Some Days It’s All About the Twitch

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When the standard dead drift isn’t getting the job done, try subtle fly twitches. Photo Louis Cahill

Some days trout need more than just a well placed fly in their field of vision and a drag-free drift to persuade them to eat.

When you’re working water that you’re certain holds trout, and a standard drag-free drift isn’t getting the job done, try imparting subtle movement on your fly/flies to trigger bites. The best way to execute this is by using well timed rod tip twitches, during the drift, when your fly is moving through high percentage trout holding water. Done properly, it will give your fly that extra “alive and life-like appeal”  and that often will give trout the green light that your fly is a natural and not an impostor.

Last week, I had the honor of fly fishing with Rob Parkins (WY & ID veteran guide) and Zack Dalton (Farbank Sales Manager) on the South Fork of the Snake River during an epic salmonfly hatch. Both are exceptional fly anglers, and both demonstrated how effective strategic fly twitching can be for turning reluctant trout into eating trout. There were so many boats on the river and so many salmonfly imitations being flung at the banks, that the trout quickly became suspicious of motionless fly patterns drifting in the current. It didn’t matter how realistic the pattern was, if it wasn’t twitching and pulsing in the water as the trout moved in to investigate, most of the time they wouldn’t commit 100 percent. Rob and Zach both proved to be masters at twitching their salmonfly imitations precisely at the right time to persuade wily trophy trout to eat, right after those same trout had shunned ten to twenty other anglers imitations previously. Both concurred that the faster the water my fly was drifting in, the less frequent I needed to twitch my fly and the more precise I needed to be when I twitched it. Furthermore, they taught me that when my fly was drifting through slower moving or deeper water, that’s when I wanted to twitch my fly every couple of feet. They’re reasoning behind this, was turbulent water naturally gives your fly that life-like movement, where the slower water fails to do so.

Give this technique a try next time you’re trout fishing and the dead-drift isn’t putting fish on the board. The goal isn’t to splash, skate or pop your fly on the surface. All you’re wanting to do is move your fly just enough to twitch those rubberlegs and breath the material of the fly in the water. With some practice, you’ll get a good feel and touch on exactly how powerful or subtle the twitch needs to be according to the type of water your fishing, and the amount of slack that’s in your fly line. Lastly, this twitching technique works exceptionally well for fly patterns that imitate big food sources like the salmonfly and terrestrials (that often kick and flop on the surface), but it has also proven to be highly effective for smaller flies and subsurface patterns. I particularly like to occasionally twitch my flies when I’m nymphing frog water (deep or slow moving stretches of water). I’ve found that by doing so, it will call trout in from farther distances to investigate my flies.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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17 thoughts on “Some Days It’s All About the Twitch

  1. During hopper season clap cupped hands around a grasshopper and toss the stunned bug into a pool. It will be unmolested until it wakes up and kicks. Then it’s a goner. Kids love this stuff.

  2. It makes perfect sense. Flies and terrestrials that fall in the water squirm and move like crazy, so why not do the same with our flies? I find myself doing this a lot when I’m fishing for bluegill and shellcrackers around here, but I don’t think about it as much when I’m fishing for trout. Something I’ll be trying more often though. Especially now that terrestrial season is kicking into gear.

  3. My fishing thought process has evolved to consider trout fishing is for the common fly-fisher-man. Although there r 2 things that will keep me hanging on to my old friend mr/mrs trutta. 1. The strippity-strip of a streamer. 2. The suttel twitch of a topwater fly.

  4. This once turned a lousy day into a great one for me. It was the end of september on a well-fished river and the trout there had probably seen it all in the previous few months. All I was getting all day were last-minute refusals on dead drifts until I started actively twitching and even skating my flies. I started getting proper strikes almost immediately. And quite violent ones too.

    • De Wolf,

      Sounds like the twitch was a make or break day for you. Remember this everyone when you are dealing with fish that are heavily pressured and getting wise. Twitch, twitch.


  5. Yep, even if it doesn’t look exactly like “real” trout food it will sure make a difference if it ACTS like it is real. Good reminder!

  6. Same thing works when there is an ant hatch and the winds blow the spent ants on to the reservoir. Just throw your renegade next to another spent ant, twitch it and hold on. The takes can be epic.

  7. Check out Leonard M Wright Jr., ”Fishing the Dry Fly as a Living Insect” (E. P. Dutton, 1972) he had it figured out way back then !!

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