03 - Flies for Tough Days

11 Essential 'Tough Day' Fly Fishing Tips

Have you ever been fishing on one of those days when your quarry just doesn’t want to bite? Whether they are nowhere to be found or simply not feeding, it can be frustrating. The better news is that there are lots of ways we can try and change our fortunes, from changing flies to altering our tackle or timing. Here are eleven great fly fishing tips for hard conditions and tricky trout.

1 - Lose from the crowds: one certain thing to turn the fish off is too much human presence. If your chosen fishery gets a lot of human traffic in certain areas, try and look for the quieter spots. This might mean a slightly longer walk or a trickier cast, but could also mean better catches once you find where the fish feel safer

 Action! Finding a spot where the fish are less disturbed can bring instant action.

2 - Smaller, subtler flies are another way to keep takes coming with wary fish. To a trout, for example, the difference between a size 10 nymph and a size 14 or 16 is huge. Think colour too; if the fish are suspicious, subtle is often the way to go.

3 - Or annoy them Of course, there’s an exception to every rule and another way to outfox a fish that shows little interest is to annoy it! A black streamer such as the classic Woolly Bugger throws a nice bold silhouette. Mind you, flies with kicking rubber legs are also a useful gamble at times, with an even higher annoyance factor!

4 - Longer leaders, finer presentations
There are plenty of occasions when fish are easier to scare than you might think, especially when it’s calm or the water is very clear. Two things in particular can help you here: one is to use a longer, finer leader. If you were using just a rod’s length, for example, try twelve or fifteen feet. Another smart move is to step down a size or two with your fly line. A five-weight, for instance, makes a great deal less impact on touchdown than a seven-weight.

5 - Stay focussed! When the fish are rising freely, it doesn’t matter if you miss a take or four. On a day when chances are few and far between though, it’s another story altogether! Be ready to strike decisively at all times, because fussy fish are often “one hit wonders”.

6 - Change your retrieve: Altering the speed of your flies is one of the key ways to change your fortunes. It’s easy to simply go through the motions when you’re not catching, so don’t get stuck in a rut. Experiment for better results, whether that means going painfully slow, or injecting some extra life.

7 - Change your clock. Fish don’t feed 24-7, so one reason you’re not catching might be that it’s completely the wrong time of day. Getting up early or staying out late could be a good idea. So try venturing out when there is more breeze or cloud cover.

8 - Try something nuts! If you’re not catching, there is little to lose by taking a gamble. Why not try something totally different? It could be switching to a fly you never usually bother with, or a spot you seldom fish. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

9 - Hit the depths. In bright or extreme weather, one of the main reasons you stop catching is sometimes that the fish have gone very deep. In such circumstances, one of the best tactics of all is to try the fast sink line and Booby fly combination- on its day, it can be a real life saver.

 Boobies on a fast sink line are brilliant when the trout are in the depths.

10 - Comparing notes with a friend or fishing partner can be another great way to   beat the conditions. If things are not working, why not try two, radically different techniques? You’re more likely to catch by using contrasting tactics and if one of you finds the winning formula, the other can follow suit (and buy the first beer later!).

11 - Keep a diary! Whether it’s an old fashioned pen-and-paper or a digital blog, why not record your sessions? By noting times and tactics that are successful, you’ll often see patterns emerge and seasonal lessons that will repeat year on year. Detailed records are much more accurate than the memory!

Five great flies for difficult days

Diawl Bach (size 14) £0.55

Smaller nymphs are an excellent move when big and obvious isn’t working. This fly is a superb all-rounder, that looks distinctly edible but with nothing too flashy to scare the fish.

CDC Budding Emerger (Size 16) £0.95

If the fish are rising, but you can’t buy a take on the usual floating flies, something smaller and darker is often sensible. This one sits neatly in the surface film and is small yet visible. 

Tungsten Daddy Orange Head (Size 10) £0.85

Really provocative and excellent in coloured water, this is a fly to irritate lethargic fish if ever there was one. Fish with the odd nice, violent pluck!

Epoxy UV Buzzer, black (size 12) £0.60

Skinny and convincing, but with just a hint of extra attraction, this is a winner for stillwater rainbows that have seen too many big flies.

Gold Bead Fritz Woolly Bugger (size 10) £0.65

There’s something about a lively, black lure that trout can’t resist. This is even true when fish aren’t really feeding- and a black shadow might just get them to lash out.