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ORVIS – How to catch difficult trout

In the world of trout fishing, there are days when the fish seem particularly unresponsive. Whether it’s due to a cold front, the early season, or the dog days of summer, there are times when trout simply aren’t as active as usual. But fear not, because there are strategies you can employ to catch those elusive trout. One approach is to focus on areas with structure, as trout often hold tight to these spots. By understanding where resting trout are likely to be, you can increase your chances of success. Start by casting a larger dry fly a few feet away from the trout, allowing it to come to the food without spooking it. If there is no response, try using smaller flies or a dropper nymph. And if all else fails, don’t give up just yet – a little skittering or lifting action may be all it takes to entice a sluggish trout to bite. The key is to be accurate and economical with your casts, minimizing disturbance in the water surface and maximizing your chances of hooking a difficult trout.


As an angler, understanding the behavior of resting trout is crucial for increasing your chances of success on the water. Resting trout are typically less active than their feeding counterparts, making them more challenging to catch. However, with the right techniques and strategies, you can still entice them to strike your flies. In this article, we will explore the behavior of resting trout, how to identify them, and various methods for finding and targeting them in different conditions. We will also discuss the sequence of flies and casting techniques that work best when targeting resting trout, as well as how to match the drift of your fly to increase your chances of a successful hookup. Additionally, we will cover skittering and lifting techniques that can increase your strike rate, as well as effective casting techniques for accurate and precise placement of your flies. By the end of this article, you will have a comprehensive understanding of how to target and catch resting trout.

Understanding Resting Trout Behavior

Resting trout behavior can vary depending on various factors such as water temperature, weather conditions, food availability, and predator presence. In general, resting trout will seek out areas of the river or stream where they can conserve energy while still remaining alert to potential food sources. These areas typically provide some form of cover, such as undercut banks, overhanging trees, or large rocks. Resting trout will position themselves in these locations, often facing upstream, where they can easily spot any food items drifting downstream.

Identifying Resting Trout

Identifying resting trout can be challenging, as they often blend in with their surroundings and exhibit less movement compared to feeding trout. However, there are a few telltale signs that can help you spot resting trout. Look for areas of calm water near cover, where you might see subtle rises or swirls indicating the presence of a resting trout. These rises are usually less pronounced compared to feeding rises and may only create small rings on the water’s surface. Additionally, watch for trout positioned near the bottom of the river or stream, where they are less likely to be disturbed by the current. Their slow and deliberate movements can give away their resting behavior.

ORVIS - How to catch difficult trout

Finding Resting Trout in Different Conditions

When searching for resting trout, it is essential to consider the specific conditions you are facing. In warmer weather or during periods of low water, trout may seek out deeper pools or slower-moving water. Look for areas of the river or stream where the current slows down, such as eddies or deep undercut banks. Here, you are likely to find resting trout seeking relief from the warmer water temperatures or taking advantage of the abundance of food passing by. In colder weather or during periods of high water, trout may congregate in slower pockets of water close to the riverbank, where they can conserve energy and avoid being swept away by the strong current.

Sequence of Flies and Casting

When targeting resting trout, the sequence of flies and casting techniques used can significantly impact your success rate. A common approach is to start with a larger dry fly, which can act as an attractor pattern to grab the trout’s attention. The larger size also matches the perception of a substantial food item, making it enticing for a resting trout. Begin by casting a few feet out from the trout’s location, allowing the fly to gently land on the water’s surface. Be cautious not to create a disturbance that could startle the trout. Gradually work your way closer to the resting trout, making short and precise casts to avoid excessive line drag.

As you get closer to the trout, particularly if it shows no interest in your larger dry fly, consider sizing down to a smaller dry fly. Resting trout may be more selective when it comes to the size and presentation of their food. Using a smaller dry fly can mimic the appearance of a smaller insect and increase your chances of a strike. Additionally, utilizing a dry dropper technique, where a small nymph or emerger pattern is attached to the bend of the dry fly, can be effective for enticing resting trout. The nymph provides a possible food source for the trout while the dry fly serves as an indicator if the fish takes the nymph.

Matching the Drift

Matching the drift of your fly is crucial when targeting resting trout. To achieve a natural drift, start by casting slightly upstream of the resting trout’s location. This allows the fly to float towards the trout in a natural manner, mimicking the movement of an insect drifting downstream with the current. As the fly reaches the trout’s location, it is essential to sink the fly to the depth at which the trout is feeding. Observe any rises or subtle movements from the resting trout to gauge the depth at which they are intercepting prey. adjust the amount of tippet or weight added to your rig to ensure the fly reaches the appropriate depth.

Maintaining a natural drift is just as important as the initial presentation. Avoid excessive drag on the fly by keeping your line and leader as straight as possible. Mending the line or adjusting the angle of your rod can help achieve a drag-free drift. Pay close attention to any irregularities in the movement of your fly and adjust accordingly. Remember, resting trout are often more discerning, so a natural drift can make all the difference between a successful hookup and a refusal.

Skittering and Lifting Techniques

In some situations, when the trout are being particularly picky or are not actively feeding, employing skittering and lifting techniques can increase your chances of eliciting a strike. Skittering involves imparting movement to your dry fly by gently twitching or repositioning it on the water’s surface. This can mimic the natural movement of an insect struggling to take flight or escape from the water. Experiment with different skittering techniques to find what works best for the specific resting trout you are targeting.

Another effective technique is lifting the nymph. As you approach a resting trout, you can lift the nymph off the bottom of the river or stream, imitating the upward movement of an emerging insect. This can trigger the trout’s predatory instincts and entice them to strike. Lift the nymph in short and controlled movements, and be prepared for a quick strike response from the trout.

Effective Casting Techniques

To effectively target resting trout, mastering casting techniques that are both economical and accurate is essential. Economical casting involves using smooth and controlled movements, minimizing unnecessary line false casting. This allows you to conserve energy and maintain a stealthy approach on the water, reducing the chances of spooking the resting trout. Focus on using efficient casting strokes and pause between each cast to prevent fatigue.

Accurate casting is crucial when targeting resting trout, as precise placement of your flies is essential. Practice casting to specific targets on the water, such as small pockets behind rocks or near overhanging trees, to improve your accuracy. A well-placed cast can increase your chances of a successful hookup by placing the fly within the trout’s feeding zone. Pay attention to the water’s surface and any subtle clues indicating potential feeding areas, and aim for those spots when casting.

Placing the Flies in the Right Locations

Lastly, when targeting resting trout, it is essential to place your flies in the right locations. Keep in mind that resting trout are conserving energy and may not be willing to chase after their food. Look for areas where the water slows down or offers pockets of calm water near cover. This is where resting trout are likely to be positioned, waiting for food to drift right into their territory. Focus on presenting your flies in these prime locations, making short and precise casts to maximize your chances of a hookup.


Targeting resting trout requires a thorough understanding of their behavior, precise casting techniques, and the ability to match the drift of your flies. By identifying resting trout, using a sequence of flies and casting methods specifically designed for these trout, and employing skittering and lifting techniques when necessary, you can greatly increase your chances of success. Additionally, mastering economical and accurate casting techniques, as well as placing your flies in the right locations, will help you effectively target and catch resting trout. With practice and persistence, you can become proficient at enticing these elusive trout to strike your flies, leading to memorable and rewarding fishing experiences.

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