Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Midges


My non-fly fishing friends marvel that fly fishers catch large trout on flies the size of a Tic Tac mint. Catching a 20-inch trout on a size #20 fly (or smaller!) is possible, in part, because of Midges.

Here is a brief profile of these tiny insects that are an important part of a trout’s diet:


    • Midges belong to the insect order “Diptera”—a Greek term meaning “two wings”; and

    • Fly fishers sometimes refer to Midges as “Chironomids” because they belong to the family of insects known by its scientific name, Chironomidae (Latin).

The Basics

    • Midges live in all kinds of water. Midges in rivers are a lot smaller (the average is size 20, though they can range from size 16 to size 24) than those living in ponds are lakes;

    • Midges, like all Diptera, go through complete metamorphosis—larva, pupa, and adult stages; and

    • Midges can have up to five generations a year, so trout feed on them constantly in moving water. This means fly fishers can fish them year round. However, the winter is the best time—especially for dry fly patterns—since they are about the only thing hatching.

The Stages of Midges

    • In their larval stage, Midges live in the bottom of streams and rivers, feeding on algae or on decaying plant or animal matter. Dave Hughes, an Oregon fly fisher and entomologist, does not think fly fishers should spend much time trying to imitate them since they are challenging to imitate and since trout do not seem to feed on them exclusively (like they do at times for the next two stages);

    • The pupal stage may be the most important one for fly fishers. When the larvae reach maturity, they begin pupation and are ready to float to the surface. They do this more by floating than swimming, though they wiggle their abdomens a bit to get started. Once they reach the surface, they are trapped until they break the surface tension. This is a time when trout can go into a feeding frenzy. It may look like they are feeding on Midges on the surface. But the trout are actually feeding on Midges in the surface film or just beneath it. Although pupae emerge throughout the day, they show up in larger numbers in the afternoon—and sometimes into early evening; and

    • Midges enter their adult stage once they push through the surface film. In colder months, they float longer, waiting for their wings to harden before they fly away. Mating occurs either on land, in the air, or even in the water. Since they come off the water in great numbers, Midges often form clusters. At times, trout may focus more on these clumps of Midges — a larger meal!—than singles.

Effective Patterns

    • A Zebra Midge, a Brassie or a Krystal Flash Midge can imitate Midges in their larval stage;

    • Midge pupa patterns are legion, so you might need to visit a fly shop and ask for help. Some of the more effective patterns, though, for Midge pupae include the Biot Midge Pupa or the Traditional Midge Pupa. The CDC Transitional Midge or CDC Stillborn Midge are great choices, too, since they imitate the Midge in its transition—or failure to transition—between the pupa and adult stage;

    • For the Adult stage, my favorite patterns – that work well especially for a cluster of Midges – include the Griffith’s Gnat, the Renegade, and the Parachute Adams. Keep in mind that you may have to go to sizes 22 to 26 if you are trying to imitate a single Midge! That’s why I prefer to imitate the clusters.

Other Entomology 101 Articles & Sources

    Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Midges

    Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Blue-Winged Olives

    Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Caddisflies

    Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Pale Morning Dun

    Sources: Dave Hughes, Jim Schollmeyer, Bob Granger

When a Fly Fisher Encounters a Moose

encounters a moose

Many moons ago, I shared a beaver pond with a moose.

I was a teen, fishing near Hoback Junction in Wyoming. A large Brookie darted out from under a rock to take a swipe at my Woolly Worm. Meanwhile, a cow moose watched me from 25 yards away. It was standing in three feet of water on the other side of the small pond.

The moose was dangerously close. But I didn’t panic for three reasons. First, I was so intent on hooking the Brookie (I eventually did) that the potential danger did not register. Second, I knew that the pool created by the beaver dam was at least six feet deep. Third, although I was right about the unlikelihood of a moose trying to charge me through a six-feet deep pool, I underestimated the danger like a typical teenage boys do all the time.

However, I have learned to fear the moose I encounter in the outdoors. I have not had any close calls, although a cow moose came within 30 yards of me when I was bow-hunting elk in a wilderness area in Montana. It stared at me for a couple of minutes before I backed away. A year later, a cow moose—and the bull following her—charged my brother while he was quartering a bull elk he shot on a mountainside in that same wilderness area. The pair veered off when they were ten yards away! My healthy fear of moose comes mainly from the accounts I’ve read and stories I’ve heard.

When a fly fisher encounters a moose, there are ways to avoid the danger. And there are ways simply to avoid the encounter in the first place:

Keep your dog home

No hate mail, please.

“Keep your dog at home” is not a hard and fast rule. But if you’re hunting in moose country, think twice about it. At least keep your dog on a leash. Moose may think your dog is a wolf. There’s nothing pretty about your beautiful lab getting sliced by a knife-sharp moose hoof.

Stay Alert

“Duh, Captain Obvious,” you say.

But alertness is critical, especially true in the spring and in the fall. Whether you’re fly fishing in Maine or Montana, stay alert. Cows calve in the spring, so they will be more cranky and protective of their offspring. Bulls are aggressive in September and October during the rut.

The thick streamside vegetation moose inhabit is the right recipe for a close encounter of the wrong kind.

Stay Away

If you see a moose while you’re on the river, stay away. Don’t risk getting close. Admire it from a distance. Conventional wisdom says to stay at least 25 yards away. However, I’d double that. If you see a cow with a calf, then double it again. There’s no reason to risk an encounter.

Back Away

When a fly fisher encounters a moose (because he or she is so focused on next run to fish), the best strategy is to back away slowly from it.

Run Away

If a moose charges, then run. That’s right! Run. This is lousy advice for dealing with a charging bear. But running from a moose will not incite it. Nor will it be tempted to take you apart with its teeth like a grizzly could.

Moose are not carnivous.

Of course, you can’t outrun a moose — unless you can run faster than 30 miles per hour. But running still works for at least two reasons.

First, as Rachel Levin points out in her book, Look Big, a moose will not follow you very far.

Second, you can usually out-maneuver a half-ton animal if you’re running in a forest, dodging trees and boulders. Find a place to hide. A moose simply wants you out of its space.

Encounters a Moose

There are a lot of dangers to consider when you fly fish — lightning, swift current, venomous snakes, and grizzly bears. When a fly fisher encounters a moose, he or she should But don’t forget about moose if your favorite river or stream happens to be in their back yard.

Other articles we’ve done on safety and the outdoors include:

    Summer’s Greatest Danger for Fly Fishers
    Hidden Dangers for Summer Fly Fishers
    5 More Suggestions for Safe Wading

Scary-But-True Fly Fishing Stories from Our Listeners

gift of fly fishing

Sometimes our listeners tell us fly fishing stories that keep us awake at night.

Perhaps that is an exaggeration. Yet their stories make us shudder. Here are three scary-but-true fly fishing stories our listeners have shared with us.

Gary and the Rising River

“I once had a dangerous moment on Chatahoochie River in Georgia just below the Buford Dam.

”When the dam is about to release (which it does a few times per day), a series of horns will sound indicating the need to get out of the river and head to high ground. I was downstream on the opposite bank when I heard the first horn sound. I immediately began wading across the stream to get to safety, but the pool was already deeper than I expected.

“Then the second horn blew.

“I had to work my way back upstream to find another place to cross. I was mid-stream as the third horn made its call. At that point, I had to tighten my belt and swim across deeper pool created by swiftly flowing 45 degree water. I made safely across the pool.

“But the adventure was not over.

”I still had to run through the woods to avoid being cut off from my party by small tributary now gaining depth. After this final test, I looked back at river. It had risen ten feet in just under 15 minutes.”

Russ and the Deer Hunter

“One morning in late October in the middle of my state’s second rifle season, I arrived at my chosen fishing spot on the South Platte River and noticed a truck in the parking lot that didn’t appear to belong to a fisherman.

“As I walked down to the river, I noticed a group of mule deer bucks across the river in a meadow. I looked repeatedly from the truck to the deer. Then I looked at my waders and jacket. I was tan from top to bottom! So I decided to wait in my truck for a bit. Sure enough, right at shooting light, I heard a gunshot from the hills on the other side of the river. While the hunter did everything right, shooting away from the river and road, I’m still glad I decided to play it safe.

“After that experience, I always wear hunters orange while fishing during hunting season.”

Michael and the Charging Otter Fly Fishing Story

“I often fish alone in some of California’s more remote locations, and I have experienced quite a few nerve-racking encounters involving wildlife–bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes.

“However, regardless of how far-fetched it might seem, my scariest confrontation involved a river otter.

“I had just exited the river and was hiking back to camp when I spotted an otter about twenty yards away. I became mesmerized as I watched it swim effortlessly against the strong swift current of the Pit River. I quickly moved behind some brush about five yards from the riverbank and froze, hoping to go unnoticed in order to prolong the moment.

”Bad move.

“As it approached the bank, the otter left the river at a run and headed directly towards me. It gave no indication of slowing down! I went from this serene moment of thinking “how wonderful it is to view wildlife in a natural setting” to “yikes, this thing’s coming after me!” The otter kept charging until my yelling and arm-waving got it to stop. It was only two feet away when it suddenly turned and headed back to the river.”

Stay alert and stay safe out there!

Short Adjustments to Improve Your Casting

improve your casting

Casting is your biggest challenge as a fly fisher. Sure, fly selection is important. So is reading water. However, if you can’t cast, you can’t catch fish. Improve your casting and you’ll improve your catch rate.

Before you hire a guide or take fly casting lessons from your local fly shop (both are great strategies), here are some “short” adjustments you can make on the fly (pun intended). Trying these immediately might lead to immediate casting improvement.

Shorten Your Casting Distances

I am continually surprised at how many trout I catch with casts of 10 to 15 feet. This is true even in big rivers like the Madison in Montana or the Yellowstone in Yellowstone National Park. If you are struggling with accuracy, limit your casts to 10-15 feet. You will find plenty of fish within this range.

Don’t forget that a lot of the fish in the river live and eat right next to the bank.

Shorten Your Arm Action

Some fly fishers cast like symphony orchestra conductors. They wave their arms, and sway their upper. Perhaps the “shadow casting” scene in A River Runs Through It has inspired this technique. However, all you need to do to make your rod work for you is to flick your wrist.

Practice this before you even pick up your rod: Make a pistol out of your hand (index finger pointing forward, thumb pointing up). Snap your wrist down, then snap it up. Do this over and over. It’s the motion you want to use when you pick up your fly rod to make a cast.

You can move your arm as you flick your wrist. But think of yourself as a baseball catcher trying to throw out a runner attempting to steal second base. The key to a strong throw is the flick of your wrist. The same is true of casting a fly rod.

You’ll be shocked how easily the line shoots out with minimal effort when you put some snap in your cast.

Shorten Your Stroke

I’m still an advocate of viewing your fly rod as a hand on a clock (with apologies to those of you who have long since ditched clocks with ‘hands’ for digital models).

Begin with your rod pointed straight up in the air at the 12 o’clock position. Then, snap it back to 11 o’clock and snap it forward to 1 o’clock. In reality, your back cast may take you to 10, and your forward cast may take you to 2. But if your rod extends to 9 o’clock on your back cast, your fly line is likely to hit the water or the brush.

In my experience, the most egregious casting errors involve the back cast. So concentrate on it. The forward cast usually takes care of itself.

Note that the point of the 11 to 1 approach is not hitting the precise numbers on an imaginary clock. Rather, you are trying to shorten your stroke. If your back cast is too long, your cast will lose energy—not to mention the problems you’ll create by slapping the water or snagging the brush behind you.

Limit the Number of False Casts to Improve Your Casting

The more false casts you make, the more chance you have of snagging brush, creating tangles, and spooking fish.

Why, then, do fly fishers (myself included) make so many false casts?

I’ve pondered this question and have a couple of answers: First, we want our casting rhythm to feel “right.” It may take several false cases to get into the right rhythm. But trout do not award style points for your casting. Nor does the right rhythm guarantee a better cast. Second, I suspect the biggest reason for more false casting is the fear of a wrong landing. So we keep casting our line back and forth in the air.

However, the best fly casters make one back cast and then place the line on the water on the forward cast. There are, of course, exceptions. As long as I’m not false casting over the water, I will make a few false casts to dry out a water-logged dry fly. Also, if I’m making a longer cast, it may take me two or three extra casts in order to let out a sufficient amount of line.

However, as already noted, to improve your casting, shorter casts ought to be the rule — not the exception.

Less is often more. These short adjustments may seem rather simplistic. But they work. They can lead to more effective casting, which leads to catching more fish. So remember, shorten up for success to improve your casting.

Other Articles on Casting

    3 Fly Casting Mistakes that Beginner’s Make

    Trouble with the Cast

S5:E1 Memorable Traditions in the Great Outdoors

fly fishing

Traditions in the great outdoors are routines with meaning. It’s one thing to make a single memory with a fly fishing or hunting trip. But traditions in the great outdoors create multiple layers of memories that enrich and give joy to life. In this episode, Steve and Dave interview Dave’s father on his family’s traditions – and what they means to the family.


Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

What are your favorite or most memorable traditions in the great outdoors? We’d love to hear your stories.

Please post your comments and stories below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.


We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

The One That Got Away

one that got away

A few weeks ago, I fished a deep undercut bank at dusk.

My podcast partner, Dave, and I had an outstanding day on a little spring creek in the Minnesota Driftless. We decided to return in the evening to see if any fish were rising — or if any big ones might be coaxed out of their hiding places. The creek is full of brown trout, so we thought we might get a chance to hook into a big one on the prowl.

We only saw a handful of rising fish. So I tied on a Woolly Bugger to fish a deep undercut bank. After a few strips through the dark water, a fish slammed my fly. It felt like a big fish. Dave concurred. The fight was on! Then it happened. As hard as I tried to keep it from escaping to its lair, the trout managed to get to the undercut bank and tangle my line around a submerged tree branch.

Perhaps the biggest trout I hooked on that little creek became “the one that got away.” I have other stories like this. They keep popping up in my memory. And I keep bringing them into conversations with my fly fishing friends. “Did I ever tell you about the one that got away when I was fishing the Bear Trap section of the Madison?”

It dawned on me recently that these memories—and my inclination to share them—have some upsides. I can think of at least two upsides to “the one that got away.”

Mystique of the One that Got Away

First, the big trout that get away add a bit of mystique to our experiences on the river. I keep wondering if that Minnesota brown I hooked was 18+ inches. Dave and I know there are some monsters that lurk in a few those deep pools. Yet the largest brown I’ve caught in that spring creek to date is about 14 inches.

A couple decades ago, I purchased a new Orvis fly rod. The first time I used it, I tied into an aggressive rainbow.

At least I assume it was a rainbow.

I was fishing the Bear Trap section of Montana’s Madison River in the spring. I hooked a fish while nymphing, and it felt like a big fish. Then it decided to run. I ran after it — well, as fast as one can run in a couple feet of water! Shortly before it got into my backing, it wrapped itself around a large rock and snapped off the line. In retrospect, I should have been more aggressive in fighting it.

But I still have memories of that fish.

Initially, the memories were painful. Oh, I would have liked to see that trout! I’ve caught several twenty-inchers in that stretch of the Madison during the spring, and this one seemed even bigger. In more recent years, though, I’ve felt more nostalgia than pain when this memory surfaces. That elusive fish is part of the mystery that accompanies fly fishing. I’ll always imagine it as larger than it probably was.

Challenge of the One that Got Away

Another upside, I suppose, of the one that got away is how it reminds you that fly fishing is a challenging pursuit.

Let’s face it: if you caught a large trout on every cast, fly fishing would lose its appeal. Sure, it would be a blast at first. Eventually, though, it would resemble fishing in hatchery pond. The lack of challenge would diminish the satisfaction.

Part of the satisfaction that comes from fly fishing relates to overcoming adversity. Getting skunked is one form of adversity. But it’s worse when you were close—oh, so close—to landing what feels like a monster trout. It’s like blowing a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series. It stings more than losing the series in four games.

The big fish I’ve hooked and lost remind me how hard they are to land. Any number of things can go wrong. On those occasions when everything goes right, I have a greater sense of appreciation for what I accomplished. The ones that got away remind me that I’ve overcome a challenge when I finally get that 22-inch trout into my landing net.

Hope for the Future

I’ve shared the story before of a fall day on Montana’s Madison River with my son, Luke. He was about 11 years old at the time. On his first cast, he snagged a rock. Or so he thought. I waded over to see if I could dislodge his fly without snapping it off. As I tugged gently, I sensed movement at the other end.

“Luke, you’ve got big one the end of your line!”

He played it well, and I moved in with my net. The trout rolled in the film. It was monster brown! Suddenly, as big fish tend to do, it took off just as I was lifting the net. It wrapped itself around my legs and snapped off. I felt sick. I could see Luke was upset. So I consoled him with words of hope: “Luke, there’s more in here like this. You’ll probably hook into another one on the next cast.” I’m not sure I believed this. But that’s exactly what happened. Luke caught a 20+ heavy brown on his next cast — and another half dozen over 20 inches before we left that day.

Every time I fish that stretch of the Madison in the fall, I remember the one that got way — even more clearly that the ones we caught the rest of the afternoon. Even on days when I catch nothing, or simply catch smaller trout, the one that got away reminds me that there are large trout in this river. Every cast is a chance to hook one of them.

Yes, the thought of a lost lunker can be depressing at first. But over time, the memories will provide a sense of mystique, heighten the challenge you face when you head to the river, and provide hope that you’ll tie into a big one again. Maybe next time you’ll land it.

Cheers to the one that got away.

Fly Fishing Entomology 101 – Stoneflies

entomology 101 - stoneflies

The late Bud Lilly said he often fished a hole with a streamer and caught nothing. Then, he tied on a Rubber Legs nymph, went back through the same water, and caught a nice fish.There’s a reason for this: trout love Stoneflies! So you should too.

Here’s a brief profile of this species:

Names and Varieties

  • Stoneflies belong to the order “Plecoptera.” If you’re an entomologist who is into etymology (that is, a student of insects who is into the study of word origins), this Latin term comes from two Greek words: “braided” and “wing.” Yes, it looks like Stoneflies have braided wings!
  • The four most important Stonefly species for fly fishers (with apologies to the smaller Little Brown Stones and Olive Sallies) are Salmonflies, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, and Skwala.

The Basics

  • Stoneflies spend most of their lives in the nymphal stage that varies in length from seven months to four years. Yes, four years! That’s why Stonefly nymph patterns can work any time of the year. For example, Dave, my podcast partner, and I have had great success with them in late October on the Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park.
  • Stoneflies have an incomplete metamorphosis, existing in only two stages: nymph and adult. Mature nymphs migrate to the shoreline and then crawl out of the water. They emerge into the adult stage anywhere from a few inches to fifty feet from the river’s edge. Their emergence usually takes place at night—out of the sight of birds that would prey on them. The adult Stonefly emerges when its nymph skin splits. Then it slowly crawls out and walks away from the shuck.
  • Stonefly nymphs have long, segmented bodies with two antennae sticking out of their heads, two tails, and three pairs of legs. Each leg has a couple claws which enable Stoneflies to grip the rocks in the swift water they inhabit.
  • Adult Stoneflies mate in streamside vegetation rather than in the air. However, the egg-laden females then fly over the water—with their abdomens hanging down—to deposit their eggs (which then sink to the bottom of the river). Trout can go crazy when Salmonflies or Golden Stones are depositing their eggs. The other reason you might entice a trout to take a Stonefly pattern on the surface is the tendency for Stoneflies to fall into the water from vegetation. I’ve seen Salmonflies get blown by the wind into the Yellowstone River in June.
  • Smaller Stoneflies (Little Brown Stone, Olive Sally) range from ¼ to ½ inch in length. Yellow Sallies and Skawala can approach an inch. Golden Stones can reach 1 ½ inches, while Salmonflies can extend to 2 inches.

Effective Patterns for Stoneflies

  • You can’t go wrong with Stonefly nymphs year round! My favorites are the Rubber Legs patterns with either a black or brown body in a size 4 to 8. Aside from the obvious patterns (Golden Stone Nymph, Yellow Sally Nymph, etc.), try a Kaufman’s Golden Stone or a Kaufman’s Black Stone. A Copper John in a size 12-16 usually works as well as a Yellow Sally Nymph. Similarly, a Hare’s Ear will fill in quite nicely for a Golden Stone Nymph (in sizes 4-8) or for a Skwala Nymph (in sizes 10-12). Did I mention how effectively the Rubber Legs patterns work? Yes I did, but it’s worth repeating. When all else fails, put on a big nymph with rubber legs!
  • For Stonefly adults, I like a Yellow Stimulator or a Madam X (size 6-8) for imitating Golden Stones. An Elk Hair Caddis with a green abdomen (size 10-12) will work well for Olive Sallies. If you get a chance to fish the Yellowstone River in June (assuming the runoff hasn’t turned it brown), an Improved Sofa Pillow or Warren’s Salmonfly (size 4-8) will do the job.
  • The size and color of a particular Stonefly species will vary from one river to another. After all, Golden Stones come in four subspecies. Also, some rivers (like the Missouri in Montana) do not have many (if any) Stoneflies. So check with your local fly shop before you hit a particular river.

Other Entomology 101 Articles & Sources

    Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Blue-Winged Olives

    Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Caddisflies

    Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Pale Morning Dun

    Sources: Dave Hughes, Jim Schollmeyer, Bob Granger

The Ten Commandments of Fly Fishing from a Drift Boat

fly fishing from a drift boat

Fly fishing from a drift boat was a bit unnerving.

I worried I would snag my friend who was rowing. It turns out that my fear was well-founded. But I didn’t discriminate that day. I snagged myself as well. I also snagged a tree branch on the side of the river. I felt like the drift boat was zooming along at 50 mph even though we were simply drifting the speed of the current.

However, fly fishing from a drift boat can be a terrific experience once you get used to it. It’s easy on your feet, and you can cover a lot of water. Here are a few basics to remember when fly fishing from a drift boat.

1. Thou shalt not rent and row a drift boat with no experience.

Rowing is not something you can learn “on the fly” (no pun intended). I’ve tried rowing a couple of times in friends’ drift boats, and there’s definitely a big learning curve. Usually, you’ll end up in a drift boat for the first time because you’ve hired a guide or because a friend invites you.

By the way, there’s no need to feel bad if you don’t know how to row a drift boat. You’re not missing out on something. The truth is that the rowers are the ones who miss out. They don’t get to fish!

Of course, learn the skill of maneuvering a drift boat if you can. Your fly fishing friends will thank you.

2. Relax and enjoy the ride

I’ll stop with the “Thou Shalt Nots …” for now, but drift boats are set up for your comfort and ease. As long as you’re in the boat, you don’t have to hike or wade or walk on boulders!

Typically, there’s a cushioned swivel seat with a standing platform (into which you can fit your knees) at both the front and the rear of a drift boat. Standing with your knees in the platform is best, although you can sit if you like. In fact, that’s how some vessels work — including rafts and Au Sable River boats (flat-bottomed boats originally used by loggers). They simply have benches.

3. Do not worry about making long casts

A good rower will get you close to the run you want to fish. Usually, that run is up against a bank. I rarely cast more than twenty feet when I’m fishing from a drift boat.

That’s not always true all the time, of course. Last fall, Dave (my podcast partner) and I fished Quake Lake with a guide, and our whole strategy was to stalk rising fish. Often we cast 40 feet or more.

But generally, as you drift down the river, your casts are much shorter.

4. Do get used to casting in a tighter space

To say it bluntly, you need to avoid hooking the rower! This is not a problem if you are right-handed and casting to the left while standing in the front of the boat — or casting to the right when standing in the back of the boat. Otherwise, you need to keep line high and straight over your head when your casting hand/arm is on the side of the rower. It seems a little daunting at first. But you will get used to it.

Guides are (should be) patient people and will help you if it’s your first time.

5. Do keep your line in your zone

The “zone” or space your fishing is in front of you or behind you. If you’re casting from the front of the boat, you can cast directly to your left or right, or even slightly ahead of the boat if you are casting into slower current. If you’re in the back, you need to cast slightly behind the boat.

This minimizes the risk of getting your line tangled in the oars or in the other fly fisher’s line.

6. Do share the front of the boat with the other fly fisher

Most guides will tell you when to switch.

But it’s a good idea to share since the person at the front has a slight advantage. If you’re at the front, the fish in any given run see your fly first.

Second, the guide is focusing on you and is maneuvering the front of the boat to get you into the best position to fish a particular run. However, there are days or moments when the person in the back does as well or better. So you can catch fish from either spot.

7. Do keep your fly in the water

This sounds like another tip from Captain Obvious.

But you only get one shot at a good run unless you’ve got a great rower who is willing to “back up” and let you try it again. In most cases, you can get a good long drift since your fly will travel about the same speed as the drift boat. The more false casting you do, the more fish you will miss — and the greater the chance of snagging the rower.

8. Do not panic if you get snagged

You will get snagged if you’re trying to throw your fly tight up against the bank (which you ordinarily want to do) or if you’re getting your nymphs or streamers deep enough.

Often, your rower will be able to circle back so you can retrieve your fly. Loosen your drag if necessary. If there’s no chance of retrieving your fly, then point your rod directly at the snag so that what breaks is your line — not your rod tip!

9. Do not let the fish go under the boat

My podcast partner, Dave, may or may not have broken a guide’s expensive Orvis rod because he let a monster brown trout run under the boat. However, Dave declined to be interviewed for this article.

When you hook a fish, fight it like you would if you were standing in the river or on the bank. Pull it from side to side. As it gets closer, your guide or fishing buddy will (should) have a long-handled net to net it before it’s too close to the boat.

But beware of that last-second dart for cover.

10. Do stop and wade-fish the most promising runs

One of the benefits of floating a river is the opportunity to stop and fish runs that might otherwise be inaccessible. The hike might be too long, or there may be private property you have to cross before getting to the river.

Let your guide or friend know that you would be happy to stop to fish runs that deserve more than a 30-second, all-or-nothing attempt.

If you want to listen to our episode on fly fishing from a drift boat, listen to this episode

Dry Fly Fishing During a Hatch – 5 Tips

dry fly fishing during a hatch

Dry fly fishing during a hatch can be thrilling. It can also be frustrating.

I’ve had moments where a river or creek comes alive. The water seems to thrash with rising trout. Yet my fly will drift through the frenzy untouched. I’ve learned a few things, though, over the years, when dry fly fishing during a hatch. Here are five tips that have increased my success during Caddis, Pale Morning Dun (PMD) and Blue Winged Olive (BWO) hatches.

Be ready for the waves

Hatches typically arrive in waves.

Sometimes they are sustained, but often they subside after a few minutes. If you’re not ready for the next wave, you might miss out while you’re tying on a fly. I had this happen recently. I was leisurely switching from a size #18 Parachute Adams to a size #20. As it turns out, I was too leisurely. By the time I was ready to cast, the BWO hatch suddenly started, slowed and then stopped. I had to wait fifteen minutes until the action began again. It always amazes me how trout will ignore the right pattern for ten minutes and then suddenly begin attacking it.

Dry fly fishing dishing a hatch is all about timing.

Land and release fish quickly

I realize that this sounds like a tip from Captain Obvious. But I’ve squandered some five minute feeding craze because I took three minutes to land a trout that should have taken one minute.

Use a net and have your hemostat (forceps) handy to remove the hook and release the trout gently and quickly. The goal is to get back to fishing to catch one more before the hatch subsides.

Make your dry fly visible

A blizzard of bugs on the surface means you will have a hard time identifying your fly. You may laugh the first time this happens. But after a while, it will drive you crazy. I have found a little hack that works, though.

If you’re fishing during a BWO or PMD hatch, use a pattern with a red or lime green post. If you’re fishing during a Caddis hatch, use a pattern with red or green fibers on the top of your Elk Hair Caddis. I’ve purchased flies like this, and I’ve even put red synthetic fibers on the top of the Elk Hair Caddis flies that I’ve tied.

If you can’t find a red or lime green post on the BWOs you purchase, use a Sharpie marker to turn the white post red or lime green.

Use an emerger or a nymph as a dropper

Recently, while fishing a little creek in the Minnesota Driftless, I felt helpless (and a bit angry) that I couldn’t get a trout to rise to my size #20 Parachute Adams. I knew it was the right size given all of the bugs I saw fluttering in the air.

But then, during a particularly intense hatch, I realized that the trout were feeding on emergers. I saw several dart through the water without breaking the surface. Those that did simply broke the surface with their fins. So I tied on a foot of tippet to the bend in the hook of my dry fly. At the end of the tippet, I tied on a small beadhead Copper John. I had action immediately and ended up catching about ten trout in the next half hour.

Switch to nymphs or streamers if nothing works

Sometimes, though, nothing works.

Before giving up, try a streamer. Or try nymphing. Yes, you can use a nymph as a dropper as I described above. But traditional nymphing will get your flies deeper. That might just be the ticket to success. Trout, at times, prefer to feed on emerging nymphs well before they approach the surface of the river. Streamers can work, too. A trout that won’t budge for an emerger may well show interest in a super-sized meal.

There’s nothing quite like fishing during a hatch. But there’s nothing to like about it if you’re not getting some strikes and hooking a few fish.