****Brown Out Natural-­looking flies fool spooky trout. Photo by Rick Adair

We’ve all been there: trout rising in every direction and not a fly in the box that’ll draw a strike. The solution? Carry a small pair of scissors, and when trout get picky, use these three trimming tricks to make your bugs look buggier, and score more hookups.

Dry Flies

Illustrations by Robert L. Prince

The problem with many dry flies fresh from the shop is that they have too much hackle; no mayfly or caddis I’ve seen has 80 legs. In hard-fished waters, a low-floating fly tends to be a better producer, particularly in slow pools or during an evening spinner fall. In these situations, try clipping off all the hackle on the underside of the hook shank so the fly floats flush to the surface.

Wet Flies


Wet flies imitate both emergers and drowned adult bugs. The former drifts with its exoskele­ton dangling; the latter often looks bedraggled. That’s why wet flies tend to catch more fish after they’ve been chewed up. Hurry that process by clipping the hackle unevenly, wrecking any fresh-from-the-vise symmetry. As a finishing touch, mash the fly into the mud once or twice.



A real nymph’s gills waft and pulse as the bug swims along with the current. To imitate this natural movement more effectively, use the point of your scissors to pick out some of the fur along the side of the fly’s abdomen and thorax. This gives your nymph the translucent look of the real thing, as the flared hairs add a touch of movement and create a more natural nymph profile.