Fly Fishing with Dry Flies

Fly Fishing with Dry Flies

The splashy rise of a trout to a dry fly is exciting to watch. But making that picture perfect presentation dry fly cast is usually difficult for beginning fly fishermen. There is not much room for error in presenting a dry fly to a fish. But you can have a less than perfect nymph cast and still make a good presentation to catch a trout.

Watching your dry fly floating drag free followed by the flash and take of a trout never gets old. Some fly fishermen become so addicted to dry fly fishing that they look down their nose at nymph fishermen.

Since trout feed 85 to 90 percent subsurface, you will probably not spend as much time fishing dry flies as nymphs to be a productive fisherman. But during certain hatches, trout key in on the insect(s) hatching and dry fly fishing is the only way to have a chance to catch them.  There is nothing like watching a 28 inch brown trout rise out of the depths and sip in your number 22 parachute Adams dry fly. Then it turns to run and finds it is hooked fast. The explosive run that happens next as the rod bends deep into the butt starts the adreneline flowing like no other trout fishing experience.

A technique common to dry fly or nymph fly fishing is to seine insects before fishing to see what is in that location. This way, you can pick a nymph that closely matches the most numerous insect. Knowing what the prevalent insects are also tells me what kind of adults will hatch. This means that I can pick dry flies to match a hatch easier.

While insect seining does not ensure a successful day, it certainly increases your chances over blind fly fishing for trout. If a hatch happens, while you are nymph fishing, observe the fish activity a bit before switching to a dry fly. The fish may be taking emergers just under the surface. Watch for a bulging rise which shows the back of a trout or the white flash of the mouth as the fish takes the insect just below the surface. In this case, use a dry – dropper combination. A Parachute Adams or similar dry fly in the correct size and color of the natural followed by a dropper of the same species one size smaller than the dry fly is a good combination.

Dry Fly Fishing Tackle:

  • Fly Rods – If you fish dry flies a lot, you may want to purchase a rod, reel and line specifically for dry fly fishing. For small streams that are 30 feet wide or less, a 6.5 foot to 8 ft fly rod in a 2, 3 or 4 weight will work well.On larger streams, a 9 foot rod is appropriate. As you fish for larger fish, you may want to use a 7 or 8 weight rod and / or a longer rod. The larger rods will turn over larger bushy dry flies or a weighted nymph rig better than the smaller light weight rods.
  • Fly Reels – Balance your rod with a reel matching the rod weight and load the reel with a matching weight fly line.I like the large arbor reels because they take in line faster than a standard or a mid-arbor reel. The large arbor reel also holds line so that it does not curl or take a set so much. Your best fly reels are machined with a good disc drag. But a less expensive die cast reel with a quality disc drag is also an alternative for small stream fishing. And die cast reels are generally 1/2 or less the cost of a machined reel.
  • Fly lines – Colors are not so much an issue with fly lines. Pick one you can see. I like a light tan or green. The fish looking up at the line sees mostly a black shadow so color is not so important. Most fly lines today are weight forward lines with the majority of the weight in the first 30 to 35 feet of the line. In the lighter line weights, you may wish a double taper line because it will roll cast easier at   40 or more feet than a weight forward line. And you can turn it around when the front end becomes worn. See our selection of Double Taper Fly Lines in the fly line section at our main fly shop.
  • Leaders can be built out from a 7.5 foot 4X tapered leader to about 10 feet 5X or 6X when using a nine foot rod. In general, I have found that the total leader length should be no more than 1.25 times the total rod length. For example a 7.5 foot rod will have difficulty handling a 12 foot leader with weighted nymphs. But it can handle a 9 foot leader with such a rig. RIO makes some of the best leaders and tippet material on the market. But it is expensive. If you wish to use an excellent leader and tippet material that is more affordable, try Stone Creek leaders and tippets.

All that is left is to tie or buy some dry flies. Grab your gear and go dry fly fishing.

Tight Lines,

Marshall Estes, Author
“Successful Fly Fishing for Trout”