The biggest mistakes I still make trout fishing

Welcome to my article, where I will share common mistakes I still make while trout fishing.

I am not going to spend time discussing casting or technique-specific mistakes. Yeah, it is all too easy to make too many back casts or mend badly resulting in drag. These are not really mistakes, just a lack of skill. Perfecting casting and presentation can take a lifetime to master.

In this article, I am going to discuss mistakes that are easy to avoid, but that I still routinely make.

For advice on how to catch trout despite being a poor caster check my article here.

Fishing too fast

I often find myself working my way upstream too quickly, and sooner or later I will spook a trout that was in an easy location.

Other times, I will be casting to a feeding fish. Only to grow impatient, rather than trying to figure out what I am doing wrong. I will just push on upstream in search of a more agreeable fish.

It is important to remember when a trout is feeding it can be caught.

I only need to spend the time, to try and figure out what I am doing wrong. Maybe I am using the wrong fly? Is it too big? too dark or the wrong color? Or maybe my fly is drifting too high or low in the water column? These are just a few of the possible reasons why a trout might reject a fly.

Once I was casting to a fish for ages, only for it to ignore every presentation. I did eventually catch that fish but only after I overcast, and my fly landed on the far side. Turned out, it was missing an eye. It never saw all my well-placed drifts.

So, I need to learn to be patient and to take my time, and I will surely catch more trout.

Fishing too slow

Yes, I am immediately going to contradict myself.

Sometimes, I am guilty of fishing too slowly. Spending too much time covering water that is very unlikely to hold fish, or the fish that are there are in no mood to feed. Maybe they are well and truly spooked.

I should really push on upstream and cover new water but for whatever reason, I will decide to stand in one spot thrashing the water to foam.

Sometimes, it is because I can see a trout, or maybe the spot has produced fish previously. But river conditions change, and the trout might not be feeding, but I know if I make the perfect cast, something will surely have to take my fly. Just one more cast.

Will, in reality, the fish there are probably already spooked and it will take a minor miracle to get a response out of such a fish. I need to become better at knowing when to move on, and when to stick it out.

Being too relaxed at the start of the day

I do the one surprisingly often. . I will park my truck, wipe on some sunscreen, and gear up. I will walk towards the river, nibbling on wild berries and listening to the bird’s chirp and the cicadas sing.

Once there, I will pause for a moment, breathe in the cool morning air, and observe my surrounding.

About this time, I will notice there was a trout just a few feet in front of me, and it is now darting away in terror because I failed to approach the water edge with stealth.

Oh well, there is always the next pool.

Trying to cast a tangle out of my line

Occasionally, my fly line will wrap itself around a guide, and rather than spending a few seconds freeing it by hand. I will take my chances and try to flick it free with a short cast.

This almost never works, and just results in a bigger tangle which I will proceed to make bigger again when I try to flick that free. Eventually, I will give in to frustration and cut the tangle free. Ruining the tippet and leader in the process. All of this could have been avoided if I had just taken a few seconds to unwrap the line by hand.

It is a similar situation, when I accidentally hook a branch or tuft of grass, I will try and roll cast it free. Only to get it even more tangled.

In nearly every situation, it is best to free a tangle or snag by hand rather than attempting to cast it free.

It is also nearly impossible to straighten out a tangled fly line by flicking the fly rod. It is nearly always faster just to tie on a new section of tippet.

Using the wrong leader

This one is generally a result of laziness. I am too lazy to change out my leader, or tie on a new piece of tippet and will simply tie on a new fly that is not the correct weight to turn over consistently.

Trying to cast a heavy fly, on a thin tippet is difficult. The cast simply does not transfer enough forward momentum through the line to properly turn it over for a nice presentation.

So spending a few minutes to change my leader, when I am changing the style of fly I wish to fish will save me a lot of headaches.

Not checking river conditions before leaving home

Sometimes I will leave the house without checking the forecast or river conditions first. I will then arrive at the river, only to find it flowing like liquid mud because there had been an isolated storm in the headwaters.

I will then need to drive elsewhere to find fishable water. A lot of time can be saved, by spending a few minutes checking river flows and local forecasts before making the effort to drive somewhere.

Stealing tackle from my vest, and not putting it back

I do many different styles of fishing, and I sometimes will ‘borrow’ gear from one vest to use somewhere else.

A few days later, I will be on the river and will reach for my forceps only to discover they are not there. They are stored neatly on my kayak, or in the trunk of my truck.

It is not only forceps, line clippers, scissors, heavy tippet, and lip balm also seem to disappear more often than they should.

At other times, I will reach into my vest pocket to change my fly. Only to find a container of spinners in there. Someone decided to go for a sneaky spin fish, and forgot to put his fly box back.

I really should learn to be more organized.

Trying to cast too far

Sometimes there is a trout, just a little out of my casting range. Occasionally, if I line everything up perfectly I could make the cast, but it will be pushing my limits.

The best course of action will be to take a few steps forward so I could easily make the cast. But, pride and laziness will get the better of me and I will attempt to make the cast.

It always starts so well, but when it comes time to present the fly, my casts will lack speed and it will all come crashing down in a heap usually spooking the trout in the process.

Yes, getting closer, might also spook the cast. But a terrible cast that collapsed in on itself almost certainly well.

Refusing to use indicators

This one is almost purely driven by ego or maybe a degree of elitism. I like to think, I do not need an indicator to detect a strike. After all, a strike indicator does add clutter to the leader, and will potentially introduce another source of micro drag.

Fishing without one has to be better. My eyes should be sharp enough to track the movement of my nymph as it dances through the current, and if that fails. I will certainly be able to detect the take by closely monitoring the tip of my floating line for movement.

While, I can catch trout blind fishing without an indicator if I am honest with myself. I miss many more than I successfully detect.

So swallowing my pride, and tying on a small tuff of yarn or tiny plastic balls greatly improves my success rate.

Becoming too focused on a single trout

I often will be fishing a river or lake, and I will spot a decent trout cruising the shallows. My mind will then switch into ‘hunting’ mode and I will start to stalk that fish. All other distractions will be ignored, and my sight will never leave the trout, after all, I do not want to lose it among the glare and ripples.

I will then make the perfect cast, the fly line will land gently behind the trout and the tippet will unfold placing the fly right in the path. Then disaster, because I was concentrating too much on my target trout, I did not realize there was another trout following a few feet behind exactly where my fly line had just landed.

The second trout, will dart away in panic, starting a chain reaction. I will suddenly become aware of several more trout, including a much bigger one as they disappear into the deep.

So, after spotting a trout. It always pays to observe its surrounding. If there is one trout, chances are there will be others nearby. A perfect cast to one trout can easily spook another causing a chain reaction.

Mistaking rocks for trout, or trout as rocks.

I do not know if trout look like rocks, or if rocks look like trout, but at the bottom of a pool, the two can be difficult to tell apart.

Sure if the trout is moving, that is a clear giveaway, but at times they can stay incredibly still.

It always pays, if something looks like a trout. It might just be one, so it is worth covering it with a few casts.

I am embarrassed to admit, that I have spent a lot of time casting at rocks or small logs. Although, occasionally a few do end up eating my fly. I have also had rocks swim away when I waded nearby for a closer look.


Here are some of the biggest, mistakes I mostly make out of carelessness that I still make while fly fishing.

If you want more articles these might interest

Avoid these mistakes when new to trout fishing.

How to catch your first trout, and avoid common mistakes.

Sight fishing for trout – The Ultimate Guide

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