10 Tips for Catching Trout on the Fly

By Diana Rupp

  1. Fish early and late. Set your alarm clock if you really want to experience the best trout fishing. The best time to fish is usually from dawn until two hours after sunrise, and again in the evening, starting two or three hours before dark. Those are the times trout tend to be most actively feeding.
  1. Be stealthy. Many of the best trout waters are crystal clear—and that means the trout can see you, probably even better than you can see them. Wear clothes that blend into your surroundings: earth tones if you have the bank behind you, or light colors if you’re fishing against a sunny sky. Step softly and avoid splashing or creating a wake when you wade. Don’t be afraid to crouch down to make your outline less visible as you approach trout.
  1. Use more than one fly. Why use just one fly when you can double your chances of catching fish by tying on two or even three? On many streams, the use of dry/dropper rigs (consisting of two dry flies or a dry fly trailing one or two nymphs) is a proven tactic. But there are other, lesser-known options for multiple-fly rigs, including fishing a streamer in front of a soft-hackle wet fly, or several soft-hackles in tandem.
The author with a big rainbow trout
A three-fly nymph rig was the ticket for this big rainbow trout. Using several flies can double or triple the chances of attracting a trout’s interest. (c) Trail’s End Media
  1. Pay a visit to your local fly shop. Fly shops are always the best source of current information about local waterways. Before you hit the water, stop in the store and ask how water conditions are and what patterns the fish are taking. If you get good information (in most fly shops, you will), be classy and thank them by purchasing a couple of their recommended flies or a spool of tippet.
  1. Stick with basic patterns. If trout aren’t keying on a particular type of fly, or if you can’t tell what they’re feeding on, stick with the old standby patterns. Flies such as the Adams, muddler minnow, woolly bugger, and the gold-ribbed hare’s ear nymph imitate a wide variety of food items that trout are familiar with. Keep a selection of these flies in several different sizes in your fly box. Since trout in most waters feed on midges all year long, a few Griffith’s gnat and zebra midge patterns are also good to have in your fly box.
  1. Pay attention to water temperature. Trout tend to be most active in water that is between 45 and 67 degrees. While rainbow and brown trout will still feed when water temperatures are in the mid-70s, they become stressed in warmer water and may not survive even if you release them. Water above 70 degrees can be lethal to brook trout, and cutthroat trout prefer their water even colder—no warmer than 65 degrees, with optimal feeding temperatures below 60. Carry a stream thermometer; when trout water becomes too warm to fish, it’s time to target bass or panfish.
  1. Downsize your tippet. If the water is clear and the fish are spooky, try a longer leader and smaller size tippet. Don’t use anything shorter than a 9-foot leader on crystal-clear water, and 12 feet is often better. If the fish are very picky, downsizing to a 6X or even 7X tippet can make the difference, especially if you are fishing very small flies, since not only will the thin tippet be harder for the trout to see, but it will help your fly drift more naturally.
The author on a float tube with a flyrod
If stream conditions aren’t ideal for trout fishing, small lakes and ponds can be a great option. A float tube or belly boat can get you out on the water where you can target fish cruising along drop-offs or other structure. (c) Trail’s End Media
  1. Fish lakes and ponds. Most people don’t think about fly fishing in still waters. But lakes and ponds are nearly everywhere and often hold large populations of big trout. When streams are too high and muddy, or too low and warm, for good trout fishing, turn to local lakes and ponds and cast your fly in the shallows near shore, around structure, and along drop-offs. If the shoreline is too brushy for casting, get out on the water using a float tube or kayak.
  1. Practice on panfish. Even if your local lakes and ponds don’t hold trout, they likely hold panfish such as bluegills. Panfish are often easy to catch on flies, and fishing for panfish is a great way to perfect your casting, hook-setting, and fish-landing skills with a fly rod. As a bonus, they’re tasty, too.
  1. The very best way to catch more trout is to book a trip in your dream trout-fishing destination. You can find hundreds of expert fishing outfitters and fishing destinations all over the globe on BaitYourHook.com.

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