29- Big wild trout on the dry fly: 12 Tips to catch a monster!

Big wild trout on the dry fly: 12 Tips to catch a monster! 

What could be better than catching a big trout on the dry fly? From the excitement of watching it rise,to that dangerous bend in the rod, it doesn’t get a lot better! 

These days, though, perhaps the majority of big fish tend to be caught on wet flies and streamers. But in the right conditions, a dry fly can still be highly effective at singling out that dream fish.  

A proper netful of wild trout on a dry fly: The stuff of dreams!

So what might you do to tip the odds in your favour? Here are a dozen top tips to catch big wild trout on a dry fly.

  1. Single out the right venue

It sounds so obvious, but you cannot catch what isn’t there. In South West England, for example, most of our rivers have lots of trout of a small average size. That’s not to say you won’t find the odd bigger one. But for a much better strike rate, you need to find those with a better stamp of fish. 

Close to home for us in Devon, these include stretches of the River Torridge (above) and the River Culm. Further afield, rivers such as the Frome and Stour are worth treating yourself for a longer day out, while the Usk in South Wales is another cracker. Do your homework first and besides the internet, don’t be shy of using your local tackle shops and experienced guides. 

  1. Use your feet and find the best lairs! 

Even once you’ve found your big fish river, don’t expect the bigger fish to be evenly dispersed. Those prepared for a good walk are immediately at an advantage. Similarly, larger trout love vantage points such as fallen trees, larger pools and any awkward spots that allow them rich pickings and a bolt hole. 

Turrall’s Gary Pearson takes an evening walk to find the fish. Keep mobile and be prepared to move if you want to find the best monster holes on any river! 

  1. Light, balanced tackle  

Mention larger trout and many anglers immediately assume you will need stronger rods and higher rated lines. This might be the case if you are throwing streamers, but with dry flies it’s the opposite!

Larger fish tend to be wary survivors. They may well have been caught before. They’re seldom tolerant of clumsy presentation, while lighter rods also give you more shock absorption to protect lighter leaders and tippets. 


In fact, a three or four weight is an excellent tool to play a big trout on, such as the excellent Cortland Competition Series. A light rod, yes, but a lot of the experts now use such blanks, knowing that their extreme flex means that even a real beast would have a job breaking you off. 

  1. Insist on the best leaders and tippets! 

Talking of tackle, it’s fair to say that those rare wild fish of possibly two pounds or even larger will reveal any weakness in your setup. So why scrimp and save? Tippets are a prime example of this. The best of these undeniably cost a few extra quid, but better quality materials equal finer presentation and greater reliability. 

Cortland Top Secret is amazingly fine even in a 5X rating, giving you almost 6lb breaking strain and yet the sort of diameter often only found in 3lb tippet from cheaper brands! And believe us, when you are connected to a hog of a trout in a tight spot, you will be grateful you spent a little extra on the best and strongest fly fishing tippet available. 

  1. Watch more, cast less 

While it’s fun to go fly fishing and simply spend the whole session casting, larger trout require a more patient approach. Rarely is the angler successful simply fishing completely “blind” and hoping that a better fish will take hold. More often it’s about seeking out and spotting the better fish, before making every cast count.

Never rush with big trout. Get your bearings first and have a practise cast or two, a few yards away, rather than going straight for the kill!  You may only get a couple of shots when it comes to the crunch, so get your eye in first. 

  1. Key into the biggest hatches

Trout don’t reach bigger sizes by feeding on tiny little specks of nothing! That’s not to say they won’t take a small fly, but you would be well advised to capitalise on any big local hatches. Aside from the annual mayfly invasion, caddis or sedge flies are another great source of food for big trout. On a muggy evening, they can really switch on, and allow the angler to use a large, juicy fly. We have a huge range of the very best sedge fly patterns for trout to choose from, featuring extra sharp and strong hooks that won’t let you down! 

  1. Be fussy (and avoid the little ones) 

One of the biggest barriers to catching large trout can often be the fact that little ones live close by. One classic scenario is when you see a really fine fish, make a perfect cast… and then watch in dismay as its six-inch grandson rushes in to take the fly! 

More often than not, a big fish won’t take once a smaller fish has been played in the same area. Hence it pays to be selective and a little greedy! If you see that small trout approach, you could carefully move the fly out of the way or even simply refuse to strike, letting “junior” spit the fly out. Rather this scenario than sending the big one packing! 

  1. Timing is everything 

Talking of hatches, timing can be everything with larger fish. Sedges are a point in case, as they tend to hatch best in the evening. Rather than flogging the water all day or packing up at tea time, time your visit carefully to suit the habits of the fish rather than when it’s convenient for humans. 

If you are lucky enough to get a full day of fishing, you can always target the smaller fish and try wet flies through the middle of the day. Any tempting looking lies can always be noted for later. Do take breaks and pace yourself- because another classic error is to flog the water for so long that confidence wanes and you feel like packing up just when the monsters are coming on the feed! 

Rather than thrashing the water for hours, a better strategy is often to watch more, cast less. A couple of hours in the evening tends to be better than an entire day in bright sunshine.

  1. Study the rise forms!
    Can you tell a small trout from a big one, by watching it rise? This is something all of us can practice! Sure, sometimes it’s obvious. You see a fish come up clear as day. However, there will be times when even large fish barely graze the surface, while little ones make a splashy commotion. Again, “watch more cast less” is good advice and experience is the best teacher. 
  2. Control your strike and play it cool
    Perhaps the quickest way to lose a big fish is on the strike. It’s easily done: we get excited, pull back way too hard and either pull the fly out of its mouth or the tippet snaps. Or we pull back so hard against that hooked fish that it instantly goes crazy.

    A better policy is to take it steady. Large fish need a split second longer on the take than their quickfire little cousins. And once the fish is on, play it steadily rather than getting drawn straight into a wrestling match. That way, you can often gain a foot or two or a favourable angle before the fish even realises it’s properly hooked. 
  3. Prepare for battle and identify danger! 

In any fight with a big fish the two most dangerous stages are right at the start and end of the battle! One great fishing tip here is to mentally prepare before you actually hook the fish, playing out the fight in your head. Where is the fish likely to bolt? Are there any big snags you want to avoid? 

Rod angle can also be crucial. In boulder-strewn water or a snaggy bottom, for example, a high rod is key. But if the fish heads under trailing branches, you may need to drop the rod low.

Last but not least, the end of the fight is equally crucial. All too often a big fish makes a final surge and snaps the line; or finds that hole under the bank that only one of you knew about! Wait till the fish is ready and don’t stab. Take those final stages with the utmost care. A steady nerve and a larger scoop net will serve you well. 

12. Respect your catch 

Whether or not your next catch is a beast, return it with care. Remember, this year’s hand-sized trout might just be that fish of a lifetime some day in the future!

Finally, if you do get that fish of the season, do treat it with care. Big fish can take years to reach such a size. They will often be females and we want to keep their big fish genes in the river! If you must take a fish, make it a smaller one. Best of all, keep only a quick picture, keeping the fish in the water with you. Hold your prize in the current, upright, on release. If it has fought like fury, it could take a few seconds to recover and swim away. 

Good luck with your trout fishing- and don’t forget to give our Facebook page a like and follow for our latest news, tips and offers on the latest fly patterns and accessories! 


Top Flies For The Job! 

(From left To Right) - Red Wulff - Parachute Caddis Tan - Parachute Caddis Brown -Trico Parachute - Parachute Caddis Olive