This is a question all anglers face regardless of their experience on the water. It can be especially frustrating when other anglers are catching fish but your fly remains untouched. Our first assumption is that the fly is the culprit. We rifle through fly boxes trying to find just the right fly to rescue ourselves from our slump. If that doesn’t work, we are left with a vexing conundrum.
If you find yourself in a fishing slump, consider the following three suggestions to get back on target.
Trout caught Vickie’s UV Crystal Pupa at Schmadeke Pond, Oregon Fishing Club
1. Move to a different location
If you’re not getting hit, the fish are not where you are, so move to a different location. You will increase your potential number of hook ups if you cover more water. Since trout are constantly on the hunt for food, it is critical the angler also moves. If you are not getting hit after a few casts, move to another location.
When you do get strikes and hook ups, avoid casting repeatedly to the same spot. Instead, make casts in a 360-degree pattern around you. Repeatedly casting into the same spot will disturb the surface and spook and scatter the trout.
Additionally, when you hook a fish, the disturbance will scatter other trout in the same area, so move on once strikes begin to diminish. This provides time for the trout to return.
2. Scan the lake for signs of feeding fish
Scan the lake’s surface and look for any signs of feeding fish (e.g. surface disturbances, raised water, rings, splashes, and dorsal tail rises). Do this before you are on the water and while fishing. As you are trolling, casting, or watching your indicator, take time to look around for signs of feeding fish.
For example, I was on the water at sunrise and trout were feeding close to the shoreline. After the sun hit the water, the bite stopped. I then observed a few rings and fish swimming close to the surface 15-20 feet away from the shore. I moved and focused my search to that area. I fished parallel to the shoreline and continued to land fish.
In the picture below, birds were feeding on damsels as they climbed onto the shoreline to emerge. At the same time, trout positioned themselves close to the shoreline to intercept these tasty morsels. I cast close to the shoreline and caught fish.
Birds feeding on damsel nymphs
3. Adjust the depth of the fly
When the bite suddenly stops it can indicate fish have moved to a different depth to feed. When fish feeding behavior changes, line selection is important because the line determines at what depth the fly will be presented. Changing conditions will cause trout to move up and down in the water column to feed. Proper line selection is vital to ensure the fly is presented in the trout’s feeding zone.
While there is no one type of line appropriate for all conditions, I find the following three types of lines satisfy the majority of my stillwater requirements:
- Slow Intermediate sinking line (1.50 – 2 IPS) – I use this line 60% of the time. It maintains the fly in the top 3-6 feet of the water column.
- Floating line with an integrated 7-foot Slow Intermediate Camo Sinking Tip – I use this line 30% of the time as it maintains the fly in the top two feet of the water column. This is effective for fishing pupae near the surface.
- Floating line – I use this line 10% of the time. I use a floating line for dry flies and flies suspended below the surface under an indicator. I do not use floating lines for trolling since they create surface disturbance, reflect sunlight, and create shadows, all which can spook trout. I prefer olive floating lines because they blend better with the trout’s habitat and minimize spooking them.
Having the correct line enables you to quickly respond to changing conditions and makes the difference between occasional strikes and consistent success.
Remember to keep moving, watch for clues, change the depth of your fly when trout feeding behavior changes, and have the appropriate lines in your arsenal.
If you have questions, give me a call at 503-680-7147.
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