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Thread: what fly to use....

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2015

    Default what fly to use....

    Question....if I'm out and I don't see any mayflies or bugs on the top water and/or see fish rising can i assume I need to use nymphs? What kind of nymphs should I use, if I turn over some rocks and don't see any worms, bugs, etc...? Or is that part of the art of fly fishing?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Davis, CA, USA, Earth


    Sounds like you might be in a freestone stream?

    If so most might try some larger attractor dries first like a #14 Elk Hair Caddis or Royal Wulff?

    If that doesn't work most go deep with upstream indicator nymphing in the riffles or pocket water.

    Small shallow streams are more suited to dry fly fishing because the fish are so near the surface most of the time.

    Bigger, deeper trout streams seem to fish better deeper with nymphs because that is where the fish are most of the time.

    **A day on a nice stream in prime time with a good guide is the way to the fast track.

    Bill Kiene

    Fly fishing travel consultant
    Certified FFF Casting Instructor
    Cell: 530/753-5267

    Contact me for any reason........

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2015


    Bill, you'll have to excuse me as I'm pretty green to the sport. I've fished the American quite a bit but have not had much luck. So I've tried my luck on the lower yuba and still not much luck, and I've noticed on both I can't really get a beat on what the fish are hitting on. I've tried turning over rocks but I'm not getting a whole lot.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Garden Valley


    Keep at it Jerole,
    This is a part of the challenge that at times can be difficult for the best. In some ways though, I would say that it may be a little easier for a new angler when there isn't a specific hatch that the fish are super keyed into. There may be times where there just isn't a lot going on bug wise; in this case attractors (dries or nymphs) can sometimes get some attention. You've picked a couple of fisheries that are known to be a bit more challenging, so if you're not having success there don't be too discouraged.

    Bill's suggestion on a day with a guide is spot on, though good books and internet resources will help. Not quite like time on the water with a good guide, but helpful still. If it were me, I would focus much more of my efforts on two very key points:
    -learn where the fish hang out, and be sure to spend your time fishing to actively feeding fish rather than water that just doesn't tend to hold fish. This means not just what hole to fish, but where (and when). Sometimes fish are looking up, and you can catch them up on top... other times you need to get right down on the bottom.
    -work on your presentation. There are many variations, depending on how/what/when/where you're fishing; but a good one for dry flies and for nymphs is the dead drift. Learn to read your water, and co-ordinate your casting and your line mending to ensure that your fly is getting a drag free drift. Even educated fish will hit a less than perfect imitation (or even something that is just "curious" looking) if it is perfectly presented; on the other hand even a perfectly tied pattern of the exact insect they are feeding on will usually go ignored when not presented well.

    The other big one to pay a lot of attention to, especially as the season changes here, is water temperature. Colder water really changes things, in general the fish will not move as far for a fly so you need to put your fly at their depth (usually, but not always, on the bottom). Flipping over rocks is one way to check for bugs, getting a seine and using it can be very helpful at times as well. Seines can be used to check various points in the water column and get a decent idea if anything is beginning to hatch, as well as what's being stirred up off the bottom. Sorry if any of this was stuff you had already heard/read before, but since you mention being pretty green those are some things I would worry about first and foremost if I were in your shoes. Also bear in mind that Fly fishing produces lots of satisfaction that goes far beyond the fish we catch, and know that if you keep at it the fish will come. Plenty of fish in in due time... Though I am far from being one of the more experienced anglers here, you can feel free to ask as many questions as you need, I'm happy to help in any way I can as many others helped me. PM if you need any further help.
    Best of luck,
    "Lord help me to be the person my dog thinks I am"
    - unknown

  5. #5


    Depends on the time of day as well. On a trout stream, if there is little to no visible activity I always throw a grey hackle peacock and a random fly that should represent something fairly common in that area. Probably a small size mayfly or caddisfly. In mid or late summer I usually chuck a grey hackle peacock and a grasshopper. A lot of people will suggest nymphs, I prefer terrestrial/ubiquitous patterns myself. On a bigger system, nymphs are probably the way to go, but on smaller streams I think the terrestrial patterns will cover the bases just as well. I am pretty sure I have caught the majority of my fish in my lifetime on a grey hackle peacock, it works in just about every trout stream in the country. Up here in NorCal just about every stream should have some Hydropsyche caddisflies and Baetis mayflies, they are everywhere. When you do pick up a rock do it gently, and pick rocks in decent current, not ones near the edge or buried in sediment. Many of the critters will let go when you do this as well, but the majority should hold on if you do it gently. The best way is to carry a small aquarium net with a moderate mesh size, not too fine. Place it down stream of some rocks and disturb them, anything that lets go will float into the net and you will get some idea what is in there. Also, mid day fishing can be the time to do something unexpected. On a high pressure area, those fish get used to seeing certain patterns, nymphs, etc... that the majority of people try. Sometimes busting out an ugly streamer and chugging it around in the riffles can get some reactive strikes just from doing something the fish aren't used to seeing.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Boulder CO


    When in doubt: Parachute Adams.

    Even though I carry dozens of patterns that always seems to be my #1 dry fly. I'll defer to Bill here, but I believe it's the most popular dry fly in the country if not the world. It's worked on every trout river I've ever fished.

    I carry size 12-20 (and sometimes smaller). It usually does the trick when nothing is hatching. I try to locate and target actively feeding fish. If I don't see any active feeders I aim for the scumlines (bubbles) or areas behind structure in hopes that something will happen.

    If it's deep water and I don't see any surface action I'll nymph with a San Juan Worm and/or Copper John.

    If that doesn't work I'll switch up to a Wooly Bugger in olive or black.

    If THAT doesn't work I sit by the river, enjoy the scenery, and wait for the hatch.

    Of course that's just when I'm fishing a river I'm not familiar with. When I'm not familiar with an area, I try to stop in at the nearest flyshop and get some advice. Any good flyshop (like Kiene's) will have a friendly knowledgeable staff who can tell you what's happening on the area rivers. If you go out and get skunked, go back and talk to them some more--they want you to succeed and will be your support team as long as you're nice and willing to take their advice. In exchange, spend a few dollars on flies and leaders every time you visit to make sure they stay in business. Feel free to take your business elsewhere if they're grumpy and can't be bothered by your questions (I doubt that would happen at Kiene's).

    If (for whatever reason) I can't find or don't have time to go to the local fly shop I fish an Adams until I see something else hatching.

    Last tip: inspect the spiderwebs by the river. It's a good way to find out what was hatching the previous day.

    Hope that helps.


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