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Skitish trout


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So last summer, my dad and I fished a stream in NE Iowa and had less than zero luck. The steam was beautiful. Saw tons of trout throughout the system. The issue was the water was gin clear. Any attempt to land a fly even remotely close spooked the fish and they were gone. We tried hiding in the tall grass and casting, standing back from the stream at various distances and just the fly and/or line hitting the water sent the trout running. Has anybody got any ideas how to fish a stream like this? I am only asking because we are heading back to that same area and with undoubtedly fish that stream again if we have some better tactics. Thanks in advance.

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My word of advice to you would be to avoid the real slow water at all costs. Sure, you'll likely pass up many fish... but those fish will be hard to catch and likely aren't feeding anyways. Go find the riffles and runs and cast into those. Dead drift nymphs and streamers through those by casting into the riffles. If you can't catch a fish on a Pheasant Tail in a run... the fish just aren't biting!

Edit - You are going to find the same conditions, if not worse than last year... so be prepared. Unless we get 2-3" of rain in the next couple weeks, conditions will be tough.

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Atleast you are getting out there fly fishing. Sunnies are a ton of fun on my 4wt.

Good call on the slow water vs fast water. This was the first time I had been fly fishing outside of Alaska so being able to see the numbers of trout we were seeing in that slower water made it too inviting not to try. And like I said we were skunked. We were able to find one spot that a tree had been uprooted and created a hole about 10 foot deep. The trout were stacked in there but at the time, my close quarters casting left something to be desired so getting a fly to them was close to impossible. This time however I am a little better prepared. I don't know about you guys but just getting out is good enough for me.

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Ted makes a good point. Fish laying on the bottom in the middle of a pool are more than likely inactive.

Trout can see out of the water with surprising clarity. They can see as far as a 45* angle. If you can see them, they can see you.

Riffles help break up your profile making it difficult for them to see you. Fish typically face upstream, allowing the current to go through their gills and provide food. Cast upstream and work the riffles.

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What I usually do is I will get upstream of the fish and do a down and across presentation. Always maintain low profile and keep my casts as low as possible and don't cast a shadow. Anyways cast way ahead of the fish much further than you normally would if you were casting upstream. General rule of thumb is the deeper the fish is sitting the wider his range of vision is. I may drift my fly 20 feet before it gets to him. Usually I fish with an unweighted streamer because like ted said the fish aren't feeding but usually I can illicit a strike. It is very hard for a trout to resist a dancing and twitching hornberg or gray ghost. Don't expect to catch lots of fish in the slick water. However it is fun because it is very visual once the fish attacks your streamer.

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