If you have spent any amount of time on the water you have probably realized that fish aren’t rising all of the time. I remember when I was a kid fishing in the mountains in the summer time, we would wait until the magic hour right before sun set to put a fly behind a bubble and light ‘em up! There were times when it seemed the lake was boiling there were so many fish feeding on the surface. I only knew that fish would rise at sun set, during the day we would use a worm or some power bait and sink it to the bottom.
So do fish only feed when there are flies on the surface, not hardly. Infact, the VAST VAST majority of the time fish are consuming their calories sub-surface. Fish are constantly on the move so they are in an almost constant need to replenish calories used up by swimming. Here is a little chart to give you an idea of the percentages of time fish spending feeding in each zone.
Over the course of a year, a trout will feed about 90% of the time beneath the surface of the water. I don’t know about you, but I am not patient enough to only catch fish 10% of the time. There are fly fisherman out there that are self-proclaimed “dry fly” fisherman. They become extremely good at picking up selective fish with a dry fly. It is even looked upon at times as a more “elite” way to fish. I’ve even heard an angler say that nymphing is about as boring as watching paint dry. That if they can’t see a fish take a fly then it’s not worth casting to them.
If this is your way of thinking then, AWESOME! That means I will be on the river fishing without you 90% of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch a trout take a dry fly. There isn’t anything more thrilling that making the perfect cast, seeing a huge trout eye-balling your fly and then suck it in. It has it’s time and place. I just don’t want to limit myself to only fishing when there are rising fish. I fish according to the conditions. Learning how to approach the water in any condition will assure you have a great time year-round and at all times of the day.
Don’t make the mistake of limiting yourself by thinking you’re elite. Get out there and have a blast learning how to catch fish in all circumstances. By learning to nymph effectively you will up the chances for success tremendously. If you have any input or ideas let me know. I wouldn’t say I am an authority on the subject, I just fly fish. Please feel free to comment or give your input below.