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The Truth

Dry fly fishing can be one of the most exhilarating ways to catch fish. However, in MANY scenarios even if fish are rising, throwing a dry fly on may not be the best way to catch quality fish.

I’m sure this statement will invoke much disagreement, but the fact of the matter is big fish aren’t going to rise in numbers like smaller fish will. As I stated in a previous article (Catching More Fish in the Cold), trout are not going to exert much energy to feed, especially large trout. That said, your chances of catching a large fish dramatically increase when you refer to sub-surface presentations.

To put this into context think of it this way, if you’ve ever watched “My 600 Pound Life” you’ll never see them aggressively racing towards their next meal. In other words, the next time you find a group of rising fish, watch. See if you see any trophy size fish. Odds are that biggin’ you’re looking for is lurking below.

The Exception

As with any fly fishing principle there are exceptions. Though much of what is said contradicts my claim, I like to refer to legend Tom Rosenbauer’s “Catch Trout on Dry Flies All Year Round” when pondering this topic.

Insects are actively hatching year-round, and there are fish to be found rising year-round. However big trout got big for a reason. These swimming anomalies are extremely adaptive and require the most delicate of presentations to be captured.

Another great time to fish dries is during the spring/summer when you can find trophy fish ferociously attacking beetles and hoppers. Presentations such as these have certainly been known to produce strikes from family size fish.

The Conclusion

Though my experience is limited to the east coast, if I had to choose one presentation that consistently, year-round catches big fish it would be nymphing. You can almost guarantee that if fish are feeding, even if they are feeding on the surface, they will always eat a nymph.

Learn to thoroughly analyze every aspect of the water you’re fishing and understand what might be the cause of a lackluster day. Each and every situation on any fishery in the world is completely unique, never the same from the day before or the next 1,000 days after it. Though easier said than done, if you can learn to adapt to these unique scenarios, you will find your success rate growing with each outing.

If you disagree with this statement just try nymphing the next time you find a group of rising fish and see what happens. The wonderful thing about this sport, like any, is that through decades of experience there is still much to learn.

Ultimately what it all boils down to is confidence; if you feel like a 30″ brown is going to smack a sulphur, by all means throw it on. As humans we are all creatures of habit, often times reluctant to venture out of our comfort zone.


Be sure to check out our last post: Finding a Place to Fish

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