Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #45 — The Dry Fly is a Scout

by | Jun 10, 2018 | 1 comment

The fly is an explorer tied to the end of a string. It bounds along with the current, making discoveries and telegraphing its collected information back through a line. Whether nymph, streamer, wet or dry, our fly is an investigator sent forward to probe the water and search for trout — and to collect more information than our eyes can see.

Standing riverside, pinching the hook of a caddis dry fly between forefinger and thumb, with slack line and a rod poised to send our fly on a mission, we scan the water for signs. We look for rising trout and likely holding lies. And we look for  much more than is easily visible. The currents of a rocky, rolling river are a converging and confusing mix. And what we may decipher through polarized lenses is a mere scratch of the surface. So we send a pioneer.

We release the caddis dry from our grasp, flick the wrist and propel the explorer forward to a target. And when the fly lands, we learn. It dances slower in a lane than we thought it might. And, provided enough slack, it discovers a minor back eddy, momentarily traveling upstream with its hair-wing sails before it is tugged and rushed along an unnatural course, forced to follow the dragging reins.

But now we know. Now we understand the flow, the mixed currents, more than we could ever see from our distant position. And on the following cast, we take a different aim. We vary the distance, lending another twelve inches of length. And we vary the angle, tossing the slightest aerial mend after the forward check of the rod. And with an artful turn of the wrist we create an upstream arc for those twelve inches of extra tether. Our fly finds the bubbly edge of the inside eddy, and our drawn arc lands along the rolling seam. So while the fly dips and swirls with its hair-wing sails, the arc unfolds. The caddis swoons for an impossibly long moment, and a trout is convinced. The fly disappears into a hole, engulfed by the dark mouth of a wild trout from below.

That arc — our variation — succeeds because we learned about an invisible current, because the fly served as prospector. And with every cast we have another chance to watch, to discover more about exactly how the river is flowing and just where the trout may be feeding and waiting to strike.

The dry fly is a scout.

Photo by Chris Kehres

Photo by Chris Kehres


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 600 articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers
Your support is greatly appreciated

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

Dry Fly Fishing — The Forehand and Backhand Curve

Dry Fly Fishing — The Forehand and Backhand Curve

Learning to use the natural curve that’s present in every cast produces better drag free drifts than does a straight line.

It takes proficiency on both the forehand and backhand.

I’ve seen some anglers resist casting backhand, just because it’s uncomfortable at first. But, by avoiding the backhand, half of the delivery options are gone. So, open up the angles, understand the natural curve and get better drag free drifts on the dry fly . . .

Light Dry Dropper in the Flow

Light Dry Dropper in the Flow

. . .The flow of the fly line through the air is finesse and freedom. Contrasted with nymphing, streamer fishing, or any other method that adds weight to the system, casting the weightless dry fly with a fly line is poetry.

The cast is unaffected because the small soft hackle on a twelve-inch tether simply isn’t heavy enough to steal any provided slack from the dry. It’s an elegant addition that keeps the art of dry fly fishing intact . . .

Dry Fly Fishing — The Pre-Cast Pickup

Dry Fly Fishing — The Pre-Cast Pickup

The pre-cast is a simple motion that lifts some (or all) of the fly line off the water and gets the leader moving. It’s an elegant solution to a common problem.

When the dry fly drift is over, simply activate the line and get it moving before starting the backcast. The motion of the pre-cast pickup breaks the hold of surface tension. And that’s the key. Once the surface lets go of the line, it is easily lifted off the water with minimal disturbance . . .

Dry Fly Fishing — Back Door, Side Door, Front Door | When the first cast matters most: Part Two

Dry Fly Fishing — Back Door, Side Door, Front Door | When the first cast matters most: Part Two

When fishing dries, the cautious angler has many chances to fool a rising trout. Start behind the trout at the back door. Next move over and try the side door, beside the trout. Then try going right down the middle and through the front door.

Making consecutive casts with a dry fly produces often enough to believe that the next cast will seal the deal. But there’s a lot more to it . . .

Dry Flies on the Mono Rig

Dry Flies on the Mono Rig

For many years, I never much considered casting dry flies on a Mono Rig as a viable option. I enjoyed the art of casting a dry with a traditional fly line. And if you asked me about dries on a long leader system back then, I’d shake my head and tell you something about using the right tool for the job. But in the last few years, much of that has changed. And now, I suggest that a long Mono Rig is, in fact, the right tool for the job — sometimes.

There’s a time and place for everything. And fishing dry flies on the Mono Rig has become one of my favorite ways to approach trout, not just because it’s a convenient and quick variation when swapping over from a tight line nymphing rig, but because it is stunningly effective . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

1 Comment

  1. My favorite scout dries, in no particular order:

    Royal Wulff

    Deer Hair Sedge ( a very sparse caddis)

    Stimulator (especially in smaller sizes — 12 to 16)

    X-Caddis (see above).

    Parachute Adams

    Typical scenario:

    Stick one of these in a likely spot and see if you get a reaction. Not necessarily a strike but a reaction.

    Get some interest? Good. Now take a seat and watch for a little while. While you’re doing that attach some tippet to the dry and tie on something like a March Brown soft hackle or one of those kebari reverse-hackle Tenkara flies. Or something like that.

    Then work up to it again.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Pin It on Pinterest