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Getting to catch fish on a dry fly is something many fly fishermen live for and some fish with a dry fly all year round, even though no insects hatch and even though a nymph or streamer might have been a more effective alternative some times. You can draw connections as to why we fly fish at all when there can sometimes be more effective methods of catching the fish, we do it for the joy, the calm and the feeling that embraces us when we catch the fish our way. Follow our guide below and we'll help you get more out of your dry fly fishing. We will go over equipment, hatches & flies, good casts to master, where to find the fish and preparation.


You can fish with a dry fly for basically any fish, poppers for pike and perch, bombers for salmon and sea trout and so on, but in this guide the focus is on fishing for trout, grayling, char and rainbow trout.

How big is the water you will be fishing in, is it a lake or stream and what does the surroundings look like? These are questions you must answer to be able to choose the right equipment for successful dry fly fishing. Let's go through some examples for the different options.

HERE rod from ECHO, fully adapted for lake fishing. Even though the fish may be relatively small and you think that a rod in a lower class is good enough, maybe you should think again. When the lakes get bigger than a small forest star, so does the wind, you must then have a rod that can handle this. Most of the time you also stand waded out and compensating for this with a rod that is a few feet longer can make a big difference to the cast length and presentation. In lakes the water is still and the fish have plenty of time to examine the fly before taking it, hence it is of great importance that you have a long tapered claw with a thin tippet. The choice of line is a personal preference and the vast majority of fly lines work just fine as you usually have plenty of room to cast overhand. If, on the other hand, you don't have a lot of space behind you at the lake, a line with a shorter lump can be an alternative, this means that you can more easily shoot the line without a lot of false casts, it also facilitates the underhand cast if that is what is required in your particular water.

Stream fishing: Here, the size of the stream/river largely determines the equipment required. In this example, we expect a stream that is 5-25m wide. Throw length is secondary and presentation and accuracy are key. Most streams are usually protected by forest and other terrain, therefore the wind is no longer a parameter to take into account. A single-handed fly rod in classes #3 - #5 and lengths 7-9 feet is recommended. Feel free to choose a rod with a smooth through action, this facilitates the presentation of the fly and makes the whole experience more harmonious. A personal favorite rod for the slightly smaller streams is the ECHO River Glass rod, check it out HERE. In the currents, you have to sneak up to the watchful fish and overhand casting is often out of the question due to the tricky terrain behind you. This makes it easier if you master underglove casts and reel casts to easily and efficiently get the fly out where you want. There are many lines on the market adapted for precisely these situations and they have in common that they are thin, load rods easily at short distances and preferably have a camouflaging color scheme. In the current, it is also of the utmost importance that the dry fly drifts freely, by which is meant that the fly line does not affect the fly to the extent that the fly moves unnaturally on the water. Getting the fly to drift freely is an art in itself and something that comes with a lot of practice, but a few tips to help you along the way are.

  • Use a tapered claw to help stretch the line all the way
  • Attach a long piece of tip to the paw, preferably 1.5–2 meters. This tip will not lie fully stretched on the water, giving the dry fly more room to drift freely with the current.
  • Adjust your cast to how the current flows. You have to think about how the current affects the fly and the line depending on what the current edges look like.

Below is a video of a very useful throw in many situations.

Flight Selection & Hatching:

Before you head to the stream, you must have found out which insects are likely to hatch on this particular day and thus be prepared with a box full of imitation flies. Day dragonflies, night dragonflies, mosquitoes, gnats and land insects, the options are many, and you can't possibly know what will hatch when you come to the stream. So come well prepared with a good set of imitations. When you've decided which bow ties you need, just tie some or buy them, you can do that HERE.

Once you arrive at the water, you can check to see if there are insects floating by on the water and what kind of insect it is. You should also keep your eyes open for watchful fish, the fish's watch can, within certain limits, describe what it eats. A rule of thumb is that if the fish breaks the surface and the wake is large, it will take a fully developed bug, if you just see the trout nibbling the surface a bit, it could very well be a bug that is about to hatch. So not only do you have to find which insect the fish are eating, you also have to find out what stage the insect the fish is eating is in, hatchling or a winged dragonfly. This knowledge is what separates fly fishers from really good fly fishers.

Caption: Spotting on watchful fish can be hypnotizing. Too often I stand as if in a trance watching the movements of the fish from this bridge.

Where is the fish?

If it's fully hatched and the fish reveals its position through its guards, well then it's not hard to find the fish at least, but it can still be difficult to trick it into striking. There are also days when nothing hatches and no activity can be seen on the surface, that's when you get to pull out the lab coat.

The fish wants maximum food for minimum effort, it also wants to feel safe and have a place of refuge close at hand, this applies in all streams, worldwide. So if you don't see any fish, start by looking for the fish in the following areas:

  • Stream edges, in these areas the food is concentrated.
  • In areas around rocks, these create a variety of properties that fish like. A current edge is created behind the stone, a backwater is also created where the fish can stand stationed without much effort and that there tends to be deep hollows behind the stones that make the fish feel safe.
  • Overhang, i.e. where vegetation such as trees grows over the stream. The fish like this shade which makes them feel safe. Unfortunately, it is also the most difficult place to place the fly.
  • Blank spots in the stream, gaps in the stream that look completely blank compared to their surroundings. This is the fish's window to the world above and they like to scout for insects a little extra right here.

We hope that this guide provided useful knowledge for you and that you will have many great fish caught on dry fly in the future.

All the best!

Emil – Fly Fishing Market

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