Spring is here and throughout the nation, anglers are already hitting the water. For many, the cold winter months are long and agonizing, and watching the calendar draw closer to spring is like a child watching the clock tick by on the last day of school before summer. Like baseball’s spring training, though, fishermen need to shake the dust from their equipment, and from their skills, and fly anglers are no exception. Spring is a delicate season to fish, though. Fear not, however, as I’ve outlined a few helpful spring fly fishing tips that will arm fly anglers with the knowledge they’ll need to hear screaming drags over the sound of rushing water.

Where to start? Well, I think we’ll begin with exactly that: the “where.” Knowing where to cast is a big part of spring fly fishing, since fish will spook easily during this time of year, due to predators voraciously feeding on spawn. For this reason, fly anglers need to cast downstream, towards the fish. This way, they won’t be spooked by you standing right on top of them. This keeps nothing but the fly in front of the fish—so you don’t have to worry about your line or your shadow spooking them. Furthermore, in the spring, fish will congregate in slower moving sections of a river. This is a great place for dry flies.

Spring usually brings rain, which means that rivers are usually higher and muddier than usual. Some anglers believe this means fishing activity won’t be rewarding, but the truth is, that fish are actually feeding more during such times. All the mud and rain usually stirs up the river and washes food items into the water, which means fish will be taking advantage of the buffet of prey. To capitalize on this, concentrate your efforts where dirty water meets clear water and you’ll have good luck.

When it comes to flies, streamers such as wooly buggers or minnow imitating Rascals will work well during the spring. Wooly buggers with a weighted conehead will help when the water levels are deeper due to the rain. Rascals with marabou will have great action in the water, and baitfish colors such as olive, pearl, or even black and chartreuse will yield great results. If you want to go with nymphs, then I suggest patterns in the 14, 16, and 18 size range, with flashy thread or material. Also, using a Wiggle variation of your favorite nymph will add a little more action to it that will further entice the fish to strike. You can also have great results with fodder imitations such as worms and eggs. Red worm patterns will work well, and big trout will gobble up egg flies this time of year, when the spawn is in high gear. Dry flies will produce fish, as well, and anything with a big, aggressive hackle that imitates a mayfly or other hatch, such as the Parachute or the Quill, in natural color patterns, will be your best friends when the dry bite is on.

Preparation is a huge part of fishing, no matter what type of fishing you’re doing. Fly fishermen can enjoy a great day on the water this spring by taking the time to anticipate fish behavior, paying attention to the water conditions, and knowing which flies to use in their region. Hopefully, the aforementioned tips will help newcomers and seasoned veterans alike get a head start on filling their creels this spring.