Dry Fly Only ? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Dry Fly Only ?

02-07-2002, 09:14 PM
Are their any dry fly only fishermen left?

Growing up trout fishing in the NYS Catskill region rivers and Northern NJ 40 years ago there were a number of dry fly only fisherman. These older gentlemen would not fly fish unless conditions were right for dry fly on the trout streams.

Actually I was like that for a few years, then became a wet fly and nymph fisherman. Still love the dry fly when conditions are right. Nothing like matching the hatch and working a pool picking off all of the active risers.

Wondering if there are any true purist dry fly fisherman still around?

You can personal message me if you prefer. Doubt if there will be many postiive responses.

Dble Haul
02-07-2002, 09:35 PM
While I like to fish dry flies, I am one of those who play the percentages and subscribe to the notion that 90% of a trout's diet is taken under the surface. I actually prefer nymphs to dries. I think it might have something to do with the satisfaction of feeling a subtle strike and hooking the fish. It's very gratifying. And it's also extremely productive under the right conditions. :cool:

02-07-2002, 09:49 PM
In my early years of flyfishing I was dry fly only. Nymphs were beyond me - I didn't understand them or how to fish them. I could see a dry and most of the time know I was matching the hatch and most certainly know when I had fooled one.

Now I catch most of my trout on nymphs. I almost never use wets or streamers. In a heartbeat I will switch to dries if I think it'll work. Often times I've had fish hit my indicator and I'll switch to some outrageous looking dry and frequently fool a few fish before going back to the nymph.

I could never just sit on the bank waiting for a hatch to happen.

02-07-2002, 10:30 PM
Yes you are both like me, primarily nymphs.

Beleive all of the dry fly only fisherman have left this earth.

John Desjardins
02-07-2002, 10:59 PM
To me dry flies are much easier to fish than a nymph or streamer. Fishing a dry fly is a two dimensional challenge of presenting the fly and eliminating drag, while you can see the fly. Nymphs, wets or streamers add the third dimension of depth in the water column and often not being able to see the fly.

So what do I fish? Most of the time both a dry and a wet or nymph. It would probably 2 nymphs if I liked using strike indicators.

Hal, its interesting that you brought up this topic. An advantage of meistering the trout fly swap is that I get to see all the flies. I've been noticing that they are ~ 90% sub-surface.

02-08-2002, 05:57 AM

Thats what I thought, what will happen to the art of dry fly tying and fishing ? I remember forty years ago the dry fly only older gentlemen would look down on the wet fly, nymph, spinner, and bait fisherman in about that order. Me being in my early teens I would sneak around the next river bend before I put on my wets and nymphs so they would not at least talk to me when I ran into them again on the river. They were the original purist fly fisherman, not many left today, I think.

Nothing like a summer day figuring out what they are rising to, matching the hatch, and then executing successfully.

Thats it, have to do more dry fly fishing this year !!!!

I am doing the Atlantic Salmon fly swap, bet there will be no dry flies.


02-08-2002, 06:48 AM
Maybe its the timing when I get to fish for trout (or freshwater bass for that matter), or the places I fish, but if I switched to dry fly fishing only I would significantly reduce my fishing success. It is the exception rather than the rule that I will see rising fish, nevermind being present for a hatch. Not that these opportunities don't present themselves. Like most of you have indicated, I am ready to switch to a dry at the first sign that the fish are interested, and I spend much of my time nymphing or wet flying observing the water for any evidence of a dry fly fishing opportunity. There is nothing better than taking a fish on the surface. Early last summer at Joppa I noticed an occasional boil at the surface and decided to switch to a popper. For several hours I caught one schoolie striper after another, each one exploding at the surface to grab the fly. It was a blast. One of my best fishing experiences was a time when we got heavily into bluefish hitting on the surface. It wasn't uncommon for two or three fish to try to hit at the same time and a popper would only last a few fish before it was chewed to bits.

I get the same thrill from a delicately rising trout and will never miss the opportunity to fish dry flys when it is present. But I would rather catch fish with nymphs and wet flys in the meantime.

02-08-2002, 07:35 AM
great topic.

my buddy fishes on top no matter what & has for years. he dabbles with subsurface every once in a while but would rather remain fishless and get them to hit his top water offering.

me - I like to catch fish so I'll use whatever fly/method is working - or at least try to use it.

I use fly gear exclusively

02-08-2002, 07:56 AM
Since 80% of my trout fishing is in fast, rocky freestone streams with lots of pocket water and plunge pools, I use dries most of the time. When I work the riffles (seldom) I would use wets, and sometimes I work the pools with streamers; but dries are the ticket for the pockets and the holding places around rocks. My favorite river has little in the way of mayfly hatches, but has plenty of caddis, stoneflies, and terrestrials, which means the trout are opportunistic feeders -- neither the fish nor I wait for hatches..

02-08-2002, 08:58 AM
I love to fish dry flies and will jump at the opportunity when it rises. I like to walk the bank searching for rising fish more than i like dead drift nymphing. We took a trip up to The Henry's Fork last year and got into some fantastic dry PMD action. However, I caught more fish swinging soft hackles than on drys 20 to 1. Fishing soft hackles reminds me of fishing a current for stripers. I cast quartering down, the fly sinks a bit and then gets hammered on the rise. I like feeling the line tighten and then stop dead before the fish starts fighting. I can enjoy the scenery more, I do not have to concentrate as much as with nymphs or drys and it works.


02-08-2002, 10:14 AM
There are still plenty of dry fly fishermen only out there. Maybe back east on the famous rivers they have all died off and the Orvis crowd has taken over. But as Brad said try the Henerys Fork some summer between late June and mid July. There you will find a breed of fishermen that fish only surface. Now this includes emergers, spiner falls and cripples. Out there the pursuit of the feeding fish is the game and not how many you get. Often you will walk the banks looking for the perfect fish or the fish in the most difficult situation to cast to. One will spend the time figuring out how to aproach the fish and how to make the cast and of course selection of matching exactly what that fish is feeding on. That by the way is a trip in itself as those rainbows between 16" and 26 inches are exact in there selection, there are no all mosts in matching.
Anyway once you have done this enough chances are great that you will never go back to nymph fishing again, one will be completely bored by it. You still will go fishing as often but there will be days when you might make one cast or none at all and still learn so much about a river and yourself.
The last time trout fishing I made maybe 2 casts in three days on the Big Horn in Wyoming because the days were 100 degrees and there were no hatches. But I had a ball watching, observing and directing the kids to fish that were feeding on nymphs. By the way I would not let them use an indicator, It is better for them to learn the feel than the lazy way out that so many new age fly guys use today.

02-08-2002, 10:22 AM
OC -

Your description conjures visions of air-clear water and trout in their true element in my mind... makes me want to get out there as fast as I can.

And in my flybox... NOTHING BUT DRIES!

Yes, you are right - there are many, many dry fly only guys out there. God bless them.

02-08-2002, 01:06 PM
Juro and for all you trout fishing guys and gals back east. If you have never made the trip out west to the rockies, Montana and Idaho to do this type of fishing, dry fly only then you should. Go out there this summer leave all your nymphs at home, forget about fishing all the big free stone rivers where trout are easy. Instead dedicate your trip to learning why there are still plenty of folks who only fish on the surface. You might not be real sucsessful but what you learn about fly fishing the most difficult trout will stay with you forever. As for only old guys fishing this way that's not the case out there. There are many 20 something year olds who have left the real world and now work for pennies, live in a teepee or a shack just to fish this way. Boy are they good at it too, these young ones can fish with the best of them, but they have made it thier life at the cost of having family and money.
The fish, fished to on the Henerys Fork would be called 2 cigarette, 3 cigarette or even a 4 cigarette fish. By that it was how many smokes it took to figure out everything that was needed to make a good cast to a certain fish. Always that evening in some honky tonk bar in Last Chance or West Yellowstone the story would be told as such. 22" fish four cigarettes. One would not have to say any more the listener would understand what the angler went through to cast to a fish. This may have been unhealthy but out in that country fly fishers smoke and drink with the best of them, maybe that's why all the old ones are now passed away.
But get out there sometime and fish just this way with or without the smokes and leave the nymphs at home.

02-08-2002, 02:14 PM
I love to fish dry flies - even on freestone rivers and lakes. On the western lakes in Eire when the mayfly hatch is on, dry fly will often outfish other methods. Even on the stocked English reservoirs, there was a surge of interest in fishing dries and emergeres in the surface film about 1o years ago almost to exclusion of everything else.

Sadly the chalk streams like the Test and Kennet in the South East of England where Halford and Skues raised this method to an art form are mere shadows of their former glory having suffered from extraction and nitrate run-off.

02-08-2002, 02:24 PM
Casting to rising fish is fun, there is no doubt of that, but casting to where the fish may be holding, though no fish is seen, is stimulating as well. Sometimes it takes a dozen casts to bring the trout up to the surface...sometimes you're casting to empty water. And you may never know which it is; you may have put the fish down on the third cast.
I hitchhiked out to Montana in the 60's to fish the Yellowstone River. It was big water and there were some big fish but there wasn't the structure or variety of water that I was accustomed to...it's one man's meat...

02-08-2002, 04:04 PM
Glad to here more folks are fishing emergers on lakes. Are the fish feeding fish or are you blind casting? How delicate a big trout can be taking emergers just under the surface. Sometimes it's pure beauty just to watch, dimple, pectoral fin then tip of tail and nothing else. Sorry to here about the nitrate problems, I work in water Quality issues and that's a big one out here in the NW. Education and lot's of tv advertising the evils of over fertilizing your lawn is helping loads here.

Over my waders,
Yeh the Yellowstone is a big river with some hugh fish and all the fish are very opportunistic. Don't matter what you throw at them chances are they will take it and you can fish those big western rivers blind all day long and get fish. But the rivers I'm talking about out west are not like that. Rivers like the Henerys Fork, Silver Creek and the spring creeks near Livingston MT are as selective as can be Much like the rivers Adrian mentioned and some of the rivers back east used to be before stocking programs took place. On the Henerys Fork one can not cast blind even if you know a fish is there. He will not take it, he won't even take a worm dead drifted if that were leagle. These fish are totally selective and if you match the hatch in every way but the difference in one size you will not be sucsessful. You can have a blanket hatch of thousands of PMD's commining down river and these fish are only taking cripples then that's all you have a chance of getting them on. That's why it such a great fishery because the challenge is in the total observation what taking place. If one does not understand exactly how the fish is rising and whether it means he is taking emergers, dunns spinners or cripples by his movement to the fly then one does not catch. And that's where the fun is with this type of fishing. You got to understand the whole workings around you. Takes time but it is in my belief the top of the order in fly fishing. My girl friend does not think so she likes the Yellowstone and enjoying being on the river casting and casting and catching fish one after another. Both are fun but that's where they seperate as far as fly fishing is concerned.

02-08-2002, 05:01 PM
Gee, I'm a dinosaur. Started fly fishing when I lived in New Jersey. Fished the Flatbrook and the Raritan. In New York and Vermont I fished the Beaverkill, the Battenkill, and I recall the White (?) River. All dry fly.

Up to this point I've been a dry fly only fisherman, but that is going to change, soon. My wife got me a spey rod, etc., this past spring and it looks like I will be compromised in my pursuits. But hey, I live in Western Washington, now, and for river fishing spey carries the day.


02-08-2002, 05:43 PM
OC, it sounds like you really enjoy the western streams. I moved out here not quite 2 years ago and love it. I had a dream trip last year fishing around yellowstone for about 10 days and heading back again this June. Perhaps the toughest part of fishing Henry's Fork is that soo many insects hatch at the same time. We took fish on Green Drake nymphs, micro caddis soft hackles, PMD cripples, Flavalina emergers, drys, and spinners and got absolutly skunked by a late evening hatch of size 10 Brown Drakes, all on the same day. The challenge is not only finding the right emerging crippled off yellow PMD dry Fly but to realize quickly that the fish have switched to the Flavs.


02-08-2002, 06:15 PM
Dries are around a fair amount of time but nymphs and other subsurface critters make up a large proportion (something like 80% I think) of the trout's diet.
I still prefer to go after the 20% and use dries most of the time.
If I'm not going to catch a trout, I'd rather do it with a dry!

02-08-2002, 06:34 PM
All of the western dry fly fishing sounds great and I hope I have the opportunity some time. As I said before, it may be due to the limited opportunities and times that I get to fish or the rivers that I can fish in those opportunities. I have spent many a fishing trip walking a river to find rising trout and agree that there is nothing like finding the opportunity and the right fly and presentation and landing the fish. I have found that those opportunities just don't present themselves that often where and when I fish and I have found that there are fishing challanges and satisfaction to fishing other methods. I know its not the cathing its the fishing but I would rather have a wet tight line than dry flys and dry lines.

02-08-2002, 06:38 PM
Okay, my spirit is renewed, it is good to see there are some dry fly fisherman out there.

But the response has not been large compared to the number of flyfishers on this forumn. I guess we need to give it more time for response.

I myself have been dredging mid west steelhead primarily for the last 20 years, since I was transferred here from back east. It is hard to go back to trout fishing when we can fish steelhead about 9-10 months out of the year in the rivers here in the great lakes. Thanks to the summer run steelhead now being stocked heavily in Lake Michigan. Lots of great trout fishing here though in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Steelhead dry fly fishing here has a very low probability of success in the mid west.

Wonder how many steelhead and Atlantic salmon dry fly only fisherman there are? Thats another very low probability success factor but something I have always wanted to do.

02-08-2002, 07:29 PM
I bet a riffle hitch and some skating action will bring those steelies to the top. I've heard of other places where the locals say the steelhead in their rivers wont come to the top but have then spoke to people who have regularly done it. I've never been successful at it but I know there are some experts out there who will sing the praises of steel on the top all day long.

02-08-2002, 09:09 PM

Your like many of us in the NW, former trout fishermen turned steelhead manics. But I was glad you brought up "where did all the old dry fly go?" It's true most have passed on and we 50 something learned from them. They were good and usually well of enough to dedicate much of their life to taking their fishing to a very high level. Now I'm not saying it's the only way to fly fish, almost every method is just wonderful. Some folks love just being on a river others love catching and releasing the fish they hook while others love to take one home for dinner once in awhile. All of it's good, healthy for the soul but I'm always trying to figure out what it was with those old dry fly guys, what it was they were after in there obsession. I would never tell them this but it was like they were seeking some type of fly fishing zen. they quietly pushed their knowledge of their hobby to the max. While living in Montana I fished with many both guiding and just hanging out on the RR Ranch. They never taught, directed or conversed in a teaching maner. They just did what they did best and being able to be around them you started to see what they were seeing and on your own you started to develope new and keen skills. It's funny but before long you yourself are obsessed with pushing your self and giving the fish as many advantages as possible. When I look back on it now I realize that my first years in Montana were fun fishing and catching many fish on the Yellowstone, I was lucky enough to live on that river for a time. But for me to go back to that fishing is tough I try and I enjoy it but I think I enjoy the company of the my girl friend or my kids more than the fishing. Trout fishing is many things to many different folks and that's what makes it so great a pastime. I just think for those who want to challenge themselves in their fishing go out West and leave your nymphs at home, you may not like the fishing but to do it once would be such a learning experience and not time wasted.

02-09-2002, 05:45 AM
I love fishing with dry flies. Not like it. I really miss it , especially when fishing the salt. However, nymph fishing has saved the day for me many at time. One of the greatest rivers is the Missouri in Montana. Nothing beats it when its on. I started nymphing the river and my catch rate went way up. I love the challenge of fishing the BWO hatch fishing size 24 dries.
However, here in the East the Striped Bass has changed many a trout fisherman into a saltwater fanatic.

02-09-2002, 09:30 AM
Fish Hawk,

Yes I can see many more people are now into striped bass back east. Grew up in Northern NJ, was getting into saltwater FF in 1978 and then the big corporate transfer to the mid west occurred. Then converted from trout fishing to midwest steelhead and salmon primarily.

As i remember the striper population in the seventies was down and FF for them was really not seen in NJ. I walked off IBSP several times and got some weird stares from the surf rod guys.

Will give it another shot on may next trip back to NJ. My family is all back there, parents are in Toms River just 20 minutes from IBSP.

Love that place, have all my life. Still the same when I was there two years ago.

02-10-2002, 10:12 AM
I love the rising form too much to go without for long. I am so enanmoured with trout rising that I make it a practice to stop by numerous places to just watch them feeding during the off season. The NW is an interesting enviroment even though a lot of people think it rains and floods all winter there are some event hatches that take place fairly regular over the years give or take a week or two even in the winter.
Case in point Lake Crescent on the west end there is a beach where for years I have been watching trout (even big Beardslees) feeding on little mayflys. Middle of February seems to be the best the water so clear you can watch them cruise around right from the guard rail and watch the little mays tenting there wings and get nailed, just about everyone. Gee maybe they should cut the mayflys some slack and let me sore mouth some of the fish so a few more of the hacthes will survive!!!!!! Most of the action takes place between 1130 and 1400 obviously bright sunshine and no wind (admitedly rare) helps out a great deal. Once in awhile you have to stop and smell the roses.
Now having said all that I would estimate that apart from steeheading in the winter I fish dry or at least damp 90% of the time probably higher but I'll be conservative in my estimate. This is a very fun thread good idea!!!!!

02-10-2002, 01:42 PM
I will fish a dry fly on a trout stream all the time if I can. If the water is over 60 degrees and nothing is showing I will fish a dry fly as a searcher. Trout will come up more than you think.
In saltwater, where I do most of my fishing now, I loooooovvve to fish poppers. Imagine the sound when a striper over 10 pounds sucks it in! Pretty impressive.

03-24-2004, 10:23 AM
I, too, am one who fishes dry flies exclusively. My favorite place to fish is the Harriman State Park on the Henry's Fork. My current favorite rods are a Winston 9' 4wt DL4 wearing a Ross Evolution #2 loaded with SA Mastery Trout Taper WF-4-F, a Winston 8' 3wt WT that wears a Tibor Spring Creek CL loaded with SA Mastery Trout Taper WF-3-F and a Winston 8'6" 4wt WT that wears a Lamson Litespeed 1 loaded with Rio Selective Trout WF-4-F.

03-24-2004, 02:29 PM


This is a thread from a long time ago. Glad you brought it back up because I'm thinking more about dry fly fishing as winter steelhead fishing is getting harder and harder to do. It's funny we have not heard from PM Flyfisher in a long time, hope he is doing well wherever he is.

For the last few weeks I've been thinking of Spring in Wyoming on my daughters ranch. A certain river is near by and it has truely huge trout that sip. I keep thinking about walking the bank, stoping sitting for awhile watching the slowly moving weed beds in crystal clear water around the springs. Swallows flying overhead indicating that a hatch is just about to start, how do they know? Green grass along the banks and the milk weed and nettles not high enough yet to have to watch that one and only false cast you get. A good cigar to ponder on all that is begining to take place a pair of good shades to cut the mind glare.

This year I will take my 3 year old grandson for a walk along the river. All he talks about is fishing for sunfish in the ranch pond but I will show him something new. He will not need to fish the river for another 3 years or so but he should know about what's there and think about it often before he fall asleep at night. If he wants a cigar I will have to say no but how do you say no to your grandson, I'll give him a puff or two if he won't tell his mom. ;)

03-22-2005, 04:40 AM
Dry only fly fishing is a dyeing religion. There are some of us youngsters, versed in its ways, but the faith is not as strong as it once was. My granfather was one of the great priests of this failing faith. I remember, as a child, not more than 5, fishing on Mission lake, in Montana. The air was brisk, and for me, the young acolite, barely congnicent of the teaching I was recieving, was more interested in chacing young ducks through the reeds, than fishing.

My grandfather, on the other hand, cared for nothing but the dance. He was a magician with the rod. He would take his magic wand in hand, and make it dance to each command. A fish would rise, and with barely any effort, as if by will alone, his fly would float, low across the water, and land near the center of the bullseye left by the expanding riffles. The fish would rise again, his rod would ark, and the ballet would begin.

After a while, chacing birds through the bursh didn't hold my attention any more. I was captivated by the scene before me. He began to teach me. I was not big enough at the time, to cast for myslef, but I could learn where to place the fly, and how to retrieve it. I cought the first fish I can remember, on that lake, dragging back a fly that had been cast for me. A 10# 11 3/4 oz rainbow. It took me nearly twenty minutes to land the fish, and once I did, I was as exhausted as he, but from then on, I was as hooked as that fish.

My learning, under his tutalage, began then. He tried to teach me what he knew, from tieing flies to catching fish. He tied nymphs for me, and he usually carried one or two; a hare's ear here, or bever caddis there, but I can't recall seeing him tie one on. It was if he needed the temptation to resist, to prove his commitment. I do remember once or twice, seeing him fish nymphs. He would greese them up with a foul smelling paste he carried, and fish them dry. (I've never seen a hairs ear produce, like it can top water.) I learned what I could, but never became a fly fisherman. I liked to tie flys, but didn't have the patience for fly fishing. We fished often, but I don't recall anyone ever catching more fish than he did on any of our trips. It was amazing what nearly a century of experience had tought the man.

At 10, my family left our home in Northern Montana, but he, at 93, was to old, and too stubborn to follow. He still practiced his religion. The Flathead, the Milk, the Blackfoot, and Marias were his church. Over the next fouryears, Now and then, we would visit, and he would teach me as best he could. It wasn't until then, that I was willing to learn, and I studied eagerly under his care. I hooked myself more often than I hooked a fish, but I tried, and he was patient with his student. I would hear from time to time, of how his trips to reiceve his sacriments went, and hear the family complain about his disappearing into the hills. They worried he would hurt himslef, but I knew it was the practice of this faith that sustained him.

At 96, his eyes, and his helth were failing. He didn't stop at a stop sign, and had a minor accident. It was this accident, I am convinced, that killed him, not the kidney falior that ultimately took him just short of the beginning 99th year. They took his license, and thus cut him from his communion. Excommunicated, by an act of law, his mind went quicly, but the body lingered.

I remember visiting him once, shortly before the end. They had put a large plastic pool on the grounds, and stocked it with fish from a hatchery. They tied flies to ice fishing polls, and let the geezers loose. For a while, he was himself again. He cought a fish or two on a deer hair hopper. He talked for a while, and then went back to his room. I know it wasn't the same, but I think it was what he needed. A last rights of sorts, for a man of his faith.

I don't keep the traditions, as he did. I often sin, and toss a nymph to a riffle behind a rock, when there is no hatch to match. I don't have the patience I should, and I still lack about 55 years of learning, to be the sage he was, but I make an effort. Perhpas some say, I will re-discover the old religion, and I can teach my own children or grandchildren the way, as I take my communion, on the Blackfoot, or the Flathead, or the Marias. I can always hope.

03-22-2005, 07:34 AM
I was pretty much a dry fly and streamer only guy until a couple of years ago. I went on a summer fishing trip up to the North Maine Woods when the fish were all deep in the holes in the streams and dry flies wouldn't get you anything. So I fished nymphs for the first time. Since then, I've found myself using nymphs more and more.

There's just something about watching a trout rise up and hit your dry fly that's really incredible. I always liked streamer fishing too since it's really a challenge to imitate how a baitfish would behave in the current of a stream.

04-13-2005, 09:41 PM
being very new to the fly fishing scene, i was first introduced to dry flys last year and i have never tried anything other than dry flys. but i am sure this season i will get the chance to try something different, but i am a sucker for that top water action IMO.

04-14-2005, 07:50 AM
Everyone makes their own rules and has their priorities. I have the most respect for the angler that has mastered the most techniques, casts and species. If they are still having fun and sharing their passion, they are at the top of the heap.

"Gee Mister, what are you gettin' em' on?", the new fisherman asks.
The dryfly only angler looks down on the boy and taps the ash out of his pipe, "A good drift."
"Thanks Mister."

04-14-2005, 02:45 PM
The only reason I fly fish is in order to see a trout come to the surface and take a fly.