Help with fishing Dry Flies

hunterk

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Got out to a local stream today to do some trout fishing, and it was a great day, and I still caught a few fish, but I feel like I had a lot of missed opportunities...

I wanted to fish with dry flies today (which I did), and I saw fish aggressively rising to mayflies all day. In total, I think I had about 15 or more takes on my size 20 mayfly pattern, but only got one fish to the net. The fish were really hitting the fly, usually perpendicular to it and sometimes even partially coming out of the water to eat it, but nearly every time I went to strike I didn't hook up (I even saw one fish jump out of the water to eat). I tried a bunch of different techniques, I lifted slowly, quickly, downstream, upstream, etc... but the only one time I hooked up was when I set the hook with a lot of force as fast as possible, and I struck so violently I lifted the little trout out of the water. In my previous experiences, the fish in this stream usually hook themselves, and don't require much more than a calm lift to hook up, so what was going wrong today? I'm not sure if it is a technique issue or if the fish were just swiping at my fly the whole time, but any help is much appreciated...
 

osseous

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Gotta wait for them to turn down after the take. Doesn't take a lot of force to set a sz 20- just lift the rod "smartly".

Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk
 

scotty macfly

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When I see the fish take the fly, I usually say to myself two short words, like, hot dog, or fish on. You can even count to two. But this gives the fish time to turn around and then you set the hook against the fish, resulting in what I believe a better hook set because the fish is now facing upstream, and you below the fish. At least I assume you were casting upstream.

Or with that many fish you say went for your fly, and you missed them, I'd say chances were they were slapping at it. But without me there with you seeing it for myself, it's hard to say.
 

silver creek

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Got out to a local stream today to do some trout fishing, and it was a great day, and I still caught a few fish, but I feel like I had a lot of missed opportunities...

I wanted to fish with dry flies today (which I did), and I saw fish aggressively rising to mayflies all day. In total, I think I had about 15 or more takes on my size 20 mayfly pattern, but only got one fish to the net. The fish were really hitting the fly, usually perpendicular to it and sometimes even partially coming out of the water to eat it, but nearly every time I went to strike I didn't hook up (I even saw one fish jump out of the water to eat). I tried a bunch of different techniques, I lifted slowly, quickly, downstream, upstream, etc... but the only one time I hooked up was when I set the hook with a lot of force as fast as possible, and I struck so violently I lifted the little trout out of the water. In my previous experiences, the fish in this stream usually hook themselves, and don't require much more than a calm lift to hook up, so what was going wrong today? I'm not sure if it is a technique issue or if the fish were just swiping at my fly the whole time, but any help is much appreciated...
This sounds like late refusals to me especially with small flies like the size 20 you were fishing. I will explain why later in my post.

When a fish changes its mind on the way up, it just closes it mouth and the momentum of the fish still takes it up to the fly. This is called a "late refusal."

The most frequent cause of LR's is micro drag, but there are other causes.

The thing to remember is that trout have very poor vision compared to humans. Because trout do not have a macula, their ability to see fine detail is 1/14 of human vision.

With a size 20 dry fly, the fish has to get very close to the fly to examine it. Secondly, a size 20 fly is extremely susceptible to drag. It requires a thin and limber tippet with slack for the fly to float drag free. So the fish comes up because the fly size is correct, but as it gets closer, it sees something is not right like microdrag or the fly is not in the right film layer (under, in or on), or the fly is the wrong size, etc. So the fish refuses the fly. It looks like a rise to you and the nose of the fish may even bump the fly; but the fish did not take, it refused. It is a common error to think a late refusal is a rise, because it leaves the "ring of the rise" BUT it does not leave a tell tale air bubble of an actual take.

A late refusal is not a bad thing because:

(1) You know there is a fish in that location that will take a proper fly with a proper presentation.

(2) You know the the fly and presentation were very close to the natural.

I said that drag is #1 cause for late refusals. So counter drag:

(1) Examine your casting position. Is there a better location from which to cast that would cross fewer currents, make of fewer mends, and longer drag free drifts.

(2) Lengthen your tippet. If you have 2 feet of 6 X, put on 3-4 feet of 6 x.

(3) If lengthening the tippet does not work go down in tippet diameter. For the size trout you were fishing to you could try 3-4 feet of 7X when 6X doesn't work.

If reducing drag down NOT work, then you must assume it is the fly.

(1) Put on an earlier stage of the pattern you have on. If you have on dun pattern, try an emerger. If you have an emerger, try a "floating" nymph in or just under the film.

(2) If an earlier stage does not work, then consider that you may have a masking hatch. Look for smaller flies on the water but in your case, this was unlikely,

For completeness in describing late refusals a cause may be a smaller insect hatch that may be masked by the larger insect that is more obvious to you. The smaller insect hatch is more prolific than the larger hatch and so the fish feed on the smaller insects because there are more of them on the water.

When fish are feeding selectively, I always look for a masking hatch before I decide to put on a fly. One clue is that there are many more rises than the number of larger insects would indicate. So if you see a lot of rises but only a few large insects on the water and in the air, look for a smaller hatch that the fish are feeding on.

In your case, you were using a size 20 fly BUT could the actual hatch been a size 22? I would have tried a size 22 BECAUSE for small flies, the hook eye makes up a relatively LARGER percentage of the hook that the fly is tied on. SOOO.... the fish sees the hook eye as being a part of the length of the imitation and for a size 20 fly, the fish may take it as a size 18 and therefore too large. That can cause a late refusal.

See: Gary Borger >> Blog Archive >> All Hooks are Not Created Equal

"Many anglers had noted over the years that if the fish doesn’t take the fly that seems to be the right size, then try one a size smaller. However, what I had not understood, and what everyone else had not understood it seems, is that the eye is a very important component of the overall imitation, especially in smaller sizes. Because of the hook eye, a fly dressed on a size 18 looks the same size as a natural that measures a size 16. So, I no longer measure the hook in the traditional manner, from back of the eye to bend. I now measure them from the front of the eye to the bend."

Going a size smaller is especially true if you tie on "big eye hooks" for your smaller flies.

All the suggestion above ASSUME that you are skilled enough to rise forms so when you are fishing with surface flies, you are NOT confusing a head and shoulder rise for a dry fly rise.

Rise forms are an entirely separate subject. I describe rise forms on this thread:

A Real Predicament

In summary:

The order in which you make changes depends on the situation. For example, if the fish are actually rising and refusing the fly, the most likely cause is micro drag.

I think the most likely explanation for what you experienced was that you were getting late refusals and the most likely causes were microdrag vs too large a pattern.

-------

The above ASSUMES that the problem was NOT the small hook gape on your fly. This can also be a cause of missed fish. So a wide gap hook and/or a kirb (offset) will help. You can manually offset small fly hooks you bought but be careful not to damage them.
 
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tcorfey

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When I get into that situation I will sometimes switch to a similar size and pattern of wet fly that rides just below the surface. Another technique that has worked for me is to cut the hackles off the bottom of the same dry fly I am using in order for it to sit lower in the water and that can change everything.

Regards,

Tim C.
 

hunterk

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This sounds like late refusals to me especially with small flies like the size 20 you were fishing. I will explain why later in my post.

When a fish changes its mind on the way up, it just closes it mouth and the momentum of the fish still takes it up to the fly. This is called a "late refusal."

The most frequent cause of LR's is micro drag, but there are other causes.

The thing to remember is that trout have very poor vision compared to humans. Because trout do not have a macula, their ability to see fine detail is 1/14 of human vision.

With a size 20 dry fly, the fish has to get very close to the fly to examine it. Secondly, a size 20 fly is extremely susceptible to drag. It requires a thin and limber tippet with slack for the fly to float drag free. So the fish comes up because the fly size is correct, but as it gets closer, it sees something is not right like microdrag or the fly is not in the right film layer (under, in or on), or the fly is the wrong size, etc. So the fish refuses the fly. It looks like a rise to you and the nose of the fish may even bump the fly; but the fish did not take, it refused. It is a common error to think a late refusal is a rise, because it leaves the "ring of the rise" BUT it does not leave a tell tale air bubble of an actual take.

A late refusal is not a bad thing because:

(1) You know there is a fish in that location that will take a proper fly with a proper presentation.

(2) You know the the fly and presentation were very close to the natural.

I said that drag is #1 cause for late refusals. So counter drag:

(1) Examine your casting position. Is there a better location from which to cast that would cross fewer currents, make of fewer mends, and longer drag free drifts.

(2) Lengthen your tippet. If you have 2 feet of 6 X, put on 3-4 feet of 6 x.

(3) If lengthening the tippet does not work go down in tippet diameter. For the size trout you were fishing to you could try 3-4 feet of 7X when 6X doesn't work.

If reducing drag down NOT work, then you must assume it is the fly.

(1) Put on an earlier stage of the pattern you have on. If you have on dun pattern, try an emerger. If you have an emerger, try a "floating" nymph in or just under the film.

(2) If an earlier stage does not work, then consider that you may have a masking hatch. Look for smaller flies on the water but in your case, this was unlikely,

For completeness in describing late refusals a cause may be a smaller insect hatch that may be masked by the larger insect that is more obvious to you. The smaller insect hatch is more prolific than the larger hatch and so the fish feed on the smaller insects because there are more of them on the water.

When fish are feeding selectively, I always look for a masking hatch before I decide to put on a fly. One clue is that there are many more rises than the number of larger insects would indicate. So if you see a lot of rises but only a few large insects on the water and in the air, look for a smaller hatch that the fish are feeding on.

In your case, you were using a size 20 fly BUT could the actual hatch been a size 22? I would have tried a size 22 BECAUSE for small flies, the hook eye makes up a relatively LARGER percentage of the hook that the fly is tied on. SOOO.... the fish sees the hook eye as being a part of the length of the imitation and for a size 20 fly, the fish may take it as a size 18 and therefore too large. That can cause a late refusal.

See: Gary Borger >> Blog Archive >> All Hooks are Not Created Equal

"Many anglers had noted over the years that if the fish doesn’t take the fly that seems to be the right size, then try one a size smaller. However, what I had not understood, and what everyone else had not understood it seems, is that the eye is a very important component of the overall imitation, especially in smaller sizes. Because of the hook eye, a fly dressed on a size 18 looks the same size as a natural that measures a size 16. So, I no longer measure the hook in the traditional manner, from back of the eye to bend. I now measure them from the front of the eye to the bend."

Going a size smaller is especially true if you tie on "big eye hooks" for your smaller flies.

All the suggestion above ASSUME that you are skilled enough to rise forms so when you are fishing with surface flies, you are NOT confusing a head and shoulder rise for a dry fly rise.

Rise forms are an entirely separate subject. I describe rise forms on this thread:

A Real Predicament

In summary:

The order in which you make changes depends on the situation. For example, if the fish are actually rising and refusing the fly, the most likely cause is micro drag.

I think the most likely explanation for what you experienced was that you were getting late refusals and the most likely causes were microdrag vs too large a pattern.

-------

The above ASSUMES that the problem was NOT the small hook gape on your fly. This can also be a cause of missed fish. So a wide gap hook and/or a kirb (offset) will help. You can manually offset small fly hooks you bought but be careful not to damage them.
The trout didn't seem picky at all when I was fishing, and took most everything I threw at them, so I (respectfully) am guessing that late refusals wasn't my issue. I didn't only fish a bwo, but also an x caddis as well, which also produced its fair share of missed takes as well, and honestly, it seemed to me like they would've hit just about anything.

That being said, I looked at the post you had on rise forms, and this intrigues me specifically... I don't get a chance to fish dries a lot (as may be obvious :)), however, I could tell that the rises were different from what I have seen in the past. To describe it specifically, the fish were rising very quickly and almost slashing at the fly (the takes were sideways and came from below instead of downstream), which left a splash and a bubble on top. It was very audible, though most of the time it happened so fast you couldn't really see the fish (there were a couple of occasions where you could, and one as I mentioned where the fish cleared the water completely). When I was reading your post on rise forms, it sounded a little like the "head and shoulders" rise, but they were rising right on top of my fly, so it seemed pretty evident to me that they were trying to eat it. Also, I had fished some subsurface patterns earlier in the day (pheasant tails on a dry-dropper), and they seemed much more interested in the dry than the nymph.

I think that (looking at what scotty and osseous said) perhaps I was reacting too quickly to the takes, when instead I was too worried about not being quick enough. The takes happened in a split second, and I thought I was missing my opportunity by not striking immediately, when actually it is possible I should've let them had it for longer, and I was yanking the fly out of their mouths. Nevertheless, I will get out again soon, and I appreciate the help silver.

Sincerely,

Hunter
 

satyr

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I fish dries almost exclusively. I pretty much never wait to set the hook. Some places I fish have picky, well trained trout and they just don't hold onto a fly for very long. The minute they take it they can feel that it isn't real and will spit it out so you need to be pretty quick. I would agree with Silver Creek, you probably were getting rejected a lot. When that happens I will try to fish down and across and get a good reach cast or mend so that the line is above the fly and there is a good amount of slack in the leader/tippet so that I don't get any drag. I find that if I can get 5 or 6 feet of drag free float I will catch pretty much everything I cast to. I also find that at times I will only get takes if the fly is facing upstream. And like others have said, try going down one size.
 

dillon

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When a fish believes your bug is real, it opens its mouth, creates suction with its gills that pulls the bu in, and then shuts its mouth and swallows.

When a fish senses something is fake, it may open its mouth, the fly goes in but the fish does not create suction with its gills, or close its mouth. The fly simply washes out. Some fish may get hooked before the fly goes out, but it is a lucky thing and the fish may not get hooked solidly, resulting in a lost fish.

This type of refusal may indicate the wrong fly size or pattern. It may also be a last second sense that there is a string attached to the bug.

When dry fly fishing, I may have several fish come to the fly. Some fish will refuse the bug and some will eat it. Some will get hooked and some won’t. Some that are hooked will not be landed and hopefully a couple nice ones will come to hand and be released. It’s all part of a very absorbing experience. A lot of variables and skills are involved in fishing and catching trout on a dry fly. Much, much more than how one sets the hook. If the fly really does it your bug, a gentle lift in a timely manner will take care of it. Deep, or hook sets within the mouth are a good indication you are presenting the right bug, properly. If a fish really wants your fly it rarely or never misses. Just as I never whiff on a chuck of rib steak on the end of my fork...
 

brownbass

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Last spring I had a similar experience with splashy refusals. I lengthened my leader, improved my mending and presentation by practicing at a local pond. The next time on the water I was hooking up more often. I would even say I was killing them (not literally).

Bill
 

Davebuech

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I fish dries quite a bit....(might be an understatement)... I also don't wait for the fish to turn down after the take and strike immediately so I don't think it was your timing. A lot of good suggestions and info here. IMO SilverCreek and Satyr pretty well sum it up. You were close but not exactly on with the fly or presentation or both. It's exciting and frustrating at the same time, but believe me it happens to everyone at one time or another. It's part of the puzzle that eventually will come together. I have found that often a fish will take an emerger pattern that hangs just below the surface film when repeatedly refusing a dry. I will frequently fish one behind my dry until they tell me exactly which one they prefer.
Keep at it and I am sure your hook up rate will improve.
 

flav

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Sounds like a simple losing streak to me. I fish primarily dries, and sometimes I go through those streaks too. Sometimes the fish are just not taking my flies or refusing them, sometimes it's fly design, sometimes it's me. Relax, you could just as easily hook every fish that rises next time on the river.
I once watched the best fisherman I know miss about twenty rises in a row, while I hooked fish consistently through the hatch. He got a bit frustrated, but mostly we laughed about it. The streak ended and he went back to out fishing me.
My advice is relax, at least you were getting rises. If it happens next time, then maybe you have an issue. My guess is you'll hook more next time.
 

satyr

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Relax, you could just as easily hook every fish that rises next time on the river.
This is certainly the best advice on this thread. But, if you fail to hookup a lot multiple times, take the rest of our advice seriously.
 

silver creek

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The trout didn't seem picky at all when I was fishing, and took most everything I threw at them, so I (respectfully) am guessing that late refusals wasn't my issue. I didn't only fish a bwo, but also an x caddis as well, which also produced its fair share of missed takes as well, and honestly, it seemed to me like they would've hit just about anything.

That being said, I looked at the post you had on rise forms, and this intrigues me specifically... I don't get a chance to fish dries a lot (as may be obvious :)), however, I could tell that the rises were different from what I have seen in the past. To describe it specifically, the fish were rising very quickly and almost slashing at the fly (the takes were sideways and came from below instead of downstream), which left a splash and a bubble on top. It was very audible, though most of the time it happened so fast you couldn't really see the fish (there were a couple of occasions where you could, and one as I mentioned where the fish cleared the water completely). When I was reading your post on rise forms, it sounded a little like the "head and shoulders" rise, but they were rising right on top of my fly, so it seemed pretty evident to me that they were trying to eat it. Also, I had fished some subsurface patterns earlier in the day (pheasant tails on a dry-dropper), and they seemed much more interested in the dry than the nymph.

I think that (looking at what scotty and osseous said) perhaps I was reacting too quickly to the takes, when instead I was too worried about not being quick enough. The takes happened in a split second, and I thought I was missing my opportunity by not striking immediately, when actually it is possible I should've let them had it for longer, and I was yanking the fly out of their mouths. Nevertheless, I will get out again soon, and I appreciate the help silver.

Sincerely,

Hunter
When fish are competing for food during a hatch, they compete with each other, especially the more energetic smaller trout. The food item provides more calories for their body mass so small trout can make splashy rises whereas a large trout sips because he gets the less energy per body mass from each food item.

When a small fish is racing for food AND then does a late refusal, it will turn away from the fly at the last moment. If it doesn not turn, it will run into the fly.

This can look like the fish is taking the fly sideways but it is actually refusing. So the sideways move you describe is an example of a late refusal.
 
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flafly14

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I had one time where I was getting a ton of missed hookups on a dry. I got so frustrated. I eventually brought in my fly and noticed that the wing post had gotten turned around 180 degrees on the hook such that it was now acting as a weed guard and preventing the hook from penetrating the fish's mouth. I turned the wing back over back over and immediately started catching fish, cussing myself for waiting so long before inspecting my fly.
 
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