Advice for someone new to the sport?


If all around you are catching fish with spinners, then your intermediate line isn't getting you deep enough and your short little strips aren't moving the fly fast enough.

Plus everything everyone else said...


Active Member
I'm hoping folks on here may be able to give me some advice and/or point out what I may be doing wrong. I've started fly fishing this year, having gone out about a dozen times so far, trying to learn on stocked trout.

The problem...
Despite my best efforts, I'm catching very few fish (and stocked trout should be easy). The vast majority of the time when I get a strike, the fish lets go immediately (under a second), and I never get a chance to set the hook.
I know the fish are there. I see them jumping, and folks on the shore pulling in one fish after another with spoon spinners, all this on freshly stocked lakes.

My equipment...
5 wt 9'6" rod.
Intermediate line with 9' tapered leader
4' tippet using 3.5 lb royal platinum line
Flies - Size 14 wooly buggers of assorted colors (more detail below and photos)
I fish from a float tube, and I typically retrieve the line using sets of 3 short 1" pulls
Snohomish and King County stocked trout lakes

What I've tried so far...
1. Longer tippet. This didn't seem to help with the fly rejection. I get the occasional quick strike, then the fish drops it in less than a second.
2. Smaller fly. You can't really go smaller than size 14 with a wooly bugger, but I made a few with thinner bodies. That seemed to help a bit, but fish are still rejecting the flies.
3. Garlic scent. I considered maybe the flies smelled bad to the fish for some reason or another. So I tried covering them with garlic to mask the scent. If anything, this seems to repel the fish more.

The flies...
I tie my own using a chartreuse yarn (yellow greenish), and chicken feathers. Some with a bead head, others without. The bead head ones seem to perform worse.
I've attached photos of a few. The thinner style on the far right seems to be doing the best out of all three, but nowhere near ideal.

Any suggestions on what may be going on? I've seen fly fishermen far more successful with the stocked trout so it must be possible. I'd really appreciate some help.

Hi Cos,

Lot's of great advice so far. One of the very first things I learned when a friend introduced me to fly fishing lakes 30 years ago, was to keep the rod down. If you weren't already doing that before everyone suggested it, I think that will make a big difference. When you keep the rod tip low, either stripping or slow trolling a bugger, the majority of the time the fish hook themselves. Don't over complicate it. If you slow troll with the rod low, often they hit, hook themselves and then you can just lift up once you feel the weight. If they just hit it real quick but don't get hooked, continue trolling or stripping, they usually come back. It gets easier with experience. Practice control by not yanking the rod tip high after a fish hits and doesn't get hooked. Yanking it high just moves it further from the trout instead of giving him the opportunity to hit again.

Also, stocker trout can be small, spastic and hard to keep hooked when you are first starting. Since they are used to getting their food from above they tend to feed near the surface a lot when first stocked and my experience on many lakes is that they like a fast retrieve. It's really about trying different things and letting the trout tell you how they want it that day. Also, if you are getting hits and catching fish then you are off to a good start.

As for the flies, it still looks like your last picture of the woolly bugger has too long of hackle. Also, you can tie your tail much more sparse and it will have more movement. Tying your flies in the correct proportions will lead to more success. Check out some youtube videos or buy some buggers. Don't be afraid to go a couple of sizes bigger too. Tie or buy a few black buggers in various sizes. Black just works! Perhaps practice getting the proportions as pictured for a while until you get used to it. Then you can slowly start to tie them in your own color scheme or weight them more or just personalize them.

Good luck,


Active Member
One thing I was doing wrong that made a big difference in the number of fish I set the hook into is always keeping the line running through your trigger finger and clamping it down after the set while strip setting streamers and before when lifting a set with most other methods. Once hooked always keep a little tension on the fish through that trigger finger, by raising the rod, stripping in, and if they are large enough get them on the reel so you can maintain tension that way, except when they come out of the water then you should let up.


Active Member
Like others suggested plak around with depth. Count to 10 then start retrieving then 15 etc. Don't be shy with the line, try casting out then kicking fast while you strip out more line. Then let it sink and start your retrieve with rod low pointed straight at the line. Bring it all the way in to the leader every time, they like to follow a rising fly. Try a steady one foot pulls back in pretty fast. Then try six inch pulls, or really fast two inch pulls etc. etc. keep changing it up. Stockers are usually a sucker for changes in speed or direction. If you get bites stay in that area, don't keep going around the lake. Good westside colors for me are medium olive with dark brown hackle, all black, and Rickards seal bugger in light olive and burnt orange hackle. I like size 8 and 10 3xl hook. If I want something in a 14 I would switch to a nymph, half back or generic river nymphs. I think what people are telling you about your hackle is that the fibers are just to long. When you wrap it around the hook it doesn't need to stick out much past the point of your hook, if at all. Hard to find small ones in packs of strung saddle hackle, ask the guys at the fly shop for some ideas.

Steve Saville

WFF Supporter
All great advice, thank you so much Nick, Stone, Jim, and everyone else!
I haven't fished any fly-only waters yet, so the scent was not a concern. Not that it helped anyways - just looking for a way to rule out whether there was a scent on the flies that may be a problem.

I am sitting still, not trolling, and keep the rod in hand at all times with the tip down. Then I start my retrieve slowly almost immediately after the fly hits the water, so the line shouldn't have slack in it, at least not for long.

I will try the following and report back on how it goes:
1. Wooly buggers using a smaller hackle (what about the attached, still too bushy?)
2. Switch to a slow sinking line
3. Pre-sharpen the hook each time
4. Shorter tippet - maybe the long one is resulting in too much slack.
5. Research the strip-strike hookset and try it (this is my first time hearing of it).
Theoretically, the palmered hackle should be no longer than the hook gap. That's very hard to achieve with a size 14 hook unless you invest in some more expensive capes. I think I'd try tying that in black or purple with a shorter hackle to see what happens. The other guys have great suggestions but one I haven't seen is to try a larger fly, maybe a size 8-10. Sometimes you get strikes from little nippers and by using a slightly larger fly, they will avoid the fly and the bigger fish might try it because it is a bigger bite, if you will.

wadin' boot

Donny, you're out of your element...
WFF Supporter
Pick a lake where the ratio of stocked fish to surface area is favoring the fish. Fish 150 yards or less from where the plant was, which is typically the public access site/launch site. Fish 50 yards or less if you saw this thing (The truck, not the handsome lads) dump fish in the lake :

the first week or so the fish will be in the top three feet of water, after that it will vary. In more recent years the plants (I think) have been smaller than usual and getting the stockers keyed in is easier when they are eating more typical food the lake has. Which might be a little more abundant when it warms slightly.

Stockers are pursued aggressively by cormorants and osprey. If an osprey keeps coming back to the same area....alternatively read some of Ford Fenders posts, he is the lake magician, or better yet buy his book Tim Lockhart Stillwater Strategies.
Consider joining a local fly fishing club. The folks that are into this sport tend to be incredibly generous with their knowledge and skills. It will accelerate your learning curve by years. You'll make excellent friendships and will probably get invited to fish with some very knowledgeable people. Best of luck.

Tight Lines-Scott


Active Member
An intermediate sink and size 12-14 black buggers should be gold. Another item of importance is location! When hatchery trout are freshly stocked they have a tendency to be in large schools and in fairly shallow water. Don't spend a ton of time on one spot without seeing any fish rise or bites. The difference between hooking one after another and getting blanked can be 100 yards.

Mark Mercer

Great advice from the crew, as was mentioned rod tip at, or just in, the water and anytime you're using a sinking line (of any sink rate) 3 or 4 feet of tippet is all you need, no need for a long tapered leader (save them for your floating lines) It sounds like you're missing some fish because of this. Good luck, you'll get the hang of it.


A sometimes eternal optimist
WFF Supporter
Most new hooks these days are sharp but they may not be "sticky" sharp. Sticky sharp means that a hook will stick against your fingernail when you touch the point against it. If it is not sticky sharp it will slide right off. Your best friend for a sharp hook is a fine diamond hone. A file is just too crude for small hooks and removes too much material and really doesn't produce a smooth sharp point. I have a set of 3 diamond hones that I bought back in the 80's and have sharpened every hook I have ever tied a fly on for all of those years. A good hone is almost a lifetime investment and carbon steel files are but a subscription.

Barb pressed down completely, not just bent over. Another thing I have done for decades is using the electronic pliers I mash the barb with Is to open the gape of the hook by at least 10%. Most folks don't do that but a lot of hooks have the barb almost facing up towards the shank and I think that causes a lot of misses.

A 13' leader certainly isn't required for stocker fish, for now keep the entire leader length about the same as the rod length and go to a heavier tippet, at least 4x. Rod tip always in the water and learn the slip strike and you'll be in business.

By the way, your flies are overdressed, buy a few well made flies or have someone take mercy on you and give you some. A good black or olive wooly bugger should be enough to get you going for awhile.
Whaaaaat? All these years and i didn’t know about sharpening hooks, even my new hooks?

Welcome to the forum @Cos . You’ve come to the right place. These guys know a lot!

Jim Ficklin

Genuine Montana Fossil
There has been a lot of good instructional advice provided. I'll add an intangible: be persistent & patient. It will all come together.

As for tying, there are scads of tying videos available on-line, both on You Tube as well as from some on-line shops, such as Fly Fish Food, etc. Here is an example featuring a Woolly Bugger:

Have fun & welcome to the passion!

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