Beginner Guide

The Importance of Fly Fishing Scouting Missions


What you study on the water immediately pays large dividends in an hour, the following day, or subsequent yr. Writer Landon Mayer didn’t catch this South Platte brown trout in rising, turbid water, however went again to the identical spot a couple of days later to assist his shopper catch it. It was greater than 30 inches lengthy. (Landon Mayer picture)


This text was initially titled “Scouting Mission” within the Feb-Mar 2021 subject of Fly Fisherman journal.

For many fly fishers, the enjoyment of catching a fish is amplified when it comes because of cautious planning and preparation. Don’t get me unsuitable—unintended fish are all the time welcome. However whenever you plan for it, tie particular flies for it, visualize it, and every thing comes collectively, these are accomplishments we cherish without end.

A kind of recollections began for me one November day when a buddy and I launched into a scouting mission. Water flows had been at 60 cubic toes per second (cfs), with water temperatures hovering round 46 levels. We didn’t count on nice numbers of fish due to the low, chilly water, however to battle the cold-weather blues we determined, “Let’s give it a shot and see what we will study.”

Through the years, I’ve discovered that days with low expectations can produce large rewards, however typically it’s important to be affected person to earn the payoff.

Issues began slowly as anticipated, however to our shock, later that afternoon the water flows bumped up. Usually, when you’ve got rising flows, particles and vegetation alongside the perimeters are swept into the river, and the water loses readability and positive factors shade. Fish that cover below, round, or close to construction in clear water start to come back out and actively feed on dislodged meals objects like leeches, bugs, and crustaceans.

We positioned one thing in entrance of a big boulder in a run that was now about 6 toes deep. It was so large and colourful it jogged my memory of a “floater” large redfish from the marsh in Louisiana, nevertheless it was truly an enormous trout. We devised a plan for a correct presentation. I stored my eye on the trout for my buddy, and he modified flies and diverse his weight and his chief size for greater than an hour. To our utter disappointment, this fish merely wouldn’t take something we provided. We had been each guides on a day without work, however we couldn’t catch this explicit fish. Little did I do know that this humbling expertise was additionally a studying expertise. It was the kind of scouting mission that an elk hunter may do, checking an space days or even weeks earlier than searching season.

The Importance of Fly Fishing Scouting Missions
Huge trout use instream construction like boulders and downed timber to hide their areas, and to offer quick access to meals. Use sunny days to check these areas, and to search for trout alongside the present seams. (Landon Mayer picture)

A couple of days later I had a information journey with my shopper Justin Cohen. The day began like another sunny early winter day. I anticipated midge hatch, and actively feeding trout, however nothing extraordinary. The South Platte within the winter tends to be low and clear, however as soon as once more, about an hour into the journey the water turned off shade, and clumps of vegetation drifted down within the rising present. I immediately considered the fish we had noticed beforehand in these similar situations, so we hiked in that course and located the identical brown trout in entrance of the exact same boulders. This time I noticed the trout swaying forwards and backwards, a sign the fish was feeding closely. Given the rising water situations, we thought a Mini Jig Leech was a good suggestion.

After a couple of casts, we noticed the fish flip and monitor the leech, however refuse on the final second. Because the fish at the very least appeared , we made a minor adjustment from a black to a rust leech. On the second forged the fish turned and took the fly, and Justin set the hook.

All hell broke free because the fish rolled on the floor, splashing water 10 toes in two instructions. I knew straight away that this might be the most important trout I’ve ever seen on this river. The battle continued downriver for 150 yards, and shut to 6 minutes later I used to be lastly in a position to slide the trout into the web headfirst. We measured this large at 35.75 inches lengthy with a 20-inch girth. These measurements put it simply shy of 20 kilos. My earlier “failure” had become the chance of a lifetime for Justin.



Sunny Skies

In situations with clear water and sunny skies, it may be troublesome to catch trout as a result of they’re spooky and cautious. Turning brilliant days into scouting missions helps you research the contours of the river backside so that you could be more practical on cloudy days, evenings, and even night time forays.

When coping with bluebird skies, I begin deep runs and probing the depths to see how a lot weight I would like, and the way lengthy the chief needs to be to succeed in the underside.

I additionally use the solar to scan the water flowing round or below construction, deep pockets, and in eddies. These are all zones the place trout can cover in brilliant mild, after which actively feed when mild situations change or a hatch comes off.

Along with scoping target-rich areas, map out the place the perfect location is to make a forged and the place to current your flies. For instance, if I’m on a excessive financial institution wanting down into the deep run with sunny situations, and I discover a rainbow or brown trout holding in entrance of a boulder, I make a remark about which angle is the perfect to make a drift with out snagging something underwater. That approach I’ve a visible map of what the run appears like.

Construction offers alternatives for trout to really feel secure, and in addition ambush their prey. My favourite construction varieties are boulders, and pure woody particles like logs alongside the sting or each instream and on the perimeters. Generally boulders entice drifting logs so that you get each collectively. These constructions present simple locations for trout to carry, and there’s typically swifter present close by the place they will seize meals. The altering present pace additionally helps obscure the trout, and due to the elevated present circulate round these edges, there are sometimes deep spots the place trout really feel safe. Instream vegetation progress is one other factor below which trout can cover, like the protection of a blanket that oftentimes is full of meals.

The Importance of Fly Fishing Scouting Missions
In stillwaters, use the intense solar to check the contours of the underside in shallow areas, and in addition potential pathways between and round weed beds. When there are clouds and uneven waves, large trout transfer into these shallower areas to feed. (Landon Mayer picture)

Even should you can’t see trout in these locations, search for indicators. The gravel on the underside of the river or lake is usually soiled or coated in silt or algae. When a trout’s tail sweeps like a brush over these areas, it cleans the sand filth and gravel, creating lengthy streaks the place the fish tends to swim up- or down-river. It’s like searching for footprints when scouting for elk. These spots typically present the place the fish comes out to feed, or the pathway they take by the weed beds to get to their favourite feeding station.

Night time Shift

Scouting in the course of the day creates alternatives so that you can come again to those similar locations in late night or after darkish. Please don’t fish at night time within the seasons when trout are actively spawning. Brown trout specifically use the duvet of darkness to spawn within the shallows, so that you shouldn’t be on the market wading round and disturbing them.

Summer time is the perfect time for night time fishing, because the daytime solar and warmth trigger large trout to change into practically dormant within the day and search for larger prey objects at night time. Do your night time searching below a full moon or naturally brilliant starry sky. This enables you a greater alternative to see the place you’re casting, and trout use the sunshine of the moon to hunt. Have you ever ever seen how awful the fishing could be in the course of the day when the moon is full or practically full? It’s as a result of the large trout are feeding at night time.

Don’t use brilliant headlamps to fish at night time. Use the sunshine of the moon or a headlamp with a pink mild to tie knots. You can too use a luminescent fly line just like the Scientific Anglers Amplitude Clean Infinity Glow to make extra correct casts, however as in the course of the daytime, don’t “line” the fish.

Generally night time is usually a scouting mission as effectively, whenever you see and listen to large trout feeding at sure locations at night time however can’t catch them. The identical fish are probably close by in the course of the day, and the sunshine may enable you hone your technique a little bit bit. Each session on the water needs to be counted as analysis for future outings.

Window Buying

On cloudy days trout feed extra as a result of there are typically extra hatches of aquatic bugs, they usually really feel safer from the hazard of predators from above. Ospreys have hassle recognizing trout in cloudy, darkish situations—sadly, so will we. Nevertheless, birds of prey would not have polarized glasses, and I don’t consider they will anticipate “home windows” within the floor currents like a stationary fly fisher can.

To see into these home windows, you’ve obtained to place your self to cut back glare throughout a whole viewing lane, after which watch slicker home windows of smoother water as they transfer downstream. To make use of these home windows successfully, peer by them as they transfer. Use your imaginative and prescient to scan alongside the underside. It doesn’t work as effectively to only stare at one spot and catch a glimpse because the window passes by.

You should utilize these home windows on stillwater as effectively, when wind creates chop on the water. The trout are extra inclined to feed in shallower areas with any such chop on the water. This provides you an opportunity to scout the perimeters of lakes and reservoirs—locations that could be barren in calm, sunny situations.

Looking out Flies

You’ll spook fish day by day you’re on the water. After I see that I’ve spooked a fish, I make a visible and psychological observe about precisely the place the fish was sitting. Then after an hour or two, or on the finish of the day in low mild, or a couple of days later, I’m going again to that spot and fish it cautiously and extra strategically. I can’t let you know what number of occasions I’ve turned a spooked fish right into a fish within the internet.

The Importance of Fly Fishing Scouting Missions
Looking out flies can change the temper of a sullen trout and elicit a strike, a chase, or they might even spook the trout. In every occasion, you’ve discovered the place the trout is holding. Clockwise from high are the Double Gonga, Ideas Up, Muddler Daddy, Mini Leech Jig Damsel, and Amy’s Ant. (Dennis Pastucha picture)

The varieties of flies you utilize may also be an essential a part of your scouting mission. In prime situations with bugs hatching, all of us like to match the hatch for finest outcomes. For me on the South Platte, that always means utilizing very small flies that imitate midges and tiny Blue-winged Olives. However on days when nothing is hatching, and the fish don’t appear to be feeding, it’s important to get revolutionary to get the eye of huge predatory fish. This normally means utilizing bigger looking patterns.

Kelly Galloup’s Ideas Up Streamer has two foam heads tied on the trailing rear hook. This fly causes numerous commotion whenever you transfer it. Everytime you pause the retrieve, the tail rises and sways within the present. That is the precise motion of a crayfish fleeing backwards. I wish to strip two or thrice rapidly with a pause to imitate the pure meals provide.

Charlie Craven’s Double Gonga represents many varieties of baitfish and offers you the choices of sunshine and darkish shade variations. I take advantage of an exaggerated pause in the course of the retrieve to make it appear to be an injured swimming fish, and provides predators a simple view of the facet of the fly each time potential.

With giant streamers, and notably in low water, you’ll produce numerous reactions from the fish, however not all the time hook-ups. If a fish bolts from the fly, make a psychological observe, simply as you’d with another spooked fish (see above). You’ll additionally discover that large fish typically chase streamers in a territorial response, however then don’t decide to consuming. Generally these fish have alarmed themselves and change into hyperaware. In different cases, they’ve proven they aren’t in a feeding temper, they had been simply chasing the smaller invader from their house. Nevertheless, typically you may downsize to a fly that’s much less threatening and catch a fish that has revealed its place.

If you end up contemplating looking fly patterns in your scouting missions, take into consideration patterns that imitate a number of meals sources. You don’t know what the fish are feeding on, or if they’re feeding in any respect, so give your self as many possibilities as potential to spark a response.

Davy Wotton’s Muddler Daddy suits this perfect, because it appears like numerous issues however nothing specifically. “The Muddler Daddy was created to mimic the massive crane flies which can be helplessly wind-blown throughout the lakes and reservoirs each time these is a wind,” says Wotton. “It additionally resembles many various terrestrial bugs, in addition to small sculpins and crawdads. The Daddy is normally fished as the highest dropper of a crew of flies and fished by what we name dribbling, working the fly on and off the floor as you retrieve the crew of flies again towards you within the conventional loch type.”

Jack Dennis’s Amy’s Ant represents a stonefly, hopper, or cicada. It may be skated, twitched, or dead-drifted on the floor and within the floor movie. As a result of it matches such a big number of meals objects, it’s an consideration grabber. I slap the dry fly down aggressively, and sometimes twitch the fly deliberately by mending the road. I wrote about this system in my article “Stand Out in a Crowd” within the June-July 2017 subject of Fly Fisherman. Since then, I’ve discovered that if you find yourself taking part in peek-a-boo with giant trout, a good way to set off a strike is to downsize the dry, so I begin with a #8-10 Amy’s Ant, and if I get a refusal I can swap to #12-14 and even #16 and persuade the trout to truly eat the fly.

My Mini Leech Jig Damsel represents a number of meals sources and works in each stillwaters and in rivers. It may be used as a part of a double nymph rig, or as a dropper beneath a dry fly that imitates one other meals provide. My favourite methodology is to have a Goddard Caddis dry fly with an olive or tan Mini Leech Jig Damsel dropped about 18 to 24 inches beneath. You’ll be able to skate and twitch the Goddard Caddis on the floor, and whenever you do you’re additionally bringing the Mini Leech Jig Damsel to life. 

It’s a double attractor rig, and sometimes fish come to research the skating caddis, then find yourself consuming the Mini Leech Jig Damsel beneath. It’s additionally a fantastic a part of a deep nymph rig as a result of the slim construct and tungsten bead assist it get down rapidly. Even when nothing is hatching, leeches and damsels are all the time round, and trout have a tough time saying no to these kind of giant opportunistic meals.

These looking flies will enable you get a response from trout on days when nothing is hatching, however you wish to benefit from your day on the water. Additionally they enable you study the place the fish are holding, as a result of they “get up” dormant trout.

Pay attention to the trout that refuse the fly, the trout you spook whereas exploring, and use your time on the water to observe and observe. I really consider you may change into a greater fly fisher with out even casting, simply by working towards and enhancing your powers of commentary. Use these low-water days, these bluebird sunny days, and people no-hatch days to rigorously research the locations trout could be hiding. Search for a touch of shade, the slight motion of a tail, or a shadow. Make an observation of what you see, and check out some new flies and new methods to coax a trout right into a response. The belongings you study immediately pays large dividends down the highway.


Landon Mayer is a Colorado fly-fishing information and Fly Fisherman contributing editor. He lives together with his spouse Michelle and their 4 youngsters in Florissant, Colorado. His most up-to-date e book is The Hunt for Large Trout: 25 Greatest Locations in the US to Catch a Trophy (Stackpole Books, 2018).



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