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Fly Fishing to a Rise: Where to Put the Fly

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The best day in a fly fisherman’s life is often when the fish are rising. On a lake or pond it’s often at dusk or just before dawn when the mosquitos and other insects start to get active. You begin to see little rings of ripples on the water. Here’s one…there another. It’s the fish feeding at the surface; coming just close enough to suck in the unlucky insect just trapped in the surface film.

It’s this insect that the dry fly is intended to impersonate. The Adams with it’s dry hackle that both floats the fly and looks like wings desperately beating in an attempt to escape the water’s surface.

These rings produced by feeding fish are called rises.

So, how do you fish them? For the full (and theoretical) answer, check out Marinaro’s ROTR. But here are three general tips based on his work:

  • If you are fishing a trout stream, the trout likely followed the insect from four to eight feet or more downstream before taking it. After taking the fly, the trout will return to its holding point further upstream. You should cast eight to ten feet upstream of a rise in moving water.
  • In still water, the fish also likely came several feet to take the insect. Cast the fly further out than the rise, but do not allow the fly line to land where the rise occurred if at all possible. If you don’t have any other alternative, just plunk the bug down as close to the center of the rise as you can, wait a second for the ripples to subside, then twitch the fly rod to give the bug some action.
  • The profile of the fly and the way it sits on the top of the water makes all the difference to feeding trout. As the trout gets closer to the fly, it can see the top of the fly better. If you see swirls or rings around your fly, and get no takes, switch to another pattern.
  • It is the overall profile of a fly–including the size–that causes a trout to take it or reject it.

Check out Marinaro’s book if you like. We’ll have more tips from ROTR in later posts.

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