By Zach Lazzari | Photos by Ryan McSparran
After the long winter, there is nothing better than summer dry fly fishing. The trout are hungry and need to pack on calories before the next round of winter approaches. Sometimes they are easy and willing, eating big stoneflies without hesitation and other times, they are flat out selective, picking mayflies and caddis out of foam filled eddies and slackwater.
Hunting with Big Dries
The big bugs are ridiculously fun to fish. Salmonflies, golden stones, green drakes, hexagenia mayflies, grasshoppers, cicadas and other terrestrials are calorie rich and they bring big fish to the surface. It’s hard to pass on these limited windows of opportunity that draw difficult fish from their secret hiding places. In some cases, the hatches are so thick, the fishing actually becomes difficult as trout are gorged or revert to eating drowned adults below the surface.
The big dry flies don’t necessarily end with the hatches either. Trout will have that instinct to grab a big fly for a long time after the fact and while it’s not something every trout in the river will tackle, some of the big fish will continue eating the big fly patterns. This creates a situation for a hunt that is similar to streamer fishing. Stick with the big dry flies and work them hard all day. Dedication is the key here and numbers are not the name of the game. Stick with it, dead drift them, twitch them and prepare to move one or two big fish.
Also look for windows of opportunity that make these insects more available than normal. Green drakes love a light drizzle, salmonflies fall helplessly when the wind blows and hexagenia mayflies hatch within an hour of dark. Time your approach and the big dries will produce.
When to Size Down
An interesting overlap occurs that creates confusion, especially during the early summer. Big bugs like salmonflies are crashing the surface but the fish aren’t interested in your patterns. Oftentimes, they are focused on caddis, golden stoneflies and smaller yellow sallies. When the big bugs are present but the patterns don’t produce, it’s time to try a smaller version. I’ve fished a size 16 elk hair caddis through a salmonfly hatch and had incredible, red hot fishing while other anglers drifted big foam bugs with little success. Downsize sooner than you think and test out the small sallies and caddis patterns when the big bugs are present but not producing.
Hit the Small Streams
Summer means the small streams are open and that window only lasts a few months in some areas. Get out your Royal Wulff, Humpy and Adams dry flies to tackle the fish that will eat just about anything. Some small streams have big trout and others are ripe with opportunity for a day of walking and catching as many as you want on a single fly.
Recommended Fly Rods
Dry flies come in all shapes and sizes. So do the rivers where we love to cast them. Depending on where you tend to fish dry flies most often, we have a few recommendations.
Our flagship M Series rods are extremely popular among stillwater anglers and nymping fanatics. But anyone who has fished one will tell you that these rods are outstanding dry fly sticks – particularly when fishing big bugs on larger rivers. For that Salmonfly hatch on the Gunnison, bring the extra power and reach of the M Series.
For smaller waters and delicate presentations, we love to recommend the Au Sable series. These fly rods are highly accurate and have incredible touch in those light line situations.
Finally, you can’t go wrong with the Reaper X for pure versatility. This medium-fast rod can handle big winds and hopper-dropper rigs, but is just as adept at delivering a size 20 parachute adams to a rising brook trout.