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3 Secrets Guides Use to
Catch More Fish

Epic Ideas to Hook More Trout

The truth is guides are the best anglers on the water.  They are better for a reason but you won’t hear fly shops talking about it.  

If you want to improve your fly fishing and take it to the next level, check out these 3 useful concepts that guides use to catch more fish every day they’re on the water. 

Guides become observers of their environment because the trout they chase are the same.  As a guide gets on the river, they are always looking for changes and as they adjust to the rivers changes from the previous day, they follow three principles that help them catch more fish. 

We’re going to dive into these three concepts now and teach you how to start catching more fish.

Keep Fly Selection Simple

The fish aren’t as picky as you’d think


If you’ve ever seen a guide’s box, it’s impressive.  Row after row, size after size, color after color.  You know they have every fly for every occasion.  However, most guides, when you begin to inspect their boxes with detail you’ll notice one similarity; it’s a combination of 10-15 patterns.  Sure they have every size, color and variation imaginable, but they rarely have more than 15 patterns to cover all the insects in the water.  You can bet your fly box on the fact that those guides have tried hundreds of fly patterns over the years and they all end up with the same few patterns for their local waters.

So how do you apply this guide secret?

You could just hire a guide on a local water for a day, inspect his box and memorize it, but a wiser option is to understand your insects in the river and find patterns that mimic multiple insects in the river. Without a strong foundation of your insect knowledge like our fly fishing entomology course teaches, this can leave you guessing at what flies you want in your box. Make sure to understand the major insects groups and their prominence on the rivers you’re fishing for the best success.

Wooly buggers will imitate bait fish and stoneflies, hares ears will imitate a variety of mayflies and smaller stonefly nymphs. The most important detail here is size and color. A black size #20 hare’s ear for example does a great job of imitating small mayflies like a BWO or march brown, but that same fly in a size #8 will cover your stonefly nymphs too.

Find some patterns that you have confidence in and that imitate a variety of insects and then tie up or buy a ton of them. Get different sizes and colors. This is often why we offer our flies by the dozen. People often say why do you need a dozen and my response always is, “Flies don’t expire, and you’ll be buying more of these next year, why not save some cash and buy in bulk now?” That always does the trick.

  • Focus on patterns that imitate multiple insects
  • Keep a variety of sizes and colors of that pattern in your box
  • Know the local insects in the river to make sure you’re covered on your bases

They Know When to Change it Up

Fly Selection – Presentation – Location


Repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.  Stop fishing that hole even if there are fish in it, cause after 300 casts and no fish it’s clear you’re doing something wrong.  Guides know when their clients are striking out and their intuition and experience allows them to call the shots even faster than we do and change it up to something different.  Fish aren’t eating your midges even though you have a good depth, attractive run to drift and nothing else seems to be present in the water?  They’re going to switch it up to the next pattern and likely try some different water.  Know when to call it quits on a fly, location or a technique on the water and switch to something else.  You may catch one or two fish a day on that dry fly, but you likely missed 50 or more because you didn’t switch to a nymph rig.

I’m a huge fan of focusing on the three foundations of fly fishing which are fly selection, presentation and location.  Without a combination of these it is impossible to catch fish.  If there are no fish in the river, there is no fly or cast that will land you a fish.  If you are in the middle of an epic hatch and you are throwing streamers into the rising trout, you’re missing a lot of fish.  Lastly, the right fly and a good run and you keep slapping the water like you’re calling the gators at the bayou and you’re in for a frustrating day.  They must all be kept in a delicate balance in order to catch fish.  Some foundational elements trump others depending on the day and location, but they all need to be in play in order to succeed.

With that said, guides pay attention to these three foundational elements and are quick to change things up on one of them if fish aren’t coming to net.  If you want to apply this to your fly fishing skills, then spend no more than 5 minutes doing a cast into a certain area with the same fly and setup.  After 5 minutes has gone and no fish are to net, use your skills of deduction and switch up your location, fly or presentation.  As you continually change your behavior, you’ll find what the fish are eating and then you’re in the money.

They Know Their Insects

They know the trout menu


You don’t see guides throwing streamers during a caddis hatch and you don’t see them throwing stimulators in early spring.  Why? Because there are no fish that are going to be fooled by that poor fly selection.  The fish eat the food available to them in the river, it’s our job to understand and identify the food in the river and match our flies and presentation to that food source.  

I’ve never spoken to a guide that doesn’t know every major insect order in his river, the times or year they hatch and the flies he likes to imitate them.  It is a mainstay to be prepared.  Without that kind of prior knowledge, you won’t have the right flies on the river and even if you get lucky and experience a hatch of “whatever” you won’t have the flies in your box.  

The best way to apply this skill to your arsenal is to know your insects inside and out with our entomology course or dedicated streamside research.  Once you know the bugs, their behavior and what stages are important to trout, you can have the right flies in your box wherever you go.  A quick phone call to a fly shop in an area you’re unfamiliar to will help you with any questions and their answers will make sense when they blurt out things like the pteronarcys stoneflies and pseudocleon mayflies.  

If you struggle with your insect identification, you are missing opportunities to catch fish.  Our entomology course provides the perfect framework to master insects in the streams you fish.  We teach the skill set to identify insects anywhere in the world and catch fish with them.  Take a look and invest in your future of fish catching.