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Rising fish no bugs

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I went fishing yesterday. It was a gray overcast day about 2:30 in the afternoon. As I was walking to the section of river I was planning on fishing I was thinking about what to start with. When I got there a fish rose. There were no bugs/insects in the air. I tried a grasshopper first. Then I thought maybe a BWO. There were a couple fish sporadically rising. I tried nymphs and emergers and even a dry fly. I did have one hit (but missed it) on my version of a sparkle pupa. I ended up catching on small brown on a black woolybugger.

I’m guessing the fish were taking something that was emerging but they were getting them before they came airborne.

So my question to all you knowledgeable fly fishers, how would you have approached this situation? I had fished the same river a few nights before and saw the same scenario. I’m kind of clueless.

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Most of the time when I've seen this they're eating tiny bugs out of the film on top.

If you keep a fish, you can cut open the stomach and see what it's eating.

If you're not keeping any, you can hold a fine net in the surface film and see what it picks up.

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I had that thought that it was something small but I didn’t have anything small enough. I used to carry a net like you mentioned but it got that I was carrying so much “stuff” I just had to cut back.

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I’ve been through that a few times, no clue to what they are eating. When that happens I’ll throw on a griffiths gnat and a small emerger. That worked a few times, or else like you, throw on a “meat” fly and hope for the best. 

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Possibly a midge hatch.  They're famous for masking other hatches, particularly on overcast days.  I'd try a midge larva or pupa fished in the film or under with no weight.

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Echo sea monkey and Aldo.  Thinking midges.  Griffths gnats are often the ticket.   The types of rises can sometimes help point in the right direction also..  Out of the water jumps don't point toward midges as much as a caddis hatch.  Griffths gnat would have the first one I tied on  and perhaps a caddis type emerger ( small) if that wasn't working

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Man, you're talking size # 28 stuff. Good luck threading a tippet through that Bud !:lol:

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I’ll do #20 maybe a #22. If they want something smaller then I’ll come back when they are ready to eat.:P:lol:

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Yeah...it's something in or just below the film all right...  Remember the nicest minutae imitations are tied on an ultralight hook a size larger(ie #22 body/tail/wings on a #20 or #18 hook with added floatant goop to keep the hook/fly level, in the film --> as high as the naturals are at).

In these cases, if big browns might be around, I'll sometimes go mega-large bucktail/streamer...imitating the juvenile fish feeding on the minutae in the film.

I once drove from the Boston area to a slow current stretch on the Battenkill in NYS only to be welcomed with a legit infamous #28 cream midge..they all looked like white pinheads rising from the surface.....the exact insect that Mal mentioned.  With eyes rolling, thinking that this is what I had driven the entire Mass Pike and up NY #22 to get, but then a big brown came up and grabbed a little guy...produced a wake the size of only one bathtub but the deeper sound of it got my ticker shifted into overdrive for a while.....no luck in convincing it to grab mine...but was exciting for a little bit, at least made the hot & humid afternoon/evening worth it.  That part of NYS, entering the western side of the Green Mtns is beautiful...so it was worth it, I GuEss...:D

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Thanks to all the experienced anglers willing to share their knowledge.  Only getting out a few times per year, this helps tremendously with tactics should I find myself in similar situation.

Good to hear I'm not alone with the challenges of tying on smaller flies.  It wasn't until taking up flyfishing, standing in a small stream and everything going to a blur as I attempted to tie on a small elk hair caddis that I realized my eyesight had in fact diminished as everyone told me it would once I crossed into my 40's.  Had to put away my pride and get some magnifiers.

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