Why Can’t I Catch Fish Fly Fishing?

Whether you are a beginner to the sport or a seasoned veteran, there is always something new to learn in fishing. Catching fish is the point but a great day out with friends is what it's all about.
Why Can't I Catch Fish Fly Fishing

Fly Fisher Pro is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

A few good photos and a safe release are what the modern angler strives for. If you are partaking in fishing tournaments, you want to catch as many fish as you can, and this is when you need to be on your A-game. Regardless of your skill as an angler, everyone blanks from time to time, and these days are often what make us relook and rethink how we approached the day and the water, trying to figure out where we possibly went wrong? Hoping to improve before the next trip, the below information will run you through possible reasons for not catching fish and how to improve on them with a few fishing tips. Hopefully, this will get you to catch fish effectively and lead to more fishing success.

Reasons why you won’t catch fish.

Reasons why you won't catch fish

Wrong flies

It sounds like a basic thing, but many anglers use the wrong flies at the wrong time and scenarios. This will result in getting very little to no action or interest in your drift or cast. Firstly make sure you have the correct flies for the fish species you intend to fish for. If you target trout, a good selection of brown and black nymphs, their dry fly imitation, and a few streamers will do the trick. To catch bass, you want to have a few brighter, bigger flies to attract the bass and provoke it to eat. Both smallmouth and largemouth bass love the bigger and brighter flies. Secondly, check the water ecosystem that you are fishing in. You don’t have to be a qualified aquatic entomologist or anything, but a general understanding and knowledge will help. For trout, turn over a few rocks to see what type of nymph it is you need to imitate. Seeing their size and color is also very helpful. This will also help identify the dry fly to use when the hatch starts. For smallmouth and largemouth bass, look at the grass beds for frogs and baitfish. Focus your efforts on overhanging trees with nests and birdlife.

You scared them

When catching fish with the fly, you often need to get close to the water to make the cast. This can often lead to the fish ‘spooking’ of moving off slowly. The best way to approach the targeted water is to assume that the fish are everywhere! Then break the water into sections and work the nearest section outwards. It is often very tempting to throw a long cast to the head of a pool, try-catch anything, but what you don’t realize is the fished ‘spook’ at your feet swim upstream and scare the rest, resulting in a flushed pool.

wrong flies

Too much noise

Too much noise can lower your chances when trying to catch fish.

  • Lighten your footsteps and watch what you walk on or over.
  • Talk in a lower, lighter voice.
  • Mute all cellphones.
  • If fishing from a boat, limit movement and bashing around.
Rod position

rod position

The way you hold your rod when fighting a fish can help a lot. As kids, we are taught to hold the rod up high when fighting, and yes, this is true at certain times, but this applies the least amount of pressure. A 45° angle gives you the best purchase and pressure on the fish. The rod up high encourages the fish to jump, which is when the fly is often spat out. The angled rod exerts the full pressure on the fish while absorbing the force of those big fish runs to deeper waters.

Setting the hook

You do everything right and get eaten, only to miss the strike. It’s soul-destroying!

Trout Set – generally done on all eats to set the hook when the fish eats. On the visual eat or sign of the indicator moving, a gentle, swift lift of the fly rod will set the hook. This is effective on all of the Salmonid family.

Strip Strike- the strip strike is generally used on fish with hardier mouths, so the hook penetrates properly and for a faster strike.

Landing your fish

The last task before you can celebrate the beautiful catch is to make sure you net it. Many fish have been lost at the net because the concentration is lost, and things go wrong. Don’t try to bring the fish in before it’s ready, often the tippet will snap, and the fish will swim away. When the fish is ready, it will turn on its broadside, and you will be able to lift its head and pull it over the surface into the net. With more time fishing, you will learn to feel the fish and its strengths.

Landing your fish

Too hot

The weather can slow the biting fish down, especially when it is too hot. Yes, fish are cold-blooded species, and the warmer weather and water usually make them more active, but on the other hand, ‘too hot’ can also slow things down. It’s best to wait for the heat of the day to pass before you continue to fish. You can try switching things up and changing fishing spots to focus on the deeper water with the lower water temperature—fish deeper with 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 make a big difference to your success. As fly anglers, it is up to us to try and use the wind to the best of our advantage, using it to cast with and not into and to read the way it blows on still waters. Always fish the bank the wind is blowing onto. The theory is that the wind will blow all the aquatics and food in that direction. You can often find fish patrolling the stained water or ledges for food. Skipping this section of the water can be a big mistake!

too windy

Water has been fished.

If you fish a popular river or section of it, it’s always handy to know who fished it before you, and recently it was fished. This helps to provide intel as to how skittish the targeted fish or other species will be. Certain types of fish recovery quickly from being fished, but others need some time to be rested. You can have a tough time on the water if the beat hasn’t been properly rested, and this will fluence your catch rate. Even experienced anglers will struggle.

Things to work on to improve your chances.

Things to work on to improve your chances


You don’t have to have the most expensive equipment to catch fish when it comes to gear. As long as you have the correct type of gear for the intended application, you should catch fish. A 5/6 wt 9ft fly rod with a basic reel, and a floating line will get you going. Leaders, indicators, and flies are all equally important to catch more fish. Sunglasses are a must! Polaroid sunglasses will help take the glare off the water, so you have a better chance of seeing and hopefully catching the fish.

Flies and sizes

This is a whole boom on its own, but the best way to think of it when catching fish is to match the hatch or insect. Look what is around you on the banks, river bed, or id on a boat in the foam lines. Look for any clues that nature will provide you with. Tie on a fly that looks the same as what is in the water and go from there. Using small lures that imitate small fish is a great way to start in still waters, while finding the right water depth in a river is a high priority, and the correct fly should be used to achieve this.



Casting correctly while fishing is important no matter what style of fishing you are doing. This is particularly true in fly fishing. You are using a very thick PVC line to get your fly out. The fish can see this line if it isn’t presented correctly. The most important thing to remember is not to let your line cause any drag. Drag is when the line moves faster or slower to that of the water, causing the fly to swim differently to say live bait or an emerger. So this is something to focus on continuously thought out your fishing day. Most fish will shy away from a drug-induced fly, but it sometimes does provoke a eat, which is great, especially when the fish aren’t biting. When you are starting, practice your casting on a field without a fly. Here you can perfect the various casts needed on the river or a boat.

Smash the Hatch

Matching the hatch is the singular most important thing you need to get right in fishing. It will only be up to your chances of catching fish. Take notice of what’s about and tie on something that looks similar.

When to fish

when to fish

When to get out on the water is also important. The early mornings are ideal in the summer months, while the later evenings are better in the winter months, especially for bass. After cold fronts is also a good time to head out once the weather and pressure stabilize slightly. An incoming cold front is generally the wrong time to fish, but with that said, the rapid change in pressure can cause a feeding frenzy.


Wearing the correct colour when out fishing can help increase your catch rate. It isn’t entirely known as to what trout can actually see; refracting light and colors do play a role, but we will never know for sure. A good general rule to follow is always to wear clothing that will match the background and skyline of your fishing surroundings. You want to blend into your background when trying to catch. Different fish react differently to seeing colors, and the least amount of color they see, the better.

Best way to approach your waters

Best way to approach your waters


When tackling Stillwater, take care in your approach to the bank. Take your time to scan the nearest water from the crest of the bank. Make sure there aren’t any fish that you may scare close to the water’s edge. Always throw a few casts next to the bank to see if you don’t pick up any fish. Once you have cleared the bank, then proceed with your approach. When fishing, still waters always start closest to you and move outwards.


When walking up to your chosen section, approach carefully and quietly. Use any shrub or vegetation you can to break your silhouette. Always climb into the water lower down from where you want to start. Working your way upwards fishing every little run and eddie you see. Don’t fish the same spot over and over; if no fish are caught within the first 5-8 drifts, then move. It’s always very tempting to cast rising fish at the head of the pool but DONT! Work the tail out first and slowly move up. There could be a few fish holding, fish tight, short drifts whilst slowly moving up to your desired run.


Fishing from a boat can be hugely beneficial, especially when you need to fish deeper water. There is nothing more beautiful than being on a boat in calm conditions catching fish. When fishing in these conditions, be sure to drift onto your spot with extreme stealth; an electric motor is recommended. Limit your movement on the deck, reducing the amount of noise that would echo down to the fish. This small tip may sound silly but can be the difference between a good or bad fishing trip.



Not catching fish while out fishing can be a result of numerous things. A windy, cold front, low pressure, or fishing with the wrong flies. This is what makes fishing so addictive, the process and thought put into improving your chances. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. So the next time you are out on the water and don’t catch anything, take a few minutes and consider the above. We can all learn something new.

Tight Lines!

Save Up To 50% At Trident Fly Fishing

We’ve partnered with Trident Fly Fishing to get you EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNTS on a huge selection of fly fishing gear. I highly recommend checking out their USED GEAR SECTION to save a ton on a premium rod and reel.

Trident Fly Fishing Deal

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top