I've always felt the word trophy to be relevant to the body of water a fish was caught in, or the person who caught it, potentially being different for each one. For the purposes of this article it will refer to the bigger, older fish in a given body of water. Many factors come into play, and must come together to be successful in any fishing situation, location, timing, fly selection and presentation are what I consider the big four when pursuing trophy trout. Successfully putting the right combination of these four factors together will greatly improve your chances for trophy trout success. Here are some of my thoughts on them; I hope they help you in your pursuit of trophy trout.
Location; this comes into play more than once in the equation. First, do some research and choose a body of water that has, or is known to have produced good numbers of the type of trophy trout you want to pursue. You won't catch every fish that sees your fly, so it's good to stack the deck in your favor by giving yourself the opportunity to present your fly to as many trophy trout as possible to increase your odds for success. If your not targeting a specific type of trout you need to do the research on any body of water you fish so you can tailor your strategy to that particular type of water and the species that are in it. Second, determine where on the body of water the fish will be in. This will change depending on the time of year, time of day, water temperature, available food sources, weather, and so on. For example, on a shallow lake in the middle of summer when the water temperature rises, above comfortable levels, fish will be concentrated in cold water inlets, spring holes, and river channels, so you will want to concentrate your efforts in these areas.
Timing; Timing is key when targeting trophy trout. While smaller juvenile fish may be actively in search of food, feeding during all times, I feel the bigger, older fish, are more periodical in there feeding habits, only leaving their comfort zone to feed during low light periods, bug hatches, or the urge to fatten up before and after a long winter under the ice. For this reason you can greatly improve your chances of putting your fly in front of a trophy trout by remembering two words, "early", and "late", rather it be early or late in the day, or early and late during the season. There are exceptions to everything, but in general, concentrating your efforts during these times will greatly improve your odds of putting your fly in front of a trophy trout.
Presentation; this is the one of the big four factors that requires the most work and dedication by the angler. Big trout are weary and can be very nervous when they move into shallow water in search of food. It can require long casts of 60 feet or more, with long leaders of 15 feet, to present a fly to fish without alarming them of your presence. Several different retrieve techniques must be learned so you can put the right motion in your fly to accurately mimic the particular food source you are trying to imitate. Specialized equipment, such as a variety of different fly lines are required to present your fly at the correct depth in the water column for a particular situation.
Knowing how and why to put together the right presentation for a particular situation takes practice and experience beyond the boundaries of the occasional fly angler. Hiring a guide will help eliminate trial and error, and bring you up to speed quicker.
Fly selection; In general, I believe trout to be opportunistic feeders, becoming selective at times. For this reason I believe fly selection to be far less important then presentation most of the time.
When trophy trout leave their comfort zone and move into shallow water driven by hunger they are more opportunistic in their feeding habits, trying to gobble up as much protein as possible before returning. During these situations, I use flies that suggest food in the medium to larger size of the available sources for that particular body of water. I feel it is important to only match available food sources. For example, don't use a crawfish pattern if there are no crawfish in the lake you are fishing.
When trophy trout leave their comfort zone because of the presence of an easy food source, such as a damsel hatch, they become more selective in their feeding habits. At these times they are more likely to ignore a will presented leech pattern, for example, being content to only feed on the particular food source that brought them there. During these times I feel it important to match the particular food source with my fly selection.
In all, being successful in catching a trophy trout with a fly is just a matter of putting the right fly, in the right place, at the right time, and in the right way. Attached are some pictures of fish that we have caught in central Oregon during the last few weeks.
For more information on trophy trout fishing with a fly in central Oregon, or to book a guided trip with me, and learn in more detail how I put it all together. Call the Sunriver Fly Shop at 541-593- 8814.
Safe travels and tight lines.