A Lack of Surface Activity

Written by: Paul Procter


Hatches have best been described as “sparse” so far this year…
Photo by Paul Procter

Spring remains one of the more anticipated seasons for the fly fishing enthusiast, as aside from marking the start of a new trout season, daytime hatches of upwinged flies are often at their best now. Usually, we can rely on the likes of Large dark olives, March browns and Olive uprights to put on a good show, which in turn stir trout into action.

This year however, fly hatches have best been described as a “trickle” that failed to excite trout. Sure, flurries of fly occurred, but what’s been lacking is that post hatch residual fly, which often holds fish on station for a good few hours. Instead, we’ve experienced a flush of activity that in some cases lasted a mere 15 minutes, though occasionally stretched to nearly an hour, giving us a tantalizing taste of what could be.

Being involved with River Fly Partnership, respectable kick samples suggest nymph populations haven’t crashed in our neck of the woods, so what is it that seems to have knocked fly hatches? Hazarding a guess, the topsy-turvy weather is a likely culprit. We’ve endured snow in recent weeks and along with frosty nights this pegged back water temperatures. Conversely, a few bright, warm days brought about a massive swing in air, temperatures that won’t have helped either. Then there were floods to contend with too and melting snow brought high, mucky water!

I’m convinced these conditions impacted on the day to day lives of invertebrates when instead of emerging en masse they’ve appeared as a faint procession over a number of weeks. A case in point was our beloved Grannom, a daytime caddis that usually appears in early April with intense hatches spanning some 10 days or so. This year though, Grannom were first noticed on April 5th and still about on the 30th. Double the window of usual activity meant hatches were diluted so on many occasions failed to summon trout!


Consisting of a March brown spider, PB waterhen bloa and black spider, a likely trio for Spring trouting.
Photo by Paul Procter

When it comes to fishing, we have a couple of options now, either sit tight and wait for a rise, or knuckle down by searching the water. If doing the latter, to keep it civilized, I’m a fan of North Country wets (spiders) as in many respects the method isn’t dissimilar to dry fly methods. In its truest sense, three scantily dressed spiders are arranged on a 12ft leader and cast upstream to comb the water. As the business end rides barely subsurface, often, takes are seen rather than felt…a la dry fly!


A scruffy looking elk hair like this has the ability to tempt trout when little stirs at the surface.
Photo by Paul Procter

If you’re a dry fly enthusiast then rather than wait for a rise as such, again it can be profitable to cover water using a larger than normal dressing. The idea being that regardless of having their eyes down, an odd trout or two find it hard to resist a tasty morsel floating overhead. Naturally, we all have a favourite fly now, but I’m very much a fan of a Klinkhammer, or bushy elk hair caddis. Whatever your choice, my advice would be to keep those casts short (approx 3 rod lengths) rather than be tempted to chuck a long line.


About Paul: Life long Orvis supporter, AAPGAI Master Instructor, Orvis Endorsed Guide and Wild Trout Trust vice president, Paul Procter is a dedicated flyfisher with over 40 years experience under his belt. Aside from being a regular on the Orvis Blog, Paul is a leading contributor to Trout & Salmon, Trout Fishermen and the Fieldsports Magazine. Travelling extensively throughout the UK, Europe and Southern Hemisphere, Paul has gained extensive knowledge in both fresh and saltwater disciplines. His abiding love though is to target large wild brown trout using dry fly techniques.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.