Covering a Hatch Starts with Carrying the Right Flies

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Example of me covering a hatch with multiple fly patterns on hand (BWO Hatch). Photo By: Louis Cahill

Have you ever been standing in the river watching a big hatch unfolding with rising fish all around you, but for some reason you can’t get the feeding fish to eat your flies?

Covering and owning a hatch starts with you first carrying the right fly patterns. When you know you’re going to encounter a specific hatch on the water, always carry multiple variations (colors, sizes) and stages (nymph, emerger, dun, spinner) to make sure you’re covered. Trout can get really picky during selective feeding.

This very situation happened to me last year running a guided float trip during an intense sulphur hatch. There was yellow everywhere, and fish were in a feeding frenzy, but the trout wouldn’t eat any of my sulphur patterns I tied on for my clients. Even my CDC go-to patterns that always work, were shunned by the feeding trout. I finally found a sulphur pattern after my seventh try that the trout consistently liked, and it saved the day. It ended up being nothing special, just a dun with in a slightly different color shade. The remainder of the float trip all I could think about was how important it was that I had so many different sulphur imitations on hand. It would have been a long quiet drive back if my clients witnessed an epic hatch with perfect conditions, and we ended up striking out on the water.

Your standard parahcute style dun with a small nymph dropper off the back will not always work. Below are some examples of other fly pattern options for rounding out your fly box and owning a hatch:


Parachute Style (with and without trailing shuck)

Traditional Style (palmered hackle)

Thorax Style (Palmered Hackle with hackle trimmed off on the bottom so pattern rides low on the water)

No Hackle Style (Just like it sounds, no hackle is used in the recipe)

CDC Style (CDC is substituted for hackle or feather for tying the wing. There subtle non bulky patterns that do a great job at imitating naturals) 

Emergers & Nymphs

Carry emergers that incorporate soft-hackle as well as CDC and are intended to float both on the surface film as well as just below the surface. You should also carry a nice variety  of nymphs with and with out beads as well. Some should incorporate some flashy material while others should be more subtle and natural.

Rigging & Technique

Always experiment with your rigging and try out different pattern and style combinations. If your parachute isn’t working try a different style dry fly. If a nymph dropper off the back of a dry isn’t working, change it out with an emerger instead. By changing up your rig you can figure out what the fish are keying in on. In layman terms, what style or type of pattern the fish prefer. Don’t overlook adjusting the length of your dropper either. Sometimes a short dropper (10-12″) will work great, while other times you’ll find the key to getting bites is having a dropper that’s 24-30″ long. Most of the time a nice drag free dead drift will be the key to success, but there are days where the trick is a nice slow swing at the end of your drift, followed by a couple rod twitches.

(Carry patterns in different sizes and color shades. Remember the color of your flies can change once they get “wet”)

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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18 thoughts on “Covering a Hatch Starts with Carrying the Right Flies

    • Dell,

      I will be in touch with you about that meeting I talked with you about. It is almost Feb. Also louis and I are going to try to fish this week if you want to tag along. We are talking about Wednesday.


    • Richard,

      Yes, if I can exchange them out during the year that wouldn’t be too bad. If not, i could do it but there would be times when it would suck. If I throw out dry flies and streamer fish, which is one of my true fly fishing loves it would be a breeze. I think your geographic location can either hurt or help you on this one as well.

      Good question and thanks for chiming in. It would be good to hear from others on your question.


    • I agree with the Capt. as far as species go. Around here I could get away with 6 patterns for warmwater and steelhead, but trout? 12 would be pushing it, but as long as variations in color, size, bead/no bead, were allowed, I think it could be done.

      I smell a contest. How about a pair of cowboy/wading boots to the winner?

  1. A layman like myself, I could get away with it. But with you being a guide, you have to bring the kitchen sink on every outing, you need to get your sports into fish and do whatever it takes. With my local waters, easy shmeasy, but I’d also like to hear from others around the web if they could do it or not.

    • Richard – I think a lot of that depends on the species you are fishing.. Is there 12 patterns you could get away with fishing all year inon the flats? Absolutely. I fish MAYBE a dozen patterns a year and that’s stretching it… Trout…. Not so much.. There are so many cycles of bugs and different bugs in a stream it would be very very difficult.. However in an exceptional year of fishing yeah it’s possible as Kent and Louis know most of the time I fish with ONE fly pattern lol ( this is going to start a debate LOL).. It’s a nymph pattern… But there are enough classic attractor patterns out there that yes it would be possible BUT not likely…

    • I agree with the Capt. as far as species go. Around here I could get away with 6 patterns for warmwater and steelhead, but trout? 12 would be pushing it, but as long as variations in color, size, bead/no bead, were allowed, I think it could be done.

      I smell a contest. How about a pair of cowboy/wading boots to the winner?

  2. Maybe my slothfulness is starting to show. I hate changing flies, ESPECIALLY in winter. This is why I’m usually out fished, I wont change flies when others are changing up to match what and where fish are feeding in the water. I’ll catch fish, but I’m usually low rod. That’s when I go take pictures of those catching fish… I’ll second the cowboy wading boot challenge. I’m already trying to live up to Wyatt’s “no flyshop flies in 2012” challenge.

  3. OK, so Charlie just ruined my life a little… The Fly Stop website just informed me that flies that I take 30 minutes to tie, using probably $1.00 of materials, can be purchased for $.99. CRAP!

    On the other hand, I now have more time to focus on my business and my family, so I’ve got that going for me…


    I DO enjoy tying, so how to decide which to tie and which to buy??? Hmmm…

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