Fishing, Outdoors

Between the hatches

Trout normally give indications on their location and feeding preference. In some cases, however, a fisherman will have to look very closely for clues on how to catch trout. Several tips on how to fish for trout are presented.Arising trout not only reveals where it is but tells you what it’s taking at the time. sometimes you have to do a little detective work to find just what they’re after and what flies to use, but basically, the trout are giving you plenty of clues.

But in the absence of such clear signs, trout fishing becomes a much more complicated matter, for not only do you have to find what the fish are taking but you also have to discover where they are.

You can start your search by eliminating places the fish won’t be found: shallow runs, riffles, flats, and bailouts – exposed lies where fish congregate during the hatch, but rarely remain in the absence of emerging insects. This narrows your likely choices to areas that provide drifting food and protective cover – submerged obstructions like rocks and logs, broken or deep water, undercut banks, ledges, and overhanging vegetation. Once you’ve found fish, the real work begins. There are three basic approaches to this job.

1) Although you’re between hatches, you may be able to cash in on one anyway

Was there a hatch during the preceding days? Trout appears to have some memory for predominant prey items, so if there was a hatch or a spinner-fall recently, try a fly that imitates the natural and may trigger the fish’s recognition. By the same token, is an insect emergence anticipated in the near future? Soon-to-hatch nymphs are active and quite available to trout at this time.

You don’t even really need a “hatch” to have a predominant food item. In the late season, grasshoppers are common on many trout streams, and while there may be no surface activity, I’ll almost always begin my fishing with a hopper pattern. Ants can also be an important food. Similarly, some spring creeks hold enormous numbers of small, freshwater crustaceans called scuds or cress bugs that are a major source of food for trout.

Other clues to fly selection can be found in bankside vegetation; insects trapped in spider webs or slow eddies along the stream can yield information about recent hatches. To examine underwater insects, roll some rocks, inspect a handful of aquatic weed, or use a seine; nymphs that will soon hatch can be distinguished by the noticeably darkened wing pads on their backs. By keeping your eyes open, you can discover whether anyone size, shape, color, or species of insect predominates.

2) When turning stones, beating the bushes, or offering terrestrial patterns provides little in the way of clues to fly selection, it’s time to fish “blind.”

For prospecting fast or broken water – mountain streams, boulder-strewn pocket water, or swift water between pools – a visible, high-floating dry fly is a good place to begin. These flies are among the easiest patterns to fish in fast water, they’re perfect to cover the small, tight holding lies that are abundant in broken currents and pockets.

Don’t worry about a perfect drag-free presentation. Because the fish must react quickly to potential food items whisking in the current, fast-water trout hit dry flies readily – and with astonishing speed. When your next meal could come and go in an instant, you can’t be too choosy.

In moderate to slow water, it often takes the promise of abundance, like a hatch, to coax trout to the surface. Submerged patterns, especially nymphs worked deep, are the way to go here.

On most rivers, there are often entire runs of good holding water that have a moderate-speed current and a depth of 3 to 5 feet. The bottom offers some structure, but because of the depth, there is no clue as to where individual rocks, troughs, or dishes may be. You’re faced with a uniform-looking run that could hold trout just about anywhere.

This is an ideal situation for fishing a nymph with as many as two droppers (if legal). By varying the sizes, shapes, and colors of the three nymphs, you can give the fish a choice of flies on each cast and cover water at the same time. It’s a highly efficient arrangement.

But since the trout could be anywhere, cover the water systematically. Quarter upstream with 10 feet of line. Cast three or four times, then extend the cast to 12 feet. Three or four more casts, then go to 14 feet. Continue until you’ve covered the water or hit your maximum casting range. Then take two steps upstream, and start over.

3) There are times when the fish simply aren’t feeding.

Now, your only recourse is to try to prompt a strike from some impulse other than hunger, like territoriality, fear, or aggressiveness.

Subtlety has little place here. A big fly that can be given threatening or aggressive movement is the key. And nothing works better than a streamer. It can be presented effectively by quartering downstream where the path of its swing will intercept a holding lie. I generally fish streamers quickly. If the fish is going to react, it will do so almost immediately. Repeated casting usually doesn’t work.


It is impractical to carry a representation of every possible insect, but if you choose according to the customary priorities of fly choice – size, shape, and color (in that order) – you’ll be in the ballpark more often than not.

Prospecting fast water with dry flies requires a pattern that will float high and resist waterlogging – a Royal Wulff, Humpy, Elk Hair Caddis, or Irresistible in sizes 12 through 16 are all good producers.

In fishing a nymph with droppers, use the “Chinese menu” approach. On the end of the tippet (the “point”) tie a big, weighted nymph – stonefly, Woolly Worm, or Bitch Creek – size 8 or larger. The specific fly size depends upon water depth and current speed; it should be adjusted so the nymph just taps the bottom. For the first dropper up from the point, choose a broad-bodied, all-purpose nymph like a Hare’s Ear, Zug Bug, Tellico, or Sparkle Pupa in sizes 12 or 14. On the last dropper, tie a small, slim-bodied nymph, such a Pheasant Tail, Cate’s Turkey, or Copper Nymph, size 16 and 18.

This approach not only shows the trout a good cross-section of sizes and shapes but makes fishing easier. The heavy nymph on the point sinks the whole affair to the bottom and puts the lighter nymphs downstream – an arrangement that greatly improves strike detection.

In streamer patterns, Marabou Muddlers, Woolly Buggers, and Zonkers are all good. The pattern is less important than size; go with a size 4 or 6.

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