What is the major difference between surface fly-fishing vs. sub-surface fly-fishing? One word, Excitement. Don’t get me wrong, both types of fishing are great and can be very exciting, but surface fly-fishing is way more exciting. Let me explain.

When you are fishing below the surface you have a lot more area that you are fishing. In most cases you are trying to get your fly where you think the fish will be, and of course this takes education and skill. Sometimes you will be able to see a fish eating just below the surface so you have a good idea of where the fish are feeding and how deep they are. But most of the time you will be trying to hit spots you think the fish are holding.

Now this type of fishing is pretty exciting, you have to be constantly watching your fly line and indicator waiting for the strike. Once you feel the strike is when the excitement begins. The anticipation of bringing the fish in, feeling the tug on your fly rod, and getting your first glimpse of the fish can all be very exciting fishing. But it fails to compare to surface fly-fishing.

When it comes to surface fly-fishing and using dry flies you will have an even more exciting experience. First you start this technique by hunting the fish. You need to watch the water and look for fish feeding on the top of the water. Next, you need to identify what they are feeding on. In order to be successful with surface fly-fishing you need to be able to closely imitate what they are eating. Now you are ready to cast.

Casting to fish that are feeding on the top of the water will require a much better presentation then nymph fishing. You cannot take away your chance of catching the fish by spooking it with horrible casts. You need to be able to cast far enough upstream of the fish to give the fish a chance to see it. Plus you need to be in the feeding lane that the fish is in. You get those two things right and you have a great chance.

Now comes the critical moment, what does the fish do? Does the fish take the fly or does it look at the fly and turn away? This is the most exciting part. Sometimes you can see this happen, if the fish is close enough or you have good visibility. When you see the fish approach the fly and turn away you will need to evaluate why. Do you need to put on a different fly, a different size or color? Or do you need to try a couple more times before changing?

So now picture yourself on the stream. You just cast your fly perfectly, about 6 to 8 feet in front of the fish. You watch your fly drift towards the fish and you can see the fish looking at the fly. As the fly gets closer to the fish you can see that the fish is very interested in the fly and looks to position itself to feed. Then just as the fly gets a few inches away from the fish you see the fish hit the surface with its mouth open. Just when that happens you raise your fly rod and WHAM you got it!

When you are surface fly-fishing you get to see the entire take by the fish take place. You get to see him evaluate the fly, you get to see him position himself for the fly and you get to see the surprise on his face when you hook it. Man if that doesn’t get you excited about fly-fishing then nothing will. I would rather catch 2 or 3 fish like this, then to catch a dozen from below the surface. Don’t get me wrong, they are both very exciting, but you cannot compare seeing it happen on the surface with how you catch them below the water. When you catch a fish with a dry fly for the first time I know you will agree with me. Especially when it is a fish with any size to it.

Scott Petersen, Website Contributor

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