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Dry Fly Fishing - fact vs. fiction

July 16, 2009
Author: Trouts Staff

I’ve never been able to figure it out, but there is a major disparity in Colorado between the number of dry fly fisherman vs. nymph fisherman.  If you visit a popular stretch of river on any given day, not matter if its winter, spring, summer or fall, I guarantee you will see a majority of fisherman dredging the bottom while staring intently at a strike indicator of various shapes, sizes, and forms.  I’ll be the first to admit that I too have a bit of a nymph fishing addiction.  More times than not I find my self unknowingly reaching for a nymph box instead of my dry flies.  But why is this?  What makes us want to dredge the bottom of a river instead of using the traditional fly fishing techniques that have defined our sport?  In order to fully understand this impulse, we first must look at the many myths, misconceptions and falsehoods that exist regarding fishing dry flies.


Myth 1: Fish only eat dry flies during certain times of year

Wrong!  Ask any tailwater fisherman, and they will tell you that there are plenty of opportunities to catch trout on a dry fly… even in the dead of winter.  As long as the temperature of a river is at a level where insects are hatching, and trout can be active, then dry flies will work.  Tailwater fisheries will usually offer dry fly fishing 365 days a year because the water temperature is consistent, and there is constant insect life.

Myth 2: if you don’t see fish rising, fish aren’t eating dry flies

Try again.  Trout have always been know as opportunistic eaters; meaning that they want to eat the maximum amount of food while exerting the minimum amount of energy.  So if a feeding trout sees a tasty looking fly on the surface of the water, one that is bigger then anything in the river, then it is highly possible that the fish is going to want to eat it.  It is also important to remember that in this scenario, fly selection is key.  If you throw a fly that imitate something completely out of season (i.e. a grasshopper in January), then the fish probably won’t give it the time of day.  But if you present them a fly that imitates an insect that is in season and visible every day, then chances are they will want it.

Myth 3Trout only eat dry flies in the morning and evening

While morning and evening will typically produce some great dry fly action, this is not the only time trout will feed off the surface.  First we must remember that there are a variety of insects in a trout’s diet, and that they all hatch at different times of day and under various conditions.  Understanding the life cycles of different insects will allow you to target trout on the surface at different times and under different conditions.  And remember, trout are opportunistic feeders (see Myth 2).

So the next time you’re out on the water, resist the nymphing urge and try throwing a dry fly.  You never know, you just might like it.


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