One of my favorite fly fishing tactics to share is understanding how to present the fly and matching the hatch.

Fly fishing will provide you with a lifetime of learning and enjoyment. You will learn from your experiences as well as from other people sharing their trout fishing tips. Here are some tips that will teach you how to fly fish.


This article is Part of a Series on Fly Fishing Tactics – Read More:

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Fly Presentation

Presentation is critical when it comes to fly fishing. The flies you select are very important to whether you catch fish or not. Whether you use a dry fly, a wet fly or terrestrial you must have good technique. You must use the correct size and color and put it where the fish expect to see it when you present a fly in order to catch fish.

Click Here to -> Download a Midwest Hatch Chart

Fish know when a hatch is occurring, and exactly what the fly should look like. These are important fly fishing for trout tips. If your presentation isn’t correct, they will simply pass. It can be frustrating when you think you know what they are eating and you put it in front of them just so they can take a close look at your fly and turn away. The reasons for the denial can be many things.

Guide Tip:  I’ve got another article that describes – What a Dead Drift is in Fly Fishing.  Plus, this article has some neat tips.  Check it out!

One reason could be that your fly is too big or small. Trout are looking for something that looks exactly like everything else that is floating by them. If your fly is bigger, it doesn’t make it more tempting to the fish. It makes them say to themselves, “something doesn’t look right” and they let yours drift by.

Favorite-Nymphs-wd40-copper-john-flashback
Favorite-Nymphs-wd40-copper-john-flashback

Your fly may be the wrong color. There is a big difference between brown and tan, or tan and cream. Make sure you match the color as closely as possible otherwise they will just let your imitation drift by.

More than likely the problem may be your presentation. If you are using a dry fly, it could be that your fly is not in front of your fly line so it is getting dragged and is moving faster than what is on the surface. It may even be getting pulled closer to you so it will not be traveling in a straight line like it should be.

Guide Tip: Applying floatant is a key to keeping your fly drifting high.  Read more about Floating a Dry Fly -> HERE

You need to continually be mending your line to keep the fly downstream from your fly line, which will reduce the drag. To mend your line, you want to swing the fly line from downstream of the fly to upstream of the fly using a roll cast. Watch this YouTube video for more about roll casting.

https://youtu.be/_wlDmMcr8Ns

You must be careful not to disturb the leader and the last little bit of fly line that is floating on the water. You are attempting to put the fly line upstream of the fly so the fly will float naturally, instead of being dragged.

Mend video https://youtu.be/QrvzZOu2ntc

It may be that your fly got a little too wet and it is not on top of the water like it should be. Make a few false casts to dry the fly or put some floatant on the fly. Both of these will make the fly float better and not sink below the water surface.

Lastly it may be your leader or tippet. The clearer and slower the water the longer your leader and tippet should be to allow for a better presentation. But it doesn’t stop there. It could be the way your fly is tied on to the leader. Maybe you have some curls in your line just above the hook that is causing it to look funny to the fish. Seems like a petty item, but the fish really are very smart and they will not strike if something doesn’t look right.

If you are using a nymph the problem could be that the fly line is in front of the fly pulling the fly at a faster rate than everything else in the water. Just like a dry fly you will need to continue to mend your fly line to keep the fly downstream.

Video https://youtu.be/CB3T2_q9LWs

It could also be that it is not at the fly isn’t at the depth where the fish are looking. Having the proper weight is almost more important than having the right nymph. The presentation of the fly needs to be into their feeding zone. If you see the fish close to the surface then maybe you don’t need any weight. If you don’t see them at the surface you may experiment with different weights until you find the one that is working.

Dry-Dropper Setup

One of the tactics many fly-fisherman like to use is a dropper setup when fishing. Personally, I do this most often with nymphs, but some drop a nymph from a dry fly.

I have had great success where I like to fish using a Pheasant Tail or a Zebra Midge. What you do is tie on a high floating dry fly like a hopper and then add about 12”-18” of tippet and tie your Zebra Midge or Pheasant Tail nymph.  Tie the “dropper” onto the bend in your hook so it comes directly off the back of your fly.

Rig a DRY FLY with Dropper

Some people like to use opposite colors when doing a double dropper. So, they would put a darker fly on top and a lighter colored fly on the bottom. Some fly-fisherman will put a dry on top, like a BWO, and put an emerger as the dropper.

The purpose for the Dry-Dropper is to catch the attention of the fish with the first fly. Once they see the first fly, hopefully they will also see the second fly and strike. Give this method a try and see what happens. It won’t double your fish count but it could add to it each time.

BWO Blue Winged Olive for Fly Fishing
BWO Blue Winged Olive for Fly Fishing

Identifying Where the Fish Are

One of the other very important tactics to understand is that you need to be able to read the water to determine where you think the fish will be so you can be productive.

That is easy during a hatch when you see the fish hitting on the top of the water. But what about when everything that is being gobble up is underneath the water surface?

Some of the obvious spots will be along the banks where there is cover and behind obstructions where the current is not too strong. Here are a couple more.

When a big flat area or pool narrows up to go into a run or riffle you will find them just before the run. The wide river will funnel into a narrow stretch and it will pick up speed. This funnel is bringing hundreds of insects into this tight range and the fish know it’s coming.

The fish will hold in the seams in the slower water on both sides of the fastest part of this area. Then they can dart in and out of the fast water eating the flies as they drift by. Cast upstream of this area and try to get your fly to drift through these seams. Fish-on!

Another area is when a riffle or run dumps into a pool. The water is going from one level of flow to a deeper level and often times there will be a slight ledge at the end of the riffle area that the water goes over. If the ledge exists the fish can hold just below the fast current and eat the insects that are dropping off the ledge.

The momentum of the water will carry the insects to where the fish are holding, and the holding fish are in a slower current so they don’t have to spend much energy to eat these bugs. Cast into the run and let the fly drift out through this ledge area and beyond to where the current really slows down. Be alert because many times you will hook them at the end of your drift.


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Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How 2 Fly Fish