This last two weeks guiding on the chalkstreams has reminded me of some of the critical factors in success catching Brown Trout on dry fly.  First, and most obviously, ‘match the hatch’.  Look at the flies coming down the stream and pick a fly from your box that is designed to imitate the naturals you can see – like an Adams to imitate a Blue Winged Olive or a Kite’s Imperial for a Medium Olive or a Tups Indispensable for a Pale Watery.  Then get the fly size about right – usually a size 16 Adams or Tups or a size 14 Imperial.  Next fish it on the right leader and tippet.  This will usually mean a co-polymer knotless tapered leader of 9′ or 12′ long down to a 6X (for size 16 flies) tippet or 5X (for size 14/12 flies) tippet.  If the weather is bright and the water shallow and clear opt for a long leader of at least 12′.  If its a dull, breezy day and the water is rippled by the current or the breeze then go for a shorter leader of around 9′.  When using a 12′ leader I like to attach 3′ of 6X fluorocarbon tippet to the end of a 9′ co-polymer knotless tapered leader.  I never use fluorocarbon leaders when dry fly fishing.

Next try to minimise line drag by making the appropriate cast, by mending the line, etc.

Observe.  Time spent watching the water for rising fish is time very well spent.  Do not fall into the trap that many people seem to of spending all day casting.  Sit at the downstream end of a likely looking piece of water and watch for rising fish.  Note exactly where they are and ideally also what insect type is it that they are taking.  Take time to check your leader and tippet for wind knots, make necessary repairs and spruce up your fly.  All time well spent while you also keep a watch out for rising fish.  It all makes for a more relaxing and enjoyable day….and you will catch more fish.

But perhaps more than anything else stalk the fish and try to present your fly to the Trout without it being aware of your presence.  Walk along the bank very slowly and when wading wade very slowly.  I recommend not doing long casts.  Line drag is much harder to control at distance and you are more likely to spook the fish with the line.  Stalk to a position closer to the fish and use short delicately presented casts.  Also consider using a lighter fly line (and rod) – maybe a 4-weight rather than your usual 5-weight.  About the only time that I would ever consider using a 6-weight on the chalkstreams is during the Mayfly when a size 8 Grey Wulff is easier to cast accurately in a breeze blowing downstream on a 6-weight.  I might even use a 4X tippet in these conditions to help achieve better fly turnover into the breeze.  But outside the Mayfly and for more normal ‘match the hatch’ situations I prefer a 4-weight matched with a 12′ leader and a 6X fluorocarbon tippet.

If there is not a great hatch then try a bigger fly. Only the other day on the upper Test, in order to try to catch the interest on apparently non-feeding Trout, we tried a larger fly to very good effect.  We used a size 12 Royal Wulff and a size 12 tan coloured Klinkhamer, both of which caught Trout that I’m sure we would not have caught on the size 16 Parachute Adams or Tups.

Plan your fishing day to try to co-incide with the best of the hatches.  We have the Danica Mayfly hatch about to start.  The peak of the hatch on the River Test is usually around 3pm-5pm in the afternoon.  So if you have your own private beat of the river booked for a Mayfly day plan to start fishing no earlier than around 11am.  The Trout know that dinner will be served all afternoon long so if you fish for – and potentially spook – the fish before they have properly got feeding it could reduce your opportunities to catch them later in the afternoon.

Go out and give it a go.  And have fun!