Dry Fly Fishing: Refusals

Dry Fly Fishing: Refusals

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.

2 Responses
  1. Am fising on Truckee River and have never had more frustration. Fish rising,looking,half taking. Changing flys works for one or two looks,then nothing. Also very hard to hook once bit. No novice,but sure feel like ine. Also,if no apparent hatch and vigorous rises,chasing caddis? THANKS

  2. Catching fish rising to dries can certainly present an experience that is frustrating at times, but that’s also part of the rewarding experience.

    Without any experience on the Truckee River, it’s hard for me to provide an exact solution to your situation. However, following the tips in the post would be my best advice.

    If they are looking at your fly, it’s probably close to what they want. Maybe try a different size in the patterns getting looks, try a smaller tippet size, or really concentrate on getting the best drift possible. Slack leaders can be useful for trout that are being picky. Yes, a lot of the time, splashy rises are usually caddis.

    Hopefully that helps, good luck and tight lines!

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