Reasons Why You’re Not Catching Fish when Fly Fishing

Why Can't I Catch Fish Fly Fishing

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Whether you’re a newcomer to the sport or a seasoned veteran, fishing always offers something new to learn. Sure, the goal is catching fish, but let’s not forget the fun of spending a day out with friends, casting lines and trading tales. As modern anglers, we aim for a few good photos and a safe release. And if you’re into fishing tournaments, you’ll want to reel in as many fish as possible – that’s when you need to be on your A-game.

No matter your skill level, there will be times when the fish just aren’t biting. These are the days that force us to reassess our strategies and consider where we might have gone wrong. To help improve your fishing game before the next trip, let’s explore potential reasons for not catching fish and how to rectify them. With these tips and tricks, you’ll be better equipped to increase your catch rate and achieve more fishing success.

Reasons Why You’re Not Catching Fish


Wrong Flies

It may seem basic, but many anglers use inappropriate flies for the time and situation. This results in little to no action on your line. First, ensure you have the correct flies for the species you’re targeting. For example, if you’re after trout, a selection of brown and black stonefly nymphs, their dry fly imitations, and some streamers should do the trick.

If you’re targeting bass, opt for larger, brighter flies to attract attention and encourage a bite. Both smallmouth and largemouth bass are drawn to bigger, brighter flies. Also, consider the water ecosystem you’re fishing in, especially when fly fishing in high water or still water. You don’t need a degree in aquatic entomology, but a basic understanding of the aquatic life will be helpful.

You Scared Them

When fly fishing, you often have to get close to the water to cast. This can lead to the fish getting ‘spooked’ or swimming away. When approaching the water, assume that fish are everywhere. Break the water into sections and work from the nearest section outwards. Avoid the temptation to cast a long line to the head of a pool, as you could scare away the fish near you, causing a ripple effect and potentially emptying the whole pool.

Too Much Noise

Excessive noise can significantly reduce your chances of a good catch. Be mindful of your footsteps and avoid making loud noises or sudden movements. If you’re fishing from a boat, limit movement and avoid banging or clattering around.

Rod Position

The way you hold your rod when fighting a fish can significantly affect the outcome. While we’re often taught to hold the rod high when reeling in, this applies the least amount of pressure and encourages the fish to jump and potentially spit out the hook. A 45° angle gives you the best purchase and pressure on the fish, while also absorbing the force of those big fish runs to deeper waters.

Setting the Hook

You’ve done everything right and the fish takes the bait, but you miss the strike. It’s a heartbreaker! The trick is to adjust your hook setting technique based on the species you’re fishing. For trout and other members of the Salmonid family, a swift, gentle lift of the fly rod on the visual eat or sign of the indicator moving will set the hook effectively. For fish with harder mouths, a faster strip strike ensures proper hook penetration.

Landing your fish

Landing Your Fish

The final task before celebrating your catch is netting the fish. Many fish have been lost at this stage due to a lapse in concentration. Don’t rush to bring the fish in before it’s ready, as this could result in a snapped tippet and a lost fish. When the fish is ready, it will turn on its broadside, allowing you to lift its head and pull it over the surface into the net. As you spend more time fishing, you’ll learn to gauge the fish’s strength and readiness for netting.

Too Hot

Extreme heat can slow down fish activity. While fish being cold-blooded species generally become more active in warmer weather and water, excessive heat can have the opposite effect. When it’s overly hot, it’s best to wait for the heat of the day to pass before you resume fishing. Consider switching fishing spots to focus on deeper water with lower temperatures and use smaller lures or flies.

Too Windy

The wind can cause major issues when fishing. An incoming cold front, brought in by a prevailing wind, can significantly impact your success. As fly anglers, it’s up to us to use the wind to our advantage, casting with it rather than against it, and understanding how it impacts still waters. Always fish the bank the wind is blowing onto, as the wind will likely drive aquatics and food in that direction. Skipping this section of the water could be a costly mistake!

Water Has Been Fished

If you’re fishing a popular river or section of it, it’s always helpful to know who fished it before you and when it was last fished. This knowledge can provide valuable intel about the behavior of the targeted fish or other species. Some types of fish recover quickly from being fished, while others need some time to rest. If the water hasn’t been properly rested, it could negatively impact your catch rate, making even experienced anglers struggle.

too windy

Things to Work on to Improve Your Chances


You don’t need the most expensive equipment to catch fish. As long as you have the right gear for the intended application, you should be successful. A 5/6 wt 9ft fly rod with a basic reel and a floating line will get you started. Leaders, indicators, and flies all play crucial roles in enhancing your chances of a good catch. Don’t forget your sunglasses! Polaroid sunglasses help reduce water glare, giving you a better chance of spotting and catching fish.

2. Flies and Sizes

Choosing the right fly can feel overwhelming, but the best approach is to match the hatch or mimic the insect in the water. Observe your surroundings on the river bank or boat foam lines for any clues nature provides. Tie on a fly that resembles what’s in the water and adjust as necessary. If you’re fishing in still waters, start with small lures that imitate small fish. In rivers, finding the right water depth is a high priority, and the correct fly should help you achieve this.


3. Casting

Proper casting is crucial, particularly in fly fishing. You’re using a thick PVC line to cast your fly, and if it’s not presented correctly, the fish will spot it. The most important thing to remember is not to let your line cause any drag. Drag happens when the line moves faster or slower than the water, causing the fly to move unnaturally compared to live bait or an emerger. While most fish are put off by a dragged fly, it can sometimes provoke a bite, especially when the fish aren’t biting.

4. Smash the Hatch

Matching the hatch is the most crucial aspect of successful fishing. Paying attention to the insects and other food sources around you and selecting a similar-looking fly can greatly increase your chances of a catch.

5. When to Fish

The timing of your fishing excursion is also important. Early mornings are ideal in the summer months, while later evenings are better in the winter months, especially for bass. It can be beneficial to head out after cold fronts once the weather and pressure stabilize slightly. Although an incoming cold front is generally not the best time to fish, the rapid change in pressure can trigger a feeding frenzy.

6. Wardrobe

Your clothing choice can also impact your catch rate. Although it’s not entirely known what trout can see, refracting light and colors do play a role. A good general rule to follow is to wear clothing that matches the background and skyline of your fishing environment. You want to blend into your background to avoid spooking the fish.

Best way to approach your waters

7. Best Way to Approach Your Waters

Whether you’re fishing in still water, a river, or from a boat, your approach can significantly affect your catch rate. Be mindful of your movements, keep noise to a minimum, and be patient. Remember, fishing is not just about the catch, but also about the experience and the joy of being in nature.


1. What is the trick to fly fishing?

The trick to fly fishing is a combination of practice, patience, and knowledge. Perfecting your cast, using the right type of fly for the species you’re targeting, and understanding the water conditions are all crucial.

2. How do you catch more fish in fly fishing?

Increasing your catch rate in fly fishing involves a mix of research, technique, and experimentation. Knowing what type of fish you’re targeting, using the right type of fly line and leader, casting accurately, and changing up your flies and retrieves are all effective strategies.

3. Is it hard to fly fish?

Like any skill, fly fishing can be challenging to master, but with practice and patience, it can become second nature. Researching your target fish, using the appropriate fly and gear, and refining your technique are all part of the learning process.

4. Is fly fishing more effective than other types of fishing?

Fly fishing can be more effective than other types of fishing, depending on the species you’re targeting and the conditions. With the right technique, gear, and knowledge, you can target specific types of fish and areas, making your fishing experience more rewarding.

5. What attracts trout the most?

Trout are attracted to a variety of food sources, including insects, crustaceans, and baitfish. The type of food source they are most attracted to will depend on the time of year and the type of water they are in. Movement and the right presentation can also help attract trout.



Failing to catch fish while fishing can be down to various factors – from a windy cold front, low pressure, or using the wrong flies. But that’s what makes fishing so addictive. The process of strategizing and improving your chances is part of the thrill.

If fishing were easy, everyone would be doing it. So the next time you’re out on the water and don’t catch anything, take a few minutes to reflect on the points mentioned in this article. Remember, there’s always something new to learn in fishing.

Tight Lines!

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