In my opinion there is nothing more exciting than watching a fish take a fly on the surface. Whether you are fishing pollywogs to silvers, poppers to bass or dry flies to trout, in my mind a fish caught on the surface is always worth 2 points. As some fisheries see more and more angling pressure, it is becoming harder to get those fish to rise up to the surface. One change I have made in my approach when targeting pressured trout with dry flies is to focus on drifting my flies in front of the boat. To do this effectively you need a dedicated rower that is on the same page as you in regards to how you want to fish. When you get to a fishy spot in the river, the rower needs to either catch an eddy behind a rock or back row to hold you in place.
The angler should do a short cast next to the boat and start aggressively stacking line on the water to allow the flies to do a long drift in front of the boat. Continue to stack mend as the flies drift and do your best to keep the and leader directly upstream of your fly. This will allow you to get a long, drag free drift. After you let your flies drift whatever distance you are comfortable and still able to perform a hook set (for me this is usually about 20-25 feet as long as they are still drifting okay) I pick the rod tip up, drag the flies upstream before dropping them just a foot to the side of my previous drift. I then repeat, this time with my fly drifting in a slightly different feeding lane. As long as your line and leader are directly upstream of your dry fly, you will get a drag free drift. You can then do multiple drifts to either side to ensure you cover all the feeding lanes. I think of it as similar to lanes in a swimming pool and making sure I get a drift through each lane. It is amazing how a drift just a few inches to one side or the other can entice a fish to rise. On pressured trout streams, a fish my not rise unless the fly is directly over them and drag free. This approach does result in a tougher hook set but you will get far more mouths coming up to the surface.
Also important to note, the person in the back of the boat cannot do much during this. They should take a beer break, enjoy the scenery and wait for their turn up front! Or my personal approach is to just fish this style with 2 in the boat. That way you can alternate with the rower as it can be exhausting back rowing so much which is required to effectively fish this way. Don’t let pouty pressured fish stop you from getting some surface action. Always be willing to adjust your approach out there, you never know what you will discover!
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