Fifty Tips Tips/Tactics

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

June 10, 2018

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’s 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


Click here for details.


Read All of the Fifty Tips Series

What do you think?

  Follow the comments on this article.  
Notify of
Domenick Swentosky

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.

Floating tippet Central PA mistakes One Great Tip come on man BES small streams Ask an Expert bite windows Big Trout travel boys tips camera rules night-sighter winter fly fishing History Fly rods fly tying Rich brown trout Presentations brookies stocked trout friends gear fall public land Dad marginal water Dry-Dropper Wild Mushrooms stinky bass Spring Creek George Harvey bar boots wet flies nymphing Industry Stuff Pennsylvania float backcast TU spawning the Mono Rig tight lining flies reading water dog dry flies catch and release Whiskey Drinker solitude summertime fishing suspender fishing cookout carp split shot comp fishing Camping Grobe etiquette ice tightline walking Fifty Tips Whiskey Backing Barrel Discovery tight line nymphing thunderstorm Christmas Lights dead drift PA Gold streamside wildlife fishing tips musician club fishing giveaway big fish Trout Unlimited Float Fishing Namer Headbanger Sculpin mud It's just fishing dorsey yarn indicator trout bum Tippet Rings Little Juniata River Aiden rigs Bad Mother casting explore Memories nymphs mono rig wet fly fishing Press mousing How it Started skunked big brown trout Boat Davy Wotten Orvis Galloup Jeff PSA waders Gierach fly box Night leaders Fly Casting tracks tenkara summer Peace time Night Fishing DIY Sawyer spot burning patience Wild Brown Trout fly patterns winter fishing regulations home-stream Streamers Streamer fishing dry fly fishing wading boots Fish Hard montana Fly Fishing indicator fishing Weather Burke Resources Wild vs Stocked wading mayfly tiny flies wild trout backcountry DHALO DJS poetry nymphing tips efficiency favorite Baseball conservation indicator nymphing Dylan fighting fish Joey beadhead BadMoFo Stockies Euro-Nymphing last cast winter photography Mystery Troutbitten Fly Box PFBC angler types rookies friendship Quote fishing with kids brush fishing net Oakiewear front ended simplicity philosophy Buggers Sighter Trust hiking fly line Grandfather knots science matters George Daniel silence family droppers