Q & A Ask Vickie

Find answers to your fly-fishing questions here. Check back often as this will be regularly updated. If you have a question, click here to email me.

Click to see questions organized by the following topics:

Flies

🆕 When do you match the hatch?

In my experience, I find matching the hatch is productive when trout are selectively feeding on the adult stage of insects. During these times, I fish dry flies that closely mimic the size, shape, and color of the adults.

I have not found it necessary to match the hatch when trout are feeding below the surface. My experience mirrors what I have read: Trout feed 80% of time on the pupa stage of the insect, 10% on the adult stage and the other 10% on other food sources.

For more information Click on “Choosing the Right Fly.”

Why do you add UV materials to all your fly patterns?

I have tested flies with and without UV materials and have found that those with UV materials consistently produced more hookups than those without. Perhaps it is due to iridescence of the UV materials which contributes to the fly’s visibility. The bottom line is that I find flies with UV materials catch more fish. For more information, click here to read “Factors that affect trout vision.”

Do those [hook size] 10's and 12's (adjusted for the season) really work well for you?

“Do those [hook size] 10’s and 12’s (adjusted for the season) really work well for you? I, for one, am happy not to deal with tiny hooks (16,18,20).”
– Kevin, Olympia Washington

Hook size is an important consideration when fishing dry flies matching the adult stage of the aquatic insect in size, and shape.

I have not found it necessary fishing aquatic pupa patterns using hooks size #16 or smaller. Opportunistic trout are not shy in accepting anything that behaves and looks like a tasty bite of protein.

Most of my flies are tied in two sizes, #10 and #12. I do go up to a #14 for my UV Midge and UV Midge Pupa. I find #8 and #10 size hook effective for my Predator Leech, Bugger. I have not found it necessary to use anything other than a #8 for my Predator Minnow pattern where the length of the fly wing is more critical than the size of the hook.

I find extremely small hooks have a distinct disadvantage landing large trout because it is often difficult to obtain a strong hook set due to the smaller width of the hook gap. A small hook gap makes it difficult to hook a large trout’s lip. I experienced this the hard way once hooking a brown trout at East Lake in Oregon. Once hooked, he easily pulled free of the small hook during his knuckle-busting fight. I also witnessed this a few weeks ago at Crittenden Reservoir, NV. Anglers lost many larger trout on size #14 – #16 hooks. I did not lose any large trout on a #12 hook.

Thanks for the question Kevin!

 

Why don’t you use bead heads in your fly patterns?

Bead heads cause the fly to sink, quickly moving the fly below the strike zone. I prefer to distribute the weight along the hook shank. This is because when retrieving the fly with a bead head, the fly moves unnaturally and the head of the fly points down and the tail points upward which is the opposite of the natural position of emerging insects. The only exception to this is when trolling or using chironomids suspended under an indicator; it does not seem to make a difference if a bead head is used.

Watch in this underwater water video how head of the bead head fly rises and drops unnaturally up and down during the retrieve:

How do I determine what fly pattern to use?

Proper fly selection also dictated by time of year. This is because the time of year determines what food is available. This is the guide that I use in choosing my fly patterns:

Early spring or late fall: Suggestive leech and bugger and chironomid patterns when there are aquatic insects on the water. (Vickie’s Predator Leech, Predator Bugger and UV Midge)

Spring: Smaller suggestive bugger patterns (Vickie’s Grizzly Bug) or impressionistic patterns like Vickie’s All-Purpose Nymph) and minnow patterns (Vickie’s Predator Minnow)

Summer: In summer, when the water temperature increases and aquatic insects begin to emerge, use smaller impressionistic patterns mimicking aquatic insects like my UV Emerger UV Pupa, and All-Purpose Nymph) and minnow patterns (Vickie’s Predator Minnow).

Fall: Smaller sized Leech and Bugger Patterns (Vickie’s Predator Leech, Bugger and UV Midge)

Winter: UV Midge or UV Midge Pupa

For more information, click here to read Choosing the Right Fly

What are the best patterns to use early and late in the day?

Early in the morning before the sun hits the water and at sunset, use suggestive streamer patterns such as my Predator Leech or Predator Bugger patterns. These are perfect choices for these times of day when trout are cruising along shallow shorelines looking for a high protein meal.

What pattern should I use when I see rings on the surface of the water?

When the water warms and you start to observe trout feeding close to the surface, try smaller pupa patterns like my All-Purpose Nymph or UV Midge. If you see hatches, try my UV Emerger. The exception to this is when you see splashy takes or hear the slurp of fish. At these times trout are taking the adult stage of insects. If so, try switching to a dry fly.

Presentation

🆕 How can I improve my success while trolling?

While trolling in a pontoon boat, stop moving when you retrieve the line. After retrieving the fly, recast and begin trolling again. If you don’t, the combined speed of your boat and the rate that you are retrieving will move the fly too quickly through the water resulting in loss hook ups.

🆕 How much line should I put out while trolling??

Trolling speed and the amount of line you put out controls the depth your fly moves through the water. Forty to fifty (40-50) feet is about right. Too much line in the water causes slack in the line resulting in missed strikes and poor hook ups.  Too little line risks spooking trout and missed hook ups.

Why is it important to continually move?

You will increase the number of hook ups if you cover more water. When you do start getting strikes and/or hook ups, make sure you cast in a 360-degree pattern around you before moving. Avoid casting repeatedly into the same spot because the surface disturbance will spook and scatter the trout. Caught fish can scatter other trout that are in the same area, so move on once the strikes begin to diminish.

When are long casts of 60 feet important?

  • The water is flat with overhead sun
  • Fish are feeding on the surface
  • Water is gin clear
  • Fish are feeding in shallow areas

Casting 60 feet will avoid spooking fish and increases the time and number of prospective trout that will see the fly. When there is surface ripple, low light conditions, or when the water is tinted with algae, a 40-foot cast is adequate.

What tips do you have for properly netting larger trout from a float tube?

Reader Richard C. sent in this excellent question:

“One thing I hope you can help me and probably many other stillwater fisher people, is the proper technique(s) to net larger trout from a float tube. I have lost a few fish trying to bring them to the net while using 8.5 and longer fly rods. I have seen fishermen grab their rod above the handle while trying to net a fish and have the rod break. What rod angle should be avoided when trying to land a fish from a float tube? How do you manipulate the float tube during the process to lower the risk of breaking off the fish or breaking your rod. Even with a longer net the process is not that easy when trying to land strong fish.”

Here are three tips:

  1. Strip your line
  2. Keep the fish in front of you
  3. Guide the fish headfirst into your net

I made a video demonstrating these techniques. You can see it here:

Thanks to Richard C. for this great question!

Why should I keep my rod tip in the water?

Keeping the rod tip in the water reduces slack and enables the angler to feel the trout on and make a quick hook set. When the tip is above water it creates slack in the line which can cause missed hook ups.

When should I fish along shoreline edges?

To find feeding fish, cast from the water to the shallow shoreline areas:

  • At first light and late in the day
  • During cloudy conditions when low light provides trout protective cover
  • During choppy conditions which offer safety from the threat of overhead predators

Trout will move away from shoreline edges once the sun is on the water. Target shallow areas of 2-6 feet when trout show on the surface.

If the bite suddenly stops, what should I do?

When this happens, anglers often assume that the culprit is the fly. This is based on the belief that there are fish where you are fishing, and they are refusing the fly. The following tips are what I have found effective when conditions cause the bite to change:

Keep Moving – There are no fish where you are fishing. Not getting hit likely indicates the absence of feeding trout. The solution is, move to other areas where trout may be feeding. 

Cast in a different area – There may be fish, but the cast may have spooked the trout. Avoid recasting in the same area because fish will move away due to the disturbance in the water.

Probe Different Depths – You may be fishing at the wrong depth. Your fly may be moving at a depth of 6 feet, but the fish typically are feeding two feet from the surface. Try probing different depths.

To learn more, click here to read Bite has stopped, or has it?

Conditions

🆕 How do severe windstorms and/or significant changes in water temperature affect the bite?

When windstorms are severe and long or when there is a quick significant change in water temperature, I find trout will stay sheltered and uninterested in eating until conditions change. It may take several days before trout will go back on the bite. Under such conditions, spend some time at your fly-tying bench or attack your honey-do list until conditions improve.

Why to do fish go deeper when water temperatures are warm?

Trout feed in the top five feet because that’s where the food is. During the hot summer months, high water temperatures and lack of oxygen force the trout deeper. During warmer months, zooplankton and scuds also migrate to cooler depths drawing fish deeper in order to feed.

For more information, click here to read Line Selection for Stillwater.

Why is it important to keep an eye on the barometric pressure trends?

Barometric pressure trends are important as it can indicate changing weather conditions. A changing barometric pressure may indicate that a storm is coming. I have found the bite tends to fall off when the barometer is fluctuating. The bite will return to normal after the barometer has stabilized. In my experience, a low barometer does not necessarily translate into doom and gloom. Rather, the bite falls off during the time that the barometer is in flux.

For more information, click here to read Choosing the Right Fly.

Do water conditions influence fly color selection?

I use the following guidelines choosing fly color when faced with low light conditions, stained water and algae particles:

Use dark colored flies in low light conditions because trout key on the image of the fly’s silhouette against the background as it provides the greatest amount of contrast.

In stained or off-color water, use flies containing white, orange or yellow. Flies containing these colors have increased visibility and can be seen at greater distances.

Use dark colors when there are algae particulates. Dark flies will be more visible because of the contrast of the dark silhouette against the algae background.

For more information click here to read Water Conditions Dictate Fly Color Selection

What adjustments do I need to make when the water is cold?

When fishing during cold water conditions, make the following adjustments:  Slow down the retrieve, probe shoreline areas where the water warms up first, fish between weed areas, and use a pronounced pause in between retrieves. When water temperature is below 42 degrees, trout feeding behavior changes and they become reluctant to aggressively chase the fly. For more information on how water temperature effects presentation, click here to read How cold water conditions affect trout feeding behavior.

When faced with windy conditions, what is the best line to use?

When it is windy, I use the Cortland Clear Camo Intermediate Sink line. Keeping my back to the wind, I cast perpendicular to the wind. This is because trout face into the wind, waiting for tasty morsels to float to them thus conserving energy chasing after food. This helps to increase the number of hook ups as more fish will see the fly in full profile. For more information on how to adjust presentation approach to conditions, click here to read Adjusting to Changing Conditions.

What Trout Eat

🆕 When do trout start feeding on minnows?

The size of the forage fish consumed is determined by the size of the trout’s mouth. Trout will target fish or any animal that they can fit into their jaws. The bigger the mouth the bigger the prey.  Minnows are the meal of choice for larger trout. I use minnow patterns beginning late spring and into fall.

What is a traveling sedge caddis?

The traveling sedge one of the largest of 1200 species of caddisfly found in North America. Its name is derived from the adults’ distinctive behavior of running-skating across the surface which creates a wake. The wake attracts the attention of trout, which are drawn to the prospect of a juicy source of protein. During a hatch, trout will key on these tasty insects which can be over an inch in length.

For more information, click here to read Traveling Sedge Caddis.

 

When do trout feed on immature damsel nymphs?

The immature damsel nymph is an important source of food for the trout all year. Understanding the damselfly’s life cycle and behavior is important to increase your success as a stillwater angler.

For more information, click here to read Damselflies.

 

How can what you see on surface tell you what trout are eating?

Surface rings indicate trout are sipping adult insects off the surface or pupae just below the surface.

Splashy rises are a sign trout are taking larger insects like an adult caddis, mayfly, or terrestrial insects like ants or grasshoppers.

Dorsal rises mean that trout are feeding on the pupa stage of aquatic insects.

When do midges hatch?

Midges are found in almost any water temperature above 32 degrees.  But at around 42 degrees expect to see the first significant, consistent hatch of the year.  Midges hatch year-round and are very often a trout’s primary food source.

When do fish feed on leeches?

Trout depend upon leeches as an important source of protein year-round. However, leeches are most abundant in the spring and fall, and no insects are hatching. This is the perfect time to use leech patterns.

Tackle

🆕 Is a floating line effective during windy conditions?

In windy conditions, a floating line will bow causing the fly to move unnaturally. Trout will refuse the fly since it does not effectively mimic the insect’s natural movement. Instead, I recommend a 7-foot intermediate sink tip line as it maintains the fly close to the surface and will not bow. 

For more information, click here to read Floating Sink Tip Lines Q&A.

 

🆕 What color of floating line is best for stillwater?

I prefer dark olive floating lines as they tend to be less visible to trout. Research conducted by John Goddard and Brian Clark concludes light reflection off light colored floating lines can spook fish.

For more information, click here to read Floating Sink Tip Lines Q&A.

 

Can I troll a floating line?

While many anglers troll a floating line, John Goddard and Brian Clark’s research found that the drag of the floating line creates a visual disturbance when viewed from below the surface of the water. In addition to disturbing the surface, a floating line also casts a shadow when fished during periods of high sun.

For more information, click here to read Floating and Sink Tip Lines Q&A.

 

What knot/connection do you favor for the line and leader?

This question came from Kevin in Olympia, WA.

Line to leader knot: I use a nail knot to attach the line to the leader. Cutting off the thick loop section of the line reduces the size of the knot bump. To eliminate any rough edges that can snag on the rod’s guides, I add a small dab of Loon’s Knot Sense to the knots. Using a bodkin, I smooth the knot sense over the knot, tapering the application over the leader. This strengthens the knot and provides a smooth transition from the knot to the leader. Loon’s Knot Sense is easily cured with a UV light or directly from the sun.

Knot from leader to tippet: I use a blood knot to attach the leader to the tippet. To avoid algae and other debris catching on the knot, I apply a small dab of knot sense. This strengthens the knot and smooths over the tag lines from the knot.

Knot from tippet to fly: I use a loop knot to attach the tippet to the fly. The loop knot is strong and allows the fly to swing freely, maximizing the movement of the fly. This is especially important when using fluorocarbon tippets 3x or heavier because fluorocarbon is slightly stiffer than monofilament.

Great question Kevin!

 

When do you use a floating line?

In my experience, floating lines are best suited for dry flies and indicator fishing. This is because fishing a floating line with wet flies casts a shadow and causes surface disturbance when retrieved across the surface.

For more information, click here to read Floating Sink Tip Lines.

 

What length of leader is best?

I recommend a 9-foot monofilament leader and a 3-foot fluorocarbon tippet for a total length of 12 feet. When fishing clear flat water, I add additional lengths of tippet in 3-foot increments up to a total combined length of 15 feet.

Why add fluorocarbon tippet?

I use monofilament for the leader, and fluorocarbon for the tippet because fluorocarbon is less likely to leave a shadow in the water which can spook trout. Fluorocarbon is less likely to leave a shadow in the water because light passes through rather than reflecting off it. Fluorocarbon can be stiffer than monofilament, so be sure to use a loop knot to attach the fly.

For more information on leader and tippet, click here to read Gearing Up for Big Fish, Part 3 of 5: Leaders and Tippets.

 

What line should I use when I see trout sipping bugs from the surface?

When fish are feeding on pupae close to the surface, my go-to line is the Cortland 7-foot Intermediate Camo Sink Tip line. This line maintains the fly in the top few feet. Trolling this line keeps the fly in the zone where the trout will be feeding on emerging pupae or midges dangling in the surface film. This is important because if the fly is not presented at the depth the trout are feeding, it won’t be seen.

For more information, click here to read Floating Sink Tip Lines Q&A.

If I need a line to keep the fly in the top two feet, what should I use?

I prefer a sink tip line which maintains the line and leader below the surface, reducing or eliminating the surface disturbance during the retrieve. The Cortland 7-foot Intermediate Camo Sink Tip line has a dark green colored floating line married with a transparent intermediate 7-foot intermediate sinking tip.

This line is also ideal for probing shallow shorelines or weedy areas where you want to avoid hanging up on the bottom. I also add 3-5 feet of fluorocarbon tippet tied to a 9-foot monofilament leader. The fluorocarbon tippet has the same density of water, so it visually disappears in the water and avoids spooking the trout.

For more information on line selection, click here to read Floating Sink Tip Lines Q&A.