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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8 thoughts on “6 Easy Tips to Help Fly Anglers Catch Educated Trout

  1. I find that #1 works very well for me. In fact, many times I don’t have to downsize tippet, or my flies, if I can keep a low profile on while I’m on the water and take a stealthy approach. Especially on pressured water, if you can stay out of the water, then do it! The less comotion you make, the better your chances are for hooking up. Being the first to hit the water doesn’t hurt either. You can most often find me sitting on the bank waiting for the sun to rise. It give me time to chill, and give me first crack. All of these tips are great for getting those stubborn trout. Now that we’re headed into the fall and winter, the water levels are getting lower and the fish are gonna spook more easily. Using these will definitely help. Great post Kent!

  2. Totally agree, on all accounts. Stealth is key. I have also caught some of my best trout on an ‘accidental’ downstream drift. you never know what is lying in the seam just below your feet.
    Tight Lines,

  3. Tip #4 reminds me of a quote from John Gierach ““Fly tackle has improved considerably since 1676, when Charles Cotton advised anglers to ‘fish fine and far off,’ but no one has ever improved on that statement.”

    Thanks guys, a great bunch of tips.

  4. You are on the money, as usual Kent.

    I fished with a 3 wt on here in North Georgia for many years, and I do think the difference in line weight is considerable for stealth and presentation. I loved the rod. My problem came when I started hooking bruisers, especially when water temperatures were warm and I wanted to get the fish in. I found myself losing big fish to snags and playing fish beyond what I considered safe for their health in the summer. So I went to 5 weight most of the time. Ability to control and land fish should be taken into account on downsizing. Upshot: If you are a novice, I would try someone’s one-to-three weight rods before investing in one as your primary trout rod if you are fishing waters that hold trout 3 lbs and above. Of course, my small freestone stream fishing for little wild trout is done with a 6′ 8″ 3 wt.

    • Hey Ralph, ever try using some of today’s 10ft 3wt, or a 9’6″ 3wt rods? These rods are made more for euro nymphing but they still cast dry/droppers just fine and you can still work smaller streamers with them. The hefty butt sections on these rods will help you stick it to the bigger fish. I’ve caught numerous fish over 20″ on my 10ft 3wt without any problem. Its become my go to rod for every siuation. It gives me the finesse I want, and the ass I need when I hook into larger fish.

  5. All are GREAT tips. One of the best tips I have ever had was from an old timer in TN. Slow down ! Take a few minutes when you get to a hole or run and just take a minute to enjoy the water and the scenery. If you do need to wade out in the stream some, wait a couple minutes. Allow the fish to get used to your presence before you start presenting flys.
    This concept sunk in one outing in north Ga. I was fishing a smaller stream with spooky fish. I could only get a good cast while in the water. As luck would have it I got caught in the trees and had to retie my whole rig.. Taking the 5 or 10 minutes to retie and pick out new flys made a complete difference in how the run fished. I would also allow the run to rest for a few minutes after catching a couple fish.


  6. Pingback: 6 Easy Tips to Help Fly Anglers Catch Educated Trout | Fly Fishing Is Life

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