Small stream trout just aren’t that selective when it comes to eating.
You’ve probably heard a thousand times something along the lines of “Man, they are feeding on nothing but BWOs today.” Or the always popular “Wouldn’t take anything bigger than a 20 all day.”
Hearing those comments would lead you to believe that trout are super selective. In some cases that is true; but honestly, I’ve found that to be super rare. In fact, when fishing small streams for trout, I generally find the exact opposite.
Trout, especially those in small mountain streams, are very opportunistic. They are likely to go after anything that looks like food, provided that it looks somewhat natural and they don’t have to expel large amounts of energy to get it.
“Present a fly naturally and make it easy to eat and you’ll have far better success.”
Fact is, trout need to eat to survive and in most small stream situations, the chances to eat are fairly limited in any given day. Add to that competition from other trout in the stream and suddenly, anything that floats by starts to look tasty. In these situations, it is not important to match the hatch or make sure you’ve chosen the correct size of fly. What is important is that you’ve presented a fly that looks natural and you’ve made it easy to get.
A natural presentation will almost always produce a strike on small streams because those trout won’t pass up a meal unless they really, really have to. That’s not to say they don’t get spooked or key in on a certain hatch, it just means that with a little careful planning on your part, and the right presentation, you can forget what fly you’re using and focus on getting it in front of the trout.
I’ve had good days on the stream where I might catch 10 fish, on 6 different flies. This tells me that they are not selective, they simply know not to pass up a good morsel of food when it comes along. It’s true that certain patterns work better than others, or a particular size looks more appealing to the fish. But those things are not the deciding factors in a trout eating your fly or not in most cases.
So again, present a fly naturally and make it easy to eat and you’ll have far better success. When you present a great opportunity to an overly opportunistic trout, they’ll take you up on it.