Fly Fishing For Trout: 39 Tips For More Trout

Fly fishing for trout is a great way to catch large brown trout like this one.
Fly fishing for trout is a great way to catch large brown trout like this one. Image Provided by A Perfect Drift Guide Company.

While many anglers might find fly fishing for trout difficult or frustrating, as a fishing guide for over 20 years I’d bet it’s easier to catch trout than you think if you know the when, where, and how. Our guides have put this list of the 31 most important things that we teach our clients that make fly fishing for trout easier, less frustrating, and more fun.

Most guides that guide on rivers will use fly fishing methods exclusively even though there are many other methods that catch trout. The reason for this is that fly fishing for trout is easy and effective, and a lot of fun.

Fly fishing for trout requires suitable fly fishing equipment, some flies, and the knowledge of which rivers are good for trout in your area. Once you have that figured out, the next step is learning how to read the water, and which method of fly fishing is best.

Table Of Contents hide

Fly Fishing For Trout Basics.

Fly fishing is very different from all other methods of fishing for trout for multiple reasons which I will discuss below.

The Fly Fishing Difference

What I tell my clients in my fly fishing classes and my one-on-one guided lessons is this.

2 anglers Fly fishing Virginia on a clear mountain stream
Cody From Reel Fresh Guide Service teaching at one of my fly fishing classes.

The difference between spin fishing and fly fishing is that when spin fishing, the weight of the lure or bait pulls the line out toward the trout, but when you fly fish, it’s actually the weight of the line that pulls the fly out to the fish.

The Fly Size

Small Flies For Trout
Midges can hatch by the millions and therefore a small midge like this can be the best bait for big trout.

The reason we need the fly line to cast the fly is that when we fly fish for trout we often use small, lightweight lures called flies, and some of the flies we use are as small as a Mosquito and so small and so light that they can’t be cast with spinning gear or baitcasting gear, unless you add additional weights.

Additional weights won’t do you any good if you want that fly to float.

Fishing Top To Bottom

Dry flies Float higher with a floatant, match the hatch.
The dry flies you use to imitate the naturals will work better if you use a floatant and keep them floating high. I have always found that high floating flies work better.

Fly fishing also allows the angler to fish very light floating flies on the water’s surface to imitate aquatic insects or other types of bait that might be on the surface of the water.

Fly fishing for trout can also be done while drifting your flies below the surface too. We do this to imitate aquatic insects, fish eggs, baitfish, crustaceans, or other aquatic animals found in the river or lake.

With fly fishing, you can effectively fish all parts of the water column.

Lakes, Ponds, Rivers

Fly fishing for trout can also be done on lakes and ponds, but the most popular place is on cold water rivers and streams for trout.

Now let’s go over all the other things you will need to know to fly fish for trout well.

1. There Are 4 Methods Of Fly Fishing For Trout: Know Which One To Use

Fly fishing for beginners usually starts with casting
Beginners often think fly fishing start with casts like this, but the standard overhead cast is not always required to catch lots of fish.

There are four common fly fishing techniques that anglers use when trout fishing, and, there is one lesser-known method that I will also briefly mention.

Each method is different and serves a different purpose and you as an angler should know which method you should use based on the type of water, the conditions, and the trout feeding behavior.

Some anglers will stick with only one method and use it all the time. This is sometimes because they don’t know other methods, or it’s just because they love that method and that is all they want to do, and that is OK, but….

Using only one method of fly fishing for trout all the time is a big mistake and it can lead to many days without catching any trout. There are times when the trout feeding lane and strike zone is small and one method just won’t work regardless of how good you are.

An example is fishing flies on the surface when there are no natural insects on the surface and the fish are all deep. If you don’t present your fly deep, you’re just not going to catch any fish.

The 4 methods of fly fishing are Nymphing, Dry Fly fishing, Streamer fishing, and Wet Fly fishing, and if you want to know the 5th fly fishing method, it is Spey fishing.

2. Nymphing: Know What It Is And When To Use It

An angler Euro Nymphing some faster water

Nymphing is an effective and popular method of fly fishing for trout and there are a few versions of nymphing that you should be aware of since different versions can be more effective under certain situations.

What Is Nymphing?

Nymphing is simply drifting a fly below the surface in a dead drift and is usually done in a river or stream.

Dead drift means you are allowing your fly to drift naturally with the current without pulling it.

When To Nymph?

Nymphing is best done when the trout are feeding below the surface, or when you don’t see any surface activity. However, even if fish are feeding on the surface, nymphing can still be good.

3. Know The Right Nymphing Method To Use

An angler Polish nymphing some faster deep water
One of my clients using the Polish Nymphing method in this deep fast water with great success. He caught about 20 rainbow trout in this spot.

There are 3 methods of nymphing that you should know about, and you should also know when to use each of them if you want to maximize your success.

Using the wrong nymphing method can lead to 90% fewer fish.

The three types of nymphing are Indicator Nymphing, Tight Line Nymphing, and Euro Nymphing.

To be honest, when I used to offer my Advanced Nymph Classes, I would actually teach 7 nymphing methods but 4 of them were all variations of Euro nymphing and you are best to stick with only two if you are still in the beginner stages.

The 7 nymphing methods are:

  1. Indicator Nymphing
  2. Tight Line Nymphing
  3. Bounce Nymphing
  4. Spanish Nymphing
  5. Czech Nymphing
  6. Polish Nymphing
  7. French Nymphing

The last four methods are types of Euro nymphing.

Of the seven nymphing methods, the two methods you should focus on are Indicator Fishing, and Euro Nymphing using a variation or combination of the Spanish and French nymphing methods.

4. Learn Indicator Nymphing

An angler indicator nymphing in fast water with a high rod tip position for better control.
An angler indicator nymphing in fast water with a high rod tip for better control. By lifting all of his line off the water he can slow down the speed of the indicator and fly which can result in more trout.

Indicator nymphing is the most common method of nymph fishing in North America and it has been for over 30 years.

20 years ago I would bet 95% of river guides used this method with their clients.

Indicator nymphing works best in larger deeper rivers, or on smaller streams that have deeper spots over three feet deep.

It also works well in slower water spots. I use indicators a lot when fly fishing for steelhead and when fly fishing for salmon in rivers too because they are big and deeper spots.

Indicator nymphing is usually not the best method in spots less than 3 feet deep on a gin-clear river. This is because the indicator will likely be seen by the fish and then spook fish.

In some areas, you are permitted to use 2 or 3 flies. I prefer and always use two flies if I am allowed and I have some very effective 2 Fly Set Ups.

5. Learn Euro Nymphing

Me doing Euro Nymphing training with George Daniel
This is me learning a Euro Nymphing version taught by famous author, fly coach, guide, and competition angler George Daniel.

The method I use and recommend in low clear water is Euro Nymphing.

Prior to 2006, all I did was indicator nymph fish and I was very good at it.

Then a local competition angler who was on the National Fly Fishing Team was promoting this method in my area and that prompted me to learn it.

This method was almost unheard of at this time but I tried it anyways, and I hated it!

But, I knew that the best fly anglers in the world used Euro Nymphing in competitions and it was exceptionally effective when fly fishing for trout. So I learned as much about Euro Nymphing as I could, and I kept at it, and I am damn glad I did.

I became very good at both Indicator Nymphing and Euro Nymphing so I had the ability to provide an educated comparison, and therefore I can confidently say that under the right conditions, Euro nymphing can be ten times more effective.

Euro nymphing is the best method on spots less than 5 feet deep, and it can’t be beaten in spots under 3 feet deep, in faster water, and in pocket water. It’s also far more effective in gin-clear water because there is no indicator to spook the fish.

I tell my clients to go back to indicator fishing when it’s very windy or in deep slow water Switch back and forth based on the conditions.

If you want to nymph small streams and want to catch the most fish possible, especially in shallow water, do what the experts do, use Euro Nymphing methods.

Click the link for more in-depth details on Nymph fishing for trout which includes using multiple flies, effective leaders setups, and best flies.

Pick Your Fly

Fly choice is a debatable topic and everyone has their own options, but it doesn’t need to be that difficult. There are two things to consider.

6. Choose Seasonal Flies

One of my custom tied dry flies beside a real Hendrickson Mayfly.
One of my custom-tied dry flies beside a real Hendrickson Mayfly. Imitation flies like this will fool even the most cautious rainbow trout.

This basically means the same as matching the hatch, which means using flies that imitate the aquatic insects that the trout are currently feeding on.

Most trout anglers will use this method of choosing the right flies and it does pay off.

To do this there are often Hatch Charts available for your area that will give you a basic idea of the insect hatches, the sizes and colors of these insects, and the times when these insects are prevalent on the river.

I will discuss choosing dry flies more below.

Certain flies like Pheasant Tail Nymphs are great because they can imitate many aquatic nymphs and often they will be great fly anytime and on any river. In fact, almost all freshwater fish will eat nymphs at one point in their lives and even larger fish like steelhead and salmon will eat nymph patterns.

Nymph patterns can also include egg patterns which can be very effective for catching trout when other freshwater species are spawning.

A Fly fisherman should have an assortment of natural nymph fly patterns that include:

  • Mayfly nymphs – Pheasant Tail Nymphs
  • Caddis Larva
  • Worms Patterns
  • Egg Flies

Dry flies are a bit trickier but usually, an Adams fly, a March Brown, and an Elk hair caddis in sizes 12 to 16 are good options. I reveal my top flies for dry fly fishing on my best dry flies page.

The local fly shop will usually have all the natural fly imitations for your area and these flies will help you catch fish.

The fly shop will also be able to help you with flies that work year-round, and ones that will cover the water column from top to bottom, and they should have all the required sizes from small flies to huge attractor flies.

7. Consider Attractor Fly Patterns

The rainbow warrior is one of my favorite attractor patterns
The rainbow warrior is one of my favorite attractor patterns all year. There are times when this pattern will fish better than exact imitation flies even during a hatch. Click the picture to watch the video.

Unless there are a lot of the same hatching insects, also known as a hatch, I don’t bother trying to figure out what they are eating.

Instead, I’ll just use attractor patterns or generic fly patterns.

This could be a dry fly like a large fluffy elk hair caddis, a stimulator, or a Royal Coachman dry fly.

If it’s a nymph, something simple like a Prince Nymph, a Frenchie Nymph, or a Rainbow Warrior are good options that seem to work often.

In fact, in the last few years, when nymphing, I would use flies opposite to the hatch. I would just make sure they stood out from the natural insects.

This meant if the river was full of size 16 caddis Pupea and caddis all over the surface, I would use a size 12 brown mayfly and this often worked as well or better than trying to imitate all the natural bugs. If that doesn’t work, then try your elk hair caddis.

Having an assortment of dry flies, big and small is a good option, and local fly shop employees should be able to make some recommendations.

Click the link for 29 of my most effective flies for trout.

8. Get Your Flies Deep and Down

A Good Trout Pool
This is a good example of a trout pool. You can see the deeper darker sections where big trout will hold.

One of the keys to nymphing is to get your flies deep.

The reason for this is that most trout in a river hold near the bottom and they look up and ahead, and they feed up and ahead of them.

In my experience, the closer you can get your fly to the trout, the better.

To get deeper, consider a weighed fly instead of a non-weighted fly with weights on the line.

In some cases, depending on conditions and the mood of the trout, the trout will have a strike zone that is only 12 to 24 inches from them. This means if your fly is 25 inches over their head, it won’t eat it.

9. Slow Down Your Fly: Critically Important

I tell my clients and nymphing students that their goal when nymphing is to get their fly down fast, keep it at the speed of the bottom current, and keep it in the strike zone for as long as possible.

One of the major reasons why Euro Nymphing is so effective is that there is no indicator on the surface of the water column dragging your fly unnaturally fast.

What many anglers don’t realize is that the surface current can often be 50% to 80% faster than the bottom current.

This means an indicator that is being dragged along at the surface speed is pulling the fly unnaturally fast when the fly is near the bottom. This can actually spook weary trout. It’s often the big trout are the most cautious and they won’t bite a fly moving too fast.

Therefore, learn to mend your line properly to control the speed of your fly or use a method like Euro nymphing that doesn’t use an indicator or suspension device that will pull your fly too fast.

Guide Tip: It is my experience that when nymphing, or if using any type of bait below the surface, speed control is critical, and controlling your speed can ten times the amount of trout you will catch, this is one of the things I stress and work on with clients.

10. Learn To Mend Well

An angler using a typical flip mend used when indicator fishing.
An angler using a typical flip mend to reposition his line-up river of the indicator for a better drift.

Mending simply means repositioning the line to get a more natural drift and to prevent any type of drag. Drag means any pulling of the line, the indicator, the leader, and the fly, caused by currents.

Mending can really only be done when using a floating line.

Mending is simply lifting and repositioning the line. 90% of mending is usually mending the line upriver, but not always, and it’s good to know which way to mend, and how much to mend, and what type of mend is best.

I use mending in all five fly fishing methods which I’ll mention in this article.

Longer fly rods are often much better for mending.

Set The Hook Often, Set It Fast, Set It Properly

I’ve probably said this to a thousand anglers by now, “the guy who sets the hook the most will catch the most fish.”

11. Set The Hook Often

It’s my experience that many fly anglers miss a lot of fish because they don’t set the hook when they should.

They sometimes get distracted or they are daydreaming, or they just don’t pick up on the subtle bite of a trout. Often times they think the fly just bumped the bottom so they don’t bother setting the hook.

As a guide, I stand side by side and watch like a hawk, and I point out missed fish and some days guys will miss dozens of trout bites.

Strike at the first sign or set the hook on anything and everything that looks unusual.

This means if your indicator is drifting along with the bubbles see how it’s moving along, anything different than that could potentially be a fish. This includes twitching or bouncing of the indicator, slowing, stopping, and even speeding up, which can all be caused by a fish so set on everything.

12. Set Stupid Fast

Your fly is hard and has no taste or scent, and there is also a line attached to it. This is opposite to the aquatic insects trout eat every day which are soft and possibly have flavor, a taste, or a scent to them.

Therefore, trout will grab your fly and spit it back out in seconds because they can quickly detect these abnormalities. For this reason, you need to set the hook as quickly as possible so you set it before the trout has a chance to spit it out.

One of the advantages of the tight line Euro Nymphing method it is better for strike detection and hooking percentage.

13. Set Properly: Set Lightly

best flies for trout

I hear some guides telling their clients to set the hook lightly but I’m not sure if lightly is the correct word.

The reason I and other guides tell anglers to set the hook lightly is twofold.

Setting the hook too hard can break light tippets on rocks or big fish, and setting too hard can also send your fly and leader up into the trees or shrubs behind you, or it can send your leader and fly into your rod. Both of which end up in a tangled mess or lost flies.

Flies in trees and tangles are a big frustration for newer anglers but I’m about to give you a very good guide tip.

Guide Tip: To hook a trout, once the fly is in the trout’s mouth, you only need to move your fly 2 inches, you just need to move it fast so it penetrates.

Therefore, set the hook using a short arm stroke. Try to not let the rod tip go past or behind you. Set with your elbow and wrist only, and stop before or when your rod tip is straight up or is past your body. Often my rod tip will only move 2 to 3 feet on a hookset and I never launch my flies into the rod or behind me into the trees.

14. Use The Right Cast

The Right Fly Rod For the right fish
An angler learning how to fish with big streamers will need a different rod and different cast than an angler that wants to use small dry flies for small trout.

Don’t try to cast a nymph the same way you would cast a dry fly. Also, don’t cast your streamer the same way you cast nymphs or dry flies. You will need to adjust your cast based on the size and weight of your flies.

You will also need to adjust if you use an indicator and or weights.

Casting an indicator and weights the same way you cast a dry fly will quickly cause a big tangled-up mess and plenty of frustration.

15. Flip or Lob Cast When Nymphing

You need a slower cast when Nymphing and you need to cast a shorter line!

To cast a nymph and indicator rig, let the line hang below you with your rod tip low, then strip the line in until you have about one to two rods length of line, drag the line with a medium speed by lifting your rod tip behind you and upriver then flip the line over and out. Do NOT try to do a back cast like you would with dry flies.

16. Learn The Roll Cast

Although the roll cast is used maybe 10% of the time, it is easy, and it’s worth learning.

The roll cast is often the best cast when you have trees or other obstructions behind you or above you and when a traditional fly cast won’t work.

17. Work On Your Cast

Learn To Fly Cast
An angler learning to dry fly cast with Mike from Metcalfe School Of Fly Casting. The dry fly cast is not a good cast for nymphing.

When dry fly fishing accuracy is important. I’ve watched a fly fisherman target rising trout for an hour and they can’t catch fish. The reason they are not catching fish is almost always because they can’t land the fly in the feeding lane.

The fly fisher will cast too far or too short and land the fly beside the trout, or the fly hits the water behind the fish, or the fly is too far upriver and then drags over the trout, or they keep landing the fly on top of the fish.

When streamer fishing, wet fly fishing, and nymphing we are not normally targeting a specific fish or a specific spot, therefore casting accuracy is not as important.

But, there are times when you do need to land your fly in a specific spot, like beside a log, or next to the edge of an undercut bank.

So, practice your cast so you will have an accurate cast when you need it.

18. Know Your Surroundings Before You Cast

An angler with all the right fly fishing gear

One of the big frustrations for beginner and intermediate anglers is catching flies on everything except the fish.

This often means losing lots of flies and going through a lot of tippets.

One of my new guides texted me after his first few weeks of guiding and asked me how I keep up with all the fly tying and preparation for the next day’s guide trips. He said his clients were losing so many flies that he would need to go home and tie flies all night just so he had enough flies for the next day.

I called him and gave him some advice I’ll give you. The first thing I asked is how many flies was he losing each day. He said sometimes 10 flies per guy, so 2 guys would be 20 flies lost. I told him on average my clients would only lose 1 or 2 flies per day.

My tip for my guide and to you is simple. STOP LOSING FLIES!! Seriously though, I told my guide, part of his job as a guide was to teach his clients how to NOT lose flies. In fact, learning how to not lose flies is a great skill, but how do you do this?

I told him, as a guide, you need to look around at anything and everything that his clients could potentially hook a fly on before you start fishing. Then either reposition his clients to avoid these potential issues, or point all the issues out so the client knows where they are and so they can avoid them.

I even go so far as to tell my clients how to cast, or what cast is best, and even where they need to place their back cast.

This is all about being aware of your surroundings so you don’t catch the tree branch over your head, or so you don’t hook that branch hanging 3 feet over the far bank.

There are also ways to get your flies unstuck… But that’s another topic and probably a video that I’ll have coming soon on my Video Chanel

Dry Fly Fishing

One of the oldest known methods of fly fishing, and still today one of the most popular and most fun ways to catch trout with a fly rod is to do something known as dry fly fishing.

Dry fly fishing is best in the spring and summer which is when most insects are on the surface.

What is dry fly fishing?

Dry fly fishing simply means presenting your fly on the surface of the water.

19. Dry Fly Selection

An assortment of good dry flies for fly fishing for trout.
An assortment of good dry flies for fly fishing for trout.

I’ve heard clients tell me they hesitated to learn fly fishing because they didn’t want to have to learn all the flies. Trust me, you don’t need to know any of the flies by name.

Even if you use the wrong fly, as long as you fish it well there’s still a good chance a fish takes it on the first or second drift.

To encourage my new fly students, I tell them to observe what’s floating on the water or flying in the air and then try to do these three things:

  1. Match the size of the natural as best as possible.
  2. Match the shape or silhouette as best as possible.
  3. Match the color as much as possible.

Use a local hatch chart to help you decide what flies you need and visit a local fly shop to pick the brains of the guys in the shop about fly selection.

Guide Tip: The bottom of the fly is what the fish see and often the bottom of the natural insect is lighter in color than the top of the insect so when deciding on what fly to use, choosing a slightly lighter-colored fly is often better than choosing a slightly darker color.

20. See The Fly Better: 5 Guide Tips

Change Your Flies
Changing your flies often can mean more trout.

Small flies are very difficult to see especially if you cast them out 30 or 40 feet, or if there is glare on the water. If you can’t see your dry fly floating on the surface, catching trout is difficult.

It’s important to see your fly so you don’t miss a bite, and so you can ensure your fly is drifting at the same speed as the natural insects.

Use these 5 tips to help you see your dry flies better.

#1. See It Land: When I’m guiding, I’m often able to see the fly much better than my clients because I have trained myself to keep my eye on the fly. I will often ask them, “do you see your fly on the water”, especially if there are lots of bubbles on the water which makes it tough to locate your fly. I will often see the fly but they won’t.

My trick is simple, make sure you see the fly land, if you see it land you can focus on the fly and track it. If you don’t see it land, trying to find the fly among all the bubbles or natural insects on the river can be near impossible.

#2. Glasses: Polarized glasses are an invaluable tool and will improve your ability to track and see your fly. As a guide, I can honestly say my glasses have put many large trout in the net for my clients, and they have also made fishing more enjoyable.

This is because my glasses not only allow me to see some very big fish feeding or resting below the surface, but they also help me see feeding or holding spots or potential snags.

#3 Hotspot: The trout see the bottom of your fly when you dry fly fish so adding a hotspot like orange yarn to the top of your fly will help you see the fly and should not affect the trout.

#4. Indicator: adding a small indicator 2 to 3 feet up the line when using micro flies is a great way to locate the area of your fly. If any fish rises in that area you just set the hook.

#5. Set On Any And All Rises: If your fly is out on the water and you don’t know where it is, set on the rise. If you see a fish rise and if you don’t see the fly or know for sure if that fish actually grabbed your fly or not, just set the hook anyways and hope for the best

26. Use Dry Fly Dressing

I have found that most of the time, the higher your fly floats or sits on the surface the better that fly works. I have found half sunk flies do not work as well most of the time.

To keep your flies floating longer use a good dry fly dressing and follow my guide tip below to learn how guides keep their flies floating longer. Dry fly dressing helps repel the water and prevents your fly from becoming waterlogged and constantly sinking.

GUIDE TIP: Apply a very small amount of Dry fly dressing to your fly before you put it in the water. When it starts sinking, use a dry fly desiccant powder, and then reapply the dry fly dressing. This method will keep your fly high and dry much longer than just a dry fly dressing.

27. Use Longer Leaders and Thinner Leaders For Dry Fly Fishing

When dry fly fishing for trout, your fly line is usually on the surface of the water, and since it’s often brightly colored and thick it can be seen by the trout and that can spook the trout.

Therefore, use a 9 to a 13-foot leader with a 2 to 3-foot tippet.

Also, the tippet can leave a small indent on the water beside the fly which the trout will sometimes see. This can spook the fish so it’s always best to go as light as possible when dry fly fishing. Most guides will use 4X to 6X tippet which is about 2 to 6-pound test.

28. Targeting Fish Properly

Head Guide Graham From Trout and Steelhead .net
Head guide Graham with huge brown trout

This is especially important when dry fly fishing but it can be equally important with all methods of fly fishing for trout. And often, this is something most anglers don’t do well.

Any time you see a fish, whether it be a rising fish, or a fish feeding below the surface, or a fish you just saw swipe at your streamer and you want to target that trout, you MUST, place your next cast 3 to 6 feet upstream of where you last saw that fish.

This is because fish look ahead of them by 2 or 3 feet and they tend to look up. If you cast back at them after you see them, and land your fly directly above their head or behind them they wone eat it. It might even spook them.

If you are nymphing and you want to target a trout you see feeding below the surface, you also need to consider the sink time of your fly, which means you might need to cast ten feet upriver of the fish so the fly sinks deep enough when it passes the fish.

This is a common mistake new dry fly fishers make. They see a fish rise and they try to land their fly exactly where the fish is. This is a bad way to target trout rising.

I tell my clients to cast 3 to 6 feet above the trout and let the fly drift naturally toward them. This also ensures the fly doesn’t spook the fish when the fly hits the water.

29. Improve Your Dead Drift

Indicator nymphing

I sort of mentioned this above when I mentioned getting a dead drift and slowing your fly down while nymphing.

You almost always want your fly moving at the same speed as the natural insects whether you nymph or dry fly fish.

Improving your drift when dry fly fishing can make a huge difference but for a slightly different reason. If your dry fly drags across the surface in front of or over a large trout it can spook the trout.

Therefore you must learn to get a drag-free drift for as long as possible and this is done with good line control and mending.

It’s also easier to get a dead drift when fly fishing if you cast upstream and across or straight upstream.

Often, only small fish will grab a fly that is dragging, and larger fish will ignore it.

30. Temperature

Stream Thermometer

Trout are cold-blooded and therefore they are more active and feed when the water is at the ideal temperatures.

For many trout, the ideal temperature is 55F to 62F.

However, there are times when the trout will continue to feed in water as cold as 34F and as warm as 68F.

When the water is warmer than 65F fighting fish can be very stressful and even deadly.

Anytime the water temperature is above 62F and your plan on releasing a trout you MUST keep the fish below the water surface while you get the hooks out.

Most fish that die after releasing them die due to prolonged exposure to air.

Fly fishing can get tough during the heat of the summer. You will find guide tips to help you catch more trout on my page Hot Weather Trout Fishing Tips: What Guides Do.

31. Use A Net

Trout net size
This angler is fishing with a net big enough for 10-pound trout but small and light enough to hang properly from his back.

This is a tip I don’t hear enough. When fly fishing for trout you should always have a landing net.

I have heard too many stories and seen it myself when guys hook into the biggest trout of their lives and then lose it at their feet, and then say “if I only had a net, I would have caught that fish”.

Nets help land the fish, and they keep the fish submerged in the water and alive so they can be released healthy.

I have landed and released the same large trout 20 times a year because I handle them with care, and I couldn’t do that without a net.

Get a good trout net designed for trout fishing. See 5 Best Landing Nets For Trout.

32. Use The Right Gear

A guide wearing a best fly fishing vests from 20 years ago

If you are going to fly fish for trout you need to use the right gear.

Using the wrong gear can lead to less enjoyment, make it harder to learn, and can actually prevent you from catching fish.

Essential fly fishing gear includes the fly rod, the fly reel, and the fly line. These 3 things are unique to fly fishing.

Other non-essential gear includes waders, vests, packs, and fly boxes.

See all the fly fishing gear that guides recommend at Fly Fishing Gear: Everything You Need.

33. Use The Right Fly Rod

Fly Rod Is Important Fly Fishing Gear
The fly rod is one of the most important pieces of fly fishing gear that you need to fly fish.

The fly rod is designed to cast the heavy fly line. The fly rod bends in a certain way that aids in the cast and you won’t get this in a spinning rod or baitcasting rod

Fly rods are rated by a weight-rating system.

It’s not about the actual weight of the rod, it’s more about the weight of the fly line which also uses the same rating system.

This is done so the rod and line are matched up better. The right line on the right rod will cast easily and will cast well. The wrong line will make it difficult to cast.

Therefore, for most trout fishing the ideal rod will be a 9-foot, 4 or 5-weight rod matched with a 5-weight line. Some methods will require a longer or shorter rod or a heavier or lighter-weight rod.

Click the like for my recommendations for the best fly rods for trout.

34. Use The Right Fly Line

Fly lines are usually 90 feet long, and they come in multiple weights, and they can be either an all-floating line, a partially sinking line, or a full sinking line. They can also come in what is called a weight-forward line, or a double taper line.

For most trout fishing you will want a full-floating fly line that uses a weight-forward taper. With this fly line, you will be able to fish all methods.

Partial sinking lines, also known as intermediate fly lines, and full sinking lines are mostly used for wet fly fishing, and streamer fishing in lakes, ponds, and on large rivers.

See Best Fly Lines For Trout article.

35. Use The Right Reel

Some anglers will tell you the reel just holds your line, but, I disagree.

A good reel will also help you land fish especially if it has a good smooth disc drag.

Your reel should also be the right size for the rod and line which is why fly reels also come with the same weight-raring system.

Having the right reel will balance out the rod and make casting and fishing more fun.

See Best Fly Reels For Trout article.

36. Be Stealthy

Stay low, stay behind the trout, and be stealthy if you want to catch more trout.

A key to catching fish is actually to be stealthy.

This is something I stress to my clients and is also a reason anglers and my clients struggle to catch fish.

Unless you are fishing a stocked stream with dumb stocked trout, being stealthy will help you catch a lot more BIG trout.

This is even more important for wild trout in small streams and on medium rivers.

I have said this many times. “Many anglers spook the big trout and make them go lockjaw before they even make their first cast”.

So, move slowly, be very quiet, approach from below, and be in position.

37. Be In Position

Being in the right position to both present your fly effectively and not spook the trout is important. Even rainbow trout that don’t spook as easily will still spook if you are standing in the wrong spot.

Whenever possible, stay behind the rainbow trout and fish upstream. Rainbow trout, like all trout, look upriver and sideways so if you’re in the line of sight it can spook them. Stay behind the trout and you will catch more.

The exception is when wet fly fishing and sometimes when streamer fishing, or on very large and deep rivers.

Wet Fly Fishing

Wet fly fishing is kind of an old-school method and other than some of the older fly fishermen, I don’t see wet fly fishing done very often.

Wet flies are meat to be cast across and slightly downstream and then swung across the river.

This can be a fun method and is easy for beginners and kids. When the fish hits the fly it hits hard and that’s part of the attraction to this method for fly anglers the like this method.

With wet fly fishing, you fish downstream and let your fly swing lower and lower with each consecutive cast.

See more about wet fly fishing in my article Wet Fly Fishing: A Complete Guide.

Streamer Fishing

Streamer fishing is used on rivers, lakes, and ponds, and it is often a method that will catch the largest trout. Streamer fishing is also the method most used for other freshwater species like pike, bass, and musky.

What is Streamer Fishing?

A copper flash streamer fly
A large flashy trout and steelhead streamer fly that would likely catch just about any species of predatory fish in the river.

Streamer fishing uses larger flies that imitate swimming baitfish, leeches, crayfish, and even a mouse.

You simply cast out your streamer fly and strip it in. Stripping refers to short pulls of the line to create a swimming type action to the streamer fly.

Many larger trout are caught on streamer flies like the Muddler minnow, Zoo Cougarm bunny leech, and Wooly bugger.

Streamers are also a great way to find fish because you can cover a lot of water with a streamer fly. For this reason, many anglers will streamer fish in the larger rivers found in the western United States.

All species of trout, salmon, and arctic char will chase and eat streamers. If you want to learn more about the best streamers for trout click the link.

38. Use A Shorter Leader

When streamer fishing, for casting accuracy and ease of casting, it’s better to fish with a short leader between 6 and 10 feet long.

39. Reading the Water

80% of the fish hold in 20% of the water, this image shows you where the fish should be.
On trout and steelhead rivers, it’s not uncommon for 80% of the fish to hold in 20% of the water. Reading the water and knowing where to fish gives you a better chance for more fish.

Reading the water means locating areas of the river where trout will hold, or feed.

New fly anglers might find the a be a little tricky but you can use rocks, logs, and currents. to help you find these areas.

often, reading the water is simply seeing where the river god from shallow to deeper. Darker water means deeper water and this is where trout like to hold.

40. Fly Fishing Through The Seasons

Fly fishing can be done all year round but in some areas, fly fishing in the winters can be extremely cold and the summers can be extremely hot.

You need to adapt to the conditions if you want to catch trout consistently. The trout can hold in different areas, feed on different foods, and eat at different times of the day.

As an example, late spring and summer the fishing can be fantastic at dawn, but in the winter the best fishing is often later in the afternoon.

Fly Fishing For Trout Q&A

Fly fishing for trout can be done year-round on many rivers while other rivers might have a short season. If you have any questions or tips let us know in the comments section below.

Tight Lines,


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