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,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

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

  1. In the words of Kelly Galloup,
    “Hunt – don’t hope.”

    When fishing dries for large, wild, and pressured trout, hunt the banks, stalking them rather than casting randomly and blindly.
    Stalk the secondary water and these pressured (not really “educated”) trout will inevitably reveal themselves to you.

  2. The Bling Factor has gone off the charts the last several years.
    Flashy rods, shiny silver reels, hi-vis lines, and apparel
    that just screams. Even the nymph boxes I sneak peeks at
    are chock full of gold beads, flashbacks and ice dub.
    What happened to drab? Not sexy enough?
    The big pressured/conditioned fish on my local
    tailwaters don’t care much for bling and it can put them down.

  3. Hello Kent.
    Regarding your client who insists on using his three weight, another reason could be the three weight flexes more when the fish head shakes and thrashes around at the end of the fight. The rod will bend more thus not breaking the fish off. I regularly use a two weight on some of the smaller rivers and streams in southern Alberta. My friends and I always argue the point about fish stressing themselves out during the scrap and I have found I land fish in the same amount of time.
    Keep up the good work!

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