First drops of rain
At the first sight of rain, do not immediately start packing it in. Patience will be your best friend, especially when choosing flies at this point. Many trout begin to look up after the rain starts.
In this stage of the shower, it may be that you want to reach for those terrestrial flies. Many hoppers, crickets, beetles, and ants meet their demise in a rainstorm. They lose their footholds on leaves and trees, and those on the ground are often helplessly washed into the trout’s domain. Terrestrials vary from creek to creek, so be sure to have a good selection covering different sizes and colors.
During the first drops of rain, you should still be targeting the traditional fish-holding features—seams, eddies, and bends. Fly-fishing in the early stages of a rainstorm is a great time for experimentation. The disturbed surface of the water means that you can get away with sloppy casts, awkward wading, and creeping a little too close to your quarry (all of which we have been guilty of at one time or another).
More consistent rain drops
Dry fly patterns simply will not stay afloat when t
he water is being pummeled by raindrops. When the fly gets forced underwater, keep it there, as this is exactly what’s happening to the naturals. Remember, you’re trying to imitate an insect that has drowned. If you see a fish reject the drowned presentation, wiggle the fly to imitate a struggling bug.
At this point, if you’re not having consistent success with a dry fly, add a dropper to your rig. Ideally, you want the dry just under the surface and the nymph drifting just above the bottom. The nymph will appeal to those trout that are put off by the surface confusion the rain brings and their inability to see as well.
Soaked with rain
Once the water becomes truly murky, tie on a double-nymph setup and look for deep water near cover, such as sunken logs and bridge structure. Also target deep eddies and other calm water areas where the bottom is not visible.
Try fishing your nymph rigs on a slight downstream swing in the rain, conveying as little actual movement to the imitations as possible. This method allows you to control where they drift, and you can feel the slightest movement of the line with your line hand. Be prepared to lose a fly or two with this technique as you probe the depths of the water. If all else fails, bring on the Woolly Buggers— a bulky black pattern offers a good silhouette underwater. (One of my personal favorites).
The next time it starts to rain on the water, consider the alternatives—housecleaning, catching up on paperwork etc. Leave these rain checks at home and explore the water. You’ll be glad you did! ~Kristen