As anglers we have a tendency to think that when we’re not catching fish, it’s because we don’t have the right fly. This is particularly the case when a suspended trout rises to examine a dry fly, and then refuses it.
Refusals can be frustrating and often changing flies is the first reaction. In my mind, refusals aren’t always a bad thing.
A refusal tells me that my fly selection was close. If the fly was not something that the fish considered eating, it wouldn’t have exerted the energy to inspect it. I have found that most times, refusals suggest that the drift was not correct.
If you get a refusal, try focusing harder on casting in the correct spot and maintaining a drag free presentation throughout the entire drift. If you still find yourself unsuccessful in fooling the fish, then it may be time for an adjustment.
Rather than changing your fly, I encourage anglers to change the size of the fly. Again, if the fish exerted the energy to inspect your fly, its choice is probably in the right ballpark. Sometimes fish are looking for the same pattern in one size smaller – or larger – than the fly refused.
If you have tried focusing on presentation and changing size, then it may be safe to try a different pattern. Although, I usually change fly patterns after a refusal only if the two previous tactics do not work.
Over the last few weeks, we have experienced some surreal dry fly fishing on Green Drakes, Sulphurs, and Tan Caddis. This time of the year is the best time to catch fish on the surface. The next time you have fish refusing your dry fly, keep these tips in mind.