3 Common Mistakes for Summer Dry Fly Fishing
And How to Fix Them to Catch More Fish
Summer dry fly fishing is what most fly fishermen look forward to the most out of any time of the year fly fishing. The weather is warm, water is cold and bugs of nearly every kind are out on the water with hungry trout actively feeding on them. There is often nothing more rewarding than catching fish during the summer on dry flies, but over the years fishing with friends and analyzing my own actions, I’ve found that we make some very common and critical mistakes that keeps us from getting the most out of the summer months on dry flies.
We’re going to go over three of the most common mistakes that fly fishermen make when the temps go up and dry flies come out. Then we’ll discuss in each mistake, what you should do so you can catch more fish on your next fly fishing adventure.
1 – Living in the Past
Learn to Take a Conditional Approach to the Water
We often use our past experiences to make our decisions instead of looking at the current conditions and making a decision based on that first. I’ve said it for a while to people I come across, confidence flies can be a really bad thing for most of us anglers. The problem with confidence flies is that we often choose them at the car when we rig up and forget about trying to figure out what the river and trout are doing that day. Elk hair caddis catch a lot of fish and deserve a spot in everyones box, but that doesn’t mean you should blindly tie one on and then fish it for half of your day just because “it worked for you last time you were here”.
If you use the past as your primary influence on your decisions, you’re going to miss fish. Rivers are always changing, you should be aware of this and make sure the current conditions match your past experiences before you just go for that confidence bug or confidence hole.
How to Fix – Adopt a Conditional Approach to the River
There are a few tips I can recommend to help you ditch the confidence approach and focus on the conditional approach. If you approach the river with the thought that every day is different then observation and preparedness become the best tools for you to catch fish.
In order to be prepared you need to understand river and weather conditions. We have some tips on how to do this.
First, is to research current weather and streamflow conditions and compare them to either past experiences or to the same time the previous year. This means looking at temperature changes, wind and cloud cover mostly for the day compared to previous weeks and previous year. For stream flows, it means looking to see if flows are going up or down recently and how consistent they have been and how that matches up to previous years. Once you have reviewed the weather and stream flows you should be able to understand if things are stable or changing and then if they are changing is it for the better or the worse. That will help you a ton on the water later as you apply your next tip.
The second tip once you’ve done what research you can at home based on weather and river conditions is to understand the insect seasonality. Knowing your bugs like we teach in our online entomology course helps a ton in figuring out what the bugs will be doing and if the trout are likely going to be eating surface insects or nymphs or nothing at all. Learn you bugs especially which hatches occur during what months in summer. That will give you some good intel on the river before you even go so you can have a stocked box of flies with the best summer fishing flies for your area.
After you are prepared for what the river should bring you, now you need to spend time on the water when you get there observing the conditions and asking yourself if they match up with what you expect based on the research you did. If it is, stick to your guns and fish the bugs your research tells you, if you see changes or differences that weren’t expected, use your knowledge of insects, trout behavior and finding good trout water locations and adjust accordingly. This is easier said than done, but you’ll find you have much more successful days when you come prepared to the water with as much knowledge as you can and then adapt as necessary and figure things out. The figuring things out is often the most rewarding part!
Do your research ahead of time and then spend some time observing on the water and you’ll quickly be on your way to a conditional approach to fishing and more fish in your net.
2 – Throwing the Biggest Bugs in Your Box
Buckle Down and Size Down for More Fish
Would you rather fish a size #20 dry fly or a size #10 dry fly if both caught the same amount of fish during the day? If you’re like the 99.99% who answered the big bug, then this mistake is often one we all make. I get tired of fishing size #24 nymphs during winter and when it finally warms up and I get hit in the face with a salmonfly, I just want to throw the biggest dry fly I can and hope the biggest fish eats it. Sometimes, this is EXACTLY what you should do, but most times, a smaller fly is going to catch more fish.
You have to fight the emotional and lazy pull to throw big bugs just because it’s easier to see and floats higher so it’s less maintenance and instead fish flies that are properly sized for the insects on the water. The bigger the fly, the bigger the hook. The bigger the hook, the more visible it is to trout and the less willing they are to eat it. I have never had an experience where I was fishing the correct insect species with dries and throwing a smaller fly made fishing worse. It seems that almost always, going a couple sizes smaller will catch you more fish.
How to Fix – Buckle Down and Size Down
It’s a simple fix, just throw one or two sizes smaller than you normally would. Often times a size 14 – 22 is the range that we’re talking about here. It’s best to find a natural insect on the water and match it to your hook size, then go one size smaller. For example, if you see a golden stonefly on the water and he’s a size #12, throw a size #14. You’ll have more consistent success this way, even though it takes some will power to size down. Buckle down and size down and you’ll find more fish.
3 – Not Giving Summer Trout Enough Credit
Show Some Respect to These Trout or They Will Put You in Your Place
I am most guilty of this one. We get this idea that because it’s summer that all fish abandon reason and just eat anything they can, but that simply isn’t true. Though trout will eat a wider variety of insects in the summer and have an increased metabolism which means they will eat more often, it doesn’t mean they abandon all reason and instincts to stay safe. Treating summer trout with the respect of a picky tailwater trout is a better approach then assuming they will just eat anything you throw out there. You will get lucky from time to time and have days where fish will eat anything and it’s stupid easy, but most days, trout are still on patterns and certain insects and sizes and you have to match that hatch accurately to put trout to the net.
How to Fix – Respect
We all know there are some waters out there that are technical and full of picky, educated trout that are hard to catch. If you treat each body of water this way and bring your best skills to the river, you’ll stay more focused and catch more fish. Figure out a way to motivate yourself and bring your best game to the water and you’ll avoid this common mistake and catch more fish.
Fishing for summer trout on dry flies is a blast and even if you aren’t a great dry fly angler, summer is the months to try it. There is nothing quite so great as seeing a trout rise to your dry fly while wet wading on a warm summer day. Apply these tips to these common mistakes and you’ll be able to get the most out of your summer dry fly fishing.
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