Fooling Trout on Dry flies in the Slower Flows of Spring

Fooling Trout on Dry flies in the Slower Flows of Spring

Spring has sprung here in the Vail valley.  The rivers are all opened up and the fishing conditions are great! Longer warmer days  have increased the water temperatures enough to start the small Black Stoneflies to make their first appearance. The daily Midge hatches have become more dependable and the Blue Winged Olives are starting to hatch too. Once the water temperatures start hovering in the low to mid- 40’s it’s Dry fly time.  The hatches that do occur at this time of year take place in mostly the slower flows of the body and tail outs of runs.  The approach to this type of Dry fly fishing should mirror the speed at which the fish are moving.  You never want to just wade into slower moving water. The waves you’ll create will alert the Trout that your there.  Observing the water for a few minutes is crucial. Are fish rising? Are the y eating Emergers, Duns or Spinners? Are they laying low waiting for the buffet line to open.

Understanding rise forms, positioning and Fly selection are very important.  You may have a very limited number of shots at Trout in this situation. Midge hatches are terrific because trout need to eat a lot of them to get filled up, so rises can be nearly constant for hours at a time. The other convenient aspect is that when trout hover near the surface, as they must when feeding on midges, they can barely see objects above the water. Thus, they are easier to approach and don’t spook as easily. Presentation is everything in these instances.

https://www.americanangler.com/sight-nymphing-quick-lesson-refraction/#:~:text=The%20depth%20of%20water%2C%20the,contribute%20to%20an%20optical%20illusion.&text=In%20shallow%2Dwater%20nymphing%2C%20the,scrutinize%20the%20pattern%20so%20fully.The best position is one that gets you as close as possible to the fish without the fish seeing you, and one that inherently helps you defeat drag. Of course, the depth and speed of the water, trees and shrubs along the bank, the riverbank itself, and many other obstructions limit your options. 

Positioning is a very important first step in the process. The best position is one that gets you as close as possible to the fish without the fish seeing you, and one that inherently helps you defeat drag. Of course, the depth and speed of the water, trees and shrubs along the bank, the riverbank itself, and many other obstructions limit your options. For me the key is putting a little leader or tippet as possible over the Trout.

DRY-FLY PRESENTATIONS: There are five main presentation positions (above). Use an upstream or up-and-across presentation as much as possible. Use a downstream or down-and-across presentation for especially spooky trout in shallow, clear water. Use an across-stream presentation from a drifting boat or as a last resort while wading. Rod Walinchus Illustration

Wind very often will dictate the fly selection as much as anything. Midges and Blue Winged Olives may be hatching, but wind will keep the emergers from being able to break the water surface. In such conditions I may use a Beadhead Barr’s emerger to keep the fly just below the meniscus as opposed to a non Beadhead in calmer conditions. I’m fishing a dry/dropper rig. My go to is a #18-20  Parachute Adams, Extended Body BWO or even a Para Wulff or Royal Wulff pattern as my dry fly and 12-18 inches behind that I will rig my emerger based on the rise forms and wind. There are a million Midge and BWO emerger patterns out there. Having confidence in you fly selection is as much a reason as any in choosing the fly.

Some of our favorite Blue Winged Olive emerger patterns:

  • Barr’s Emerger BWO (Beadhead, Flashback and Plain Jane) are all a very big part of my arsenal.
  • The Bat Wing Emerger is a killer too. Vey unique profile, very fishy.
  • Olive Fowlers soft hackle. Excellent pattern for swinging from up stream.
  • Craven’s Ju Ju Beatis. Like the Barr’s get a few of every variation.
  • Hicky’s Auto Emerger BWO. Good fly for faster water as well, gets down.
  • Micro Mayfly BWO. Different profile, heavy fly. Good for faster riffles and as a dropper from the boat.
  • Wonder Beatis
  • Can’t not mention the old school Beadhead Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail and the non weighted variations as well.

Some of our favorite Midge emerger patterns:

  • RS-2 Gray, black or Olive are a staple in our shop. Mercury BH , Flashback and plain are essential.
  • Roy Palm’s Special emerger. If it’s good enough for the Frying Pan river trout it’s good enough for me.
  • Fowler’s Soft Hackle Biot midge. A great pattern to swing in front of  trout rising to emergers.
  • Grffith’s Gnat
  • Rainbow Warrior. If you need to ask…
  • Purple Haze. Excellent on the swing

All this is great, but if you can’t make the presentation, game over.

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