When I am after a trout or two I always make sure I have some trout flies with me. I don’t get many opportunities to fly fish for trout, therefore it is not something I am particularly good at, but I will have a crack when the opportunity arises.
Many fly fishermen I have come across carry boxes full of trout flies and trout lures, and I have never understood why. Thinking about it, I also know of many pike anglers who also carry around several lures. What I find really strange is that all fly fisherman have their favourite trout flies, and these will be the first flies out of the box and flicked in to the water, which would suggest to me that ninety nine percent of the trout flies simply sit in the box collecting dust, or are they there for show? It is nice to have a box full of fishing tackle, but surely if it is only used? I am a minimalist and I only carry what I actually use and what I need and no more.
As far as I am concerned there are only two types of trout flies you need for fly fishing, and these are floating trout flies and sinking trout flies.
Floating trout flies are those you fish on the water’s surface and try to entice the trout up to take them. Even though there are loads of different patterns of floating trout flies it really doesn’t matter what type you use. If a trout is going to rise up and take a fly from the surface, it is going to rise up and take a fly and it really doesn’t matter what type of fly it is.
Sinking trout flies are those you fish below the water’s surface and try to pull past the nose of a trout to entice it to strike. If there are no trout rising and taking flies off the top you need to use sinking trout flies. Once again, there are numerous different patterns of sinking trout flies, and if a trout is going to have a crack at one it really doesn’t matter what particular pattern you are using. A trout isn’t fussy, a trout can’t tell the difference between different patterns and a hungry trout really won’t care.
I know there are fly fisherman out there who match the fly they use to the type of fly prevalent around the river or lake, which makes sense but it doesn’t always work, and it was an experienced fly fisherman of many years who taught me this. A few years back I got to know an old fly fisherman very well whilst I was on vacation. This bloke saw I was struggling and for the two weeks of my vacation he was there teaching me how to cast, where to cast to, how to retrieve, how to spot fish, what flies to use etc. etc. This bloke took me under his wing and shared his tips, tricks and techniques he took a life time to acquire. If it wasn’t for this bloke I wouldn’t be half as successful at trout fishing as I currently am. The best bit of advice this fly fisherman gave me was to watch where the flies were and see how the trout were behaving. If the trout were rising tie on a floating fly of whatever pattern. If the trout weren’t rising tie on a sinking fly of whatever pattern. This is what I have done ever since, and I have had reasonable success.
An alternative to trout flies are lures, and in my experience the best trout fishing lures are small spoons. The spoons have to be small so the trout can actually take them. You can buy huge spoons, but these are totally unsuitable for trout because they are too big for trout to have a go at. I like using small spoons as trout fishing lures because they will work and attract fish regardless of how you retrieve them. It doesn’t matter if you give a slow retrieve and let the spoon wobble along the bottom of the river, whether you give a fast retrieve and get the spoon wobbling near the surface or whether you give a steady and brisk retrieve and wobble a spoon mid-water, all of these methods will catch trout.
I like small spoons as trout fishing lures because when you stop the retrieve the lure sinks to the bottom like an injured or distressed fish, and stop start retrieving is a great way of getting a trout to have a go at the lure.
Small spoons often have a barbed treble hook at the end, which is not only barbaric but also unnecessary. The first thing I do whenever I buy a small spoon for trout fishing is to cut off the treble hook and replace it with a size 4 single barbless hook, which is a lot more humane. Changing the hook from a treble to a single is a simple exercise that takes about five minutes.
Small spinners are alternative trout fishing lures, and whilst these do catch trout I have to say that I am not a great fan of them. One of the problems I have using small spinners as trout fishing lures is they twist the line, which over time weakens it and it will eventually snap, and most likely when you don’t want it to, i.e. when you’re playing a trout to the net.
Another problem I have with using small spinners as trout fishing lures is that you have to keep retrieving them to make them work. If you stop retrieving a spinner it floats to the surface (unlike a spoon that will sink to the bottom) which is not ideal.
I have caught trout using both spoons and spinners, however I have had more success using spoons. The reason for this may be because I prefer using small spoons as trout fishing lures, and will put a spoon on the end of the line before trying a spinner. I don’t think either catches more trout than the other, and I know many anglers who only use small spinners as trout fishing lures and they catch loads of fish. It’s just that I find spoons easier to fish with, and I like fishing with small spoons.
If you are targeting trout then you should carry floating trout flies, sinking trout flies and small lures for trout fishing. You don’t need hundreds of different patterns of flies, and neither do you need several different types of lure, and even if you only have one pattern of floating fly, one pattern of sinking fly, one small spoon and one small spinner you have all the lures you are going to need.
Whilst one of each is sufficient I would always carry two (or even three) of each so you can carry on fishing should you lose a fly or lure to a fish or (and it does happen to all of us) miscast to some bank side vegetation and have to pull for a break.