Dry Fly Fishing Tips

Basics To Improve Your Dry Fly Fishing Technique

Dry fly fishing can be one of the easier ways of catching fish on the fly, simply because you get to actually see the fish strike. A dry fly just floats on the water’s surface and, hopefully, imitates hatching flies around it which are attracting the attention of the fish. So you tie on a fly that resembles the naturals, cast it to a place where you see fish rising and, with luck, they will be fooled into taking it. Job done. Or not. Of course, in the world of fishing, there will always be snags. So, how can you make your dry fly endeavors just a bit more successful?

Matching The Fly

Fish can be picky when it comes to taking a dry fly. With a nymph you’re likely to get away with not being quite as accurate with your imitation. So look carefully at the size, shape and color of flies that you spot on the surface and try to reproduce those as closely as you can from your box. Take with you a selection of Adams, along with CDCs, Olives, Sedge patterns and Mayflies. These don’t only hatch out in May and June; you can sometimes see them later in the summer. Daddy-long-leg patterns are also work in late summer and early autumn.


Always use a floatant of some type to keep your fly perky on the surface film. It pays to spray or dab this on your lingers rather than onto the fly itself. Next, massage the floalant into the fibers of the fly.


It’s also a really good idea to make your tippet – that bit of line that leads to the fly – sink. You can buy material from a good tackle shop to do this. If your line floats right up to the fly, the fish will spot it and become cautious.


Most dry fly fishing is done by casting upstream and retrieving line as the fly floats back downriver towards you. Approaching from behind the fish like this means that you are better concealed from the fish, which is facing upstream. If you are targeting a rising fish, try to cast your dry fly a yard or so upstream from it; not on its head, which will only alarm it. Retrieve your line at exactly the same pace as the river is flowing. You need to do this to avoid drag – that is, making the fly skate across the surface in an unnatural fashion.


Let’s say the excitingly unthinkable happens and a fish comes up to hit your dry fly. It’s all too easy in the thrill of the moment to strike too quickly and yank the fly out of the fish’s mouth. Try to wait until the fly has been engulfed and the fish is turning down from the surface to swallow it. This is particularly important if you are using a big dry fly like a mayfly. When using a mayfly, it’s often a good idea to count to three before tightening.


Good dry fly fishing is almost always entirely dependent on accurate casting. It’s a great idea, therefore, to spend some time practicing either on water or on your backyard. This is not time wasted, I assure you.

Take your time

When you get to a river or lake, it pays to spend time simply watching the water around you. Try to pick out individual fish, where they are lying and where they are rising, look at the flies in the air and look at the flies on the water’s surface. Have you got anything in your box that looks somewhat similar? Also look in spiders webs. They will be catching what is most common around the waterside.

I hope these tips come in handy on your next fly fishing outing!