How to fish lures for trout

Lures are some of the best flies for rainbow trout in UK stillwaters. They're effective all year round, really easy to use and can catch you fish wherever you go. Here are our tips for maximising your success when fishing lures for trout.

How to fish lures for trout
© Fly and Lure
How to fish lures for trout
Picture copyright © Fly and Lure
How to fish lures for trout
Estimated reading time 9 - 15 minutes

1. Start slow, then speed up

One tip that often works a treat is to start your retrieve relatively slowly and then gradually speed it up towards the end of the retrieve. This lets your fly drop a little deeper and gives the trout a better chance of spotting it so they can start following it. Since prey being chased often swims a bit faster to avoid being eaten, the technique results in extra hook-ups as it looks much more natural to the fish and can induce a take.

Speed up your retrieve as the fly nears the bank.

2. Change your angle of retrieve

Trout that live on small stillwaters see hundreds of flies of various shapes, colours and sizes zooming over their heads every day. As we fly fishers can be lazy creatures of habit, we often change spot and cast straight out, instead of using the fan casting technique to cover all of the available water. Flies moving at a different angle might be more likely to be taken, and you'll use all of the available space, rather than just the water straight in front of you, so you'll cover more fish.

Don't just cast straight ahead all day.

3. Try a bright fly on the top dropper

Bright fly patterns are used as attractors to draw inquisitive fish in towards your cast. While they certainly attract attention, they're often investigated and ignored as they're perceived as a bit too unlike the food morsels that trout usually see. If you place the bright attractor fly on your point, any following fish may only see this one and not go further up your cast. However, place it on the top dropper with a couple of more drab patterns beneath and the curious trout might snaffle one of those as it swims past.

Try fishing brighter patterns further up your leader.

4. Try dark flies in coloured water

Weirdly, it's often dark coloured fly patterns that tend to work best in coloured water and when it's getting dark in the evening. Their silhouette must stand out better than really brightly coloured but paler patterns, as they do tend to result in more pulls than more gaudy patterns. By all means try brightly coloured flies when the rains have made the water cloudy, but definitely, don't rule out the bigger patterns with a darker colour and a more visible profile.

When it's getting dark or the water is murkier, try a darker fly.

5. Vary your speed during the retrieve

If you've ever fished a lake with crystal clear water you'll probably have observed the behaviour of trout as they follow your fly. After spotting the fly as it starts to be retrieved back towards the bank, the trout will follow from a distance of a few feet away. On some casts, the fish will follow the fly all the way to the bank without taking the fly, which is where a change of retrieve speed can help. Try stopping the retrieve. If that fails to get a bite, try pulling even quicker. Sooner or later, one of the fish will take the fly.

Change your retrieve speed to induce a take.

6. Use a longer leader

Leader length can make a big difference to getting hookups when fishing lures for trout on stillwater fisheries. Most fly fishers I see tend to use leaders of 8-12' in length, but you'll find most competition fly anglers regard this as rather short. They'll be using leaders of 16-20' on average. That keeps the flies further away from the highly visible and splashy fly line and allows them to space the flies further apart. The spacing bit makes quite a lot of difference when you're pulling, because one strip with flies attached close together can pull both past the fish in a split second.

Use the longest leader you can comfortably handle.

7. Try fluorocarbon when conditions are clear

We often use standard copolymer or monofilament tippet when the water isn't that clear. However, it's more visible to the fish that fluorocarbon, so when conditions are clear or the fish are pressured and warier, then switching to fluoro can get you extra bites. Scaling down your tippet diameter can also win you extra fish. You can do this by either using a more expensive and thinner brand or by using a lighter breaking strain, though the latter option is not without its risks.

Using fluorocarbon could lead to extra bites in clear water.

8. Use different retrieves throughout your session

There are days when only a certain style or speed of retrieve works when you're fishing lures for trout. The retrieve doesn't always have to be fast, just because you're using a lure, though. Sometimes a near static figure of eight can be deadly. Other times, a faster figure of eight might do it. Strips of different lengths and different speeds should be used through the session until you find one that works. If it stops working, continue to try different retrieves in case the fish wise-up.

Keep changing your retrieve speed, especially if the fish stop biting.

9. Don't fish bright lures too close together

You need to be a bit careful when fishing colourful lures next to each other.  In general, I rarely do it and would fish a bright attractor on the top dropper and less colourful ones below. If you do fish two or more colourful flies together on the same leaders, I certainly wouldn't recommend any closer than four feet apart, ideally much more. One very unusual and brightly coloured object zooming past the fish at speed might attract interest, but two might cause alarm.

Space out colourful flies to avoid spooking trout.

10. Use the plop when fish are on top

When the fish are high up in the water, they'll sometimes take lure patterns at or just below the surface. One handy way to attract them to your flies is to cast out and then quickly strip the flies as soon as they land. This causes a little "plop" which can draw fish in for a closer look. It works really well with boobies and floating fry patterns on reservoirs, and the fish will often either take the floating pattern or one of the droppers. On some days, it's not just the initial plop that works. You can keep doing it and the fish will chase after the fly creating gigantic bow waves.

A quick tug as the flies land causes a plop which pulls fish in for a closer look.

11. Keep moving

Try to avoid the temptation to stay anchored to one spot when fishing lures. You'll generally have far better luck when you are a bit more mobile and wander around the lake to find feeding fish. Stick in the same place too long and the fish can get wise to the disturbance and stop feeding or move out of the area. If you get no bites after 10 minutes and have tried a range of retrieves, depths and flies, then move along the bank.

Keep moving until you find feeding fish.

12. Find the right depth

Finding the depth at which the fish are feeding is at least part of the key to catching them successfully. With a floating line, a weighted lure and a slow retrieve you'll be able to get your fly down a good distance - maybe 4-6'. However, when you start pulling faster you'll bring the fly higher up in the water. If you want to keep your fly down deeper while using a faster retrieve, you'll need to switch to an intermediate or sinking line, like a Di3 or Di5 - even a Di7 if you're pulling quick and the fish are on the bottom.

Changing your line can help.

13. Cast across rising fish

Although they might be feeding on the natural insect life that's hatching, it always makes sense to cover any rising fish and cast your lures across them to see if they'll take. You know for sure there's a fish in the approximate vicinity, so all you need to do is attract their attention and make them attack your flies. Chuck your flies over them, plop them to attract their attention, commence your retrieve and watch out for the bow waves!

Cover rising fish, even when fishing lures for trout.

14. Fish the hang, especially when it's murky

Although it's generally considered a boat method, "the hang" also works brilliantly when fishing lures from the bank for stillwater trout. It's a particularly useful method when you're fishing blind to fish you can't see on murky waters that have been clouded by heavy rains. To use this method, slow your retrieve a rod length from the bank and let the flies drop. Watch the fly line and leader very closely for any subtle movements and strike if you see so much as a twitch. It's amazing how many times an unseen fish has followed the flies and falls for this trick! You'd miss them if you forgot to do it.

The hang works really well on murky stillwaters.

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matt

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