Several years back, while fishing for bonefish on Long Island in the Bahamas, Capt. Markk Cartwright gave me a great tip that translated well beyond the finicky bones on the flats around Dead Man’s Cay. It’s a tip I use every time I cast streamers and nymphs for trout, too.
“Bury your fly in the mud before you cast it,” he said. “That’ll get the smells off of it.”
Think about it. Tying thread, feathers, head cement, hair or fur… none of these are natural trout food (or bonefish food, either!). By getting your fly good and muddy in the streamside muck, you can get rid of the odors they’ve been carrying around in your fly box and maybe inject some smells that are quite a bit closer to home for the fish you’re after.
I honestly can’t tell you if it makes a big difference, but it’s become a habit for me—before I make that first cast with a fly that swims or drifts under the water, I drag it through the streamside mud and gravel, or even just the dirt next to the river.. I know the practice is common for really sensitive saltwater fish like bonefish and permit (and I use the trick for really picky carp, too!). I think it makes sense for just about any fish you chase with streamers or nymphs, trout included.
If you’re getting some obvious follows on your streamer, but not getting the takes you want, this might be what gets a trout to make that final commitment. It won’t hurt, that’s for sure.
Give it a try next time you’re on the water and let me know if you notice anything different in your catch rate. Good luck out there.