How To Hunt Fry Feeding Trout

As the nights draw shorter, and another season slips away, the residents of our lochs, lakes and reservoirs turn their attention to packing on weight for the long, lean winter ahead. Rainbows and browns everywhere contract fry fever!

On fertile lowland reservoirs and lochs, the coarse fish fry will provide the bulk of the protein for the binge. On upland waters and lochs, small fish and indeed small trout will draw unwanted attention. Catching fry feeders though isn’t always as simple as pulling a huge shiny lure through the depths. The size and colour of fry can vary greatly, depending on the venue and time of year, as can the tactics employed by the trout to hunt them. As always, observation is the key and then selecting a suitable approach and flies.

Trout Caught On Fry Pattern
Naturally, with fry spending much of their time in shallow water, and close to the sanctuary of weed, the bank angler can reap great rewards. Boat anglers are far from sidelined though and can reach the far-flung areas that bank anglers cannot, and as with many large reservoirs, shallow, weedy water isn’t always close to the shore.

Fry Boiling On The Surface
If you are fishing from the bank or boat, look for the tell-tale signs of fry feeding activity: disturbances in the weed beds, the "fizz" of tiny fry boiling in the surface layers as they try to escape death, and the crashing and splashing of trout. Look also for stunned and dead fry on the surface and opportunistic birds. When, based on evidence, you find your mark, choose your method and your flies accordingly, and be prepared for a battle. Strong line and a stronger heart are essentials, as fry feeders can be big, scarily aggressive and adept at leading you a merry dance through the weed.

From the bank, a single fly is usually a wise decision, eliminating the potential snag hazard of droppers, and maximising the strength of your leader. When prospecting on the boats, with clear, deeper water between you and the trout, a two or three fly cast is usually quite safe.

Here are our top tips for catching more fish during fry-time:

Hunt in the weeds and jetties
Visible structures, such as harbour walls, submerged fences and weed beds, are where fry seek shelter and are therefore obvious places to target fry-feeding trout. As winter progresses, strong winds and wave action will wash much of the surface weed beds on to the shore, but they will not have completely disappeared. In areas sheltered from the wind, there will still be weed and it will harbour fry. On barren-looking sections of water, look for grebes, gulls and terns diving for fry. At last light, you may often see fry dimpling and jumping.

Trout Waiting In The Weeds
Cast and move
If trout are chasing fry in the margins, they can be so preoccupied that they don’t see you. They will often patrol the same route and it is, therefore, easier to anticipate where they will strike.

If trout are not actively chasing fry you will need to cover more water to find them. It’s best to travel light, spending a short period in each spot, before moving on. There are fewer fish around at this time of year. They will not come to you, so you will have to go and find them.

Use a powerful rod
You need a fly rod and fly line that can cast big flies. A 7wt or 8wt rod, either 9 ft 6 in or 10 ft long, matched to a short bellied floating or standard-bellied intermediate/sinking line is ideal. This combination will cast all the flies you will need to fish on a given day. There is a big difference between casting a 1½ inch floating fly and a 4 inch Snake pattern.

Try the floating fry
You should fish a floating fry pattern with the same precision you would a dry fly. The fly should sit or hang in the surface rather than float on top of it, making it easier for the trout to take. You should also ensure the first few feet of leader nearest the fly has sunk. To stop the fly being dragged under by the rest of the leader, you can dress the leader with Mucilin, but only do this if the floating fry is the best method. Once it’s greased you will not be able to use the leader for sinking flies.

Trout Herding Minnows
Time it right
Don’t think that because it is cold the fish will only be active around the warmer middle of the day. First and last light is as good a time to catch fry feeders as they are to take insect feeders in summer.

Leave then Retrieve
On some days fish will take a static fly and on others, they’ll only look at something retrieved. If you are getting little interest, change your fly and/or its presentation. Instead of a static floating fry, try a moved one, or a Suspender Minkie twitched through the surface. With a sinking Minkie or Snake the fish may want a very slow figure-of-eight retrieve or a long, slow strip. To determine the most successful method you must experiment. One of the best methods for finding fish is a twitched Suspender Minkie – it nearly always gets a reaction if there are fish about.

Proven Patterns
There are many fry patterns but here is a small selection which work really well:
Fulling Mill Floating Fry
Fulling Mill Suspender Minkie

Fulling Mill Silver Brite Minnow

Fulling Mill Minkie Straggle

You can also find a huge selection of fry patterns instore at Glasgow Angling Centre or Edinburgh Angling Centre from brands such as Fario, FAF, Fulling Mill, Stillwater, and Caledonian Flies to name but a few.

This article was brought to you in association with Trout Fisherman Magazine.