Fluency in Troutspeak

Tim Patterson / Special to the Post Independent
Staff Photo |

When we pay attention on the river, the trout almost always tell us what they want.

It sounds simple, but even the best anglers are learning and categorizing behaviors every day of their fishing lives.

A quality pair of polarized lenses is the basic tool of this enterprise, which takes away surface glare and allows us to see into the trout’s world.

Some fish are simply disinterested in feeding and are reaching for the antacids (you would be too if you just ate thirty size ten green drakes) and should be skipped over after brief consideration.

Others beg to be casted at immediately, and we all must learn to know the difference and read the signs to realize our fishing potential.

A trout’s mouth is nearly all white inside, and there is a noticeable “blink” when fish beneath the surface have consumed food.

Seeing this “blink” has alerted me to many fish in the hand before the indicator twitched or my line became tight.

A fish near the bottom that is rising up a few inches as it opens its mouth is telling us it wants the emerging insect currently hatching on the swing or slightly wiggled and raised as you drift your fly by.

A pheasant tail or soft hackle usually suffices in these instances.

The trout swinging wildly about and eating everything in sight will usually attack anything we offer, but we must also realize that the fish unwilling to move more than a few inches will be more selective and sensitive to sloppy casts.

When we only see the backs of trout and not the noses on the surface, they are most likely enjoying insects that are struggling to push through the viscous surface film, and we should adjust to this as well.

Greasing our tippet to within a few inches of the fly can allow it to sink slightly below the surface, or we can simply suspend a nymph or emerger six inches or so below a dry fly.

Surface feeding is not straightforward either.

My mother and I fished a tremendous pale morning dun hatch with green drakes in the mix last week on the Fryingpan and we noticed the fish were considerably more interested in cripples and duns flopping around struggling to free themselves from the shuck than the perfect dries poised for takeoff.

Slight bumps and flops with our dry flies resulted in hook ups, but trimming the fly so it would lie on its side sealed the deal.

These trout simply told us they weren’t interested in a perfectly presented and drag-free drifting upright fly, and we reaped the rewards.

Some fish will tell us exactly when to cast by establishing a rhythm in any part of the water column, especially near the surface.

Watch the trout closely for “blinks” or rises, then start counting.

You’ll soon notice the happy fish you are hunting is eating every four or 40 seconds, and realizing this is usually a breakthrough moment for any angler.

We get to the river sometimes in a big hurry, but learning to stop and watch for a while teaches us what the trout are interested in, instead of guessing or rigging exactly like we did yesterday in the parking lot.

Troutspeak doesn’t take long to interpret, if you learn to read the signs.

— 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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