For bug enthusiasts, high summer can be a fairly dull time of year, with terrestrials taking center stage and mayfly activity bottoming out for the year.
The seemingly never-ending drought of bug activity ceases with the first sign of the trico hatch! This is no easy trout snack to master, however. Trout feed vigorously on this much-needed influx of food during the dog days of summer, but the bugs are tiny and the fish particular about presentation which makes for a challenge worthy of even the most skilled anglers.
Presentation and Casting
While some fly fishers contend that proper presentation is more important than fly selection, that’s undoubtedly true during the trico hatch. Trout will sit in one particular feeding lane and focus on bugs floating in their specific range. A cast that lands even a few inches left or right will be met with instant refusal and potential spooking of the target trout.
One thing to try to mitigate the difficult casting is to use a shorter leader/tippet. Instead of a 9-ft leader, try a 7.5-ft with minimal tippet tied on. While this might result in fewer hookups and more fish darting away, it’s worth the risk in order to improve our casting accuracy.
Use Two Flies
No matter what anyone tells you, seeing a size #26 dry fly is incredibly difficult. Unfortunately, using such small flies is commonplace and necessary during the trico hatch. A favorite tactic to improve visibility is to run double dry flies, with a “larger” #18 parachute dry and the trico trailing behind. The trico might be all but invisible, but the bigger dry is not, so key on it and look for any dimples in the vicinity with the thought it could be a fish taking our fly!
Hit the Riffles
Tricos by nature tend to hatch in the riffles, but there’s also an advantage for the angler wanting to fish the faster water. As with all situations, trout have less time to inspect our offerings in faster riffles and runs compared to slower moving pools. That can be a much-needed benefit when targeting fish who can tell the difference between a male and female bug and the chasm between a #24 and #26 is as wide as the Grand Canyon. Faster water will allow us to cheat and get away with using a black trico instead of a dark gray one or being a size or two off.
Don’t Get Frustrated
Perhaps more so than any other hatch, tricos tend to frustrate anglers. Fish are famously picky, flies are tiny, and water conditions are at their toughest, which makes for a maddening combination. Understand before going out that fish will refuse our perfect drifts and hooked fish will become unbuttoned thanks to minute hook gaps. The thing is, these things will happen to anglers of all skill levels so don’t get frustrated by the sometimes impossible feat before us!
Tricos might not garner the attention that early summer hatches bring, but they are no less important to trout from Pennsylvania to Montana. Keep these tips in mind to enjoy the highlight of the summer and the hatch that carries trout from high summer to the sweet reprieve of fall!