A person can learn quite a bit from rise
One of our most popular stickers at the shop says: “This Vehicle Stops at all River Crossings,” and it can’t be more true.
While I’m driving along Highway 6 this time of year, I’m always staring at my favorite spots on the river looking for rising fish. One of the most exciting things to me while I have a fly rod in my hand, is to see a circle ripple on the smooth surface of a river.
This is a clear signal to me that trout are eagerly eating insects. To a novice angler, these ripples and splashes can lead to frustration if the fish are not eating what you are throwing. An educated angler can read into these rises as if the trout are signaling to the anglers what they are eating. In this article, I am going to discuss the four major rise forms, or the way the fish break the water surface, to help you catch more trout.
The trout makes a very subtle break or ripple in the water using its nose to slightly push through the surface tension of the water. This means the trout are feeding on midges or spent mayflies known as spinners. These bugs usually get stuck just below the surface of the river. In this situation, I would put a classic rusty spinner or small Griffith gnat on the end of my line with a little floatant.
This rise is a little more pronounced. The trout’s mouth is actually breaking the surface more prominently, causing a larger ripple. You will likely see the nose break the surface first, followed by the fish opening its mouth and then slurping the helpless fly with its mouth. When you see this happening the fish are honed in on the hatch, typically mayflies or bugs sitting on the surface. I would go into my dry fly box and tie on a parachute Adams or an extended body blue winged olive.
This is hands down my favorite rise to see on the river. A violent slash at a fluttering or skittering fly is what is causing this display of aggression. Trout are known to show this behavior while feeding on adult caddisflies. Caddis take a bit of time to dry their wings off after breaking through the surface, leaving them stranded on the surface for a time, like a sitting duck. They also return to the river to deposit eggs by bouncing on the water. A standard Elk Hair Caddis or a Parachute Madam X (aka PMX) will entice explosive strikes. Don’t be afraid to give the fly a twitch to imitate a skittering bug on the surface.
If you see a disturbance on the water surface however you are not seeing a nose or mouth breaking the tension of the river, the trout are focused in on eating emergers just below the surface on the water. The trouts dorsal fin and sometimes tail may break the water causing the ripple. LaFontaine’s Sparkle Pupa or a RS2 tied behind a PMX or other easy-to-see attractor dry fly will work wonders when the fish are dialed in on emerging bugs.
Guide Tip of the Week
When you get down to the river, take some time to assess the situation. Figure out the best way to enter the river without disrupting or spooking the fish. Look for bugs flying around and observe the river to spot risers. This brief assessment of the river can equal more fish on the end of your line. Always keep your fish wet and practice catch and release to promote a great future for our local fisheries. Fish first!
Ray Kyle is the shop supervisor and Guide at Vail Valley Anglers. He can be reached at 970-926-0900 and email@example.com.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.