Journal

Tactical dry fly fishing
Published2023/10/04
Words byMiguel Blanco
PhotographyAlvaro G. Santillan
Fly fishing offers many possibilities. You can catch almost any fish in any environment with a fly, but in my opinion, the most iconic way is to catch trout with dry flies.

I mostly fish in Spain, where I am fortunate to be able to use dry flies throughout the season, thanks to the climate of my country. However, that does not mean it’s easy; quite the opposite. Throughout southern Europe, the rivers are generally small, with crystal-clear waters, and usually, they have a high fishing pressure.

Because of this, our trout tend to be selective, educated, and challenging to catch. That’s why we’ve developed a highly technical and perhaps somewhat extreme method of dry fly fishing. When you master it, you can catch many more trout or even fish that you had considered impossible.This method of fishing can be summarized by discussing light rods, very long leaders, and small flies, but it’s much more than that. This is not easy fishing; most of the time, you need to be at your best on the river and always have a plan.

In this kind of fishing, the most important aspect is your strategy, especially when dealing with fish in areas with high fishing pressure. These fish quickly identify an approaching fisherman who lacks caution. Therefore, the first thing you must do is be patient and keep your eyes open. This is how you locate the fish. After that, let them rise several times, and you’ll gather valuable information: you’ll know their exact location, what they are eating, and how often. The most interesting fish to focus on are the ones feeding regularly in the same spot. In that case, you have to match the hatch. On the contrary, irregular risers, both in terms of timing and style, are more challenging, and a good choice might be to use an attractor or a terrestrial fly.

The next step is to find the best spot to cast. You need to study the area, read the river, its current, identify different water speeds or look for obstacles. After that, you should create a list of advantages and problems for each area and choose the place with a better balance. Personally, I try to cast from a place that allows me not to make long casts because I believe that longer casts reduce precision, and the drifts are less effective. However, you also need to be cautious not to enter the fish’s alert zone, so maintain a low profile or, if possible, approach by crawling. Something I always do at the end of the approach is to let the fish rise several times to ensure I haven’t disturbed them and that they continue feeding with confidence.

Before casting, it’s also important to know where you want the line and leader to land, as a good drift will depend on it. I think the line should always fall in an area where the water speed is similar to where the fly has fallen. That’s why I always perform aerial mendings to control that. Curve casts are also essential in many cases. If you can’t perform a curve cast, try to have as little line on the water as possible by lifting the rod after the cast; it helps to improve the drift. To achieve a natural drift, a proper leader is a must, but I’ll discuss that later.


Recommended materials:

Fly rods

The rods I use for this type of fishing are typically between 9 and 9.9 feet in length and range from 2 to 4 weight lines. They should strike a balance between speed and flexibility, allowing for high line speed to handle long leaders while remaining sensitive and capable of protecting the tippet. This is crucial, especially when pursuing big trout, as they may only take your fly using a 6 or 7x tippet, but they will put up quite a fight afterward.

In my case, my favorite rods are the LPX Tactical 9′ 3# for small rivers or low waters and the NT11 9′ 4# for windy situations when longer casts are needed or when targeting larger fish.

On the other hand, if you frequently fish fast water areas, the 9’9” LPX Tactical rods #2 or #3 offer a significant advantage due to their length. When you lift the rod, less line is on the water, resulting in less drag.


Reel

In this type of fishing, the reel is not the most critical element, but when going to a river with the possibility of catching large fish, I opt for the Fario LW for its reliable drag. Otherwise, I use the Fario Click for its lightness.

Using a large arbor reel is essential to prevent line and leader memory, which can have a significant impact on achieving a good drift.


Lines

Selecting an appropriate line is crucial, but it’s somewhat challenging to recommend a line blindly since each angler has their own casting style. The key is to choose a line that can handle a very long leader even when flying only a few meters of line. Therefore, a safe choice is the Experience+. However, both the Fario CDC and the Presentation+ are excellent options as well. These lines are stable in the air, allowing for precise casting and easy mending.

Leader

If I had to describe the leader in one word, it would be “LONG.” Having the right leader makes all the difference, but obtaining the right leader isn’t easy.

The leader typically used for this type of fishing ranges from 18 to 22 feet. Ideally, it should have a long butt, a short transition zone, and a very long tippet. This type of leader offers a good balance between precision and a slack tippet, which is essential for achieving a drag-free drift.

A standard leader for me would include the following: I start with a 12′ 3x Power Strike leader but cut around 30cm from the tip. Then I add 50cm of 4x, 60cm of 5x, and 1.5-2.5 meters of 6x. I mostly use Egor+ Fluorocarbon for the tippet. For low water conditions or very selective fish, I may go down to 7x for the tippet. However, this is only the base; you need to adapt your leader to each situation based on factors like fly size, wind, and casting style.

Casting with this leader is not easy. The correct way to do it is with a high line speed and a longer casting stroke than usual. It’s important not to make too many false casts to avoid knots between the fly and leader. A useful trick that makes a big difference is using High N Dry Paste floatant on the leader. This provides a better drift and causes less spray when you lift the line.

The flies

Talking about flies is often a subject of debate, but when targeting intelligent fish, I recommend using small, natural-colored flies with a low flotation profile. While there’s no miraculous fly or material, it’s true that nearly all the flies I use in these circumstances incorporate CDC.

The patterns I rely on the most are emergers, especially, or spent flies, as fish tend to prefer insects in this phase because they are easier to catch on the surface. However, don’t overlook midges or terrestrials, particularly ants.

Size of the flies

The size of my flies depends on various factors, but for this kind of fishing, they are often small or very small. If they are difficult to see, you can use two dry flies in the same way as a dry dropper. The larger fly helps you focus on the smaller one and improves your chances of seeing the fish take the fly.

Avoid rejection

Another crucial aspect is to use a minimal amount of material on the fly, just enough to make it float and visible. Sometimes, you may notice a trout rejecting your fly; in such cases, simply trim a few fibers using a nipper and cast again—it often does the trick!

Explore the products that Miguel uses for his fishing

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The NT11 Trout fly rods are designed to be superb all-round fishing rods suitable for fly casters at all levels. Treating yourself to an NT11 technology rod guarantees a high-end experience.

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NT11 Trout Series

599.99 USD

Guideline Fario Click is a lightweight and delicate fly reel with a smooth dual-pin clicker system for the most delicate types fly fishing.

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Fario Click

279.99 USD

The first ever Guideline Fly Reel to be designed exlusively for Trout Fishing. Every detail and every function has been developed with that one thing in mind; to create a perfect, lightweight, cool, dependable and yet solid reel for serious anglers.

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Fario LW Bronze

379.99 USD

Experience+ is an all-round floating line that is designed for all kinds of casts and distances.

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Experience+ WF

84.99 USD

Guideline CDC WF is a low diameter fly line line that in a quiet and delicate way generate laser-sharp loops and present long leaders with pinpoint accuracy. If stealth is your approach, this is the line for it!

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Fario CDC WF

74.99 USD

Presentation is a great all-round line that is easy to cast and delivers superb presentations.

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Presentation+ WF

84.99 USD

Since 1993, knowledge and passion have been reflected in each of our products. We are dedicated to meet the high expectations of the modern fly angler with lesser impact on nature, while giving rise to everlasting moments by the water.

Because, at the end of the day, It’s all about the experience.