To Float A Fly

Excitement doubles when trout strike

Posted: February 6, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Russ Tonkinson feels the pull of a rainbow trout he hooked with a dry fly.

CASSVILLE, Mo. — Hearts skip a beat when a graceful rainbow trout charges from the depths to crush a fly on the surface.

Wicked strikes on top can startle anglers right out of their waders when a dry fly is tied to the end of their line. Dry flies, or flies that float, don’t normally find favor at this lovely stream and park near Cassville, Mo. Most anglers flinging flies at Roaring River State Park use flies that sink deep where trout routinely cruise for a meal.

Catch a trout on top and the dry-fly bug might deliver an infectious bite. It occurred on a cold and gray afternoon this winter during the park’s catch and release fly fishing season.

Russ Tonkinson of Rogers caught the bug after one of his buddies reported trout-fishing success with dry flies. The pair made their next trip to Roaring River with a plan to cast nothing but dry flies.

Tonkinson caught two trout with flies that sink before switching to a dry fly. He ties his own flies and chose a Griffith’s gnat, a fly he said is simple to tie.

The water at Roaring River is swimming-pool clear. It was easy to see trout swim up to the fake gnat, but not eat it.

“I’m getting so many rejections, so many that just look at it. But you always hope there’s that crazy one that’ll take it,” he said.

A high of 42 degrees never came to Roaring River on this cold Dec. 29. Ice formed in the line guides of fly rods in the deep freeze. Fingers ached with cold. Patience ran thin until a dandy 14-inch rainbow trout pounced the Griffith’s gnat. The watery blowup was worth the wait.

The trout charged from 15 feet away to attack the dry fly. Tonkinson admired the fish in his net, then let it go.

Dry fly fishing is easy. Cast the fly, then let it drift on the surface. Keep an eye on the floating fly and be ready for strikes. The hardest part of dry-fly fishing may be seeing the tiny fly on the water if using dark colors. Tonkinson solves this by tying a strand or two of white or yellow hackle on his flies so he can see them.

More trout hit on the surface. The dry-fly bug had bitten indeed.

“I’m definitely going to do more of this,” Tonkinson said on the drive home.

The next step in dry-fly education came from an expert on the next trip to Roaring River. A stop at Tim’s Fly Shop, a mile north of the park, was like going to class.

Owner Tim Homesley has been fishing the Roaring River most of his life. He worked at the state park before opening his fly shop 25 years ago.

When trout bite dry flies, they’re after bugs that hatch in the stream. Hatches at Roaring River occur mainly in the afternoon, Homesley coached. That’s dry-fly time. One of his favorite dries is a caddis fly in size 14 to 18.

“Caddis really work best on sunny days,” he said.

Another fly, a blue-wing olive, also size 14 to 18, works on cloudy or sunny days.

Homesley likes to fish his dry flies on thin line. He uses size 7X tippet (2-pound test) that’s fine as a strand of a fair maiden’s hair.

Dry flies work during spring and summer at Roaring River, Homesley said. Flies that imitate ants, beetles and grasshoppers are good once the weather warms up.

“Most days you’ll catch more fish on sinking stuff, but it’s more fun to catch them on a dry fly,” he said.

Catch, release or catch, keep

Catch and release fly fishing season at Roaring River State Park concludes this weekend. Fishing is allowed this Friday through Monday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Only flies may be used.

Catch and keep fishing season opens March 1 and runs through Oct. 31. Fishing is allowed with a variety of bait and lures, including flies.

Source: Missouri Department

of Conservation