How often do you change flies?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Steve Unwin, Jan 8, 2013.

  1. Steve Unwin Active Member

    Posts: 340
    Edmonds, WA
    Ratings: +90 / 0
    After a few recent unproductive outings, I found myself wondering how long I should try any particular pattern. I am still very novice so I have been trying to experiment with different patterns to find what works.

    I have not been seeing a lot of insect activity to match, or been getting refusals (that I know of). I just haven't been seeing a lot of fish so I never know if I should be more patient with whatever pattern I happen to be using.
  2. Steffan Brown ...

    Posts: 548
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +64 / 0
    What are you fishing for? This time of year you won't be seeing much, if any, insect activity to clue you into a hatch. However, depending on if I'm fishing for steelhead or src, my approach is going to be different in leading me to changing flies. Unless the voices in my head are overwhelming in either situation.
  3. Steve Unwin Active Member

    Posts: 340
    Edmonds, WA
    Ratings: +90 / 0
    Mostly it's been trout but looked for steelhead a little and found myself wondering the same thing. Clearly there are many variables to both on when to change and what to put on (a whole different discussion, but I'm happy to experiment), but I am just looking for a sense of when to decide that it's the fly that needs changing and not just a matter of no fish seeing it.
  4. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,165
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,685 / 0
  5. Steffan Brown ...

    Posts: 548
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +64 / 0
    When you're fishing for trout, are you fishing places where you know fish should be? Are you nymphing or fishing with streamers for trout? Steelhead are a little bit different of an animal for me, but still have the same basic logic applied. If you are fishing water where you know fish should be, start by selecting the fly you have the most confidence in. If you lose confidence in your fly, you will start to focus on whether you have the right fly on, instead of how you are presenting the fly, and therefore you might want to switch to something that makes you regain that confidence and focus on how you are fishing. If you KNOW fish are there and your presentation is solid, and still have no hook ups to show for it, I would consider switching flies at that point.
  6. David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

    Posts: 1,976
    Walla Walla, WA
    Ratings: +775 / 0
    Steelhead flies get changed when either 1. I break off and lose it, 2. I change approaches (from swinging a run to beading some pocket water) or 3. I get bored. I do try to stick to 1 and 2 as much as possible and often fish the same fly all day.

    Trout...often more often, as i try to find "the winner" pattern. Once I start hooking fish, I won change until I stop hooking fish.
  7. Stew McLeod aka BigMac

    Posts: 1,175
    Renton, WA
    Ratings: +90 / 0
    I think sometimes we all (okay, maybe just me but I doubt it) flog a fly to death because "it worked last week" or "has always worked on this river". That being said, if things aren't hitting I am switching out until I get some hits. If I am fishing a large dry, I will often switch to a smaller version of it or what ever I replace it with (the opposite applies for me too).

    Some ramblings by me.
  8. ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

    Posts: 3,209
    Eagle River, Alaska
    Ratings: +112 / 0
    if I fish a piece of water I know fish are feeding in I switch it up till I get it right. Usually the first thing I do when fishing is find a piece of water I know fish are feeding in, then stick with what works all day.
  9. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,165
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,685 / 0
    Hello... my name is GAT and I'm a changeaholic.
    Steve Call likes this.
  10. wyofly Active Member

    Posts: 181
    NW Wyoming
    Ratings: +33 / 0
    Even on waters that I know, I look around me for insect activity. Don't forget to look up as spinners may be present. I put a fine mesh screen attached to a pair of wooden dowels in the stream and then string my rod. I then check the screen and if there is nothing, I will dislodge a few rocks to see what floats into the net. The above often tells me what insects are active and if none are present, I either match one of the insects in the net or put on a dry fly attractor pattern. After working the water for a few minutes I'll change either the nymph or the attractor and after a few changes, I might go to a streamer.
    Stew McLeod likes this.
  11. Krusty Active Member

    Posts: 923
    Spokane, WA
    Ratings: +610 / 0
    Sometimes they're just not feeding, and nothing you do will make a bit of difference. Hang in there, and you'll hit a day that will hook you on flyfishing for the rest of your life.

    Eventually you will have established a small group of dependable patterns. 'Matching the hatch' is ok, but there's considerable research that trout only get 5% to 10% of their food during 'hatches'...they're opportunists...and none too bright.

    The advice above about fishing 'where the fish are' is spot on.

    I always start out with what has been, for me, a rock solid pattern...and fish it in different locations...depths, retrieves, etc. I actually change flies more after I start catching fish....trying different sizes and variations....as well as those flies that I've tied or acquired that I haven't yet had much chance to fish. At least then I know the fish are feeding.

    To me, there's nothing worse than flailing around constantly changing flies. Patience is key; the more time that fly is in play, the better the chances a fish will get interested. It's kind of like bad casts....I see fishermen often recasting for the perfect cast....which they eventually make....but it's over now empty water.
    Alpine4x4, formerguide and anti.team like this.
  12. Steve Unwin Active Member

    Posts: 340
    Edmonds, WA
    Ratings: +90 / 0
    I've been struggling to find feeding fish as well, so it compounds the problem. I guess I am thinking of more of searching mode.

    I do like the concept about having confidence in the fly and focusing on presentation. I think that is probably the approach I have been taking. Sometimes a little bit of David Dalan's #3 kicks in and Stew's "worked before" technique too, and sometimes I just tie something on because it looks fun.

    Like most things I am probably over thinking it. On the few occasions where I have known that I was in the fish I was able to try different patterns until I got a bite, but otherwise it seems like I need to stay patient unless I know there are fish that aren't taking my offerings.
  13. Steve Unwin Active Member

    Posts: 340
    Edmonds, WA
    Ratings: +90 / 0
    Thanks for that. I hope I didn't give the impression of frustration. I have only been fishing for about 3 months now and only caught enough fish to count on 1 hand, but I enjoy every day I'm out. I also know that trout fishing in WA rivers isn't a big focus and probably less so in the winter...but it is winter and I am not going to wait until spring to fish, even if the odds are stacked against me.

    Thanks for all the tips guys.
  14. formerguide Active Member

    Posts: 316
    Bonney Lake, WA
    Ratings: +756 / 0
    Assuming that the fly you are fishing is something reasonable for the situation, here's my personal feeling and experiences...

    Flats Fishing: 99% presentation, 1% fly selection/tippet
    Steelhead Fishing (swinging): 99% presentation, 1% fly selection/tippet
    Steelhead Fishing (nymphing): 99% presentation, 1% fly selection/tippet
    Trout Dry Fly attractor/searching: 99% presentation, 1% fly selection/tippet
    Trout Nymphing: 99% presentation, 1% fly selection/tippet
    Trout Dry Fly (actively rising fish): 90% presentation, 10% fly selection/tippet

    Point being- as a general rule, presentation trumps all. There are certainly instances where changing up patterns for something different makes sense, particularly over heavily pressured fish. And, in the case of actively rising trout, oftentimes pattern makes a significant difference. But, that's assuming your presentation is solid to begin with, and if it's not, no fly change will matter. You cannot catch a fish while tying on a new pattern, the best anglers I know are fastidious about covering water thoroughly and efficiently, and rarely change patterns unless absolutely nothing is going on, or if another angler is really tearing it up on something totally different.

    But again, I change flies as infrequently as possible, and concentrate on presentation first and foremost. Depth and amount of weight when nymphing is FAR more important than pattern, drag free drifts are FAR more important when casting dries vs pattern. Also, when it does come to fly selection, size is the greatest factor (generally)...

    $.02

    Dan
  15. Steffan Brown ...

    Posts: 548
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +64 / 0
    Listen to this guy. He's caught two steelhead and 10 coho in his first 17 days of living in Washington. I think when he talks about presentation, there's black magic involved, but the basic principle of what he says about presentation has been my limited experience as well.
    formerguide likes this.
  16. formerguide Active Member

    Posts: 316
    Bonney Lake, WA
    Ratings: +756 / 0
    Haha, in my case, it's more about luck, believe me!

    But to be honest, much like the presentation vs fly selection, for me, it's simply about making the effort to get on the water and hit it. I don't get too fussy about patterns, and I really haven't done a whole lot of research about where I'm fishing. I find a spot that looks good to me, then cover the water as thoroughly as possible. Other than the instance of searching for rising fish, or obviously in flats fishing, looking for any fish, I say the thing to do is take a reasonable approach to the water in front of you, then cover it. Cast efficiently, pay attention to your drifts, mends, depth, etc... Fish intently and with purpose.

    Now, I'm as guilty as the next guy of day dreaming, watching a bird fly past, chatting with a companion on the stream. But I do make a conscious effort, when actually fishing, to concentrate and pay attention. Just the way I'm wired, I certainly am not the best caster. As they say, better to be lucky!

    Dan
  17. Gary Knowels Active Member

    Posts: 1,102
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +414 / 0
    I have a sneaking suspicion that Dan is under-selling himself more than a little, but the guy gives great advice!
    formerguide likes this.
  18. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,165
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,685 / 0
    I figure it this way... I tie a lot of different patterns... many are experimental. I may as well try them all :D

    The guys know I'm a changeaholic so they seldom change patterns and wait until I stumble onto something that works. Fortunately for them, I tie a goodly number of the experimental flies so I can hand them out to my fishing buddies if the obscure pattern actually works. However, there is method to my madness. I want to make sure an experimental pattern works for anglers other than just me. In that way, I know it is the pattern that works. Sometimes, my experimental patterns do only work for me and that part I can't figure out.
    formerguide likes this.
  19. Patrick Gould Active Member

    Posts: 2,356
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +688 / 1
    Here's a question. Is basic fly selection part of presentation? For instance in a faster section I might choose a heavier nymph or a dry that floats well. In a slow desert creek I might choose a light tippet and lighter fly.
  20. underachiever !

    Posts: 694
    suburban hell
    Ratings: +490 / 0
    I don't know jack so take it for what it's worth, but if I start switching thing up I focus on size. If I was using something small I don't tie on another small thing in a different color, I'll go large.