The past two years that I’ve been running this little blog I’ve done end of the year articles called Junior and Senior tips which outline a few of the simple and advanced things I’ve learned throughout the year. I think those have been a little bit to watered down. So I’m knocking it back from two articles and ten new tips to one article with a few really in depth ones. I hate unnecessary fluff, so this should help cut back on that, as well as the learning curve.
A Dry Fly Should Float
I know what you’re probably thinking “well yes, of course dry flies should float, they are called DRY flies.” I wish it were as simple as that, however sometimes it isn’t, water-resistant materials and oily floatant doesn’t automatically make you set for the tub. I discovered this the hard way over the summer in Colorado when I was chasing trout on the Roaring Fork River for the first time.
The water was still quite high and fast from runoff and the fishing was almost completely pocket water dry fly fishing. If you’ve never done it, hitting little eddies and seams for trout is a blast, effective, and at times ridiculously frustrating especially if your dry fly doesn’t float. My Colorado flies were way too sparse and could barely stay up on relatively smooth water let alone the whirlpool infested rapids of the Fork. If you look at a well tied dry for fast, white water type fishing, it is loaded with whatever it is that makes it float. Whether it be a big thick bundle of elk hair, or a bunch of poly yarn, there is a ton of it on there.
This may seem obvious, but whatever I thought was a lot didn’t even seem close. There is a very thin line between too much material and not enough. Researching the water is always a key when tying flies, but that is especially true for dry flies. I’m not even talking about “match the hatch” type research, I’m talking about figuring out flow rate, type of water, and how it’s fished from a technique stand point. All of that will affect how well a dry fly is tied, and more importantly how well it fishes.
Fishing Lily Pads
Lilies make the perfect habitat for the feed first mentality of bass, pike, and other predatory fish, but they aren’t just super easy to fish. The pads themselves are tough to pull through and the stocks will break twenty-pound line before giving an inch. I’ve fished a number of lily pad banks and mossy flats with growing success and a few simple rules.
Flies with some type of weed guard are a must. Wire or monofilament weed guards are the best, but some bend back patterns that utilize the materials of the fly as a type of weed guard work decent enough. Again, this seems obvious, but I’ve lazily fished many flies in pads, guard free, simply because it's a good fly for bass or that's what I happened to have on. It can be done, but it all ends the same; getting hung up on a stock and a few choice words.
Topwater patterns aren’t just fun around pads, they’re probably the best choice. Think about it, fish using pads as cover are typically sitting right below the surface. Bass typically feed in front and up, so topwater flies and subsurface streamers are best. Frog and mice patterns are my favorites, but tons of popper and slider variations are just as good.
Casting deep into lilies is were the most fish, and the biggest bruisers hide. If there is a flat of grass or pads that extends fifty or sixty feet off the bank don’t be afraid to fish all of that, even if there doesn’t seem to be much open water. Just because the surface is covered with pads doesn’t mean there aren’t fish hiding beneath them. All it takes is one little pulse from a streamer, in one little hole for a big bass to key in. You’ll miss tons of fishy water if you only hit the edges.
Dry Flies Downstream
This spring and summer I fished a dry fly more than I probably ever had, and I learned a thing or two in the process. For example, I learned that spooky and heavily pressured fish hate having big high visibility fly lines slapped down and drifted over their heads. Wow all of this stuff sounds obvious now that I say it, but hey a lot of people including myself cast dries upstream and drift them back down. I mean, you can’t drift them against the current. Right?
Whether it’s a winter midge hatch or clouds of mayflies fish can be picky, spooky, and smart. At least it seems that way. Or they’ll swim circles around your fly just to slurp a cigarette butt off the surface if it’s presented right. I’ve found that standing upstream of rising fish and drifting flies down to them works easily as well if not better than a traditional upstream or across stream approach. Many times this year, I was stiffed by slurping trout when casting over their heads and drifting across their backs, but when I changed angles and started serving my flies downstream they opened right up. This stems from a classic fly fishing rule; “change the presentation before the fly.”
Stillwater Trout Patterns
To clarify, this isn’t a tip for what flies to use on stillwater fish, I haven’t done enough of it to say what flies will work, and what flies won't. This is a little piece on how stillwater trout feed, and consequently how to fish for them. Now, I have limited experience with this kind of fishing, but even still I noticed this and utilized it to maximize my time on the water.
Stillwater trout feed in predictable and noticeable patterns. Kind of like a trout in moving water rising with a certain amount of rhythm or a deer coming back to the same field day after day. Hungry fish in alpine lakes and similar fisheries will cruise the banks in tight, very discernible loops. Spotting a fish and then figuring out the path it’s feeding in is very important when targeting high altitude fish.
As we all know some fish can be stupid spooky, especially when feeding shallow and near a bank. Keying in on a spooky fish’s pattern, then casting behind it, but at the same time still in the trout’s path, allows an angler to trick even the weariest fish. Furthermore, some fish may feed so close to the bank that their “pattern” takes them under overhanging limbs or logs that are impossible to cast under. Again, figuring out its habits, and casting to it, gives that fish at least a chance of finding the fly and slurping it in.