catching a trout

Catching trout is the ultimate goal that every fly fishermen have when they are out at the fishery. There is a lot been written, about the mysteries of fly fishing and its myths. If one is not careful, one could easily be led into doing a PhD in fly fishing. 

When in reality we are only dealing with trout, a fish. Granted an intelligent and weary adversary that can beat the best of minds at times. 

Factors Influencing Trout Behaviour

As fly fishermen and women, we have a tendency of trying to out-think the obvious. 

What do I mean by that? 

Learn about the factors that are in your power to control, e.g. fly line, location, depth, flies, and method. And the factors that are out of your control, weather, wind, pressure, underwater thermals, hatches, feeding habits, etc.

There is so much focus on a fly on the day. And yes there is an occasion when the trout are fixated on a particular feeding pattern such as Damsels, Buzzers, Fry, etc. 

However, the most critical thing I can tell you about fly fishing is location, depth, line and last but not least is how you fish that method or fly. 

Give me depth and location any day as opposed to a million flies. 

Watercraft is about experience reading those subtle things that you notice, i.e. wind, hatches, wind lanes, fish feeding, fish moving subsurface, etc. 

And then knowing things like do the fish want the flies static, ripped back or allowing the wind to waft them around?

Also, there is a huge debate about wind direction. And yes it does play a part, but in my 20+ year fishing experience, I have caught just as many up winds as downwind. Even through the middle of a big reservoir.

fly fisherman is catching trout

Changing wind and pressure has an effect on the feeding habit of trout. This is an area that I haven’t fully got to grips with as it’s a bit of minefield when it comes to air pressure.

Casting, Leader Makeup and Flies 

I have learnt over the years that fish what is in front of you. Learn to judge the conditions. If you feel dries are a way forward, try them. If you feel that nymphs, buzzers or pulling is the way forward, try that. 

Don’t get into the I can cast further than you, cast short and across the area. I mean both right and left and gradually increase your cast length. If you are fishing in a boat short lining or short casts are very fruitful, especially when fishing dries.

Also, fish what you are comfortable doing. Confidence plays a huge part in your catch returns, as does what flies you have confidence in, e.g. Cats Whisker, Orange Blob, Daddy Longlegs.

tequila blob

If you can, try to fish 2 flies, 3 flies or 4 flies. Because it helps as there is more on offer for the fish. This is called a team of flies

Some basic simple teams are a blob, orange or tequila on the top dropper (first fly from the fly line), and Diawl bach or a Cats Whisker lure at the point fly. 

You will soon work out your own favourite combinations of flies (team), use one fly as an attractor this can be a blob, sparkler or even a booby. 

Orange booby

Personally, I prefer a two fly approach when I go for dry fishing as it’s more manageable in terms of knots and fishing. And I would go for three when I’m nymphing. Or four on rare occasions. When it comes to stripping or pulling, I sometimes use two or three or even one, if the fish are spooky.

The leader can be simple for a single fly around 6ft to 10ft long. Then 2 flies for 10ft long with 5ft apart. For 3 flies on 12ft, 4ft apart between each fly. And lastly, 4 flies on 16ft with 4ft apart. These are very simple start of leader hints and can be tailored to your own preferences. 

As for the leader strength, it can be 6lb, 8lb, 10lb or 12lb. When I’m dry fly fishing for pleasure, I use 6lb. And I would go for 8lb on match days. As for nymphing or buzzer fishing, I would use 8lb or 10lb. And for pulling or stripping, I would choose 10lb or 12 lb. These different choices are due to the line that gets stiffer, and the chances of wind knots and tables will drop as you go up the weight. 

The debate of Fluorocarbon, Mono or Copolymer. Again, this is a personal choice. I stick to fluorocarbon as it eases the decision making and cost. Too many options can lead to wasted time and confusion. I even use fluorocarbon on dries, as indicated above. 

If you are dry fly fishing, presentation is critical. Use fullers earth to sink your line, gink to keep your dry fly to stay in the right position on the water. But do take care, don’t use too much gink. They are like buoys, just put the right amount to keep them in that surface zone.

Stay in contact with your line as any loose line will help the fish to throw the hook or you will miss the take. After a cast, draw a quick short pull to get contact with the line and maintain this throughout. Do not, I repeat, do not leave too much loose line or any if possible.

Fish locations and Depth

Wind lanes are a great trout feeding area, fish them both in the middle and the sides, Features such as landmarks, buoys are also often overlooked by some anglers. These will hold fish. I have tested this on many waters. Even the jetty area is incredibly fruitful on some waters. 

If you can fish the harbour walls of Grafham or Rutland water, these can be incredibly good with some good fish to be had. The drop off points – the point at which the water gets deeper – is a focal point for fish too. Don’t overlook this. 

However, do not overstay your welcome at any location, or stick with a method too long if you are not catching. This applies for both bank and boat.

If you have tried several methods, and not caught or had a take, move on. You should move 10yds or 20yds either direction and try again. And continue this process until you find some fish.

two rainbow trouts

Learn to read the depth. For instance, what depth did you get that take? This is a crucial part of making your day successful. Once you have worked out the depth by counting down to depth on the day, BINGO, just repeat the process. And you should in the fish zone. 

Too often you will see anglers at a spot. And when you return you will see them at the same location. On having a chat, they will have stuck to the same method and same location. This does not work all the time, granted if you hit the fish straight away then why move.

Retrieve Patterns

The retrieve can play an important part, some days they want the fly static. Especially buzzers and nymphs, on these days it’s a case of trusting your flies and being patient. The odd gentle tweak to move the flies up and down will result in a savage take. Other days it will take a figure of eight, or twitching, or pulling or even a roly-poly back end of the season. 

Do not be scared to try different retrieves, I have seen people have a successful day pulling buzzers on a di5 line something that I don’t do much myself, I have tried it, and it does work on its day like any method.

Fish to the end of your cast, do not be hasty in lifting off, assume that there is a fish following every cast, learn to hang the flies. This means to lift your rod high, so both or all files are still in the water around 10ft away, bring them in slowly each time hanging the fly and lift off when the last fly is out of the water. I would estimate that my catch returns have improved by 30% with learning the hanging method.

6 Key Things to Successfully Catching Trout

There are endless lessons and tips to learn on how to catch trout. But of all the mysteries of fly fishing and its myths, below are the 6 key things to successfully catching trout that one should know.

1-Location, where are the fish, stocking areas, holding areas, feeding areas, weed beds?

2-Depth, drop-offs, features, Fish depth varies greatly, day to day, what depth are the fish at?

3-Line, what line do you use particularly at loch style fishing, e.g. Fast Glass, Di3, Di5, Di7 or the infamous Booby Basher?

4-Retrieve, how and what method do I use to induce a take, stay in contact with your line at all times.

5-Move if you don’t get any takes after 20 mins or half an hour. 

6-Fish to the end of the cast and hang your flies.

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  1. Nice blog, and a great article, thanks for taking the time to write and share your experience, I appreciate it.
    Cheers Martin

    1. You’re welcome, Martin. I hope the article helps. Tight lines.

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