You really should learn how to fly fish this spring
What little snow we had in our region this past winter didn’t stay around long, so there will be no spring runoff to bolster stream flows.
So unless we large amounts of rain in the coming weeks, most of our trout streams are likely to be low and clear for opening day. The good news is success rates should be high during those first few hours of fishing time on most stocked streams. Newly stocked trout can be terribly gullible, if not borderline suicidal, when they are first subjected to angling pressure. The extra visibility of clear water makes it even more likely they will gobble up almost anything that comes near them. The bad news is that party doesn’t last long.
The inherent finesse of fly-fishing is one of the best ways of dealing with trout in low, clear water. Fly-fishing offers a tremendous amount of versatility by allowing an angler to employ a variety of artificial flies that imitate many of the trout’s natural foods. Also important is the ability to make the delicate presentations required with those imitations. And contrary to what many folks might believe, fly-fishing for trout is not all that difficult.
A good all-around outfit for central Pennsylvania waters should be built around a rod eight to nine feet in length and rated for a 5- or 6-weight line. The first hurdle in fly-fishing is learning to cast. On most of our local trout streams, casts of 15 to 30 feet are more than adequate, and almost anyone can learn to throw that distance after an afternoon or two of practice in the backyard. Accuracy is most important, so always pick specific targets at various ranges when practice casting.
When learning to fly-fish for trout, I recommend starting with some techniques that are close to the type of fishing you are already familiar with. For those who fish live minnows or spinning lures, streamer fishing is the natural transition. Marabou streamers in black, white or yellow have great movement in the water to provoke strikes. Woolly Buggers in black, olive or brown are also good bets.
Buggers and other streamers and can be fished in almost the same manner as a minnow or lure, casting it across or slightly downstream and retrieving it steadily or with a stop-and-go motion, working it occasionally with the rod tip.
If the fish are not inclined to chase the fly or merely follow it without striking, try dead-drifting the fly. Cast the streamer up and across the stream, allowing it to drift naturally with the current through the area where fish are holding. This subtle presentation can extremely effective in clear water.
Nymph fishing can be the deadliest method of catching trout under almost any kind of water conditions, and although some fly fishers might bristle at the comparison, it is an awful lot like bait fishing. The basic and most useful nymph fishing technique is to cast the fly upstream, allowing it to sink and then drift along the bottom naturally with the current.
Achieving the all-important natural drift and learning to detect the often subtle takes requires time and experience to master. But those who become proficient with the technique will catch trout more consistently than with any other method.
Some proven nymph patterns to try would be the Pheasant Tail, Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear, Walt’s Worm and Prince Nymph in sizes 12, 14 and 16. Other basic patterns to try would be some bead-head caddis larva in dark olive, green or tan.
To be most effective, nymph patterns need to fished right on the stream bottom, so use a small split shot to get the fly down if necessary. Expect to get snagged and lose a few flies. Most good nymph fishermen consider this a small price to pay given the effectiveness of the method.
Dry-fly fishing can be exceptionally good when the water is low this time of the season and not just during a hatch when lots of fish are visibly rising. On small to medium-sized streams, prospecting likely holding water with a dry fly can be surprisingly effective when the water is ow and clear.
During the early season, you will want to have dry-fly patterns like Adams, Blue Quill and Hendrickson in sizes 12, 14 and 16, along with some Elk-Hair Caddis with tan, olive and black bodies in sizes 14 and 16. The secret to dry-fly fishing success is presenting the fly with a natural drift as if it is unattached.
If you have wanted to learn fly-fishing for trout, this spring could be a good time to try it. You might just discover what so many of us already have. Fly-fishing is not only a most effective method of catching trout all year long, but it is also the most enjoyable.