Fly Fishing photo

I’ve long thought that the key to successful fly fishing (especially for beginners) is to keep this game simple. As such, I think you can break this sport into four key elements that deserve 90 percent of your concentration: 1) making the cast, 2) reading the water, 3) picking the right fly, and then 4) making that fly behave perfectly after it hits the water (“presentation”).

Truth is, you don’t need to be a scientist to figure out three of those four things (numbers 1, 2, and 4). The cast is simpler than we make it out to be. Sure, it takes practice to make perfect loops that cover 80 feet or more, but you really only need a solid, accurate flip cast that travels 30 feet to get into the trout game. Reading water… if you remember that trout like structure and transitions in currents and depths, you’re going to find many fish. And as for presentation, just make your bug look like, well… a bug. Avoid drag and unnatural movements, and the fish will be fooled.

But if you’re like me, number 3 can be a test. The difference between the contenders and the pretenders in fly fishing is the ability to figure out “what’s on the menu,” often times in a matter of minutes when the snouts start popping above the surface.

Don’t worry… we’ve called in reinforcements to help. Entomologist Robert Younghanz has agreed to be FlyTalk’s resident bug guy. He’ll offer tips and tricks for matching the hatch throughout the seasons. Having just been socked by a spring snowstorm in the Rockies today… we think this nugget of wisdom on “pre-runoff” bug selection is perfect. But don’t be shy in asking Robert other buggy questions related to different regions and seasons in the comment thread below. I’ve yet to see Robert stumped…

Here’s what Robert has to say for starters:
_The Blue-Winged Olive is one of the most prolific and biologically diverse Mayfly families, known by biologists as “Baetidae.” Did you know that there are over 130 species of Baetidae in United States and Canada alone? On a given day, there can be myriad different species emerging from the river. With such biodiversity, the key to “matching the hatch” is to be cognizant of size, color and profile.

For the more intrepid Fly Fisher who cannot wait for the ice to melt away from the edges of the river, do not despair, Stoneflies are the only aquatic order that have substantial winter and early spring fauna. The all black and wingless Capnieda can be a tasty treat for any trout even when the river is close to completely frozen over. In early spring the little brown stonefly, Taeniopterygidae, will often emerge and make its way out of the icy river, ever before you can keep the ice out of your guides!

If you are a fair weather fly fisher and wouldn’t even consider wetting a line until the end of April, you’ll also be missing out on the emergence of a couple of additional mid to large stoneflies. Hesperoperla the larger gold/brown stone as well as Skwala the medium brown stone both emerge before most anglers dream of putting a boot in the foot numbing waters of spring._

In early spring rivers will often be the most clear and at their lowest flows of the season. Although trout may be hungry after a cold hard winter, they can also be extremely “spooky.” Low flows and gin clear water instinctively make a trout wary of predators. Remember: If you can see them, then they can see you. A stealthy approach to the river is always a good idea… and even more so in the spring.

Robert Younghanz is an Aquatic Entomologist, Guide and Manager at the Angler’s Covey Fly Shop in Colorado Springs.