Reading the rise |

Reading the rise

Will Sands
On The Fly

Nick Williams / Special to the Post Independent

Dry-fly fishing has been very good lately on the Fryingpan, Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.

The midge hatches have been the dominant force on the Fryingpan, while midges and blue-winged olives are hatching along the Roaring Fork and Colorado.

Many anglers simply enjoy the visual aspects of dry-fly fishing; watching a trout slowly rise to your fly is thrilling and will test the nerves of the best anglers.

However, there are certain nuances about rising trout that can leave anglers frustrated and confused.

Realizing the difference between fish taking adult insects on the surface versus fish taking emergers just below the surface or in the surface film, can make or break an angler.

Many fly-fishers do not realize when they encounter fish breaking the surface that the fish may not actually be eating the dry-fly form (winged adult) of the insect.

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How do you figure this out?

Well, if you have presented several dry patterns to fish that appear to be eating dries and you do not have positive results, it's time to sit back and watch the details more closely.

This is when you need to assess the "rise form".

Watch carefully … are you seeing the fishes' back, dorsal fin and tail break the surface?

If yes, then the fish are focused on eating emergers below the surface — it appears that they are eating off the surface but that's not the case.

Think of how a porpoise or dolphin comes up just below the surface and then rolls just beneath, only breaking the surface with their dorsal fin or tail.

The best way to fool the fish in this scenario is to drop a nymph or an emerging nymph off of a dry fly.

The other rise form is when their noses are just barely poking through the surface.

Generally, this reflects the trout taking emergers stuck in the film.

Again, the best approach to take is to use a dry fly for a visual reference coupled with an emerger or dry-emerger pattern.

A dry-emerger is simply a dry fly that incorporates a trailing nymphal shuck.

Ask your local fly shop to get you dialed in on the appropriate midge or blue-winged olive patterns for these unique situations.

For more fly-fishing-related fun, make sure that you hit up the Fly Fishing Film Tour in Aspen on Wednesday, March 19 at 7 p.m. inside of the historic Wheeler Opera House.

Advance, discounted tickets are available at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt for $13 or at the door for $17.

— This column is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at (970) 927-4374 or

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