Hang Your Flies!

Hang Your Flies in the Critical Zone

I regularly fish a small lake of about three acres but on my last visit the trout were preoccupied with surface feeding on small black naturals, and I blanked. I use 6lb leader tied direct to the fly. The water is crystal clear and on the day there was little breeze and it was very bright with light cloud.
Mike Satterthwaite

Paul Procter replies: The conditions you describe are some of the most challenging a fly fishing angler can face! Calm conditions make casting and accuracy easier, but with little in the way of wave action at the surface – rendering dry flies virtually static – trout have a little more time to scrutinise the flies. In these conditions, it’s imperative that presentation is as good as you can possibly achieve.

Regarding your fly fishing tackle, you mention the use of 6lb leader and this suggests you are using a level length of 6lb breaking strain from fly line to fly. If this is the case then there’s every chance that the leader will collapse in an untidy heap. No matter how good your imitation is, such a bundled mess at the surface is certain to spook trout! A tapered leader will help in delivering a fly with minimum fuss, with a reasonably straight leader. Now your fly will sit correctly with no line surrounding it to spoil the presentation. Degreasing the leader closest to your fly will also help, as this slips a fraction beneath the surface to become virtually invisible.

Finally, the black flies you mentioned sound as though they’re buzzer (chironomid) pupae emerging at the surface. In calm conditions many pupae become trapped when trying to pierce a stubborn surface film. Many pupae now hang with their abdomens subsurface and literally become sitting ducks for feeding trout. However, when trout seize them they naturally leave a disturbance at the surface, which to all intents and purposes appears as if they are taking a fly off the top of the water. Now, your best results will come from imitations that are presented in this critical inch. Look to patterns like the CdC Shuttlecock and Suspender Buzzer that hang seductively in the desired zone.

Reprinted with permission of Trout Fisherman magazine.