We’ve all been there before, you know a fishing spot is full of fish, but you can’t seem to get the fish to eat the flies you’re drifting through the hole. At this point you have 2 choices, 1) Give up on the spot or 2) Stay and try to figure out how to catch those fish. Now many anglers choose the former and just give up, but if you put in some time and watch the water, you will find your window to get those picky fish to eat!
Adjust How You Approach the Spot
Every time you approach a fishing spot, you run the risk of spooking fish that were otherwise feeding happily. When you approach a new or familiar hole, do your best to approach the spot downstream and fish up into the current. This will prevent spooking fish because trout and almost every freshwater river fish, hold while facing upstream into the current. As you get close to the hole, try to avoid stepping on anything crunchy underfoot as that will send vibrations into the water and give your position away to the fish. If you want to go super stealth-mode, try to approach with the sun to your face to avoid casting shadows on the water.
Try Lighter Tippet or a Longer Leader
Sometimes all it takes to get a fish to feed is by using lighter tippet and lengthening your leader. Especially if you are fishing an area that receives higher fishing pressure, the fish may be used to seeing the same 5x tippet float overhead and have begun to learn what not to eat. Next time you’re getting frustrated at a hole, try tying on lighter tippet and loosen your drag, you’ll be surprised the reaction you get! Another tactic to try is just lengthening your leader in general, the less fly line on the water, the lower the chances that a fish will spot the line and spook.
Take a Break and Watch the Pool
Even if you spook the fish in the pool, don’t give up, sometimes all you need to do is step back and give the fish a chance to reset and forget you’re there. Sometimes this only takes a few minutes and will give you a chance to pay attention to how the fish are behaving in the water. Are they feeding just off the bottom? In the middle of the water column? Sipping dries on the surface? By taking a few minutes to watch and allow the fish to relax, you can learn far more about what presentation style you should be using!
Change Up Flies
Many times all it takes is a quick fly change to get fish to eat. You’d be surprised how educated trout can get as they probably see many fly patterns pass overhead and hook their friends. By tweaking classic patterns or throwing flies that may not be fished in your area, you can trick even the wariest of feeding trout. For instance, on a fly fishing trip in the Smoky Mountains, we had spotted a feeding brown trout in skinny water, we tried countless nymphs and streamers, but had no luck. Then we tied on a bright pink steelhead bugger and, wham! the fish inhaled it like pink streamers were his favorite snack. You’d be surprised how many tricky fish will simply inhale a fly pattern they haven’t seen before.
Change Your Fishing Strategy
Sometimes fooling those picky fish is a change-up pitch, maybe the trout aren’t looking down for nymphs or are cruising the surface for waterlogged flies. By simply switching up your fishing style you can sometimes elicit the response you’re looking for from those trout. Never underestimate the value of a pissed off brown trout hammering a streamer simply out of annoyance and aggression!
Dan Zazworsky’s passion is sharing his love of fly fishing with anyone that will listen, read or watch. You can find him exploring new waters every day while chasing any fish that will eat a fly!
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