What fly should I use? That was the question I asked myself last week. I bet you ask yourself that question a lot.
I arrived at the river and pulled out my backup Winston rod, an 8 1/2 foot 5 weight with my Ross Evolution LTX reel. Nice backup, right?
It’s a 3-piece rod. My normal rod is a 9 foot 5 weight Winston BIIX. I really love this rod. Fished it to death, broke it twice in the last three years and Winston has done a great job with the repair. It’s a 4-piece rod I normally break in half and leave the fly used from my last trip at the very top. It’s stored in a 2-piece case next to my fishing partners identical setup, even down to the Galvan Torque 5 reel. (Visit my Products page for more information about these items and more.)
When the 3-piece rod is stored, I remove the fly and reel in the line and leader. Preparing to fish means attaching each section and stringing the line and leader through the guides.
Then comes the fly.
Last week, I walked to the river without stringing the line and leader. Just carried the rod and reel.
I sat on a log and watched the river, waiting for it to speak to me.
It got me thinking…what fly should I use?
I smiled because it’s a question everybody goes through. I know a couple of new fly fishers and I’m sure they ask the same question. Just like many fly fishers I meet on the river.
I’m asked if I’ve caught any fish. If the answer is “yes”, the next one is “what are you using?”
It’s a natural dialog between fly fishers.
But I was thinking about the question sitting on the log.
I fish several times a week and should know what to expect, right? You’d think the answer is yes!
But I fish a very fickle river at times. The last couple of weeks are a prime example.
Here are a few thoughts that quickly went through my head.
I’ve had success with a tan Improved F Fly. Same with a couple of BWO imitations…an Improved Sparkle Dun and my RiverKeeper Soft Hackle Cripple. An olive version of the Improved F Fly has worked as well.
Maybe I should tie on one of those. I’m leaning toward the Improved F Fly.
But I sit there and watch the river.
Any rising fish? Not yet.
Hmmm. I wait a little longer.
There’s a rise!
Then another splashy rise downstream.
Actually, I went to the river expecting to tie on a flying ant imitation. A little local knowledge helps!
There is a flying ant fall for only a few days where the fish key on them.
A couple years ago we were fishing this time of year and my wife felt something hit her…an insect. I felt them too. What were they? Early Salmonflies? Nope. Flying ants.
It happened last week and may be over by the time you read this post, so don’t get too excited. Turns out the first 80-degree day is when it’s likely to happen. And it did again this year…last week!
But how do you decide what fly to tie on?
Do a little research and see what insects are hatching. Select the Search icon on the menu at the top of this page and type in the words “fly box”. The result will be links to several posts I’ve written about flies I plan to use. This might help to narrow your selection.
Another option is to use the Archives box on the right side of each page. Select an appropriate month/year to see if I wrote a post about insects. You’ll be surprised what is available in previous posts of the last seven years!
Most local fly shops will be happy to provide that information. In fact, many have fishing reports on their websites. I encourage you to find and read them.
Another source is my Fly Fishing Road Trip page. I list the rivers or lakes we fish during our summer fly fishing trips and provide a list of successful flies.
If none of those work, go to the river and stand on the shore and watch. Maybe the river will speak to you.
See any insects on the water? Are fish rising?
Don’t just wade into the river and start casting. I see that all the time. Someone walks up and into the water they go…and scare the fish that hold behind a rock five feet from shore.
I smile because the odds are they will not see or catch any fish. They might get lucky…I hope so, really I do. But most of the time they are taking up real estate, holding my spot. After they leave, I walk over and sit for 15 to 20 minutes. More than once, I’ll see a fish begin rising. Yes, very close to where they waded.
If none of the advice works for you that day, tie on your favorite fly. One you have confidence in. Perhaps a Purple Haze? An October Caddis? A PMD Parachute? A beetle? Or an ant? Whatever fly it is, fish it with confidence.
I hope it works for you!
Lastly, I’ve added another fly tying video on my RiverKeeper Flies YouTube channel. It’s Mercer’s Poxyback Green Drake Nymph. I hope you are a subscriber to my channel.
I’m working on another video for the Iris Caddis, which I plan to post in the near future.
Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!