On the Fly: Refusals? Change up your presentation

Scott Spooner
On the Fly
Tying a fly.
Louis Cahill Photography

If you’ve been fishing the Fryingpan River lately, surely you’ve seen a few refusals from the trout in regards to your fly pattern. When we see the fish refusing naturals, we should take note as anglers and up our game a bit. 

We would counsel changing your presentation before switching out to another fly pattern in most cases. 

If a fish is showing interest, you’re halfway there. The fish is recognizing your offering as food, they just may not like the way it’s being presented to them. Usually the “problem” is drag on your fly, and this can be easily corrected with an up or downstream mend of the line as the situation dictates. Keeping your line, leader and tippet above (upstream) of the fly usually helps as well. 

Keep in mind that different bugs hatch out of different water types, so fish those drakes in the rough water and smaller mayflies, midges and craneflies in the soft stuff.

This especially applies to the fall streamer fishing we’re all anticipating with the change of the seasons. If a trout is following your big fly, you’re on the right track. We all know to carry many colors and sizes of these bigger flies, but most days it is all about the retrieve versus throwing the “right fly.”

There are many ways to strip a streamer through the water — low and slow, high and fast, up, down or across the stream — the possibilities are endless.  The main takeaway is to keep playing around with your retrieve until the fish start eating the fly, not just reacting to it.

It’s time to switch the fly if all else fails. Usually, going down in size is the answer — but not always! On rivers like the Fryingpan, the fish certainly become more distrustful of large presentations as summer hatches continue in to fall. 

The moral of the story here is to show those fish your fly in the water type and manner they are accustomed to, especially if you know your hatches.  Be safe out there and enjoy the spectacular late summer and early fall fishing around the corner!

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

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.