Fly fishing offers a great challenge to those who want to learn new skills and truly test their angling skills, but it takes more than technique to bag yourself a truly impressive trout. From the time of year to the fly pattern that you use, this guide will give you everything you need to know about fly fishing for stocked trout both in rivers and on still water.
When is the best time to target stocked trout when fly fishing?
Like many animals, trout species have set life cycles, breeding habits, and environmental needs to be met for them to thrive. Fisheries that provide stocked trout can't change this, and this means that the time of year is crucial to your success when trout fishing. It is always easiest to catch these fish when they have an abundance of food and are actively feeding, making late Spring and the Fall the best time of year for fly fishing for large trout. Of course, though, this isn't to say that it is impossible to catch trout throughout the year.
While the season you choose for trout fly fishing is important, it can pay to pick your time even more carefully if you want the best results. You can find some of the factors that influence the best time for trout fishing below.
- Light levels and temperature impact trout activity, making the time of day you choose for fishing very important.
- Other anglers will want to get the best fishing spots, making it worth setting off early to find the right fishing position.
- Fisheries will stock their water with trout on a regular basis, giving you the chance to choose your fishing days based on when stocker trout will be introduced.
The last of these considerations is the easiest to solve, thanks to resources like the Colorado Fishing Atlas. This website gives you a detailed map that shows all of the fishing locations across this state, along with information about the types of fish, amenities, and stocking routine you will find at each venue. Many fisheries will restock their trout throughout the year, and you can find resources like this for States across the US. The image below shows all of the recently stocked trout fishing sites in Colorado in March 2021.
(Colorado Fishing Atlas - March 2021)
As you can see, time is a crucial factor when you are fly fishing for trout. There is a lot more to bagging the best fish than timing, though, and you should read on if you are genuinely determined to master your trout fly fishing skills.
How do I target stocked trout when fly fishing?
It’s easy to take the right steps when you are fly fishing for trout, but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t complicated. Skills aside, you need the perfect balance of temperature, positioning, and a range of other factors if you’re going to catch a monster on your line. We’ve gathered this information so that you don’t have to, compiling it into an easily digestible guide that will help fly fishing newbies and veterans alike. Of course, though, this certainly isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be able to start catching fish without developing your skills first.
Weather & Temperature
Most people would assume that bright and sunny days are the best for fishing trout. While these fish are most active in their feeding habits during Spring, sunshine will make it easier for them to see you and your line, ultimately making it harder to get a good catch. Cloudy skies and light rain can make for the perfect weather conditions for trout fly fishing, both lowering the trout's visibility and the competition you face at your fishing spot.
The weather itself isn't anywhere near as important as water temperature, with fish being more concerned about the conditions in their rivers, ponds, and lakes. Trout will feed most actively between 34 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, and this activity will only pick up as the water reaches the higher end of this scale. You need the trout to be in feeding mode to trick them into taking a bite out of your fly pattern. Some anglers will take thermometers with them when fishing for trout, making it easier to measure the water temperature.
Going back to the Colorado Fishing Atlas, it’s time to think about the location you choose for your trout fly fishing. This tool can be used, in theory, to find the best fishing spots the state has to offer, with the following factors being used to dictate the decision;
- How recently the fishery was stocked with fishable trout.
- How much competition you will face on a busy fishing day.
- How far you are willing to travel and how remote you would like your fishing spot.
- Any special amenities or features you need from your fishing spot (family-friendly, license agents, bait stores, etc.).
Tools like the Fishing Atlas are available across the US and in many other countries, but we'll focus on the Colorado Atlas for this guide. The filtering system available on this tool enables you to find fisheries that have been recently stocked, will offer low competition and have features like family-friendliness. Once you have the right options ticked, you can start to look for areas near you that will provide the best trout fly fishing opportunities. You can even see the specific fish species that have been stocked at each fishery.
Where Do you Stand When Fly Fishing for Stocked Trout
Whether in still water or a river, the movement and behavior of fish like trout have been observed for a long time and can be predicted with relative accuracy. This gives you the opportunity to deliberately choose an advantageous position along the waterside when you first start a day of fly fishing for trout. Still, you will have to get there early as other anglers will have exactly the same idea.
The idea here is that you’re trying to position yourself to have access to both as much water as possible and prime swimming routes for fish. The type of positions that are best depend on whether you are fishing in still or moving water, and we will be assuming that you are dry-fly fishing for the purpose of this guide.
Still Water Positioning
Lakes and ponds will rarely have perfectly round edges, presenting a range of outcrops and peninsulas that offer an advantageous fishing position. Positioning yourself on the end of one of these outcrops will enable you to cast your fly further into the body of water while also placing you closer to the areas that trout will usually swim in. It's worth considering the position of your shadow when fishing like this.
Fishing for trout along the edge of a river is reasonably similar to fishing in still water, though you need to consider the direction of the water. Most anglers find it easier to cast their fly downstream, placing them in the trout's blindspot while also making it easier to handle your rod. Some river fly fishers choose to wade into the water when fishing along rivers, though this isn't necessary.
But wait, there’s still more to learn about fly fishing for stocked trout!
While we’ve already covered a lot of ground, there is still more to learn before you can consider yourself a master trout angler. The technique and equipment you use can play a significant role in your success at the water, making it crucial that you spend some time learning before you expect to see results. If you’ve been fishing for some time, you’ll already know that patience is key to an activity like this, but this is what makes it so satisfying when you bag a big catch.
Let’s take a look at some of the nuances that go into fly fishing for trout. We will cover as much as possible in this article, but it’s always worth taking the time to practice and learn new techniques to keep your skills developing.
Fly fishing for stocked trout - the equipment
This article hasn't touched on equipment yet, but this is for a good reason. Developing skills and taking the time to improve will usually have a much more significant impact on your success than buying expensive gear when you're fishing. Of course, though, you need to have at least a few basics ticked off. The age and popularity of fly fishing as an activity make it surprisingly affordable and accessible.
Fly Fishing Flies
Fly fishing gets its name from the type of pattern that is used. Lightweight and designed to mimic prey sitting on the water's surface, flies are far different from traditional lures. Thanks to their lightweight design, flies aren't the heaviest part of the fishing line, significantly altering the casting technique that should be used. You can make your own fly using feathers, fur, beads, and a range of other materials, or you can simply buy a pre-made option.
Flies are generally designed to imitate the appearance of the food that the fish you're trying to catch would typically eat, and this is why it's usually best to fly fish for trout when they are naturally feeding.
Here at Drifthook, we stock a wide range of flies that come in collections of different styles. Our Nymph Frenzy kit contains 60 different flies that will look near-identical to insect nymphs to fish below the surface of the water, along with kits that include streamers, dry flies, and other types of fly fishing flies available on our website.
We’ve gone ahead and tested a range of the market’s most popular flies for 2021’s spring fishing season, and you can read about 15 of our favorite trout fly fishing flies in this detailed breakdown.
Fly Fishing Rods
Spending a lot of money on a fly fishing rod isn’t necessarily the key to finding what you need when shopping for a product like this. Getting the right balance of features to suit your fishing style and physique will be far more crucial, but this can be broken down into a few simple areas. It’s usually best to try a range of more affordable rods as you learn, ensuring that you get the opportunity to try different types of rods and build an understanding of what you like.
Fly Rod Action
Fly fishing rod blanks come in a range of different actions, though these can be split into three main categories; fast action, moderate action, and slow action. Each of these different rod types behaves differently when you cast your fly pattern, making it worth taking your time to choose your first rod.
- Slow action fly rods: Slow action fly rods will bend evenly through the entirety of the rod blank. This makes them slower to cast, providing benefits to beginners who haven’t had the chance to hone their aiming skills.
- Moderate action fly rods: Moderate action rods will bend from about halfway up the rod, making them faster than slow action rods when casting but making them more forgiving than fast action rods. This is the most common rod type on the market for fly fishing.
- Fast action fly rods: Fast action fly rods bend close to the tip, making it easy to generate a lot of power very quickly and forcing the user to be extremely precise with their cast.
Fly Rod Weight and Length
The weight of your fly rod is a little more complicated than the action. You can find a number on each rod to show you what its weight is, and these weights typically go from #0 to #11. The fishing environment should determine your rod's weight it will be used in and the type of fish you plan to catch with it.
For trout fishing in rivers, #4 and #5 are good weights to get started with, offering an ideal weight range for those who want to cast from the riverbank. Weights between #6 and #8 are suitable for still water trout fishing, offering enough strength to catch even the biggest trout.
As for length, this is another factor that needs to be determined by the type of fishing you will be doing. 9’0″ and 10’0″ rods are ideal for most trout fishing applications, offering a lot of versatility for beginners. Some anglers choose shorter rods for river fishing, while you may need a longer rod if you plan to fish from a boat or working a Euro-nymphing technique.
Fly fishing for Stocked trout - the technique
Equipment is important, but you will never be able to fish properly if you don't spend the time to learn the right techniques. Many anglers who have spent time doing traditional fishing will struggle when they first start with fly fishing, as the techniques you use for these activities are very different.
Casting your fly is one of the trickiest parts of this process, especially for beginners. There are a couple of different methods that can be used for this, and you need to be conscious of the space and people around you when you choose the casting method you will be using. Let’s take a look at one of the more common casting methods; an overhead cast.
Performing an overhead cast is simple once you’ve had some practice, but it could be worth trying your cast a few times without a sharp hook until you’ve got the hang of it. You can start to learn an overhead cast in a few simple steps.
- Position yourself with your feet facing forwards, spaced about a shoulder’s width apart. Try to spread your weight evenly across your feet, but don’t worry if you need to put one foot forward to perform longer casts.
- With the reel pointing towards the ground and the butt of the fly rod in line with your forearm, grip the handle of the rod loosely in one hand with your thumb resting on the top.
- Let about 10 feet of line hang from the end of your rod, being careful to avoid any tangling.
- Starting with a low tip, lift the rod up so that the tip goes over your head, pulling the fly behind it in a whipping motion and stopping once it is just behind your head. At this point, you will need to pause for a moment for the fly to catch up with the line behind you.
- Move the rod forwards in a firm but steady stroke to let the line and fly pattern roll into the water. Stop the rod once it is in line with the ground, and the fly should land right where you expected it.
It will always be easier to learn a technique like this by watching others perform it, and there is more to the perfect fly fishing technique than casting. Here at Drifthook, we've spent a lot of time fishing for a range of different types of trout and have created a series of videos to show you some of our favorite techniques. Check out our YouTube channel if you’d like to fast-track your fly fishing education.
Fly fishing has long been a popular sport in America, and trout offer an excellent option for both beginners and veteran anglers alike. You can find loads of great information on our website to help you as you learn more about this activity, but nothing will be better than hitting the water, talking to other anglers, and spending time practicing the skills you love.
Matthew Bernhardt, a third-generation Coloradan, grew up at the forefront of the state’s fly-fishing revolution, enjoying time on the water, side by side with experienced guides and lifelong anglers.
By combining his passion for fly-fishing with input from other experienced fly-fishers and guides and his fine arts degree from Colorado State University, Matthew spent five years carefully developing the Drifthook Fly Fishing System, built to help every angler catch more trout.
When he’s not spending time with his wonderful family, you’ll find him out on the water catching MONSTER trout, and he anxiously looks forward to the day when his kids are old enough to join him there.