6 Easy Tips to Help Fly Anglers Catch Educated Trout

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Fly Fishing to educated trout. Photo By: Louis Cahill

By Kent Klewein

Back in 2012, I wrote an article titled “The Best Way to Improve Your Trout Game” which talked about how beneficial it was for fly fishermen to not shy away from fishing technical trout water. And that the increased challenges of such water was one of the best ways for anglers to take their fly fishing skills to the next level. Today’s article is sort of going to be a complimentary piece that falls into the same category. Specifically, I’m going to provide 6 easy tips that fly anglers of all skill levels can use to help them be more effective at catching educated trout.

1. Never wade into the water if you can execute a good presentation from the bank.

Educated trout are extremely good at picking up on the tell-tale signs of danger. When they’re alerted of danger, trout often will stop feeding and put up a guard. By taking extra effort to fish from the bank when you can, you’ll be positioning yourself farther away from the trout, which will help you stay off their radar and make your approach much more quiet. I tell my clients all the time that a trout that doesn’t know your there is much easier to catch than one that has you spotted. Keep this in mind when you’re on the water trout fishing. Just because you’re wearing waders and boots doesn’t mean they always need to be wet.

2. Fish early and late when you have the option.

When I look back on all the big trout I’ve caught over the years, the vast majority of them have come early in the morning or late in the evening. Educated trout that are highly pressured during the fishing season will often respond like trophy deer do during the hunting season, opting to hide out during the day and spend the majority of their time feeding during the cover of darkness or in low light conditions. Low light usually makes trout less wary because they know it’s much harder for predators to spot them. Another instance when it pays to fish early and late is during the warmer months of the year when water temperatures are significantly cooler. If you want to increase your odds at catching educated trout, make a point to hit the water before the crowds arrive or arrive when most are heading home for dinner. Doing so you should find the fishing to be less technical and the trout will scrutinize your flies less.

3. Try taking the path less traveled

There’s been several instances guiding over the years when I decided to break away from what every one else was doing, and in turn, it provided me twice the success. Sometimes it can be as simple as approaching and fishing a hole on the opposite side that everyone else fishes (low traffic side). I believe trout grow accustom to looking for danger in areas where it regularly confronts them. By you taking the extra effort to cross and fish water from a side that gets far less traffic and poses less danger to trout, it usually will give you an edge on catching educated fish. Furthermore, by all means hit the most productive and popular water (it usually will always hold trout because of the great habitat) but it can really pay off if you search out secondary water that other anglers bypass because it’s not the prime holding water. Quite often the big fish will search out areas that don’t get harassed by fisherman as long as it provides a steady food source and reasonable cover.

4. Try lengthening your tippet for better drifts, depth control and stealth

Sometimes you’ve got the correct fly on and all you need to do is modify your leader to catch educated trout. Lengthening your tippet can help you in three areas. One, when fishing dry flies it will help you get a longer drag-free drift which often is the key when you’re dealt with managing tricky current seams. Two, if you’re fishing a nymph rig, the extra tippet will allow your flies to sink quicker into the strike zone. Three, the extra tippet will lengthen the over leader and will provide you a larger buffer from the noise of your fly line landing on the water. If you’re not catching trout, don’t automatically think the problem is the fly pattern. Sometimes all you need to do is lengthen you tippet.

5. Try downsizing your rod and fly line

I had a client in the past that always insisted on fishing his 3-weight fly rod, even when he knew we were going to be fishing for big fish and casting big dries and heavy nymph rigs. The first couple trips, I suggested that he use one of my five or six weight fly rods instead, but he never took me up on my offer. So I’d let him fish his finesse rod and I’d hand his buddy one of my larger fly rods. The funny thing was, he not only consistently caught the most fish during the each trip but also the largest. This happened over and over, for about five years, until I stopped questioning his judgment. One night I found myself trying to figure out why his success was always higher than his buddies when their was not noticeable skill levels difference. The only conclusion that I could come up with, was that the 3-weight fly rod and line allowed him to make quieter presentations because the 3wt fly line was much lighter (than a five or six). If you know you’re going to be fishing to educated fish that are keen to picking out the sound of fly lines hitting the water, it may be a smart choice to try downsizing your fly rod and line. It may allow you to get a couple more drifts before the fish catch wind of you.

6. Try using a downstream presentation and drift

Sometimes the only way to fool the smartest of trout is to position yourself so you can present and drift your fly downstream to your target fish. It won’t work for all fly fishing situations but I’ve found it can be the ticket when you can’t afford the slightest micro-drag on your fly and the fish are leader shy. The best way to position yourself for this kind of presentation is to stand upstream and slightly off to the side of the feeding trout.

That’s my 6 easy tips to help fly anglers catch educated trout. I’d love to hear other tips from our community of readers. Please take the time to drop us a comment.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “6 Easy Tips to Help Fly Anglers Catch Educated Trout

  1. Great advice Klent! The only thing I would add is my # rule of thumb, stay low! I’ve seen way too many anglers trying to fish from elevated banks and spooking fish. While I agree wading can spook fish, sometimes its the best approach to enter downstream and stay low in the water.

    I’ve caught one of my biggest trout from my knees hiding behind a bush.

  2. Hi Kent, Great points and enjoy your efforts/updates!! When I am sneaking up on the elusive brown trout pool with the underwater tree system that my buddies and I draw straws who gets to go first…I go in low and wait for the bugs to settle back to before I got there and vibrations on the bank soil/roots disappear…. a good 20 minutes watching. Then flicking out the winter project fly that was tied for this moment, the only noise I hear is the blood pulsing in my ears with delirious anticipation.

  3. Furled leaders seem to make a big difference of presentation and soft hackled dry flies in combination are a big hit for me. The down sizing is exactly what I had suggested to me when I moved into river fishing from still water. Stealth is what it s all about. A week in South Island New Zealand made me realise how much I had to learn! Great article, most helpful thanks from UK.

  4. Hi Kent,
    Back on May 07,2003 I pulled up to one of my favourite spots on the Bow River, a storm drain outflow that poured into the Bow, causing a deep pool and a real nice backwater.
    I was not disappointed, as there in front of me was a huge Brown,(20- 24″) calmly sitting in about 10/12″ of slowly moving water.
    I was maybe15′ above and 50′ away from the Brown.
    I had my movie camera(older android camera) with me so I set
    up and started filming.
    I let the camera run as I sneaked around to get into the picture.
    The deep pool and backwater allowed me to silently slip into the water about 15′ above and behind the cutbank where the big Brown couldn’t see me.
    I slid into the water(maybe 12-18″ in running shoes and bare legs), and stood there quietly for a few seconds.
    As I looked around, planning my next move, I felt something touch my leg…….I looked down and there was the Big Brown………..he/she heard me slip into the water and came around to investigate.
    I flinched and the big Brown slowly moved away.
    PERFECT!……..I got this all on film, right………..WRONG……I hadn’t used the camera for a year or so and when I started filming I was about 1 minute from the end of the cassette. Of course the camera just stopped.
    I don’t have it on film but I will always have it in my memory bank.
    All of this to reiterate your point #5 and #6………that trout couldn’t see me slip into the water, but heard or sensed me and came over to investigate ……..and say howdy.
    Warm regards,
    Dick Seymour

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