5 Reasons Why You’re Not Catching Trout Right Now

Written by guest blogger: Stephanie Winter (@stephanierwinter

If you’re fishing in a river and you’re not catching fish or even getting a nibble, you start thinking, “Are there even any fish in this goddamn river?” or “Maybe they’re not feeding right now,” or “it’s probably my fly pattern.”

Let me tell you right now that there are fish in that river, they are feeding right now, and yeah, it might be your fly pattern. But what can you do other than fall to your knees and pray to the fish gods to improve your odds of hooking into that trout mouth?

Stop False Casting And Start Fly Fishing
We get it, you know how to cast, now lay down that line and start fishing.

Stop False Casting

We all want that perfectly placed cast directly upstream of a feeding fish. But guess what? It’s not gonna happen every time. Wind, rain, obstacles in your back cast and cold hands can all contribute to a lousy cast. But get over it. Sometimes that imperfect cast is the one that ends up nabbing that sweet slab. Fish aren’t looking for perfect casts, they’re looking for a natural insect to eat which can be achieved with many different types of casts, so stop worrying and get your fly in the water.

The more false casts you have, the less time your fly is in the water. Give yourself some better odds and stop with the eight or ten false casts. You’ll be more likely to catch a fish and less likely to snag that pine that been innocently waiting for you to screw up.

Lastly, fish can see you casting over them again and again. On a crystal clear stream, you could spook all the fish in your pool if you throw half a dozen false casts over them before you even put your fly in the water. Work on getting down to one or two (or zero) false casts before presenting the fly on the water.

There's More Water To Fish Around The River Bend
Just around the river bend is more water to explore and more fish to catch.

Move to New Water

How many times have you cast to the same spot hoping that on the last cast, Methuselah, will magically materialize out from under that rock and take your fly? Sorry, but this dream isn’t going to come true.

Casting over and over again to the same spot and not moving on is the least efficient way of fishing a river. Give yourself three good casts in a spot, then move on. If a fish doesn’t hit your fly in three casts, it probably won’t happen at all.

A Salmonfly Rest On A Fly Angler's Hands
Pay attention to the water and your surroundings so you can pick up on clues. Some may be more obvious.

Be Patient and Watch the Water

When I get to a new fishing spot, all I want to do is get my fly over a rising fish as soon as possible. But sometimes, my eagerness ends up biting me in the ass. Being observant and patient when you first arrive at a fishing destination can be the difference between catching fish or the big golden goose egg.

Sit down on the bank and watch what’s going on on top of the water. Are there bugs hatching? What kind of bugs? What size? What color? Where are the fish eating? What’s their feeding rhythm like?

Once you get to know what’s happening in this environment, it becomes a lot easier to mimic nature. You’ll know what fly to tie on, where to cast and how long to let your fly drift.

Don't Be Afraid To Swap Flies Often
It’s better to switch flies often rather than lose confidence in your presentation.

Switch it Up

Consistently fishing with a dry fly when there’s nothing hatching is kinda like sharing your girlfriend’s squeaky twin bed when you’re visiting her parents: you’re not gonna get any action.

If you don’t see any fish eating dry flies, that probably is a good indicator that you should switch to nymphs or at least hang a dropper underneath that dry fly.

If you’re feeling stubborn and really are committed to fishing with a dry fly, relax on the bank for a while until you start to see some bugs flying around or go to the local watering hole till the evening hatch emerges.

Learn To Keep Your Eyes On The Prize, Catching Fish
This is what fly fishing is all about, catching fish, not standing in a river waving a stick.

Eyes on the Prize

When you’re in a particularly insane hatch and the water is boiling with rising fish you figure you can just toss your fly out with the rest of the naturals and hope that a fish finds it appealing. Nope, not quite. When there are thousands of bugs for a fish to choose from, they can afford to be as picky as they like.

Sometimes a fish will be even less likely to choose your fly over the bajillion natural bugs available. Instead of just tossing your fly out there, try targeting just one rising fish and floating it past him several times. this will lower the random chaos and increase your odds of that fish choosing your fly.

In the end, fishing can be frustrating. There are times when it feels like you’re doing everything right, but nothing’s happening. That, my friends, is when you break out the flask on the river bank and chalk it up to just damn good casting practice.


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9 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why You’re Not Catching Trout Right Now

  1. Mark November 22, 2016 / 11:42 pm

    Know what you mean but a bad days fishing is always better than working. Two techniques that I use is Matching the Hatch and Un-Matching the Hatch and they have pulled me out of a blank day more times than I can count.

    Matching as it says is to as closely as possible mimic the insect the fish are feeding on, color, size and shape the main aspects. If you have something in your box that resembles what they are feeding on then try to swing it past the feeding fish. Most times this will work but occasionally they are that fixated on what they are feeding on they completely ignore your best efforts to match.

    That’s when un-matching is worth a go, pick something a different color, size and shape and run it past the feeding fish. There is a good chance it will prick their attention to give chase. If you do get a glance then try different retrieves to entice a take, I find stripping fast gives a fish no chance to eye up your lure but has to attack quickly or loose the prize.

    Nevertheless, casting at feeding fish with a matched or un-matched lure and still not get hits can be frustrating as hell but one situation I will happily put up with rather than sit in the office and stare at my screen, Tight Lines!

  2. Mark Ernest Brown November 28, 2016 / 10:01 pm

    Fly fishing 101…Busting the Hatch, been doing it for years. Bottom line…ALL trout, and Salmon are opportunistic feeders.

  3. Bob Bluhm November 29, 2016 / 3:05 pm

    Equally frustrating….is having the right fly at the right time. You catch one, then hookup with another really big one and then get broken off. You realize you only have one of that same fly left. You tie it on…snag on a submerged whatever….break that off…. a lost fly.

    That begins the search for the next best thing…but it never or seems to never be the same….

  4. Ted Racine November 30, 2016 / 6:21 pm

    Much like a poor round of golf-that game that mimics life. We go well practiced, the right clubs, golf balls, the right swings and come up with frustrating lies, bounces and obstacles. Fishing on the other hand depends on expectations for myself. If they are high or too high ( salmon fly hatches with murky water) you may be bound for sheer disappointment and frustration. The other side is laced with optimism, appreciation of the luxury of peace and solitude met with moments of serendipity and pleasure. Or is it that success favors those prepared for fleeting moments of opportunity? Try not to focus on numbers, I tell myself, but all too human I do then accept what nature gives me. Either way, I always look forward to coming back…

  5. fishing world February 22, 2020 / 6:42 am

    Getting into tying flies but not sure where to start, getting a kit can be the way to go. There are many kits out there on the market and can be very helpful in starting your journey into fly tying. I personally bought the cheapest kit on the market when I first started. There was only a couple back then and it helped me get into tying at a relatively low cost.

  6. rachel frampton March 15, 2021 / 7:16 pm

    My sister would like to start catching trout in the river, and that is why we’re currently looking for a store that sells rods. Well, thank you for suggesting here that she should stop with the eight or ten false casts. I’ll also keep in mind to tell her that she should not stay in one place when catching a trout.

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