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Basic Fly Fishing Techniques

Updated on March 12, 2011

So, you’ve got the right gear and you can cast a fly with reasonable accuracy to a fishable distance. What next? Well, the golden rule behind fly fishing is to 'match the hatch'. What the fly angler means by this is imitating the natural insect as nearly as possible with the artificial. 

The master plan is to fool the trout into thinking that fur and feather are the real, living creatures. 

To do this expertly, it means being able to identify pretty well exactly what the majority of trout are feeding on, at any particular moment. You then, hopefully, have the right artificial in your fly box to join the swarm of naturals. 

This is a skill that you build through experience, so don't worry if, at first, this all seems a little bit inaccessible. Time and perseverance will heal all that, and there will be many times in the fly fishing season when you will get it right, and 'matching the hatch' won't seem too difficult at all. If you manage to do the thing properly once or twice, your confidence will build up, as will your desire to know more.

So, let's look at a few scenarios, tailor-made for the newcomer. 

For our first scenario, it's late May or early June on a clear, pristine trout river. Sit quietly and just watch the river and the reed beds around. The chances are that after a while you will begin to see large iridescent flies on the surface of the water that slowly spiral off into the air above. These flies will be an inch or more in height, and will be colored a glowing white, yellow or green. Sometimes, you'll just see them singly or in very small groups, but there will be periods throughout the day when the river absolutely swarms with these glorious insects. When this happens, the trout will be going mad. What you are witnessing is one of the golden periods in any trout fisherman's calendar... the mayfly hatch. 

The mayfly is just so big and juicy that even wary, old trout often throw caution to the wind, and for this reason the two weeks of the mayfly season were often referred to as the 'Duffer's Fortnight'. And it's true. Rarely are trout so easily caught at any other time of the season. It's a truly a wonderful time to be out on the riverbank.

For the general run of trout, you needn't be too picky about which mayfly you select from your box, though obviously if you get the size and color right, it's going to be a big advantage for you. 

Cast as gently as you can, about a yard (lm) or so upstream of any steadily feeding trout that you have observed, and try and let the fly drift down towards it without the current dragging it off course. It pays, obviously, to get well downstream of the rising trout so that the effect of the current is minimized. 

When you do get a rise, never be in too great a hurry to strike: this is a big insect and even a pound and a half trout will take a little time to completely envelop it in its mouth. Try counting to three before tightening. If that doesn't work, try two or four, and so on. To catch your first trout on a dry fly is a momentous achievement and there's no finer way of doing it than during the peak of the mayfly season.

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