to a simple change of fly. If it’s not happening, consider changing tactics rather than flies. That is, if fishing the surface with little success, fish the film. Or consider fishing farther down the water column with a nymph or a streamer.

Another consideration is the type of water. If it isn’t happening in quiet runs, fish riffles or pocket water. If the bankside water isn’t producing, fish the midstream water. And so on- the point is, it isn’t only the fly. It’s the water, and the presentation as well. Think it all through, and adjust.

Get Out of the Boat

 A great deal of fishing on bigger rivers is done from drift and pontoon boats. Such an approach does allow one to cover a great deal of water. But the trade-off is that good water gets but a cast or two. When really good water presents itself, get out of the boat and wade. This allows one  to really cover the water.

Fish With Two or More Flies

Most anglers fish with one fly- a dry fly, a nymph under an indicator, or a streamer. But fishing with more than one fly offers the opportunity to fish different stages of insects, or other combinations of foodstuffs. Consider a dry/emerger, a dry/nymph, a streamer/nymph, two wets, or a streamer/wet. Such combinations or tandems markedly increase one’s chances of catching fish. Sometimes you’ll even get a double. That will put a bend on your rod!

tandem flies

a wooly bugger-nymph tandem

Improve Your Casting

Lastly, practice your casting. Good casting consists of accurate casts, with a minimum of false casts. Accurate casts place the fly on target on the first cast, and eliminate additional flogging of the water. Learn to use casts that extend the drift, free of drag. This will increase the likelihood of drawing a strike.

Learning to cast a long distance is another consideration, but less important than accuracy. The ability to cast a fly more than sixty feet allows one to fish water that many others are unable to fish. But hooking and landing a fish at such a distance is difficult. Better to focus on accuracy and good presentation first.

Utilizing these “tips to catch more trout” will do just that, put more trout into your net. So have at it, and have more fun!

For more information, consider reading-

 written by Al Simpson, September 2017.