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photo courtesy of DUN Magazinephoto courtesy of DUN Magazine

Be Stealthy

We’ve all seen the images of anglers belly crawling to sneak up to the river bank. We are not recommending that you do this when you approach every trout fishing situation, but there are a few simple things you can do to spook fewer trout when getting to the river.  

Watch your shadow.

Fish are always looking up.  Death from above is a real danger for trout. Birds and small mammals will routinely come from above and grab a lazy trout. For this reason, when approaching a stream it’s very important to know where your shadow falls.  If your shadow crosses a fish, that fish is certainly going to put its guard up.  It might not leave the feeding lane, but rest assured it will be on the lookout for something wrong.

Don’t break a branch.

It’s actually surprising how close you can walk up to an actively feeding trout.  But, if you’re near the river’s edge and you break a stick, those trout will be out of there in a heartbeat. Walk softly and deliberately, and step over limbs and sticks on the ground.

Use the surroundings to your advantage.

photo by - Jen Ripple

Riffles in the water are very noisy. If you have to walk in the river, walking through a riffle can be a great way to sneak up on trout in the pool above.  Not only will the water rushing over the rocks make a lot of noise, the rocks in a riffle are constantly moving and hitting each other. The combination makes it easier to sneak up on those trout sitting in the calm pool ahead.

Make a Great First Cast

Your first cast to a trout needs to be your best.  You’ve spent some effort to get to the water and find those trout, don’t let your cast to be the one thing the lets you down.

Look around.

You know where the fly needs to go, but make sure the paths behind you and above you clear. It’s no to have to scramble up the bank to retrieve your fly from that impossibly strong piece of grass that just won’t break.  Don’t even get us started on retying all those knots when your leader breaks. There’s no way better way to go from hero to zero in no time flat.

You need to get there.

Make sure you have enough line off the reel. The new multi-colored lines give a great visual reference for how much line you have off the reel.  Pull the line off the reel and put it in a pile at your feet, but before you cast strip all the line you just pulled off the reel in.  This will make sure the line that is first to head out the guides is on top of the pile -- not underneath it.  This simple trip will help reduce knots that shoot off the ground and right into your guide.

Just Stop.

Double and single hauls are great for making your cast more efficient, but the number one casting problem we see from anglers is not stopping the rod.  The pause in the fly cast is the most important part.  Without it, there is not enough time for the line to get behind you to load the rod.  Make sure you have a clear path behind you or else the line might again end up in a tree.

Move Around: 

We all know that person on the river who won't move from a hole once they have seen a fish.  Don't be that person.


Take a hike.

Yes, you can see trout in the pool you’ve been fishing in for the last 30 minutes, but that doesn’t mean those trout are happy and willing to eat what you are offering.  If you’ve changed flies, made the perfect drift, and they’re still not interested, it’s time to move. If you don’t have room to move up or down the river, simply changing where you are standing on the river and the direction the fly comes from might be enough to get a trout to eat.

Change Your Fly: 

Just because it worked last time, doesn’t mean it will always be the right fly. Yes, it’s your favorite. Yes, the fish in the stretch of river below loved it. That doesn't mean it's the right fly on this trip.

Be observant.

Be present to your surroundings. If you’re fishing and all of a sudden the fish start rising around you, look at the rise and pay attention.  Did the fish come up a take somthing on the surface? Did it roll and you saw it's back and tail? Was the rise splashy and rushed?  Matching the hatch isn't only about having the right size and color fly, it's also about finding the correct type of fly.  Knowing if they are eating emergers, duns, egg layers, or spinners is key. When you see fish roll near the surface, an emerging dry fly is a great option. If the rise is splashy and rushed, an egg laying mayfly or a caddis is a good choice.

photo by - Jen Ripple

Try color on for size.

It’s also important to realize that changing the pattern or the type of fly isn’t always the solution. Often times a simple color change can make all the difference. If the fly you’re trying isn’t the one, try switching from a Royal Humpy to a Yellow Humpy, for example. Sometimes just changing to a zebra midge with a different color wire can make all the difference. Also, size is important. You may have the exact pattern for the hatch but be aware of size.  Sizing up or down can also get the job done.

Be yourself:

Who says a #12 Elk Hair Caddis won't work on a technical tailwater? Most people. But, that doesn't mean the fly won't catch a fish there. Don't be afraid to try something different. That is how fly fishing grows.

Hire a Guide: 

Hiring a guide should be all about learning techniques, not bringing your map and marking the spots. You have that person’s undivided attention for the time you’re with them.

photo by - Jen Ripple

Guide Charity Rutter of R&R Fly Fishing in the Smokey Mountains gets ready for another day on the water.

Ask questions.

Trout fishing around the world may be similar in some ways, but each fishery has its own unique challenges and local setup that can make all the difference in catching fish. A great guide is all about educating you on how to catch fish that day on their water. It’s important to be straightforward with the guide you’re hiring ahead of time. Let them know what your goal is. If you’re new and learning to fish, let them know. If your goal is to be a more self-sufficient angler, tell them that. Just remember to be respectful. Putting people on fish is how a guide makes money. It’s bad fishing karma to hire a guide just to scope out their best spots so you can then do it yourself and then guide all your friends. 

Give Them a Break: 

It is true that often times the best fishing takes place early and late in the day. We are not saying don’t fish during the day, what we are saying is it is important to let the river rest for a bit.

A little siesta goes a long way.

If you’ve been casting for a while without any fish, maybe it's time to take a break. Check and make sure your leader and tippet are in good shape and your fly is fishing properly. Take a look at the water and think about your next cast.

Fishing is supposed to be fun.

photo by - Jen Ripple

Don’t be afraid to take a break yourself. Being present and focused on your fishing is very important. If your casting isn’t working the way you want, or you lost a ton of flies and you’re getting frustrated, it’s ok to step out of the river and do something else for a bit. Hike back to car, grab lunch, or catch up with your fishing buddy. Doing something to help calm yourself down and get back into the rhythm will help you, and the fish. If you’re not having a great time, take a break and make it fun again.