The first step in picking the right fly, is having it in your fly box. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a 20″+ brute rising to a hatch, only to find out you don’t have the right fly in your box. Luckily we can help with the Match the Hatch subscription. We will send you the right flies for the streams you fish. When the hatch happens, you’ll have the flies you need. But often times it’s not that simple, you don’t see a swarm of bugs on the surface to match, or the fish aren’t eating the bugs that are there. Then what? That’s what we’re going to cover in this blog post.
The first question is whether you’re fishing for stocked or wild trout. For wild fish, you’re going to lean toward more natural colors like black, brown, or olive. Stocked fish will certainly eat natural flies, but sometimes they prefer “junk food” like eggs or bright colored worm patterns. If the stockers are fresh, start with the bright patterns. The longer they are in the stream, the more they prefer natural patterns. So, let’s assume you are fishing for wild fish, or stocked trout that have been in the stream for a while. Now what?
First, check the stream flow conditions. If the stream is flowing low and clear, you definitely want to lean toward smaller fly patterns. Try midges, small pheasant tails, soft hackles, or whatever small patterns arrive in your monthly subscription. Remember to downsize your tippit and lengthen your leader a bit. Fish are more much line shy in low and clear water.
If flows are up or the water is a bit off-colored, throw bigger flies. Stoneflies and wooley boogers are dynamite when rain or runoff causes streams to run high. The increased flows wash larger bugs from the stream bottom and can create a bit of a “feeding frenzy”. The dingy water hurts visibility, so the pattern doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s why a wooley booger is such a great pattern for muddy water. It’s not an exact match for anything, but in dingy water it looks like a lot of different food sources.
These are good general guidelines, but there are no hard and fast rules in trout fishing. Sometimes wild fish will eat a bright pink egg pattern, or fish in clear water will chase a wooley booger. That’s the reality of our sport, things can be unpredictable. But, these guidelines do make an excellent starting point. The important thing is to get on the water and let the fish tell you what they want.