11 Reasons You’re Not Catching Trout

Catching trout is not easy today. You are batting .000. Maybe the fish are simply not biting. Or maybe you’re not catching trout because of one or more of these 11 reasons:

1. It’s a bright sunny day.

Not always, but I’ve often had better luck on overcast days, especially for BWOs (blue winged olives), which is a common hatch during the spring. Catching trout on cloudy days tends to be pattern for me.

2. Your fly is too big.

Whether you’re nymphing or on the surface, drop a size or two. Go smaller. Make sure you have multiple sizes of the same fly in your fly box.

3. You cast like your mama.

Unless your mama wears wading boots. Figure out a way to false cast less. Precision casting is supposed to be hard. It’s even harder on smaller streams with trees and brush. Catching trout is tied to how well you cast.

4. Your dead drift looks like a rubber ducky with spasms.

Your presentation is almost always the problem. Your fly simply doesn’t look like an insect, dead or alive. Try harder.

5. You scared ‘em.

You should not have walked up to the run like a drunk Abominable Snowman. Crawl next time. On your hands and knees.

6. The run was just fished.

Find a smaller stream with no crowds. Stop fishing the popular rivers during vacation season or on weekends.

7. It’s too early.

Yes, if you want huge browns, then maybe fishing at 4:30 in the morning is a good idea. But if you are fishing hoppers in mid August, for example, sometimes the action doesn’t heat up until late morning.

8. You haven’t moved in 30 minutes.

Remember, fly fishing isn’t bass fishing from shore. Keep moving. After a handful of casts, move on. Find the next run.

9. The river is blown out.

If the river is muddy, why are you fly fishing? Some color may be okay, but if the stream is like chocolate milk, head back to your truck, jump on your phone, and watch Netflix.

10. You’re not deep enough.

Add some split shot to your nymphing rig. Or add some tippet length to your dropper. How often are you bumping the bottom? Every so often is about right.

11. You have the wrong fly.

This should not be your go-to move when you are not catching trout. But if there is a Trico hatch going on and you’re throwing a size #14 parachute Adams, you’ll swear a lot before noon. Know your hatches and patterns.

Give these tips a try, and perhaps your luck will change. You might even impress your mama.

7 Replies to “11 Reasons You’re Not Catching Trout”

  1. Yup. You’re right on.

    I fist started fly fishing last summer in the sandy streams of central WI. Talk about difficult fishing, especially when you are unmindful of these tips. Can’t tell you how many times I was skunked.

    Having learned many lessons, it’s weird to say that my best days of fishing have been winter and early season with water temps below 55. I can’t wait to see what Mat holds!

    Love the podcast, btw. Do you think you could do an episode on strategies for fishing said difficult sand-bottom streams? Best wishes.

    1. Welcome to the fly fishing fraternity, Hans! It’s a great sport, isn’t it. We’ve been skunked our share of times, too. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do. But you’ll keep learning lessons and get better. Maybe we could talk about sand-bottom streams sometimes. I honestly don’t have much experience on them. We’ll have to check sometime with our friend Gary Borger who lived in Wisconsin for several years and has fished about everything there. Maybe he will have some good advice.

  2. Does the color of the fly line you use matter. I see most flyfishers using a green color, I use a bright orange. Does it matter?

    1. Great question, Edward! My short answer is “No. Color does not matter.” While trout can see color, water conditions affect how they perceive it. In general, they see it more vividly on a bright day than when the light is dim. They also see color more vividly from nearby as opposed to a distance. Most experts I’ve read say that from a trout’s vantage point, the line on the surface appears like a thin, black strip–regardless of whether the line is yellow, green, orange, pink, etc. So your bright orange line should not be a problem. Regardless of line color, fly fishers will do well to make their casts at an angle so that the fly line is not directly over the trout they are trying to catch–especially in slower, clearer water.

    2. Edward…Having been a fly fisherman for over 50 years my answer to your question is NO. It doesn’t matter a bit. The color of the line has no place in fly fishing except for the ease of visibility to the fisherman. Honestly, you have a bit of fur and feathers on a 3-6 foot tippet which can range from a couple of pounds upward, followed by 6-9 foot of leader. With 6-15 foot of nylon between you and the fish, not counting the line, they are going to be focused on the presentation and not the color of your line. Be it crystal clear water for Brookies and Rainbows, or roily discolored water for browns, Trust me when I tell you the color of the line doesn’t matter a bit. 🙂

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