You gotta figure insects out if you want to catch a lot of trout. Try a smaller version of the fly. Try a more subtle pattern of the fly (a lighter-dressed fly such as a no-hackle). Go to lighter tippet. Change the color of next pattern. Try a cluster pattern (Cluster Midge or Griffiths Gnat). Go to a different phase of the insect like a pupa, larva, emerger (a dropper rig is a good way to quickly find out what they are feeding on). Try new patterns like cripples, emergers, stillborns. For instance, it helps to know if the caddis hatching are cased caddis, peeking caddis, spinning caddis, or egglaying caddis. The well-prepared angler will have different patterns, stages, shades, sizes for the hatches that occur during the time period. Make sure you have various patterns in subtle shade differences and in different sizes. Many diehards bring their flytying equipment streamside and some bring color markers for white flies to color them to match the hatch.
Study the rises. Are the fish slashing, sipping or porpoising?
The insects are in the air and on the water. Trout are rising all around you. You've thrown the kitchen sink at the silly fish and they won't take a thing, not even a fly that looks exactly like the duns flittering about. What's going on?
One of the most common mistakes of reading a hatch is to disregard what you don't see. What you are seeing are the adults of the hatch, but more times than not, trout will feed more readily on the other stages of the insect cycle. The adults are big meaty choices but often the most difficult for the trout to capture. So any trout angler would find it beneficial to study and understand the stages of caddisflies, mayflies and stoneflies
The most important advice to learning how to match the hatch and catch trout is simple: Observe. Start by picking up a rock. Turn it over. If you have done your homework, you can tell if those are mayfly nymphs or cased caddis.
One of the most common mistakes of reading a hatch is to disregard what you don't see.
Pull out a dip-net or seine net (which they now make to slip over your net), hold it in an edge of fast and slow water and take a couple of readings.. If you know your nymphs from studying, you can tell what insects and what stages are active. Make sure to bend over and look very closely at the insects you can spot on the water. Spinners are almost invisible at times.
Walk the bank and shake bushes. Take a seat on high ground and watch the water. Don't fish for five minutes, or 10, if you're patient. Begin by watching the insect lighting on the water on a section of the water. Can you see trout feeding on the surface taking the insects? Are the insects landing in riffles or flat water?
If you can see trout feeding, you can often see the white of their mouths opening to take food. If you see trout and their tails pointed upward, they are probably feeding on nymphs on the riverbed. So look carefully, and you can figure out which fish you want to go after.
Most importantly, watch the rises. Ah, watching the rises, an art form of study all in itself. Are the trout slashing? (They could be chasing adult mayflies). Sipping? (probably gently feeding on spinners, lifeless after reproduction). Porpoising? (The trout could be taking crippled mayflies or mayfly nymphs). If the fish are jumping clear out of the water, they're probably chasing caddis emergers, which release from the bottom and rise quickly to the surface to emerge as adults. And sometimes anglers believe the trout are feeding on top, which means using dry flies, when in fact, the fish are taking insects in the surface film or just under the surface.
If trout are rising during a hatch, sight-cast to them. Don't cast blindly.
Time the rises. Each trout, because of his holding station, will have a certain cadence. I will even count out low a trout's cadence so that I can know when to plop out my imitation. Cast above the rise ring. When trout go to the surface to feed, they move up several inches to several feet then drift back down to their lie.
If you do all this and the fish are still refusing your offerings, here are few tips:
And if all else fails, and matching the hatch isn't working, and sometimes it won't, there are just too many other choices that they like better than yours, toss out a big old Royal Wulff or a House and Lot. You'd be surprised at how often a change of pace works.
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