Dry fly fishing is a bit of an art, and most trout fishermen will agree that there is nothing better than watching a hungry fish break the surface to scarf down a perfectly placed dry fly. It is not always easy, but there are a few ways to get more fish to eat your floating bugs – even when conditions are not perfect. Here are five dry fly fishing tips that will help beginner and expert anglers alike hook up with more surface feeding fish this season.
Look Before You Cast
This first tip is pretty simple. It usually works better to drift dry flies over fish that are already rising instead of just over fishy-looking water like you would if you were nymphing. Find a high point along the bank where you can see a long stretch of river and watch it carefully until you find a group of steadily rising fish that you can get your flies to.
Pick Your Spot
Many times, the place you choose to stand is just as important as what flies you choose to tie on. Keep your shadow, your line, and your noisy footsteps as far away from your targeted fish as possible. I often find that I am much more successful if there is a heavy current between me and the fish I am trying to catch. It makes my drift a little trickier, but it also makes it harder for the wary fish to see me and hear me so they are not as nervous while I am casting to them.
Change Flies Often
Frequently changing your flies does more than just help you zero in on the perfect pattern. It is a great way to rest the fish you are trying to catch. After a dozen drifts through the same pocket, you might notice that the fish are rising less often or shutting down all together. This happens because they are starting to get the idea that something is not right and maybe feeling the pressure that you are putting on them with each cast. A quick three minute break allows them to relax and settle back into their comfortable feeding pattern.
Start At the Back
Whenever I get to a group of feeding fish, it takes all my might to resist the urge to cast above the entire school and drift my flies through the whole group. At first, it might seem like one long drift over several feeding fish would give me a better chance at hooking one, but all it really does is alert the whole group to my presence. I do better when I start from the back and cast to one fish at a time so that I do not spook them all if I make a mistake.
Break the Rules
It is okay to think outside the box while fishing with dry flies. Unconventional tricks that I sometimes use include casting and drifting downstream, skating flies across the water’s surface, and rigging dry flies with fluorocarbon tippet. Each one of these little tricks occasionally helps me connect with fish that would otherwise not eat. Find what works for you and do not be afraid to try different things in order to get fish to take your flies.
While it may not always be the best way to catch every fish in the river, I am convinced that dry fly fishing is the best way to enjoy fly fishing on any given day. It makes me study every part of the river more carefully, and gives me a better appreciation of the unique interaction between me and the fish in a way that is hidden when fishing below the surface. To learn more about dry fly fishing, be sure to check out our detailed fishing reports for information on the best times and places to fish floating bugs across central Colorado’s lakes, rivers, and streams.
Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer