What to Do When a Trout Swallows Your Fly

June 30, 2015

This morning was amazing dry fly fishing, just like it was last night.  We hooked quite a few fish and actually dabbled with some Elk Hair Caddis just to mix it up.  The big dry flies were ridiculous.

It is best right now if you can be here early and late and please take a look at doing our Twilight Highlight 2 Day, 1 Night trip for $449 per person.  It is a GREAT deal!  You'll get the best possible dry fly fishing and a night in the lodge, plus we do the meal planning.  

What Do Do When a Trout Swallows Your Fly

I filmed this today while I was trying to shoot a video in attempt to sell you a new fly rod, a Redington Classic Trout.  I have the 7'6" 2 weight and love it, but that is another story.  Anyway, I was filming this video and instead of a nice clean hookup and release, which typically requires nothing but some slack line, the trout had swallowed the fly and it was pretty deep down in his throat.  Not uncommon.  This is not good, especially with the warm water they are experiencing right now.  The fish wasn't bleeding, meaning it was ok but any force on the fly while attempting to unhook it can kill the trout.  Once they start to bleed out of their gills the trout is dead.  The back of their throat is pretty sensitive.

I have seen this a hundred times over the years.  No fly is worth a trout's life, so my solution is to simply cut the fly off immediately and release it.  My hooks are as barbless as possible, please take extra initiative to pinch them flush on your own flies.  Clipping the fly off won't hurt the trout, in fact, I have actually seen the fly float out of the trout's throat and back to the surface immediately upon release.  I have even floated down in my boat and retrieved a few over time!  The fish will cough it up without harm just as long as you pinch your barb flat.  

To do this right....

Get some scissor clamps.  Nippers are too awkward and slow.  PINCH your barbs, and use the scissors to cut the line when you find yourself in this situation.  As you will see on the video, within 5 seconds after identifying the situation I had the fly clipped off and the trout was back in the water  Maybe next time one of you lucky anglers will encounter this very trout!  

  1. Amen brother--cut your fly/hook off as deep as you can without hurting the fish. This works in fresh water and even better in salt water. If the fish don't expel the hook, it will rust out in short order.
  2. Thanks Joe! Hats off to Red's for caring for the fish first and foremost! I love how your blog has focused on this so much this season.
  3. Thanks Jordan, we just want everyone - including YOU - to have the best possible fishing when you come out to see us. I really think that as a guide staff we have a huge impact on the success of the fishery just based on the sheer number of fishing our guests come in contact with. If we fight them in and release them with the absolute most minimal impact I will guarantee that we will all have better fishing. More trout and bigger trout. Instead of trying to recover for 2 days from being played to within a thread of its life, the trout we catch and release are building weight right away and will be more successful. They'll have more vigor to feed heavily, catch minnows, and eventually spawn in the spring. There are lots of people doing great stuff for the fishery, this is just one place that since we're out there every day we can play an active role and try to make the fishery better than ever.