Tip: Spread Out Your Casts When Fishing Attractor Dry Flies

Greetings from Laxardalur (the Salmon River Valley) in Iceland. We are targeting giant, native brown trout (pictured) with dry flies. We’re fishing large attractor patterns like Fat Alberts, Amy’s Ants, and other beetle-like imitations. Thing is, there are few, if any, natural bugs like this here (midges make up most of the insect life here). The fish hit these flies purely as a reaction to something that looks too good to let pass by.

I’ve learned that there is a subtle difference between fishing with dry flies when you are matching a hatch, and fishing with attractor dry flies. With imitations of natural bugs, you want to mix in with the real things, and pinpoint your casts in very precise spots like on the current seams and bubble lines where the hatch is concentrated. With attractors, you want to space things out a bit, not only to cover more water, but also to keep the fish guessing.

Think of it this way. When you swing streamers through a steelhead or salmon run, it’s very important to cover water. You cast, mend, let the fly sweep, and then step downstream. You don’t cover water if you stay in one place. If you move too slowly, you telegraph to the fish that your fly is coming, letting them know something’s wrong. If you blow right through the run, you might miss fish, but it’s actually better to move quicker in this case. Ideally, you want your fly to just “appear” and the fish to suddenly see it and decide to eat it. If the fish sees something slowly sweeping back and forth in the near distance, chugging its way downstream like it’s on a pendulum, that’s not going to work.

The same applies when prospecting with attractor dry flies. You want the bug to “appear” in a pocket. So space those casts out more, and don’t bang the same spot over and over with an attractor pattern. Even a foot or two can make a world of difference.

This fish, which taped out at 23-3/4 inches, was caught on the fifth cast that I dropped in a particular run. None of those casts landed in the same spot.