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Dry-fly fishing on the ‘D’ still going strong

Posted 11/8/17

This year’s transition from summer to winter has been stalling out for over a month now. Thus far, we have had very few nights below freezing and daytime temperatures have been very warm. This …

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Dry-fly fishing on the ‘D’ still going strong


This year’s transition from summer to winter has been stalling out for over a month now. Thus far, we have had very few nights below freezing and daytime temperatures have been very warm. This type of weather has been great to be out on the water, but the unseasonable warmth has kept the cool-weather, blue-winged olive hatches behind schedule. Over this same period, the hunt for rising trout has been a hit-or-miss proposition.

We are a week into November now and I can finally say that change has come. I have been out on the river guiding every day for the last two weeks and the action has been improving every day. Currently, the blue-winged olives are emerging from the Delaware every day, and the rainbow and brown trout are gorging while they have the chance. These small insects will be their last big meal before freezing conditions shut things down for the winter. The next few weeks will offer the best opportunity of the season to take the largest wild rainbows in the system with dry flies.

Over the last week of reliable action, the insects have been on the water from early afternoon through dark. As the temperatures get colder, the start time will move earlier in the day. This hatch normally continues until the rivers start to freeze.

For those who do not regularly fish the late fall, finding rising trout may be difficult. Most of the trout have already moved to the slowest sections of the river. The late olives are tiny insects and the trout need to feed in the slowest possible water to get any nutritional value from them. Currently, most of the river’s trout can be found in the tail ends of the Delaware’s long pools and eddies. The key is finding super-slow water that has just enough flow to allow drifting insects to accumulate. This is where you will find pods of mature rainbow trout slowly cruising the surface leisurely sipping large numbers of insects. Pursuing trout feeding in this fashion is a great challenge, putting it at the higher end of technical fishing due to the insects’ small size.

For the rest of the season, I will be choosing either a #5 or #6 fly rod with a 15- to 18-foot leader built down to 6X tippet. The flies are all small now; #18 is the standard, and this setup will allow the small flies to land on the water with slack and float naturally.

The flies that produce well now are those that really signal vulnerability. Patterns that are designed to appear crippled or trapped in the surface film get a lot of attention from the fish. My favorites are the CDC Knock Down Dun, Hackle Wing Cripple, Olive Klinkhammers and Rusty Spinners

As far as technique goes the best advice for this time of year is patience. With the cruising nature of the feeding, you will need to give the trout time to find your fly on the surface. Unlike those feeding in spring and summer, late-autumn trout intend to eat every fly. They will slowly swim in every direction until they eat every fly in their area before moving on. Sometimes a cast that you would normally give up on closes the deal after a very long wait.

Wade safe and good luck on the river.


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