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It is no secret that Spring produces some of the best dry fly fishing of the year. If you are new to this sport, dry fly fishing can often seem the most challenging. Your fly choice has to perfectly represent the insect that the fish are keyed in on at that specific time. Your drift and presentation are also critically important. Depending on where you are fishing, sometimes the fish are more opportunistic feeders and will take a slightly “off” fly, or you may find that the fish will reject your fly due to it looking suspicious. Believe it or not, fish are incredibly picky about their food source. It isn’t uncommon to get rejected on a few dry patterns before you find the perfect match. Today you will learn just a few simple tips to help up your dry fly game. 

 So, let’s say you step into the stream and there are bugs actively hatching and the fish are feeding. The first thing I would suggest is to take a long pause and just watch. Are the fish aggressively eating, are they only eating in feeding lanes or are they willing to slide for bugs in the current, how are the fish feeding, and of course what bug are they munching on? If you have the opportunity to reach out and grab a bug to compare to flies within your box–do it! That is certainly the easiest way to narrow down your fly choice. If that is all you need to do, great! But, normally you’ll need a few steps to happen after that…

  1. Start off with the color of the bug. This should greatly narrow down your fly choices. Try to get the exact color of the fly. Example: If the natural insect is a very pale/creamy yellow, avoid a highlighter yellow color choice. Keep it looking as natural as possible. 
  2. What is the bug’s wing shape? THIS is key. Based off of the wings alone you can decide which category of bug it is–Mayfly, Stonefly or Caddis. The easiest way to remember the key differences within these insects is that Mayflies have wings that are tilted up like a sailboat, the wings will be pointed high with a slight backward tilt to them. A stonefly’s wings will lay totally flat on the insect’s back, usually crossing over one another to keep a flat/slim profile. Caddis will have wings that lay toward the back of the insect, but do not lay flat like the stonefly. 
  3. What is the size of the bug? Example: If the fish are keyed in on a size 18 Blue Winged Olive and an angler ties on a size 10 Blue Winged Olive, the likelihood of getting an eat will be slim. 
  4. Notice if there are any other specific characteristics on the insect. An example of this could be the bright red “hot spot” on the back end of the abdomen on a Yellow Sally Stonefly.  After keying in on these 4 points, you should have a much better idea of the appropriate fly to use. While there still may be some fine tuning left to do, these quick tips should streamline the process to choosing the winning bug! 

While it can seem daunting at first, catching fish on dries is so incredibly rewarding. When you land your trout, pat yourself on the back because you have just successfully chosen the “right” fly out of thousands that could’ve been rejected!…Dry fly fishing is a rush.  

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