A few questions about dry flies over fast riffles

bigtasty114

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(Yes, I checked the search function and did not see any threads on this so I apologize if this has already been brought up)

These questions are for a trout stream (I only fish Pennsylvania) where the section I am targeting is medium to shallow riffles that extend the whole width of the river. Meaning, I know that I should be targeting seams, boudlers, and even transition points from riffles to across the stream where there is a slower current. But a lot of the streams I fish have these long riffles, I'm talking 20 yards in some cases, and they go all the way across the stream, and I want to learn how to catch a trout on a dry fly in them. I have caught a decent amount on dry flies in slower water, back eddys, seams, etc. finally got that part down. But I hate just walking past these sections. So.......

1. What is the best position to cast a dry fly to a fast riffle, quarter upstream, across, or downstream. Or does it not matter or depend on other factors?

2. How the hell do you stop drag from pulling the fly? Wow, much respect to the guys that can do this because each time I try my fly goes crazy and is no way floating natural. The trout must be laughing at my presentation. I'm thinking maybe a tenkara type presentation with my 9 foot 5 weight?

3. How do you see the fly in fast, white, rapids? Should I put a flourescent green post on it?

4. How do you see the trout taking a dry fly in these rapids? It is so quick I don't think I have ever seen trout taking dries in riffles (yes, I know that they are). I do wear amber polarized glasses fwiw.

5. Any type of patterns that work especially well in riffles?

Thanks for any help!
 

bumble54

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My experience of such conditions is from a long way back now so take it for what it's worth. If possible enter the water quietly and carefully at the bottom of the riffle facing upstream, you will be behind the fish so provided you don't do anything stupid they will be less aware of you. Cast a short line aiming to keep most of the line off the water. A bushy fly, palmered being my own preference, watch the end of the line rather than the fly, if it checks in it's travels downstream, tighten immediately, you must be on the ball at all times and concentrate. I say short range because control in fast water is much more difficult and takes are too easily missed, spooking too many fish. If the water is unwadable ( is that a word? ), fishing along the edges of the steam can prove an eye opener. I once caught three beautiful browns in a stretch of water no more than nine inches deep and two yards long almost under the bank. No doubt you will soon find out what doesn't work, but only if you try. You may need to tailor the leader to the water you are fishing, go for as short leader as you feel confident in using.
 

hollisd

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1. In ripples you're better off using a dry as an indicator. Try tying a size 18 red zebra midge 12-18" off the shank of any dry that floats. I guarantee you will catch more fish on the midge than the dry. In small sizes, this fly is deadly. In fast water, fish are not feeding on the surface as much as looking to dart for food cruising through the water column. While you can catch a trout on the surface in riffles, you'll have much better results subsurface. An advantage that fast water affords anglers is mistakes aren't as costly as slow conveyor belt water because time is on your side. Hungry opportunistic trout don't have the luxury of time to be picky or notice your line management mistakes. When I'm tired, I like fishing fast water because I know I can make mistakes sans costly penalties.

2. There are myriad of ways to cast or throw slack in your line to avoid drag. But the best way is to fish short distances across a single current. That's why most fish are caught at common trout distances via easy controlled casts and not hero casting across the main current plus micro currents. So, work close in by dissecting an area including targeting the least fishy looking water; fish and move on.

3. You see your fly in fast water by fishing go-to dries that float like a cork with a white or fluorescent parachute. After awhile it becomes intuitive and you're never going to see a black ant in a fast current no matter how expensive your polarized sunglasses were.

5a. Tiny nymphs. Europeans have made a living at the world championships fishing Perdigon nymphs. See also the aforementioned zebra midge. As a general rule, tanks are not in fast ripples like you describe. Since the fish are smaller so is their food. I would start with a size 18 nymph and go down from there. Have something buggy like a hare's ear nymph but limit your options to a few workhorse flies.

5b. Chuck a dadgum woolly bugger and let it dead drift. Since you're fishing Pennsylvania, I would try a brown and orange and/or yellow bugger plus some with rubber legs that imitate crayfish. With time, this will slay from small trout to trophies. Remember a woolly bugger with some flash in the tail will never let you down.

6. The best fishing is in the headwaters before the ripples as well as the tailouts. The ripples will fish fine but smaller immature fish are feeding there while wiser larger fish are in habitat that offers better protection, more abundant food, and less energy expenditure.
 
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Joey Bagels

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1. Always cast up, let it drift down.
2. You can’t avoid drag. Cast short. It’s broken water. They don’t see you until you’re standing on top of them.
3. Fluorescent helps but also see 2.
4. You will see it or your line will abruptly stop drifting. Either way, you’ll see it.
5. Foam ants (large Mamba Ants that look like carpenters work great) or elk hair caddis (Caddis live there) are my go-to flies. But also try beetles and crickets or a lightning bug pattern. All with fluorescent indicators if that makes you happy. Also, as mentioned, buggers and muddler minnows fished like a wet fly or semi-dead drift can work wonders.
 

Unknownflyman

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I fish a lot of fast water and broken water with dry flies. Some of my best fish have come out of fast broken water and the takes and battle are seriously epic. Also a lot of fishers avoid this type of water so undisturbed fish reside there, trout feel safe even in shallower water and while it may take more tries for a take, they can see it and will hammer it with a good presentation.

Flies- I fish whatever is hatching however its hard to go wrong with caddis in my area, caddis skitter and skate if you ever watched them hatch and trout hammer them. I think the biggest thing is to tie the fly with the ability to skate a bit and proper use of floatant is a must. Gel then top ride.

Position, quartering up stream or straight up river having the line away from the fish on the drift, you dont want any fly line over any of the fish holding structure, if they can hammer a tiny dry fly buzzing by at 12 MPH what do you think the line will do.
I have drifted and skated fishing down and pulled some nice browns but generally the dead drift/skate is more effective because its easier to be more stealthy. Lots of accurate mending, mend and mend some more.

Read the fast water. So a big part of this deal is to know where the fish are going to be held up, casting to the wrong areas and lining the good fish holding areas is not going to work for large wary browns. Seams, and current- look to make sure the river is going to work with you, Ive had a good plan and watched as the fly moved out of the zone and I lined fish.

You can get a little closer, as long as you are stealthy, position of the sun, heavy footfalls and line shadow is your nemesis here.

Even though the river is fast and broken, any shadow or movement signals a large bird of prey coming in for the kill to these fish and I've watched eagles and osprey come down for the kill, sometimes very close to me.

A number of times over the years I've hiked to these areas and have my fishing partner say "its too fast" and I just smile.

Yeah naw, its good.
 

Mr Beardsley

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Good tips. My biggest issue was just seeing the fly. Makes sense to keep the line very short and watch the line and not the fly.
 

silver creek

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(Yes, I checked the search function and did not see any threads on this so I apologize if this has already been brought up)

These questions are for a trout stream (I only fish Pennsylvania) where the section I am targeting is medium to shallow riffles that extend the whole width of the river. Meaning, I know that I should be targeting seams, boudlers, and even transition points from riffles to across the stream where there is a slower current. But a lot of the streams I fish have these long riffles, I'm talking 20 yards in some cases, and they go all the way across the stream, and I want to learn how to catch a trout on a dry fly in them. I have caught a decent amount on dry flies in slower water, back eddys, seams, etc. finally got that part down. But I hate just walking past these sections. So.......

1. What is the best position to cast a dry fly to a fast riffle, quarter upstream, across, or downstream. Or does it not matter or depend on other factors?

2. How the hell do you stop drag from pulling the fly? Wow, much respect to the guys that can do this because each time I try my fly goes crazy and is no way floating natural. The trout must be laughing at my presentation. I'm thinking maybe a tenkara type presentation with my 9 foot 5 weight?

3. How do you see the fly in fast, white, rapids? Should I put a flourescent green post on it?

4. How do you see the trout taking a dry fly in these rapids? It is so quick I don't think I have ever seen trout taking dries in riffles (yes, I know that they are). I do wear amber polarized glasses fwiw.

5. Any type of patterns that work especially well in riffles?

Thanks for any help!

Riffles are the food factories and oxygen producers of rivers.

Riffles are caused by a cobbley irregular bottom which is shallow enough to create the riffles. Riffles oxygenate the water and irregular bottom which is shallow enough to get a lot of sunlight, allows underwater plants and algae to flourish. This makes riffles the food factories of a river and the rocky bottom allows nymphs to thrive.

The choppy surface of riffles helps hide and protect the fish from overhead predators. But water depth, water velocity, and fish size matters! Too shallow and too big fish still can be seen by eagles and osprey. In open water without overhead cover, water shallower than a foot in depth will only hold the small fish. The faster the water, the shallower it has to be for a fish to rise. Rising and then returning to the holding lie takes more energy as the water gets faster; so the depth from which a fish will rise for a dry fly depends on both water velocity and water depth.

The best depth for fishing dry flies is up to about mid thigh depth. Any deeper and it takes too much energy for the fish to rise for a singly fly. If the riffles are deeper, fishing dry flies during a hatch is best. So when prospecting with a dry during non-hatch periods, fish the riffles that are between mid calf and mid thigh depth.

Flow in riffles is chaotic and disorganized in the open water. That makes drag more difficult for the fish to detect and also for the fisher person to correct. Although fish will use rocks and boulders for hydraulic cover, the fish can be anywhere so do not ignore open water. The fish can be anywhere that has enough riffles and depth to protect them from detection. Even a small 6" rock at the bottom is a holding spot for a fish.

Dry fly choice during non-hatch can either be an attractor like a Royal Wulff that is a high floater or an imitative pattern that matches hatches that have just come off or are going to come off later in the day. Elk hair caddis and parachute patterns are my favorite flies to use to imitate caddis or mayflies that have or are going to hatch. Use the color fly that matches the expected or past hatch.

Since the fish can be anywhere in a riffle use the "shotgun" method to fish the riffles, fanning your casts upstream from your position. You have to also fish both river edges uses up and across casts.

Watch this video by my friend Gary Borger. He is fishing the riffles at $3 bride on the Madison River.

 

osseous

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Try a Goddard Caddis- fished upstream. Strip and raise your rod tip to keep the slack under control.

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upstreamcast

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Drag is definitely the enemy. To avoid drag on line use mending techniques including the best which is the reach cast. Excellent for across water fishing. Reach cast and then rod mend...longer the rod the easier and better the mends. The best way to get drag free drifts is to fish downstream. Float your flies directly down stream. Techniques to use are the Pile Cast and/or Parachute cast. I prefer the Parachute cast and letting line out with drift. This allows better contact with your fly for hook setting. With difficult flows...riffles, current margins, etc....best to fish downstream using the Parachute Cast. JMHO
 

hatidua

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The best way to get drag free drifts is to fish downstream. Float your flies directly down stream. Techniques to use are the Pile Cast and/or Parachute cast. I prefer the Parachute cast and letting line out with drift. This allows better contact with your fly for hook setting. With difficult flows...riffles, current margins, etc....best to fish downstream using the Parachute Cast. JMHO
I realize that conventional wisdom dictates we are to fish upstream but I gave up on that 'rule' many years ago and seem to encounter ample numbers of fish that never bothered to read the regulations.
 

osseous

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Not the best approach in a riffle, however-

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boisker

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I’d also add not to try for long drifts, try and cast with some slack in the leader and line, before the leader straightens out pick up and lay down again.. if you make fairly short casts without lots of line to manage you can cover the water quickly and easily with short rod length drifts... depending on the riffle you may get longer drifts, just watch the fly and slack in the line, which will dictate how soon to pick up and lay down
 
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