How long do you fish before changing flies?

I am curious about how long folks fish subsurface without getting a hit before changing to a different fly. Assuming no surface activity, I usually start fishing with a wooly bugger. If I don't get a hit within about 15 minutes I find that I start rummaging in my fly box for an alternate fly. Is that time frame about right for you?


Active Member
Whether stripping a streamer, or something under an indicator, I'll change depth, and/or retrieve often before changing flies. But then, I',m lazy that way.
I posted a similar question a while back, it might help:

The main thing I took away was to change flies when you lose confidence in the fly you've got. If you aren't confident then your presentation will suffer.

I'm not sure it's led me to catching more fish, but it has made me a happier fisherman. If I find myself carelessly presenting my fly, I know it's time to change. Like, I'm just going thru the motions because I'm not actually expecting a strike.

Vladimir Steblina

Retired fishing instead of working
The only time I carry a watch is when I fish....15 minutes. Then something changes. Usually the fly, but sometimes the fly line.
I like the 15 minute part but I never change the fly. Instead I play with location and depth along with looking for clues and trying to guess their most likely whereabouts. Then, bigger picture, what I'm really trying to do is determine the timing of activity (when the bite will come on and go off).
It's time to change when your buddy has caught at least three fish in row and you haven't hooked up :)

I like the Rickards rule: don't change the fly until you are sure that fish have seen and refused it. The first thing I change is location. Keep moving until the "spidey senses" (Ira-ism) are tingling and then give the spot a shot to produce. If you see fish working and they aren't taking your bug, it is probably time to change.

Jim Ficklin

Genuine Montana Fossil
I reckon that I adhere to the "fish have seen it, but aren't taking" approach. Then I change something . . . fly, tippet, presentation, or location. "dialing it in" is part of the challenge & fun.

Lue Taylor

Lue Taylor/dbfly
Sometimes it's just the size of your tippet for an example a friend and i was fishing the same fly,same type line, except he was using 4lb flouro I had on 8lb the fish was jumping on his fly mine nothing until I switch to 4lb same happen chironomid fishing using 4x he 6x now I fish with 6x all the time catch rate went up
I usually start out with a proven fly and stick with it for way more than 15 min. I want to feel confident that some fish have gotten a look and refused before I change. At least 30 min.


Indi "Ira" Jones
Listen to Tim and Troutpocket (Spidey-Senses, hell yah) time specifically is not important it is so many other factors that matter so much more.


Active Member
Usually don't change until I'm through my first six-pack of brew. By then I don't give a shit if they're hittin or not.

I almost always start with an Olive Willy if I don't see surface activity, and a dry Renegade variant when I see feeding rings. Very rare that I don't get some strikes...frequency varies, but if they're not hittin those flies it usually doesn't matter what fly I tie on...they're probably just not feeding. Then it's time to start on the second six-pack.


Active Member
I generally look for a depth where the fish are and a retrieve that works. Then look at the flies. Often will try a two fly rig and only will change one at a time, keeping on one I have a lot of faith in. Since I tend to fish my local waters a lot, I have go to places and flies that evolve over time and in response to temperature, hatches and other factors. Learning a few lakes well really pays off.