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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is mostly about river and stream fishing and an extension of TOgden's thread about fish and flies.
We've fished a local river and noticed some peculiar (at least to us, within the last few years) trout behavior. This river has a good population of both brown and cutthroat trout.

Our observations are based on dry fly fishing. We have noticed that cutthroat trout (in this river) will often rise up to a floating dry and then turn and follow it downstream with its snout rather close to the fly almost like it it smelling it. After several feet of following, they turn and go back upstream to where they were. Others might sip at the fly but not really take it--kind of like they are kissing it. Then some follow and actually take the fly. A smaller percentage will rise and take the fly without the follow,sip, kiss scenario.

It seems the browns in the same stretch and river act differently and mostly just eat or try to eat the fly in a more aggressive manner. Once in a while a brown will follow downstream but not as often as the cutts.

I'm leaning toward believing this is a learned behavior from fishing pressure, as years ago, the trout, as I recall, didn't exhibit this behavior.

Thoughts?
 

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I've seen trout in other heavily pressured waters do the same thing, especially on the A section of the Green. My totally unscientific theory is that deciding to eat a dry fly is usually a quick yes/no switch, almost a reflexive decision, and after being caught on dries a few times that behavior modifies into a more careful approach. It is definitely an interesting phenomenon!
 

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I can't speak to the stream fishing but it seems to make sense that on pressured streams that they become a lot more careful.

While float tubing I've had fish follow my fly while just paddling for quite a distance without hitting it. I have a fishing buddy with the side finder so I can observe this behavior. Usually if I give the rod a pump or twitch the line they will take the fly. I know a lot of folks just paddle or motor along and give a quick strip of the line every once in a while, but I've found that if you take and pump your rod, extend the rod 6" to 8" or so and then pull it back, that sometimes entices a strike. I use this method more in the winter when I'm not able to cast and strip as much trying to keep my hands warm.
 

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Fish on the Green are notorious for this. Cicada time can be maddeningly fun and frustrating watching this happen.

Why are you observing this in just the cutties and not the browns in your water? No clue. I’ve generally found cutties fairly willing to take a fly off the top. I think you ought to spend more time doing field work on this! The only logical response to this is more fishing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Another thing I've heard but don't know if it's true because I haven't fished Henry's Fork for probably 15 or 20 years is that the fish in the smooth water sections like the Railroad Ranch will come up to a dry and feel for the leader, then refuse the fly if they feel it. This is why dry anglers on Henry's started fishing dries downstream, and learning how to mend line out to get long floats to get the fly to the fish first.

As for the cicada on the Green: It would be interesting to see if changing up the size or pattern would change the behavior of the trout. Are the trout looking for a characteristic of the natural and if you fly doesn't have it, they refuse it? What if you had a natural cicada and tossed it out to a fish, would they still inspect it before eating it? Are trout capable of smelling an insect?
 

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I don't know if I could attribute this to pressure or not. I know that cutthroat are notorious for being finicky and particular. I've fished numerous streams and lakes that receive very little pressure, but those darn cutts will turn their nose to nearly anything you throw -- all the while the browns (brooks, splake, rainbows) will just come smash the fly.

Remember: fish are not mammals. Trying to understand a fish's behavior based on our observations and logic isn't a simple task. A fishes brain doesn't necessarily utilize understanding (feelings, emotions, logic, understanding, etc.) -- it may be more a set of inputs and outputs; basic logic sets. Further, how a fish uses it's sensory organs is far different than how we use ours-- and specifically, fish have a lateral line -- something we don't have. Sure, we can write on paper how it is used, but certainly cannot experience and understand it for ourselves. Some fish have taste buds on their head, which might explain why fish "hit" lures instead of tasting them with their mouth / tongue.


Fish are fascinating. If you can ever figure out why those dang cutts will turn their nose to our flies, then you will be the winner!!
 
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I have watched cutts in high mountain lakes and streams hit almost anything that you throw at them and I have seen them be so picky that it dang near makes you want to throw rocks at them. In my experience, cutts more often than not will rise slowly and examine flies more carefully than all other trout. And, among cutt species, Yellowstones seem even more picky than CRs or Bonnevilles. Based on my own experience, the Bonnevilles seem to be the least hesitant to quickly strike a dry fly compared to Yellowstones or Colorado River cutts. I think there is a lot more to the equation than just pressure.
 

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I also have experienced this many times my self, very frustrating, trying to fool these educated trout.
I have used the finest floro tippet and my best presentation that I can. helps to give it a slight twitch some times.
Happy Im not alone, thats why they call it fishing!:sneaky:
 
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